Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Salman Rushdie explains in his essay Imaginary Homelands, he explains the recognizes the incredibly distorting power of memory and perception. He makes the how we view our past and the homes of our youth is very much changed by our own nostalgic memories. Our perception has a similar effect on how we even view present events. Humans are creatures prone to partiality and bias. It is our nature to subconsciously fictionalize both our future and our present. This can be viewed in an interesting way in the Artha episode of Vikram Chandra’s Love and Longing in Bombay, due to the double-framing that occurs in this segment.
In Artha, the normal structure of the old Subramaniam relating a story to a group of men in a bar is slightly departed from. While that framing still occurs, another frame is also evident. Subramaniam does not begin by telling the narrative action of the story he wishes to convey, but instead first tells about meeting an old man on a train. Subramaniam then tells the group how the man told him a story, and it is in both of those frames that the real narrative action of Artha occurs. We are being told the memories, in first person, of Iqbal, as he later recalls them to a stranger he meets in transit. Taking Ruthrie’s idea of Imaginary Homelands into account (and furthermore, the statement of Ruthrie that this concept applies especially to expatriates and those who have left their homeland for some time and are now returning) its is reasonable to consider that perhaps Chandra expects the reader to take the perspective of this secondary narrator with a bit of a grain of salt in this particular segment.
Iqbal’s perception of the events were partial due to human nature, and have since been further distorted by his memory. Unlike the third person omniscient narrators of the other tales, in this one the facts we are given have been inferred by the fallible character of Iqbal. The true motivations and feelings of characters like Sandhya, Rajesh, and the less sympathetic characters of Anubhav and Vasant are relayed to us through the “broken mirror” effect of human perception and memory that Ruthrie depicts.

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