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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cultural Resistance in Post-colonial literature


These two stories prescribed for class XI are the finest examples of post-colonial resistance to westernisation.

Khushwant Singh's story of the grand mother and her grandson is an attempt to showcase the transition period in India, the transition from the rural to the urban. Urbanisation, westernisation and invasion of our culture, language,science/medicine and values were undergoing a change in the British and post-British period in India. The spread of English language was one of the obvious signs of the change. One cannot abruptly conclude that the change/shift/transition was without resistance. The two dominant characters in Khushwant Singh's story represent the two ethos. The village education described in graphic detail in the story is nothing short of a microcosmic picture of the Indian ethos and Indian education system. The education system in India was never a dissociated or fragmented concept. It was always integrated with life and nature. It held that there is no point in education if it is not connected to the life and people around. The story clearly depicts how the dogs in the village (representing animals and life around)were always an integral and inseparable part of life and education. Education was mostly based on religion and spirituality where one was expected to learn greater or simpler(simply greater!)aspects of life. The children at the village school learn hymns from scriptures from the priest in the temple. Grandmother's first cultural shock is about the education her grandson receives in the city school. He is being fed upon Western ideas and language and she is just one of those who felt the deterioration of our values and life style in its intense gravity. She finds life so disintegrated in the city(stands for westernized system)where there are no dogs in the city, her grandson is given a room of his own(the western notion of "privacy" sets in family), they hardly meet each other, he repeats English words and talks about the subjects he learns, goes by bus to school etc. She realizes the gradual marginalisation of her significance in moulding his character and life. But she resists the change and the cultural conversion he and his parents have undergone in many ways: use of the spinning wheel(even today it is a symbol of our lost identity), chanting and telling the beads of the rosary, reading the scriptures and feeding the sparrows. She leads a life of resistance instead of just voicing it. In the end of the story, her resistance grows stronger when the invasion is quite obvious and aggressive on her. She spurns the words and medicines of the doctor(the western medical treatment)and devotes herself to prayer.

Khushwant Singh's grandmother,therefore, ceases to be a person and manifests the voices of resistance against cultural invasion.


Masti Venkatesha Iyengar's story poignantly satirizes colonisation and cultural invasion. The first few paragraphs of the story clearly question the politics of mapping. The narrator describes his village and questions the reason for it not being displayed in any of the maps. He triggers a debate on how places find place in maps. He is proud of his village, culture, language and identity and doesn't want any one to take it for granted or impose their superiority over it. Inspite of all the English education in the city and western notions of marriage, Ranga ultimately ends up marrying a village girl in the Indian way. The narrator plays a practical joke on him using the astrologer and discovers that all the claims of Ranga about his urban and western exposure is thoroughly superficial and hasn't made even an iota of change in his psyche. English has influenced Indians as a language but not as a culture. It fails, as the story suggests,to percolate into our psyche.

Both the stories voice cultural resistance in their own unique ways and that is a clear testimony that we did have polyphonic manifestations of cultural and colonial resistance.


Praneetha said...

In the cbse 11th standard supplementary reader in the contents page against the serial no. 6 one can find a lesson named THE GHAT OF THE ONLY WORLD.... I would like to comment on the title of the lesson... Here the poet AGHA SHAHID ALI who is described by the the writer AMITAV GHOSH suffers from cancer and brain tumour and he is sure that his life is going to end in a month or two so he wants to live his life to the fullest before his end and so he calls the life he is living as heaven and here GHAT means HEAVEN.... in his mention of meeting his mother in his afterlife it proves that he is not sure about the actuality of afterlife therefore he calls the present the ONLY WORLD.... hence the title THE GHAT OF THE ONLY WORLD!!!!!

Prateeksha said...

Thank you sir for your great concern towards all your students. I really liked your blog very much..

fahru said...

thank you very much for this information about cultural resistance..
i'm as student in Indonesia University of Education.
who's tha author of potrait of a lady?is it a novel?

fahru said...

where can i find this novel?especially in free download

santhosh kumar kana said...

thank u, fahru. plz give me your full name. the story titled PORTRAIT OF A LADY is written by Khushwant Singh.

fahru said...

my name is fahrurozi.
I have tried to look for the novel(potrait of a lady)in free download but it's hard..
can you give the information to get this novel? i'm sorry because i'm still school at university..please

Ghanshyam Iyengar said...

Dear Kana
Nice attempt and it's good to see that there are teachers who really take pains for the students. Hats off to you man!
Be in touch and let's share the academic events and activities.
Best of luck