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Time And Transience In Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’ Petals On A Wet, Black Bough.

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Presentation on theme: "Time And Transience In Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’ Petals On A Wet, Black Bough."— Presentation transcript:

1 Time And Transience In Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’ Petals On A Wet, Black Bough

2   Aditya Kumar (Overall planning, mundane details, Space analysis)  Akashdeep Rawat (Entire background research)  Neerad Somanchi (Time analysis, Planning ideas)  Kartikeya Mohan Sahai (Autobiographical Analysis + Original idea of the novel)  Abhinav Agrawal (Content and design of the Presentation, Planning ideas)  Anirudh Murali (Design and review of the presentation)  Kshitij Bafna (Postcolonial analysis)  Sarthak Kansal (Postcolonial analysis) The petals on the bough

3 Amitav Ghosh

4  An early life history  Born in Calcutta in 1956  A diplomat father incorporated travel in his formative years  Primarily lived in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran  Schooling from the Doon School  Completed graduate studies from the University of Delhi  PhD in Social Anthropology from Oxford Univerisity

5  On the face of it : Travel “Travel has been absolutely central to my writing. A lot of my fiction is about diasporic community—Indians, Chinese, for example, Burmese, and so on. Those communities are very large, dispersed, and widely spread. It's not an easy thing to know about them or even to acquaint yourself with their history and their past……” - Amitav Ghosh  Certain elements seem to be common between the writer’s life and that of the characters at the outset  The elements of wanderlust and travel that permeates the conversations between Tridib and the narrator,  The musings of the narrator  The intrinsic ease displayed towards travelling by Ila

6   Schooled primarily in boarding schools  Many major characters ‘sent away’ for studies, with locations and time changing with the educational development of the characters; a prominent example being that of Ila.  While both Tridib and the narrator outline how Ghosh treats travel as a means of education and of stretching one’s imagination, his own childhood spent in travel with his father is portrayed objectively in Ila’s character and more so in her nonchalant treatment of new places. “Cairo? oh yes! The ladies is way over at the other end of the departure lounge” “Calm down it’s just the underground, you’d think we were going on the bloody Concorde” On the face of it : Education

7  On the face of it : Calcutta  Text has large measures of the ideological elements prevalent in post-colonial Bengal.  'The Bengali in The Shadow Lines’ by Minoti Chatterjee points out that the text is essentially rooted in Indian Ethos and in the collective memory of a generation of Bengalis which still believes in ‘the tenuous nature of borders that no amount of bloodshed can make real and impermeable’  The Calcutta riots of 1964 have been portrayed through the eyes of the narrator as a child, outlining his own experiences of helplessness and silent terror “I opened my mouth to answer and found I had nothing to say. All I could have told them was of the sound of voices running past the walls of my school, and of a glimpse of a mob in Park Circus” -The Shadow Lines (1964, Calcutta Riots)

8   He points to the abyss of forgotten “history” which makes written history incomplete “By the end of Jan 1964 the riots had faded away from the pages of the newspapers, disappeared from the collective imagination of responsible opinion ‟, vanished, without leaving a trace in the histories and bookshelves. They had dropped out of memory into the crater of a volcano of silence “ - The Shadow Lines  The Shadow Lines represents his most direct confrontation with nationalism and national identity and it is simultaneously about each character’s personal identity  He develops the characters and the theme with the hand of somebody who has a thorough understanding of human nature and social behaviour; a social anthropologist. On the face of it : Memory

9  On the face of it : Power  Childhood spent in a setting intimate with power.  In the text, certain characters display a similar reverence towards power though they might not comprehend it completely, while some appear to be completely comfortable with it.  He mirrors his own childhood experiences with power through these characters and their behavior towards power : reverence and intimacy “I could not bring myself to believe that I could be related to such people..”  Example of the latter would be Robi who grew up in a household wherein the patriarch (‘The Saheb’) was the personification of power. Furthermore, Robi himself eventually joined the IAS

10  On the face of it : Physical Elements  The Calcutta 1964 riots incorporated the burning of two rubber factories in Calcutta. He has sought to further develop the correlation through the narrator’s father serving as an executive in the rubber industry  Ghosh himself had been involved in protecting a Punjabi youth from the mob during the 1984 Delhi riots while travelling in a bus (“ The ghosts of Mrs Gandhi “).  In the text, he seeks to recreate a similar theme through the narrators brush with communal violence in the 1964 Calcutta riots while travelling in a school bus.

11  Going deeper : post- colonialism  A major part of his life was set in post-colonial India. “His fictional works are marked by extreme themes that go side by side with post- colonialism ” -Promilla Garg  In his essay “The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi” (1995) he quotes that the book was inspired by the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Delhi “It became a book not only about any one event but about the meaning of such events and their effects on the people who lived through them”  Hence, the principle theme in the book “The Shadow Lines” is the post-colonial communal violence in India and it’s effect on the survivors.

12  Going deeper : The motive “ My next novel was bound to be influenced by my experiences, but I could see no way of writing directly about those events without recreating them as a paranoma of violence - "an aesthetic phenomenon," as Karahasan was to call it. At the time, the idea seemed obscene and futile; of much greater importance were factual reports of the testimony of the victims. But these were already being done by people who were, I knew, more competent than I could be. “  Attempting to provide a voice of reason to the communal violence without being objective, he personifies his feelings through the various characters in the stories and recounts his own experiences and terror through various settings. The 1964 Calcutta riots as being told through the eyes of a schoolboy narrator travelling in a bus, reflects his experiences during the 1984 Delhi riots, through which he was able to provide an adequate propriety to the description of the carnage that had ensued.

13  Going deeper “Of the year's (1984) many catastrophes, the sectarian violence following Mrs Gandhi's death had the greatest effect on my life. Looking back, I see that the experiences of that period were profoundly important to my development as a writer; so much so that I have never attempted to write about them until now” Amitav Ghosh (“The Ghost of Mrs Gandhi”,1995 )

14  Mirrored Images  It is in the prominent post-colonial theme, the elements of travel, the importance of education, the idea of the Bengalee and a childhood brush with power displayed in the text that his own life can be seen to be mirrored

15   Non-linear structure and digressive narrative  It is a novel without a defined Beginning, Middle and End; relying on a loop-structure of a story- within a –story.  In turn linked to digressive narrative which interferes with what is called the ‘unity of theme and action’ as a hallmark of good writing as perceived by the Western poetics.  This novel is told through stories; the narrator is more of a listener than a speaker.  His method of narration is in ‘bringing together’ available versions rather than telling new stories. Structure of the Novel

16   The narrator remains unnamed throughout.  He tells the story from various vantage points in time & space.  Most of the stories begin like jigsaw puzzles with a limited meaning but conclude with an intelligible pattern. The various parts of a jigsaw puzzle or the incomplete story are supplied by various characters.  He is important to the extent of bringing all of them together without which, in spite of their existence these versions remain at best partially meaningful.  The book has two sub-sections: Going Away and Coming Home. Both phrases indicate the queer sense of home and homelessness that the partition victims have experienced that allows them to dispense with a fixed point that signifies a point of departure. Structure Contd…

17  All our intuitions mock, The formal logic of the clock

18   Geographical and historical time vs normal time  Selective memory, Ghosh selects and organizes only such material from history as serves his artistic purpose Rhetorics of Time

19   Experiential Life or Virtual Life or 'Primary Illusion' as Susanne Langer calls it Tridib's time in England is woven into the novel through recollections of the narrator and other characters, This VL is created out of collective memory Presented in the mode typified by memory, i.e the past  Characteristic of VL - composed only of significant emotional events, mundane activities have no place in the VL. Primary Illusion

20   Use of present tense for creating unchronological freshness, as if the events happened now. Robi's account of his dream in which his brother is killed by the mob. It is narrated in the present tense even though he has had it periodically because even after all these years it is a harrowing experience and thus has not lost the immediacy of an intense experience. Primary Illusion Contd…

21   Experiential (significant events) and non-experiential (boring, everyday stuff) elements of actual past. The VL thus has a tautness to it, including events the are not only very significant but also organically related. It has the feel of a tightly knit story.  Organically inter-related events England coming alive at the beginning of the book (“People were becoming friendlier”-Mayadebi) is contrasted with the dying of euphoria (in India) as the Chinese army drives back the Indian army in 1962 (at the end of the book). Primary Illusion Contd…

22   The novel does not move forward as such. It deals only with STATES (vignettes) rather than ACTIONS. It moves in and around the past. This is the Secondary Illusion, dealing with states instead of moving forward with actions.  Time-Shift is a very useful technique which allows Ghosh to make connections of causality and irony between temporally separated events. Tridib’s 'made-up-story' about London and his relations with the 'foreign' people there is juxtaposed with incident of the narrator finding a picture of May in Tridib's possession. In light of the later incident, the first story sounds true. Time –Shift

23   A literary style in which a character's thoughts, feelings, and reactions are depicted in a continuous flow uninterrupted by objective description or conventional dialogue.  James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust are among its notable early exponents. Stream of Consciousness

24   To throw into relief those moments of heightened consciousness, or epiphanies. These are moments that extend the boundaries of our emotional experiences. May's epiphany at the end where she realizes that Tridib had sacrificed himself. “I thought I had killed him…For years I was arrogant enough to think I owed him his life. But I know I didn’t kill him; I couldn't have if I‘d wanted. He gave himself up; it was a sacrifice. I know I can’t understand it, I know I mustn’t try, for any real sacrifice is a mystery.”  The narrator has a 'glimpse of the redemptive mystery'. Such moments comprise 'Life as a collection of vignettes' rather than 'Life as lived by the clock'. Objective of Time-Shift and SoC

25   The shape and direction of the novel is largely determined by the traumatic event of Tridib's death.  There is a glaring discrepancy between the content and the reading time that it is given.  The incident is a very brief one, yet scores of pages in the book are devoted to the victim Tridib, the times in which he lived and reminisces of that tragic event.  As against this, the Grandmothers' married life of 12 years gets a couple of pages. Contd..

26   This novel is a historical narrative which deals mainly with the national borders and geographical boundaries that separate people.  The absurdity and the arbitrariness of the geographical borders and cartographic demarcations is shown in the novel.  The narrative moves fast from Calcutta to London to Delhi to Dhaka, back and forth repeatedly. Significance of Space

27   Ghosh chooses his title to suggest that the borders which separate people are mere “shadow”, and nothing more than artificial lines created by politicians.  Robi says: "And then I think to myself, why dont they draw thousands of little lines through the whole subcontinent and give every little place a new name? What would it change? It's a mirage; the whole thing is a mirage. How can anyone divide a memory?" The Shadow Lines

28  “It is the fear that comes of the knowledge that normalcy is utterly contingent, that the spaces that surround one, the streets that one inhabits, can suddenly and without warning become as hostile as a desert in a flash flood. It is this that sets apart the thousand million people who inhabit the subcontinent from the rest of the world-not language, not food, not music-it is the special quality of loneliness that grows out of the fear of the war between oneself and one’s image in the mirror.“ Significance of Space Contd…

29   He metaphorically presents the story of the partition of Thammaa's ancestral house in Dhaka.  The story of this house’s partition started when Thammaa was still young. The house has been divided with wooden partition wall going through doorways.  The two parts of the family accepted this partition of the house to stop the continuous quarrels between them. Ironically, they could not find the peace they were searching for; instead, this partition of the house created bitterness between the two families.  He uses this allegory of the house partition to represent the political partition of the nation. Significance of Space Contd…

30   The whole narrative is woven around historical incidents of violence resulting from border divisions and cartography.  In the end, the futility of sub-continental politics intending to erase the truth of human lives by inventing “shadow lines” of divisions emerges acutely through the work. Therein lies its greatest success. Cartography

31   The narrator takes Tridib's atlas. Taking Khulna at the center and Srinagar on the circumference, he draws a circle.  The narrator says, "And so, 15 years after his death, Tridib watched over me, as I tried to learn the meaning of distance.“  He discovers that a place like Chang-Mai in Thailand is much nearer to Calcutta than Delhi is and Chengdu in China is nearer than Srinagar is, considering the tidy ordering of Euclidean space.  And yet, a disturbance in one of those places would hardly have caused a backlash in Calcutta or Khulna. But in the case of Srinagar and Khulna, it took only a week for the rumor to trigger a riot. Circles On Atlas

32  "They had drawn their borders, believing in that pattern, in the enchantment of the lines, hoping perhaps that once they had etched their borders upon the map, the two bits of land would sail away from each other like the shifting tectonic plates..."  The simple fact that there had never been a moment in the four-thousand-year-old history of that map, when the places we know as Dhaka and Calcutta were more closely bound to each other than after they had drawn their lines- a moment when each city was the inverted image of the other, locked into an irreversible symmetry by the line that was to set us free- our looking glass border." Circles On Atlas Contd…

33   The fictionalized narrative is interwoven with history and validated by actual experiences in the lives of the major characters – the narrator, Tridib, Ila, and Tha’mma.  It explores the deceptive nature of national borders that are constructed to project an image of difference across political divides.  The partition is projected as an act of meaningless violence.  At the end, Tridib aspires to become a global citizen. He is a man without a country. He meets his tragic end at the hands of a rioting mob in Dhaka. His vision seems to succumb to the brute forces of reality.  Ghosh has used these memories to construct the concept of freedom and its undertones in the modern world. Post-Colonial Narrative Technique

34   Amitav Ghosh has focused on the changing middle class ethos in India during the pre- and post- Independence era.  The lives of the characters in this novel are determined largely by their idea of freedom. This idea is shaped by the history of the times.  There are also the failures of nationalism and nationalist governments, which find voice in the characters’ memories, and views of the partition, militancy, and the riots. Contd..

35   Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines: Re-Reading its Craft and Concerns, Murari Prasad  NATION AS IDENTITY IN AMITAV GHOSH’S THE SHADOW LINES, R. Malathi  Education: Liberation or Imprisonment? ( The Case of Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines), Prof. Dr. Christiane Schlote, Laureen Zanotti  A STUDY OF THE POSTCOLONIAL NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE IN AMITAV GHOSH’S THE SHADOW LINES [1988], Dr. Rajkumar M. Lakhadive  SHADOWS OF HISTORY IN THE SHADOW LINES, D.S. Bindu  Geographical Borders and Political Maps in Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines and Kanafani’s Men in the Sun  Amitav Ghosh’s “The Shadow Lines”: Problematics of National Identity, Pabitra Bharali  POSTMODERN TRAITS IN THE NOVELS OF AMITAV GHOSH, Prof. R. Chenniappan  Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines: Critical Essays, edited by Arvind Chowdhary References

36  Thank You


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