Thursday, January 31, 2013

Love and Longing in Bombay: Homelands Response

In the fourth book of Chandra’s collection, Artha, Chandra tells a story about the friendship between Iqbal and Sandhya: two computer- programmers. This technological context gives life to his text as he creates a city-like, cosmopolitan setting for his character to live in. Cities are vibrant, chaotic and current—this adds a dimension of excitement for Chandra’s audience. The inclusion of computer technology is appropriate for this setting because it adds to the quality of modernity; Chandra is leaving behind the overly religious stigma that surrounds Indian culture and is shedding new light on the current way of life.
Chandra calls attention to the neem tree, associating it with feeling peace. After looking it up, I found that this tree is specific to India: it is native. Chandra writes: “…he said as we walked down the lane, “That’s a neem tree.” I nodded, silenced by desire. It’s a good place,” he said. I nodded again, fast. “A really good place,” he said. “I feel at peace here.” (204-205). I found this quotation to be particularly significant because I feel that it encompasses the underlying cultural theme while simultaneously summarizing the emotions that Iqbal experiences. Oftentimes being at peace is closely related to being in one’s comfort zone. For me, the tangible representation of that comfort zone is at home. I think that Chandra draws a parallel between the neem tree and being at peace, as a way to show that the indigenous tree is a symbol of India; for these characters it is a symbol of comfort—of home.
Shortly after this scene, Iqbal spends the day at the gym in hopes of acquiring further information about Rajesh’s absence. To his disappointment, Iqbal returns home with no sense of closure. Iqbal reveals, “I entered the house very late, fell exhausted into my bed without taking off any clothes, and dreamt of childhood”(206). In this moment, Chandra once again draws attention to the idea of the comfort of one’s home. As a child, I can remember falling asleep in my clothes on the couch, and waking up in my cozy pajamas and tucked into my bed. I believe that Chandra is touching upon a similar scenario. When children reach that point of exhaustion, they become restless and upset. They immediately surrender to the comfort of their bed, regardless of their clothing circumstance. Similarly, Iqbal reaches this level of exhaustion and hopelessness, he desires the childlike comfort that is associated with being in a childhood home and in bed. Childhood is also often linked to a life of lesser expectation; children are not burdened with immense responsibility. Iqbal finds solace in retreating to his bed and dreaming about childhood, a time when he was not required to accept or even consider reality.
I also found it interesting that within both Things Fall Apart and Love and Longing in Bombay, Achebe and Chandra respectively choose to integrate their native languages within both texts. Both authors carefully select which words are translated and which words will remain in their native languages. That being said, I believe that the words that are chosen to remain linguistically intact are purposely done so. This suggests the idea that some words or phrases, quite simply, cannot be translated. In doing this, the authors allow their audiences to have an authentic experience of their cultures. I also found it interesting that Chandra chooses to highlight the phonetic spelling of native Indian speakers who attempt to speak in English. Chandra writes,“[Guru-ji] said the word in English, as “badi-building”.”(202). This quotation allows the reader to experience the language barrier alongside the other characters in the text. This furthers the emersion into Chandra’s culture. 

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