Tuesday, February 3, 2009

''We can't simply use language the way the British did''

Rushdie argues that ‘‘Indian writers cannot use the language the way the British did ’’ (Rushdie, 17). This seems very logical since India has been colonized by the British for hundred of years, but had its own history and culture before. This idea is expressed by Ashcroft, in ''Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies'' where we can read : ‘‘In the case of India, for example, where many highly developed pre-colonial literary cultures flourished, there were also vibrant oral folk cultures that remained a vigorous part of popular culture and interacted with the literary traditions, ( Ashcroft, 165).
However, as Rusdie states, the British Indian writer cannot just reject English, because the language is central in forging a British Indian identity. Instead of rejecting it, Indian writers ‘‘need to remake it for their own purpose.’’
Chandra’s ''Love and Longing in Bombay'' illustrates the remaking of the English language for his own purpose. The book shows that there is a concialiation, a harmony, a dialogue and sometimes a tension between English and Indian traditions.

One of the most obvious evidences of tension or maybe conciliation between English and Indian traditions, is the use of both English and Hindi words in the same text. It can be seen as a tension since they don’t have the same typography : Hindi words are in italics, whereas English words are not. It can also be seen as a concialiation, since both languages occupy the same narrative frames. Interestingly though, contrary to some authors we have studied, such as Danticat, Chandra rarely provides his Western readers with a translation. Why not ?
There may be several reasons for that. One of them is mentioned in Rushdie’s article. When words are translated, something gets always lost, so it is a great risk.
Moreover, it gives Western readers the opportunity to travel in an intellectual way, a travel that echoes the literary travel undertaken by the author to his homeland, India.
In addition, these Hindi words constitute elements of Indian identity the author wants to share with his readers. When we take a close look at instances in which Hindi words are used, we notice that they have to do with food, music, peoples…In other words, with elements that define homeland. Regarding the food served at the wedding of Ganga’s daugther, we can read : ‘‘Everyone was eating around them. Sheila ate the puri bhaji and the biryani and the sticky jalebis…’’ ( Chandra, 67). The narrator also kept the Hindi name of Kshitih's cultural organization (Rakshak). Translation would take away a part of the authencity of the things designated.

This dialogue between Indian traditions and English culture is also reflected in the way the narratives are constructed. The author uses English, the language of the former colonizer, to talk about Indian traditions, superstitions and realities. English is a tool used by the author to convey the Indian tradition of story telling. In this way, the author invites Western readers to explore India oral traditions.
And it can be related to what Rushdie says at the end. He warns Indian authors against the ‘‘adoption of a ghetto mentality.’’He goes on by saying : ‘‘To forget that there is a world beyond the community to which we belong, to confine ourselves within narrowly defined cultural frontiers, would be , I believe, to go voluntarily into that form of internal exile which in South Africa is called the ‘homeland’’’(Rushdie, 19). As we have mentioned in class, Chandra’s deals with the period after the decolonization and does not deny its effects, the phenomenon of globalization, the movements of products, of people, the exchange of ideas, languages…His stories testify that he is an international writer, like Rushdie.

No comments:

Post a Comment