Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Falling Imagery in Dharma from "Love and Longing in Bombay"

In class when asked what home meant to all of us, one of the common threads among all was family, and the people that are close to us. To me, home is my father, my mother, and my two younger brothers, and without them my life and my home would not be complete. Of the first stories I read in “Love and Longing in Bombay” by Vikram Chandra, the story that most greatly impacted me was the first story entitled “Dharma”. As I read the story of Jago Antia, a question that was raised in class echoed in the back of my mind… “Can you ever really go back home?” The imagery of falling in “Dharma” shows how the loss of a loved one can affect your concept of home, happiness, and can in fact turn your world upside down.
The story begins by describing General Jago Antia in the present day, and we learn that he is a well admired, feared, and respected leader who leads by example and accepts nothing less than perfection. Jago beings to have sleepless nights where a numbing pain creeps into his senses, and we learn that Jago for many years has had to force himself to sleep by imagining falling into a deep dark abyss. “Every night he thought of falling endlessly through the night, slipping through the cold air, and then somewhere it became a dream, and he was asleep, still falling. He had been doing it for as long as he could remember, long before para school and long before the drop at Sylhet, towards the hostile guns and the treacherous ground.” (p.6)In this passage we learn much about Jago that only fully makes sense upon finishing the story. When first learning that Jago thinks of falling in order to fall asleep, one would tend to think it was because this is his profession, and perhaps is a memory of paratrooping that he cannot escape, however he makes it clear that he used this method long before he entered the army. This insinuates that his obsession with falling occurred before joining the army, and perhaps may have been the reason he joined the army in the first place.
We will later learn that this obsession with falling is due to his brother Soli’s unfortunate death falling from the roof of their house as children. The concept of falling to Jago changes throughout the story and through the numerous flashbacks.
While the most powerful instance of falling is in Soli’s death, Jago encounters the negative effects of falling once again when he is crossing a street in battle and is hit by a mine in a corner and is thrown through the air. Due to the impact of the mine, Jago’s leg is severely injured and he is forced to amputate it. When describing the amputation and the pain that accompanies the fall, Jago uses specific gory details to describe the events, creating an unsettling and nervous tone, however when describing the fall itself, relates a more peaceful tone. “ He started off confidently across the street, and then all the sound in the world vanished, leaving a smooth silence, he had no recollection of being thrown, but now he was falling through the air, down, he felt distinctly the impact of the ground, but again there was nothing, no sound.”(p.19) Diction such as the words smooth, creates a softer tone in comparison to terms like “crunching” or phrases such as “ against the darkness and mad sorrow(p.20)”.
When one thinks of falling, one does not usually associate peace or a settling feeling, in fact many people can be awaken from a deep sleep due to the sensation of falling, yet for Jago to imagine falling is the only way he is able to slip into sleep. I believe it is because of his inability to control his brother’s fall that he recreates his own slip into darkness while he sleeps. The fact that Chandra chooses not to tell us about Silo’s death until the end of the story allows us to form our own judgments and opinions of Jago before understanding the events that formed him as a person. We are able to see Jago as an incomplete, complex, confused character and then see the path that lead him there. I think the story was ordered in this way because Jago himself could not remember or understand how he came to be the person he was in the present until he returned to his house and remembered what had changed and what happened.
Overall I think the imagery of falling both in its physical consequences in Jago’s brother and amputation as well as the dream imagery help to show that Jago’s home was lost in his brother’s death and ever since that moment he has been falling and trying to gain control of his life. While I do not think that Jago can ever truly go back home, I think that in remembering the home he had, and in returning to the physical location where the memories of his home were made, he was able to better understand himself as a person, and regain his purpose in life.

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