Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Broken Mirrors

In both “Imaginary Homelands” by Salman Rushdie and “Love and Longing in Bombay” by Vikram Chandra, the debate on whether or not you can return to your past is discussed. Both “Imaginary Homelands” and “Love and Longing in Bombay” present that while you cannot return to your past, the changes that brought you to your future can allow you to look onto your past in a way that may been without those changes unattainable.
”In “Imaginary Homelands”, Salman Rushdie speaks of how your past, your home, and your culture can affect the present. “ […] it reminds me that it’s my present that is foreign, and that the past is home, albeit a lost home in a lost city in the mists of lost time.” In this quote Rushdie is describing looking at a black and white picture of his house. One might think that looking at a black and white picture of your old house, it would appear to be something distant and foreign, but in this quote Rushdie points out that our past, and the place where we grew up are the only real things in our lives. It is the present that is forming and changing, and our past that represents the true sense of home and solidity.
While Rushdie describes how you cannot return to your past and subsequently your home he moves on to describe looking into the past as a broken mirror, unable to see the whole or distinct picture of your past, and explains “The broken mirror may actually be as valuable as the one which is supposedly unflawed.” This quote suggests that while you cannot go back to your past or your home, through your new experiences and changed life you can look onto the past with a new perspective and learn things from it that were perhaps before unattainable. He describes that in remembering his past, he is able to remember details and interpret events with a new significance and importance, something he would have been unable to do if his home and past had never changed into his present.
In “Love and Longing in Bombay” by Vikram Chandra, issues of past, home, and changing culture are also addressed. The view expressed by Rushdie on a past you cannot return to but that you can observe with a new appreciation is exemplified by the story told in “Kama”, as well as the structure of the novel.
In the story of Dharma we are introduced to a respected general Jago who has lost his leg in battle. We learn that he has learned to ignore the pain, and in order to fall asleep at night he dreams of falling into darkness. When we meet Jago, he has recently become unable to block the pain, and can no longer sleep as a result. He returns to the house in which he grew up, and finds it haunted by the ghost of a small child. In returning home, he reflects on his childhood and we learn that as a small child his older brother was killed accidently by falling off of their roof. His inability to escape the pain of his missing leg symbolizes his inability to forget the pain of losing his brother, and it only upon returning home and reflecting on his home and his past that he is able to come to terms with it, and move on. Had he not lost his leg, and felt the pain of his present, he would not have been able to return home, and reflect on his past in a new way bringing him peace. This relates to Rushdie’s views that when you experience drastic changes that move you away from your home and into the present, it allows you to look back onto your past with a new perspective.
In “Love and Longing in Bombay”, a group of men and women from modern day India gather in a bar to hear the old stories of Subramaniam. The old stories that Subramaniam tells are appealing because while they are stories from the past, when looked at in the present can take new personal meaning to those it is being told to. Within the stories themselves are characters being faced with issues of past, present, and changing cultures, suggesting that change is a constant in every person’s life, and not something that can be avoided. It stresses that while much is lost when your culture is changed and affected, much can also be gained if you use the changes to appreciate and observe the past. If nothing ever changed, and everything stayed constant, you would not have the opportunity to reflect or appreciate the past.
Both “Imaginary Homelands” and “Love and Longing in Bombay” deal with issues of the changing culture in India as well as dealing with concepts of home, the past, and the present. Both works show how while it is true that once a culture is changed, and once you leave your home you can never go back, it allows an opportunity to appreciate and reflect on the past, and look at the past with a newfound perspective that may not have been possible had the changes never occurred.

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