The Pterodactyl wants to show what has been done to the entire tribal world of India. We did not Know it. It is the same everywhere.
“If a thousand Indian tribals,men and women, and children, sit, how quiet they are? How quietly they listen to people? Mainstream people cannot believe it…In their blood, there is so much patience, it is like nature. It is like nature. Patience of the hills, of the rivers the tribe contains everything. Each tribe is like a continent.”
“The pterodactyl is prehistoric. Modern man, the journalist, does not know anything about it. There is no point of communication with the pterodactyl. The pterodactyl cannot say what message it has brought. The journalist, the representative of the mainstream people, has no point of contact with the tribals. Their roads have run parallel.”
Visionary Cartography Tribal life in India as an “undiscovered continent” A world on the verge of extinction “The tribals and the mainstream have always been parallel. There has never been a meeting point.”
Tribal location disrupts the opposition of ‘empire’ and ‘nation’ It is a cultural space that cannot be contained by the rhetoric of a simple reversal in which “empire” is replaced by “nation” at a moment in history defined as “independence.”
Devi’s fiction questions The economic idea of ‘development’ which exemplifies the exploitation of tribal knowledge and resources in the name of ‘progress’ Utopian vision of a redemptivem ‘explosive love’ – a transformative impulse to remap the troubled psychosocial terrain in more inclusive and humane terms
Imaginary maps(1995) Cartography is the controlling metaphor Imaginary ? Something false opposed to the real or historical? A creative, utopian or visionary space? The realm of the unconscious of the pre-symbolic? Applied to the activity of mapping, does it caryy overtones of the idea of “imagined communities?”
The three stories in the collection were published in Bengali between 1980 to 1990. Textual strategies include 1. Use of history, myth and ethonography 2. Combination of realism with non-mimetic features 3. Complex manipulation of different registers of language What emerges is a visionary map of contemporary affairs, carrying traces of a utopian desire for an “explosive love” a love that must exceed all reason
“Ethical singularity” Spivak describes Devi’s involvement with the tribal predicament as an example of “ethical singularity” -- an idea that must remain a visionary goal because it can never be translated into practive. Complete communication is not possible even when desired: : on both sides there is always a sense that something has not got across.”
“Ethics is the experience of the impossible.” The impossibility of full ethical engagement- not in the rationalist sense of “doing the right thing” but in the more familiar sense of the impossibility of love in the one-on-one way for each human being
The map of Pirtha is compared to an extinct animal “The new era in the history of the world began when, at the end of the Mesozoic era, India broke off from the main mass of Gondwana land. It is as if some prehistoric creature had fallen on its face then. Such are the survey lines of Pirtha Block
Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay and Pirtha (1990) The gaze of the Pterodactyl Does the gaze seek to warn Bikhia of the threat of extinction or to acquaint Puran with the impossibility of complete knowledge? Faced with this appropriation of the gaxe, both Puran and Bikhia, members of ‘parallel’ cultures, are united in their incomprehension
Space as place is presented as landscape. The reader is familiarised with the topographical features of the rocky hill on which Nagesia village is located. When charted as a map, the figure of the beast embodies the landscape as a living reality It suggests at the same time, a persistence of the primitive in the face of the civilising impulse
Mahasweta Devi claims that place-names are not to be taken literally. She says, “ Madhya Pradesh is here India. Nagesia village is the entire tribal community.” Spivak’s afterword expands the range of reference to include all dispossessed tribes across the globe, described collectively as the “Fourth World.”
Linguistic density of the original Bengali text Sanskritised ‘high’ Bengali and italicized English expressions suggest a clash of context as much as it suggests the permeability of borders Disjunctions caused by the juxtaposition of the language of official discourse with the vitality of the colloquial dialect The dry statistics of bureaucratic reports and ethnographic accounts of the Austric tribes acquire overtones of parody
Easy transitions from the local to national and thereby to global frames of reference are not possible in the face of such intractable particularity The linguistic diversity of the text embodies, among other things, the clash of “high” and “popular” cultures and the asymmetry of class position in the regional social configurations
Sara Suleri : The Rhetoric of English India Critique of Spivak’s project of “exoticising the other” The Pterodactyl predicates not the inaccessibiity of the space of alterity, but the urgent need to reach out to those who inhabit that space, before it is too late.
The Will to Love is posited as an alternative mode of knowing. Bikhia and Puran, in the shared obligation to care for the Pterodactyl, experience in different registers, the importance of learning from the past in order to meet the challenges of the present. Activism rather than nostalgia for an irretrievable past is the keynote of this experience
Prarthana Puran – answered prayers- wish fulfilment- Pointer to Puran’s role as a repository of the utopian possibilities latent in the novel Puran, whose task it is to represent the subaltern who cannot be heard, is an analogue for Devi, the spokesperson for the tribal experience and for Spivak, her international translator In the chain of expanding fields of communication, the space of the reader remains unmappable, a potential source of new displacements of meaning.
Frankenstein- The making of the colonial subject "Why do you call to my remembrance," I rejoined, "circumstances, of which I shudder to reflect, that I have been the miserable origin and author? Cursed be the day, abhorred devil, in which you first saw light! Cursed (although I curse myself) be the hands that formed you! You have made me wretched beyond expression. You have left me no power to consider whether I am just to you or not. Begone! relieve me from the sight of your detested form." "Thus I relieve thee, my creator," he said, and placed his hated hands before my eyes, which I flung from me with violence; "thus I take from thee a sight which you abhor. Still thou canst listen to me, and grant me thy compassion. By the virtues that I once possessed, I demand this from you. Hear my tale;
The two-way road with the compromised “other” as teacher What is there to learn? The undiscriminating hunger of the journalist and the peripatetic academic are both creatures of the inquisitive world.