2009-10 AM Fictions of India - Expert Group on Nation (India)

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Italic text==Expert Group on Nation (India)==

Group: Representations of India


- Crowded societies composed of very different ethnic and cultural groups that live in mixed communities or close proximity

- Less social tension between these groups than between single individuals (cf. Lurgan Sahib‘s hatred on Kim) or between different nations (cf. British vs. Russians in the Great Game)

- British colonial power ensuring harmony?


- High social tension between outcastes and upper castes

- Most prominent example: Bakha touches an upper caste member by accident (cf. p. 46)

- Outcastes forced to announce their approach when they leave their colony

- Social exclusion of other minorities apart from low-caste Hindus (e.g. Mohammedans)

- Injustice and discrimination exerted by upper castes

- Few exceptions (eg. the high-caste Hindu Charat Singh, cf. p. 105-110))

- Counter-movements (Only the Ghandian movement is portrayed in the novel!)

- Role of British colonial power in this conflict?

Midnight's Children

- Multiple ethnic and social groups

- At the beginning of the novel: relative peace between those groups

- Considerable change of this relative harmony as the plot unfolds

Group: Similarities and Contrasts in Kim and Untouchable

Kim and Bakha are symbols for the ongoing national change (Modern India)

- Kim is not in a caste and therefore behaves freely

- Bakha is trying to life like a British

Discussion result:

- are Kim and Bakha passive or active acting towards the national change?

- is their way of acting determined by the caste system?

Discussion result:

- The topic of Nation is closely connected to the term „Caste System“.

Mulk Raj Anand "Untouchable" (Group: Impersonal narration and the ideology of the text: The representation of India and of Bakha's consciousness)


- India: Mother India

- Characters: Bakha's mother /Sohini (B.'s sister)

- Features: the essence of India; essentially good; knows what its men need; caring; vulnerable

- References:

→ p. 14 („Indian to the core […] so loving, so good, and withal generous,giving, always giving[...]kindness personified.“)

→ p. 23 („She had sensed with her deep woman's instinct the feeling in her brother's soul. He was tired. He was thirsty.“)

→ p. 31 („Her father was abusing her“)


- India: Father India = Old India

- Characters: Lakha (B.'s father)/ Rakha (B.'sbrother)/ Gulabo

- Features: fearfully obeying the British; hierarchical thinking (passed down the generations;sometimes distant from Hinduism (under colonialism)

- References::

→ p. 12 („he is afraid of the sepoys“); 13(„attend to the latrines, or the sepoys will be angry.“)
→ p. 17 („that trait of servility […] he had inherited from his forefathers, the weakness of the down-trodden“)
→ p. 85 („ They all ate from the same basket […] not apportioning the food in different plates as the Hindus do, for the original Hindu instinct for cleanliness had disappeared long ago.“) 


- India: Empire in India

- Characters: The „Tommies“ - patronizing India(ns)

- Features: influencing India; imposing a different worldview on India

- References:

→ p. 121 („of the band of Christian missionaries“)
→ p. 9 („The Tommies had treated him as a human being“)
→ p. 9 („he had learnt to think of himself as superior to his fellow-outcastes.“) 
 Christianity: Colonel Hutchinson 


- India: Modern India

- Characters: Bakha / Chota / Ram Charan / Havildar Charat Singh / Babu's sons

- Features: admiration for the British; copying the British; slightly false in their demeanor; not living strictly after caste hierarchy

→ p. 9 („had been caught by the glamour of the ' white man's ' life“)
→ p. 10 („Bakha was a child of modern India.“)
→ p. 11 („he tried to copy them in everything“)
→ p. 96 („they were not altogether unconscious of the falseness of their istinct“)
→ p. 97 („among the trio they had banished all thought of distinction.“) 


- India: Liberal India

- Characters: Gandhi / The poet / Barrister-at-Law

- Features: taking (positive) British influence back to India; humanitarian; educated; highly estimating fairness & equality; desire to revolutionize India

- References:

→ p. 155 („the flush system […] a casteless and classless society“)
→ p. 145 („The British Government sought to pursue a policy of divide and rule in giving to our brethren of the depressed classes seperate electorates“)
→ p. 147 („a sin to regard anyone bon in Hinduism as polluted“)
→ p. 141 („We are willing to do all we can

Representation of India in Untouchable as shown on our handout could also be interpreted as follows:

- Instead of the division into Mother India and Father India, those two parts could function as one so-called Old India, since Bakha's mother, father and his sister Sohini all sort of stick to the traditional way of life in India.

- Modern India could possibly be called and seen as Young India, since Bakha and his friends such as Chota and Ram Charan represent the new generation with modern views and the urge to be different

- Another way to interpret our so-called Liberal India is to rename it into Intellectual India. Through persons like Gandhi and the poet the difference between educated and uneducated people in India is made even clearer. Bakha does not understand a lot of what they talk about, which results from low education.

- We also discussed the option to even put Modern/Young India and Liberal/Intellectual India together and understand it as the New India, supported by the thought of education and bringing forward the country in several ways, such as religion, education, humanity etc.

- We even have the option to see Empire India and Modern India as one part called only Modern India, whereas Liberal India stays as it is.

- The role of our so-called Empire in India, namely the British, still remains unclear even after our discussion: Did they suppress the Indians in a way or hinder them in their way of life? Did they even bring forward the wish for change and innovation? Can it be seen as a connection between “Old India” and “Modern India”?

Of course: Depending on the person who makes the distinctions the interpretation of India in the novel “Untouchable” can differ from other points of view.

Some Ideas that arise through the combined reading of all three novels

A nation is an "imagined political community" (Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. 2nd Ed. London, 1991. p.6) Imagined, the members will never know all of their fellow members. If we apply this concept on the novels, that we have read, we find, that in Kim there are many people, who all share living at the same time in the same territory, who meet and interact with each other, but who do not share common political goals. The British think that they are responsible in "running" the country, however, the Indians do not seem to need such regulations. In Socio-psychology a "group" requires a sense of belonging and common goals. The people living in the territory of Southern Asia at the time that Kim is set do not even fulfill the requirements of a "group". Can they be considered to be a nation? In Untouchable, the sense of belonging has started to develop. Still there are different ideas of what direction society should take. Despite the caste system (which organizes society) we can talk about a group with a sense of belonging. Does this sense of belonging even stretch into society itself and is the reader made to question Indian society because this group does not yet share common goals? "Midnight's Children" does not question the existence of the Indian nation. The people have fought for independence all together, they have their own political parties. If Saleem represents independent India and Saleem belongs to India (he grew up there, he returned to India later) as well as to Pakistan (his family migrates to Pakistan, as a Muslim he has every right to be in Pakistan) should the reader see this as Salman Rushdie's comment on partition? Summing up these ideas I would like to pose one more question: Does the combination of the three novels suggest that the concept of nation only becomes important to South Asian people as they develop into independent groups that are recognized even by European philosophists/politicians as nations?