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ISSN: 2278-9650 ISSUE VI | MAR ‘13 ED. ARUP K CHATTERJEE


JUL ‘13 VOL II ISSUE III

EDITOR ARUP K CHATTERJEE


Coldnoon envisions travel not as flux but instead as gaps in travelling itself. Coldnoon means a shadowed instant in time when the inertia of motion of images, thoughts and spectacles, comes to rest upon a still and cold moment. Our travels are not of trade and imagining communities; they are towards the reporting of purposeless and unselfconscious narratives the human mind experiences when left in a vacuum between terminals of travel.


First published in New Delhi India in 2013 ISSN 2278-9642 Cover Photograph, Arup K Chatterjee Cover Design, Arup K Chatterjee Typeset in Corbel, Gentium and Cochin Lt Std. Editor, Arup K Chatterjee Assistant Editor, Amrita Ajay Intern Assistant Editor, Upasana Dutta Contributing Editors: Sebastien Doubinsky, Lisa Thatcher, G.J.V. Prasad, Sudeep Sen, K. Satchidanandan Copyright Š Coldnoon 2013. Individual Works Š Authors 2013.

No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or copied for commercial use, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent acquirer. All rights belong to the individual authors, and photographer.

Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi 110067 India www.coldnoon.com


CONTENTS

Editorial Travel and Sophism

vi

Poetry

1

from Not Quite Here: Airport Poems Elizabeth Kate Switaj

2

Reflections on Italy Kristin M. Distel

7

Four Poems Bina Sarkar Ellias

14

Four Poems Adity Choudhury

19

Four Loire Journeys Kerry Featherstone

24

Four Poems Anindita Deo

28

Four Poems Jyothsnaphanija

35

Three Poems Arun Sagar

40


The Western Canto K. Satchidanandan

46

Travelling and Forgetting Goirick Brahmachari

53

Nonfiction

57

Modern Directions in Travel Writing Upasana Dutta

58

Fractured Identities of the Indian Diaspora Aelya Salman

68

A Japanese Glimpse of Zimbabwe (1993) Akiko Mizoguchi

79

Reading Places: The Geography of Literature John Thieme

97

A Fictional Remembering of India Shoshannah Ganz

121

Editorial Board

143


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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EDITORIAL: TRAVEL AND SOPHISM

[T]he reader of a good travel book is entitled not only to an exterior voyage, to descriptions of scenery and so forth, but to an interior, a sentimental or temperamental voyage, which takes place side by side with that outer one,…the ideal book of this kind offers us, indeed, a triple opportunity of exploration – abroad, into the author’s brain, and into our own. The writer should therefore possess a brain worth exploring; some philosophy of life…and the courage to proclaim it and put it to test. (quoted in Blanton, 5)

Travelling, and to write about travel… is it, or are they, an event? The same event, or different? Also, what is it to meaningfully write about travel? Does such a meaningful writing inspire travel, or sedentary joy of travelling? In order to answer this one must take travel from the narrow confines of movement itself. The proposal is rife with contradictions. To unshackle travel from movement? To free it into stasis? In general understanding stasis binds, and flux is unbinding. In travelogy the motional state of travel is un-transcendental, non-dialectic. If the ideology of travel is to perform itself the traveller must pause, and settle into space. Consider the epigraph, first. The words are of early 20th century author Norman Douglas; they characterise an urgency for a disciplinary take on travel writing. Although he does not explicitly say so, he outlines briefly the requirements in good travel writing, presuming the such a trend as being a recent one. It is true that there has not been a methodology of a study of travel although philosophers since antiquity have written about the phenomenon. Who would accord any complexity of travelogy to the official travelling on a business purpose? But, Plato had done precisely that when he advised the restriction of travel for

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citizens of Magnesia below 40 years of age, without a necessary administrative training and purpose to travel in an official capacity. 1 Any other example of travel would according to him corrupt the state of Magnesia with external influences. However, the common distinction between the intentions of the above questions and the epigraph, and of Plato was that travel was to be ideally preceded by a serious vocational commitment to “a great deal of time and study.” 2 According to him any part time tendency towards such a vocation was antagonistic to the moral and civic codes of the city. For Platonic Sophists travel was indispensable: “the association between travel and wisdom was strong from the archaic period and onward, and…many sophoi travelled extensively precisely in their capacity as practitioners of wisdom. If anything the sophists’ itinerant disposition is a sign of how integrated their practices were into Greek intellectual life.” 3 The growing philistinism in reading and writing of travel enforces such reminiscences. So, essentially, without a rigorous training in travel ethics travel was not permissible. There is no unbiased reason to side with Plato abruptly on this aspect of travel, yet there is an unmistakable tendency in 20th century philosophy to pay heed to travel at last. Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Foucault, Badiou, Bachelard, and Heidegger, all write directly or indirectly to the phenomenology of travel experiences. They try to see travel not with Plato’s vocational eye, but variously as a common process, a symbolic and religious journey of life, a rites of passage, a displacement from the oneiric home, a beginning of consciousness towards something, the entry into or departure from the shore, a being towards death, and so on. If travel writing was born quintessentially as an Enlightenment genre, travel theory was inarguably the product of the 20th century. That it took almost 400 years for a certain writing to elicit its theory is itself an

1 See Robert W. Hall’s Plato, pg. 116. London: Routledge, 2004. 2 Ibid. 3 See the chapter titled “Itinerant Sophoi” in H. Kan Tell’s Plato’s Counterfeit Sophists, pg. 93-112. Washington DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University, 2011.

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interesting subject of study. However, presently I only mean to suggest that a serious turn can be observed in philosophy of the 20th century that seems to revolve more and more around questions of travel. A bit of Platonic sophism exists on both the sides: if I can presume there are two sides in the discipline of travel literature. The first of two sides would be readers and writers who deal in grand settings, such as the Nile, the Sphinx, Keats’ burial ground, some famous botanical garden’s banyan tree, and so on. The artefacts involved unless studied symbolically and philosophically but only on the basis of material history, would not in this scheme be anything but grand. The second side is of writes and readers dealing in cosmopolitan or folk locations which have nothing historically distinctive about them – the airport, the cemetery, or the café, as in the famous waiter-example provided by Jean Paul Sartre in Being and Nothingness. 4 Such travels, as I call them are ground travels; they occur in

4 The café is a ground (of) travel where the movements of the waiter determine the travel of the coffeehouse intellectual, such as Sartre himself, and settlement into this ground. The travelogy of the “patron” is embodied in the movements, and being of the waiter: Let us consider this waiter in the cafe. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with the recklessness of a tight-rope-walker by putting it in a perpetually unstable, perpetually broken equilibrium which he perpetually reestablishes by a light movement of the arm and hand. All his behavior seems to us a game. He applies himself to chaining his movements as if they were mechanisms, the one regulating the other; his gestures and even his voice seem to be mechanisms; he gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. He is playing, he is amusing himself. But what is he playing? We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a cafe.

See “Bad Faith”, pg. 59, in Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel E. Barnes. London: Methuen & Co Ltd., 1969.

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sites which present a strong heterotopic possibility, that is, conflicting spatial identities and practices in a space that appear as real but lies outside the centres of political and civic life. Heterotopia5 is not only determined by the location of the topoi, in relation to the cosmopolitan centres, but also through the symbolic relation that the inhabitant forms with his habitus. These ground travels have more to do with the material ground than the material history of grounds that travellers cross. In ground travels there is an spontaneous synchronity between travelling and settling down, that is developing a bond with the ground. As opposed to material history, this travel foregrounds a ground reality wherein travel is no longer about moving but about being at rest, actively changing the ground, or allowing the ground to change oneself. I have explained this as travelogy on several occasions. Legend has that at least two philosophers writing about travel or geographies – Deleuze and Kant, respectively – were famously nontravellers. 6 However, in either travel takes a provincial, or even a domiciliary turn. It is not enough to partake of the histories and symbols of the symbolic and historical sites, and in turn be called neo-colonialists (a charge soon to become a cliché). There must be a re-intellectualization therefore, of the Platonic order, not necessarily with the same dictates, of travel. To balance the philistinism around special travel settings there is required a special discourse around common travel. If the reader of crosscountry travels does not provincially alter his habitus according to the passages he reads, he does not travel. And, if he travels, it means his own habitus has taken the extravaganza of the spaces he has only read about. To walk across these native spaces is also to walk across the spaces in the travelogue. Such a relationship can only be forged with the emergence of

5 For an elaborate discussion on “Heterotopias” see Michel Foucault’s (the thinker of the concept) essay ‘Of Other Places’, trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics, 16, 1 (1986), 22-7. 6 See “Kant and the Leibniz-Wolff School”, pg 56-8, in John H. Zammito’s Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002, and “Introduction”, pg. 1-5 in Mary Bryden ed. Gilles Deleuze: Travels in Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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a theoretical vocabulary that can order the hermeneutics of travel, a methodology that can discriminate between production and nonproduction of travelled spaces. With this perpetual objective Coldnoon comes to you in another issue, and a dense collection of poetic and theoretical pieces. To enjoy these you must have a lot of time, so that the corresponding space might come to you. The time of borrowing space from our writers must inevitably come to an end soon enough. You would have nothing but our own local spaces to make foreign and travelogic. And, you would also have Coldnoon.

Editor Bangalore, India July 2013

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References Blanton, Casey. Travel Writing: The Self and the World. New York: Routledge, 2002. Bryden, Mary. “Introduction” in Mary Bryden ed. Gilles Deleuze: Travels in Literature, pg 1-10. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Foucault, Michel “Of Other Places”, trans. Jay Miskowiec, in Diacritics, 16, 1, 1986, 22-7. Hall, Robert W. Plato. London: Routledge, 2004. Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel E. Barnes. London: Methuen & Co Ltd., 1969. Tell, H. Kan. Plato’s Counterfeit Sophists. Washington DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University, 2011. Zammito, John H. Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

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POETRY


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from NOT QUITE HERE: AIRPORT POEMS ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ

Elizabeth Kate Switaj’s first collection of poetry, Magdalene & the Mermaids, was published in 2009 by Paper Kite Press. Recent poems have appeared in Lines + Stars and UCity Review. She is the Assistant Managing Editor of Irish Pages: A Journal of Contemporary Writing, a Contributing Editor to Poets’ Quarterly, and a Humanities Instructor at the College of the Marshall Islands. She has taught English in Japan and China.

from Not Quite Here: Airport Poems | ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ | PG. 2 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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from NOT QUITE HERE: AIRPORT POEMS ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ

Heathrow I have run with the horizontal escalators, dodging Australian tourists who never should have been let on planes with bags so big; I have waited an hour to have my passport stamped and half as long for my carry-on to be re-searched, my shoes x-rayed – and still this screen admonishes me to shop; someone must know my onward gate I don’t know any longer if I’m an expatriate, an immigrant, an emigrant and I can number my homes

from Not Quite Here: Airport Poems | ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ | PG. 3 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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LAX at midnight they wake us, late-night arrivals with fresh U.S. entry stamps, legs wrapped through rolling cart handles, and six a.m. onward flights we are too cheap to break our thousand-dollar flights with a hundred or two for a few-hours’ bed, even if coffee & bedbugs are free we thought we could sleep on and beneath the bare ly padded chairs where lights have turned dark, next to the court of Burger King and closed counters but uniforms and flashlights tell us to move on to tiles, to plastic chairs at plastic tables that tilt under laptops or heads on folded arms I have given up on sleep; I pay for the monarch’s largest coffee and steal connectivity that leaks from luxury lounges–since all the other eyes have blurred and I am tired of traveling without someone to tell what we’ve just seen I find someone on Facebook chat some man I’ve never met and type the ruins I’ve climbed and

from Not Quite Here: Airport Poems | ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ | PG. 4 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Dublin this great glass terminal was built to be a tiger’s greeting mouth céad míle fáilte and duty free shops what we’ve got is a twenty -first century dock for a new generation of emigrant youth austerity hasn’t yet dimmed the lights here – leavers get a last look at home, obscured by brilliant white

O’Hare with six hours and not enough sleep to read, I ride the moving walkway under flashing lights until I see the bands of color shaping sunrises I’ve seen: Fujisan, Taishan, mountains I’ve climbed, my Belfast flat with a church silhouette after an all-project night and on the stairs I try to think how all that golden light

from Not Quite Here: Airport Poems | ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ | PG. 5 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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means that we’re all the same, but even I have never been the same as different points of earth lower themselves to show me light

from Not Quite Here: Airport Poems | ELIZABETH KATE SWITAJ | PG. 6 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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REFLECTIONS ON ITALY KRISTIN M. DISTEL

Kristin Distel is a student in the Ashland University MFA program. Her sestina “The Sound of Stone” has been published by DIN Magazine. She is currently researching modernist revisions of early modern ideologies, focusing on the works of Toni Morrison and Mary Astell. She has presented papers on at The University of Oxford, The University of Manchester, the South Central Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and several other conferences. In late 2013, Cambridge University Press will publish her article “Gendered Travel and Quiescence in Toni Morrison’s Paradise” as part of a collection on the subject: utopias in twentieth-century women’s fiction.

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 7 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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REFLECTIONS ON ITALY KRISTIN M. DISTEL

Vestal Ohio snowflakes are heavy – when they coalesce, they weigh as much as my little nephew’s hand pressed against the ice-covered window at my grandparents’ church. And unto you is born this day – There, the pious are appalled. They say an extra prayer for my lost and wandering soul. I know exactly where it is. In heaps of godless Roman rubble, I was born free as Caesar. Before et tu, no one prayed for deliverance. Columns and monuments of self-sufficiency carried a dead statesman’s body to his resting place before Christ, before Christ. Shall Rome stand under one man’s awe? I prayed at the broken temple of Vesta tonight. I prayed. Mary was vestal, too. She hid those things in her heart, the eighth silent virgin.

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 8 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Like headless, broken marble, she silently prays that the fire will not go out, not for a thousand years. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded. Roman remains are smooth, impious, timeworn under my hand. There is shape in their ruins and form in their dust. It is rebirth. Maybe Christ was reborn tonight. Maybe God stretches outside the Ohio state line. It comes upon me. Art thou anything? Art thou –? Dirt and stones fill my pocket. I’ll take them home, scatter the pebbles, and blow the dust from my hand. *Citations in Italics from Luke 2:11, Julius Caesar Act I Sc. II, Act II Sc I, Revelation 4:20, and Act IV Sc. III, respectively.

Scala Sancta Flaking fresco disciples peer down, scour the kneeling sea for a devoted soul. Their eyes chill my skin, colder than hands seeking absolution. Twenty-eight steps separate the pious from nine years in Purgatory. My nomadic feet brought me to the bloodstains that buckle my knees in a daughter’s agape love, slip into the grooves worn by millions of prayers. Marble

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 9 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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older than Christ hides beneath what we are allowed to touch. It peeks between slits and cracks, lets us see where holy, condemned feet fell before Calvary. Pilate’s steps, his bloodied marble scala, don’t answer when I ask why. The woman beside me joins my prayer— a melded liturgy of gratitude and contrition. Her words, foreign to my open ears, cover her rosary, my memory. Her fingers move from her mouth to the floor, to the four drops of holy blood— a communion, a body broken without end. Wrinkles in her hands show the decades of prayers—folded, pleading hands. Who can know what she asks, what has left her unable to lift her eyes past the first Station of the Cross? I wonder whether she wants to tell Pilate not to wash his hands, to tell Christ that He didn’t have to climb the steps below her knees. Dried blood, older than breath, hides in the creases of her hands, pleas, a strained supplica. I lose my prayer, my place in the slowly ascending wave of penitents. Saint Margarita, accept her blood. Tell her He needs no more. Twenty-eight steps lie behind us—

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 10 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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holy dust of two thousand years cakes my open hands.

Following the Arno Gray is not the color of worn roads or dying water. It is the hue of mist turning to breath, an expiated, long song of absolution. I could drown in this air and live on for millennia, perennially young as the marble dancers that line the square. Their placid smiles, preserved and safe, live in reflected starlight. They live. Where does the river end? Does it bleed into another body, another mouth? Florentine Lethe baptizes, life born out of the sound of starlings’ flight, light dripping from cypress trees. A woman’s hands flutter, sketching riverside houses. Her pencil lightly pirouettes, her eyes never meeting paper. Our blended gaze rises, glistening dust covers what we do not see. The river’s infinitesimal trickling is a siren’s song, arching, calling from below the streets, older than words. I follow its crescendo, let it lead a tarantella that brings me to the edge of the city, to the end of a world where blue supplants gray, where forgotten holy water sustains us all.

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 11 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Take Me In Cobblestones fit neatly under our folded legs. Our street vendor lunch tastes like manna – a makeshift picnic in Saint Peter’s Square, where stone hands of one hundred forty saints hover above our heads, waiting to receive. March days and Italian air make me forget, let me walk breathlessly wandering among toppled capitals, walk miles without knowing my legs want to stop. So it will be in the days of the Son of Man. Latinate manna flutters down from the papal arms above us, little blessings eliciting praise from stone. The sanctified catacombs are icy—cold burial stone pulls prayers of atonement out of my throat. We walk on hallowed ground. A wounded Christ lies in his mother’s arms above us. Agape grief buckles the legs of the woman in front of me, rosary held to her mouth like manna. She prays at the grave of her pope, prays for end of days. Cypress trees flit past our train car’s windows. Please let us go a three days’ journey, that we may sacrifice to the Lord. Stone rises up out of the Etruscan ground—manna is the feel of ancient soil in my hands. I forget to walk. Trees older than Florentine millennia stretch their legs, canopying my folded hands, prostate back from God above. My eyes find the Piazza della Signoria from above the city. Light glints off of broken stones and stretches for days, off lovers who dance in the square, off the legs of the David. Do not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone. In evening light, the sculptures’ shadows walk, hold out their hands to tourists, asking for manna.

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 12 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Rome falls silent on the Sabbath, except for Saint John’s parade. Disciples throw manna to children who line the road. We watch from above the street, watch the bent old man trail behind, his hobbled, hurried walk tells his worry—that the crucified Pied Piper will forget him in the last days. His cane finds the safest crevices in the stone streets, while his whispered prayers to Saint Servatus breathe life into his forgiven legs. Air like sapphires lets me walk, leads me through rays of light, glowing legs stretching down from Heaven. Roman manna dissolves in my mouth. I kneel to kiss the stone stained red with saints’ blood. Above, blue goes on for days.

Reflections on Italy | KRISTIN M. DISTEL | PG. 13 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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FOUR POEMS BINA SARKAR ELLIAS

Bina Sarkar Ellias is founder, editor, designer and publisher of International Gallerie, the global arts and ideas journal encouraging understanding of cultural diversity through the arts [www.gallerie.net]. She is also a curator, poet and fiction writer. She received a Fellowship from the Asia Leadership Fellow Program and Japan Foundation, 2007, towards research and development of the project, Unity in Diversity: Envisioning Community Building in Asia and Beyond, the Times Group Yami Women Achievers’ award, 2008, and the FICCI/FLO 2013 award for excellence in her work.

Four Poems | BINA SARKAR ELLIAS | PG. 14 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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FOUR POEMS BINA SARKAR ELLIAS

Just There… just there beside the highway to nowhere sits a tired man fixing tyres punctured egos deflated desires he lives by his wits the Kerala man with Marx and Che and a toddy can. a wizard of sorts he repairs your dreams patches your heart mends tattered seams just there beside the highway to nowhere look for a tired man if you need air. On the Bombay-Poona Highway. May 28 2013

Four Poems | BINA SARKAR ELLIAS | PG. 15 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Kabul houses on a hill grow from mud in its womb. up and up – a stairway to despair. ravaged and ravaged again – and again by the history of greed. its inhabitants have faces sculpted from war and medieval stone. as strong, as stoic as wind-weathered rock along the Salang Pass. prayers rent the Ramadan air yet god does not hear. doomed they are, living half-lives exiled in their own land. streets weary with rubble speak with the tongue of dust and naked bricks.

Four Poems | BINA SARKAR ELLIAS | PG. 16 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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and behind razor wires and stern walls, life ticks to slow pulse beats… grandparents die children are born and sometimes… sometimes, there is wine and song. Kabul. December 2008

Istanbul in Istanbul I walk the centuries through streets of mosque and minaret. a sinuous tongue, the Bosphorus licks east and west. once Byzantium born from the womb of an oracle bathed by a crescent moon that shimmered

Four Poems | BINA SARKAR ELLIAS | PG. 17 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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on the banner of Constantinople. Istanbul is history skein-wrapped between sea and sea and the eyes of a child alone in his conversation with trees.

Santiniketan Night in the still night of Santiniketan a red road rolls out— astonished, like Kali’s tongue. September 2011

Four Poems | BINA SARKAR ELLIAS | PG. 18 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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FOUR POEMS ADITY CHOUDHURY

Adity Choudhury hails from Shillong and currently lives in New Delhi. She wrote her M. Phil dissertation in Diaspora Studies at the University of Hyderabad. Her work has been published in Pyrta Journal.

Four Poems | ADITY CHOUDHURY | PG. 19 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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FOUR POEMS ADITY CHOUDHURY

Winter Warm woolen mittens and firesidefrom where burns the flame eternal in its promise of an ever harsh winter. There, an autowallah stands smoking a beedi. The madwoman sleeps at a corner carved out of the clothes she picks up in tatters. She speaks to herself, praying to Kali in a broken language. Some say she is as old as the goddess herself who in a fit of rage lost her faith. Old men sell things, their shops older than the Jama Masjid, now in shambles. Their wrinkles speak to me, each like streams etched in my mind. Someday they shall fade and become an ocean of leftovers.

A Song I had no name, but a number plate, chained hands and feet

Four Poems | ADITY CHOUDHURY | PG. 20 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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that defined me in the ships, carrying multitudes to the unknown Sea. Silence crept in, a giant octopus ready to swallow any voice of dissent. And, we the Men, sat with the women together, caring little of our caste. "Kalapani", my feared Love how ghastly was your song of depths unscathed that told me not to lose my pride, but to swallow it like doses of the medicine, born of the machine- it’s taste bitter. And I cried. “Chalo Jahaji! humein jana hain uss paar.” I was a Man- all of 30, toiling away through the dawn of sweat, and dusk of opium-induced reverence towards my Mother, who sat all alone in the veranda of my little hut in that little village of Bihar, wondering what became of her youngest son. The vastness of the blue and the black I wanted to cross and leave but I feared I’d die a Vagrant’s death, whipped, slapped and condemned till the last breath of my little frame. Muttering curses, I slowly left this void that lasted for a century far from the prying eyes, of the pages of History

Four Poems | ADITY CHOUDHURY | PG. 21 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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forgotten by time, but remembered by this soil, I could only sing my servitude.

I am Time. From the ruins of Mesopotamia, of Atlantis my mother, I am born. A long journey it has been and longer still must it beas I must change and age. Like the old bards of the East I carry a pipe full of tales, carried by the winds, in hushed whispers of the Ocean’s waves. A happy soul is but a mystery to me for I sing this pain, unheard in vain. And before I greet you with open arms I ask myselfmust I make some room for you as well?

Four Poems | ADITY CHOUDHURY | PG. 22 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

QUARTERLY OF TRAVELOGY ISSN 2278-9650

St. John in the Wilderness Here they rest in peace, finally. In this odd silence a thousand words sigh and fade away, like a river that has dried left alone, tongue tied. I like what I see and we speak in babbling madness to you and me. You are old, they say, even haunted perhaps, but this strange restlessness engulfs me in entirety. Am I frightened? Today, as we meet I go back in time to see you crying as you clutch your little one in your bosom for the last time. And he is silent as your grave looks at him, a tear-drop, now a memory. She joins him soon all of 27, young and childless on her own in the Wilderness. St. John, you smile at me as we listen. “Worry not!” you say “for the Dead are now safe in my arms.” I say nothing taking in this softness, a caress.

Four Poems | ADITY CHOUDHURY | PG. 23 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

QUARTERLY OF TRAVELOGY ISSN 2278-9650

FOUR LOIRE JOURNEYS KERRY FEATHERSTONE

Kerry Featherstone read English and European Literature at the University of Essex; his Ph. D thesis was on Bruce Chatwin at Nottingham Trent. He is now Lecturer in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. He writes in French and English, and his work has appeared in journals including Cleaves, Tears in the Fence, Modern Poetry in Translation and the French Literary Review. He was MuBu poet in residence for Alford Manor House in 2010. He is interested in representations of Afghanistan. Featherstone is presently writing a monograph on travel writing and globalization.

Four Loire Journeys | KERRY FEATHERSTONE | PG. 24 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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FOUR LOIRE JOURNEYS KERRY FEATHERSTONE

Gennes-Les Rosiers, 1983 I’m holding the weight of a ten-franc coin, and looking up at old, white stone. The August sun finds a way through windows, hatching the floor of the Abbey refectory, where a young monk gives me change. And I go slipping through an oak door out to the riverside. Below the Rue Des Ponts, an island bathes. It’s my first crossing from dry land to memory. A chaland in the lazy current slides between sand-banks. The money is spent on sorbet at a café on the roadside; later, I stay awake to watch the water from a vineyard that runs between the levée and the Abbey gates.

Train from Ancenis to Angers, 1991 I can’t read Francois Villon while the slow tracks crawl along the levée. The morning train heading up-stream past Ingrandes seems to be trying too hard. There’s a girl in the carriage with a cloth rucksack and I think ‘she’s escaped from a LycéePrivé to find romance in l’Anjou.’ Her fingers walk through a diary

Four Loire Journeys | KERRY FEATHERSTONE | PG. 25 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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that’s dressed in birthday wrapping paper, while stations go unnoticed. I’m also a pilgrim, with a cheap return ticket for the Gare St Laud; les Halles, the flower market. But again the water flashes under a bridge; beyond the carriage are low beaches then a white, chalk-sketch of movement: wild horses running on the banks of the Loire. We turn until a curve takes them out of sight; until we only have our reflections in the window’s double face.

The Hot-Air Balloons at Brissac, 2002 We sleep in a vineyard on the east bank; I’m back on a valley-slope with a glass of Champigny clouding the distant farm road and these twenty years. The next day we watch montgolfiers blowing west over Gennes to Saumur, see kids picking favourites, buying ice-creams, sticking balloons to their bike-handles and freewheeling towards the castle. They trust the pavements rushing past, with red bursts of geraniums in baskets. I’m still choosing sorbet and paying from a handful of centimes; turning through a notebook so that I can believe in wild horses. You know that I’m only seeing half of this; I’m navigating a longer journey against the current.

Four Loire Journeys | KERRY FEATHERSTONE | PG. 26 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Saumur to Les Rosiers, 2013 While it’s raining, I drive through St Martin looking for a bar that’s open. The season brings the river closer, cutting through fields and drowning trees in its release. A world of sunlit limestone has been soaked by the passing of the flood. A heron lifts from rich waters in slow-motion. I accelerate, scrying the windscreen for a place with an open door. Before I know it, Les Rosiers is up ahead; as the weather clears I park on the Rue de la Bascule. In the square, antiques are laid out on tables under plastic sheeting. In the corner, a portrait artist with his chalks and his umbrella, is staring as though he can’t see straight. I thrust my hands into a pocket of small change, look up at the sign to the Abbé St Maur and walk back to the car.

Four Loire Journeys | KERRY FEATHERSTONE | PG. 27 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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FOUR POEMS ANINDITA DEO

Anindita Deo’s works have appeared in literary journals like Red River Review, Kritya, Taj Mahal Review, Reading Hour and twenty20 Journal. One of her short stories has featured in an anthology Nude & Other Stories. Her travel writings have been published in Outside in and India Today Travel.

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 28 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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FOUR POEMS

ANINDITA DEO

Kanniyakumari History walks like the town beggar in the windswept streets, ancient poet in iron scaffolding, held together against a corrosive wind. Waves from myriad seas mingle like drunken obscenities in a seedy bar. Kneeling man cowering angel, a sari clad Mother Mary housed in a church fashioned in the sacred geometry of faith. Outside, the town drunk Holds out cowries against the angry sun Tempting out devils that sleep inside.

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 29 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Thoughts in the head Crowd like demi gods on the gopurams Conch shells and horns Clatter and crash Till dampness nibbles away Sound and soft light A reed thin man Hacks up his mundu, rolls up his shirt sleeve And coaxes out music From ancient pillars With a tap here, a punch there.

Smoke signals Finches trace quick, intersecting arcs. Lives, like onions peeled and dried cut into halves by sharp change in trajectories. A timeless engine chugs steam rowing bogies down sweeping blue slopes derailing thoughts careening down valleys of tea.

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 30 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Wet wood smoke rises in a slow mocking dance drawing a verse against a canvas of mist. Minds in free fall, caught mid-flight by a spider web bed embedded with a layer of rain Spread-eagled, nailed with sparkling droplets of rain, glued like helpless worms on the crisscrossing strings. A howling wind maddened by the tangerine whiff of drenched wild ferns tugs at bright plastic draped tea pickers dotting the slopes like beetles on a carpet of green.

Tranquebar Inconsolable sea gulping down faith and remains of ancient shrines. A solitary godhead, reclaimed,

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 31 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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restored, painted in maniacal colors, mocking a dammed out sea. Singing waves. Surf on Peebles. Shrimps washed down, with watery beer in a dim haze of happiness. A playful cat circles the dinner table purring pleasantries. Sleepy eyed, brushing against languid legs with its tail upturned. A fort bathed in lemon yellow sun overrun by flowering weeds swaying in the sea breeze. A crow sits atop the rusted flag post. Once graced by a foreign flag claiming dominion over a strange land. A strong gust of wind. A hastily torn fish head swept out of the bird’s beak. Perils of claiming

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 32 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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a birds eye view. Storm clouds brew. Fishing boats anchored mid sea bob and waver. Tides pulled higher and higher by a trenchant moon. Inside the Jewish church a choir of half dressed kids sings praises to the Lord to the accompaniment of confused disco beats, reading out verses written in the scurrying antlike ancient script of Tamil. Red tiled, white washed house with a little window overlooking the sea. A wide mouthed urn sits expectantly in the little courtyard of pebbles collecting rain water as if it were the nectar of gods. A dining table of dark polished teak glows in the filtered light of palm scented breeze.

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 33 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Pulicat The last light of the day quivers against the placid lake water. Twinkling lights of tiny ghost towns on the periphery. A pencil thin, almost dim streak of light from the lighthouse. A crescent moon, and a pocketful of stars. The stench of a lost baby whale, swept to the mouth of the ocean, rotting away like deferred dreams. Dull drone of the motorboat, against the quiet vastness of the summer sky. Vague silhouettes of poles holding invisible fishing nets. A gentle tide laps against the gliding boat. A man stands on the edge, holding a rudder. Eyes on the horizon. Illusion of control? Foretold directions?

Four Poems | ANINDITA DEO | PG. 34 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

QUARTERLY OF TRAVELOGY ISSN 2278-9650

FOUR POEMS JYOTHSNAPHANIJA

Jyothsnaphanija is a doctoral candidate at the Department of English Literature English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. Her poetry has been published in Luvah, Miracle, Tajmahal Review, Kritya, Fragrance and Induswoman Writing. Her academic writings have appeared in Subalternspeak: An International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, eDhvani Journal, Wizcraft Journal, Barnolipi - An Interdisciplinary Journal of language and Literature. Her essay “Resistance from Ruins: An Exploration of Indian Female Gothic Narratives” has been published the book Indian Women Novelists: A Critical Spectrum (2012), and “Picturing India from Colonial Past to Postcolonial Paradigms: A Critical Analysis of selected plays of Indian women dramatists” in the book Contemporary Indian Drama in English. Her research interests include postcolonial feminism, psycho analysis, and literatures from marginal cultures.

Four Poems | JYOTHSNAPHANIJA | PG. 35 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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FOUR POEMS JYOTHSNAPHANIJA

The Train Journey When the squeezing snow burns at the morn, As the weighty luggage controls the walk With repeated prayers and remembering of forgotten things the train journey would set out. Walking through the streets With the fear of loneliness, A frightening fear of the unknown – quickly hotfooting, towards the puzzling platform. With the pungent sicksweet smells of breakfast tea, With the cry laughing wishes and send offs, With trivial quarrels, With no place in the empty space, With wending music and selling wind, With strangeness of familiarity the station is like one’s own chaotic ideal mind. Battering window light, Scattering window wind, Shrilling tunes of vendor’s vindaloo, Permanent possessiveness for short space, Fill everywhere the photographic memory. It jiggles in incertitude, Like the dreams of a fresher for a new interview. It crosses everything else,

Four Poems | JYOTHSNAPHANIJA | PG. 36 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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And equally tired like the weary family in the relative’s wedding helterskelter. The whistling sound of the unstoppable rhythm, Like the complaints of the sick returning home. Topsy-turvy ecstasy, As it is cheered with the rejoice of students reaching home. The homesick train Laments at the young bride leaving her own home with happiness. As the drizzling sound on its top Reechoes its bustling sound In the refuge of afternoon sleep In loosing sense of time As the whole day ends just in watching. The filled emptiness, The restless conversations, The reaching destinations, The loneliness in the populace, The momentum happiness, The journey ends Like the life play closes When the role ends.

Tormenting Remembrance In the evening shadow twisting wind We walked over the sea shore We played with sea shells We gazed at children in the water The time was just slipping away between us. As the birds reach their home In the twilight veil

Four Poems | JYOTHSNAPHANIJA | PG. 37 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Returning to our own world Stopping at every stall When our names are erased from the sand I knew it then I won’t be your light Again when you tread towards this shore. It will be a reflection of me To share the foot prints of loss It will be another shade To say about your memories It will be a new picture of someone To trip rearward the shore.

Ellora It was my name Elapura Then they called it as Ellora. Rooted from Charanandri hills, Radiating reputation, I render Rastrakutas pride. Carved stories, Untranslated inscriptions Chaitya Griha or Chandhrashala Carpenter’s cave or Kailasanadha temple Nandi Mandapa or Indra Sabha As a speaking shrine As a voicing history As a sculptured heritage As an imprint of constant ruins With the odor of bats With the people stepping in the dark I am untired to repeat the tale.

Four Poems | JYOTHSNAPHANIJA | PG. 38 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Stone Hunting The whole day in search of the stone Which glitters like a star Which would make us rich Which we didn’t see yet. From hill to hill, Frisking through each corner, In the hot sun and dark cave, In the rain and in the sweat, Starting at the dawn, We catch each shining stone. Finally the posh men come They inspect our treasure Stone by stone They throw most from where they were caught They take few in their pocket They leave few coins in our lingering palms With disappointment we weight for the next dawn to start the hunt again.

Four Poems | JYOTHSNAPHANIJA | PG. 39 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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THREE POEMS ARUN SAGAR

Arun Sagar currently lives in France, where he teaches languages while completing his doctoral studies in law at Rouen University. His first book of poems, Anamnesia, is forthcoming from Poetrywala (Mumbai) in 2013.

Three Poems | ARUN SAGAR | PG. 40 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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THREE POEMS ARUN SAGAR

Liège Already I remember rain on the windowpane, the bus station an anchored ship, soft disco music. Already I remain onboard with early morning baggage smells, the driver’s quizzical smile. This is the eternal problématique: 5 am, the impossibility of sleep or tears, streetlights through glass and rain. Each way out is worthy, each way leads to clarity and mist, and music. And you, too, are present here, the mere knowledge of it is enough; you too lean back in your seat, stretch your feet. You look at me as if to speak.

Three Poems | ARUN SAGAR | PG. 41 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Normandy Rain And often there is sunlight on the white fabric of a dress, someone mistaken in the street, or through an olive grove, or wearing green stockings in a park, but the image fades like the bright square the cell phone leaves inside your eyelid, the fine rain that appears and disappears as twilight rushes through the bus’ still interior and the highway bends around Oissel and Vernon and Mantes-La-Jolie. But where were we? A name remains on the fogged-up pane until we sweep it clear, having glimpsed the landscape through its crooked letters. And now the darkening farms shift closer to each other and to us, the gap in between remaining out of sight, although night’s inversion has begun to give it shape. But still the fences lengthen and complete themselves, the trees, houses becoming whole without their own shadows separating them from earth and sky. The scene is well-established, the

Three Poems | ARUN SAGAR | PG. 42 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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highway lights have not yet come to add their dash of romance - left to right across the screen – and to deepen the night into a desperate blue, yet even now the rain sneaks down, leaving miles and miles of grass not fit to sleep on. And often there is sunlight, cruel, not permitting sleep, the travelled hours forever lost, like the hours lost and won each spring and fall in northern lands. Strange notion that was at first for me to grasp, but where have I been all this while? Drinking chamomile tea, you might say not incorrectly, although sometimes I feel it’s drinking me, the pale green cup unshaking on its tray. Black olives sicken with their strange unripeness; Sonny Rollins plays You don’t know what love is, repeating endlessly. Italian coffee in the morning. Chocolate-covered cereal in a bowl of milk. The memory of the taste is no different from its ex-

Three Poems | ARUN SAGAR | PG. 43 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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pectation, or so we would like to imagine, hungry and wet with the rain that has somehow seeped into the seats and the curtains that draw together but not enough to keep the dark outside. More rain, you almost say to yourself, or brighter moonlight. The lamps windmill against your pane, or, rather, against the outer of the two panes you call your own. I would draw the curtains if I could, or whisper in your ear - fabled sweet nothings - but sometimes all things shut down with warnings, the system overheated by the table’s insulating finish, and we must wait till morning comes with sunlight - sometimes, grey skies and brighter, clearer rain – to be starting over.

Three Poems | ARUN SAGAR | PG. 44 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Giverny So this was your discovered peace, this overflowing green where flowers smudge and deepen in the setting sun, and paths dapple and stretch out to your door. I can see you standing here at your window sill, smoking your pipe and waiting for the trees to assume their colours, with each weightless decade passing like a change of seasons. Winter has already touched the evening’s skin, blurring all human senses, and now the hour of closing shadows down in strokes of pine and sable.

Three Poems | ARUN SAGAR | PG. 45 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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THE WESTERN CANTO K. SATCHIDANANDAN

K. Satchidanandan writes in Malayalam, and English. Satchidanandan has established himself as an academician, editor, translator and playwright. He was a Professor of English and the Editor of Indian Literature, the journal of the Sahitya Akademi (India's National Academy of Literature) and the executive head of the Sahitya Akademi for a decade (1996–2006) He has to his credit 23 collections of poetry besides many selections, 16 collections of translations of poetry and 21 collections of essays on literature, language and society-three of them in Englishbesides four plays and three travel narratives. He has 25 collections of his poetry in translation in 17 languages including Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, English, Arabic, French, German and Italian. He has introduced several poets like Garcia Lorca, Alexander Block, Voznesensky, Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, Bertolt Brecht, Paul Celan, Zbignew Herbert, Eugenio Montale, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Mahmoud Darwish and Yehuda Amichai to Malayalam readers through translations and studies, besides a lot of Black, Latin American and Indian poetry. From <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._Satchidanandan>

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 46 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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THE WESTERN CANTO K. SATCHIDANANDAN

Rome, Rain (To Tasos Denegris) The rain in Rome springs from the eyes of the Mother, her slain son in her lap. The rain dissolves the footprints of the Exodus. The guiding star is drowned in a deluge. A crow from the Colosseum announces the last century of Man. A bomber screeches above St.Peters. St. Peters, Rome. 8 May

Hymn to Wine (To Izet Sarajlic) Wine was in the heart of God. He poured it down to create vineyards. Raise the cup to your lips, and you are kissing the Earth. Each droplet sings in the blood, a lark, as we turn into the cherry trees of spring. Our arms flower, breeze whispers

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 47 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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love into our leaves, our roots press on, past summers, past hells, past the battle’s bones and the buried dreams, until they discover that magic spring whose sacred water unites all humans on Earth. Every cup you raise for a neighbour is a hymn in glass for him who had turned water into wine. Hotel Central, Sarajevo, 10 May

The Poet’s Statue (To Husein Tahmiscic) Which is the substance solid enough to make the poet’s statue? One’s own flesh. Won’ flesh decay? Posterity awaits at the edge of decrepitude; it will rebuild it in its own image. Who is the sculptor skilled enough to make the poet’s statue? One’s own time. Won’t time change? Each coming age will mould it anew in the fire of its awakening. What is the form of the poet’s statue? The form of water.

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 48 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Isn’t water formless? Water takes the form it is given: pitcher, puddle, cloud, rain, river, sea. What is the colour of the poet’s statue? The colour of nothingness. Isn’t nothingness colourless? It’s bright in daylight, black at night, blue in heights and depths. It’s sexless, so it knows the joys of man and woman. Its taste keeps changing: salty in sweat, bitter in wine, sweet in fruit, sight in the eye. It has no feelings: so its own, all pleasures and pains. It is ignorant, so it can hold all wisdom It has no meaning, so it can receive all meaning. Its name is just a sign, and so is its country. We may call it whatever we choose. Aleksa Santic? Why not? In front of the statue of poet Aleksa Santic, Mostar, 11 May

We Live on Islands (To Dorota Chroscielewska) “What use are these flowers? Will their touch rouse the dead children? Will the birds’ song break open prisons?”

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 49 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


COLDNOON: TRAVEL POETICS NO. 2.3 JUL ‘13

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Dorota, our life is a grey wind blowing over ruins. We landed on different islands, living on our dead brothers, clinging still to the memories of a ship-wreck. Our brief day is a bird’s tail on fire. It is death that weaves dawn’s silk here, fattening itself on the night’s leaves. We live on islands. Hear the oceans of blood heaving inside the graveyards. Hear the kids from the birds’ throats: Moso, David, Eather, Jakov: childhoods choked to death in the gas chambers. O, how we smuggled in battlesongs inside lullabies! How we gifted one another bombers for toys! We live on islands. Our kisses explode one another. The god of the dance sequence plays the killer in the war scene. Here blossoms bust out of knee-stumps. Fear rules all the seasons of our tale. Tanks roll along the same lane spring comes along. We live on islands. Dorota, our words are ants that drag in only headless corpses. Our language is a house on fire. Music jumped out of it long ago,

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 50 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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burns all over. Our spring is the sigh of survivors on the mountain tops, their prophecies all dried up. Don’t ask me to forget the blood on our hands. These carnations are no excuse: they were all once the victims’ eyes. Dorota, these flowers are for our own hearts, long ago dead. At the War Memorial, Mostar, 12 May

The Birth of Rivers (To David Harsent) This is how rivers are born: One day the hill’s body aches and splits, a spring leaps out like a meteor. With him the buried cities come back: the gigantic loves of dinosaurs, felled trees of old, tribal goddesses, Adam and Eve, the lost Paradise, the denied light, God’s remembrance of the earlier universe. The children dancing around him have discovered the secret of creation between a rock and a beech tree. And the Wise, they filter the water for gold: a new solar system in the mould, a new spring, new Christ, once again for us, to crucify. At the Bosnian Spring, 14 May

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 51 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Frankfurt (To John Kendrick) Mephisto is now a machine that grants any wish. Press a button, and Helen arrives for Faust, straight from B C E. Policemen with stenguns hum the Ninth symphony. Frankfurt, 16 May

1987

The Western Canto | K. SATCHIDANANDAN | PG. 52 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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TRAVELLING AND FORGETTING GOIRICK BRAHMACHARI

Goirick Brahmachari works as a consultant for an Economics research organisation in New Delhi. He is an ardent follower of Jazz, Blues and Indian classical forms of music. His poems have been published in Poetry Super Highway, Pyrta Journal, Four Quarters Magazine, Brown Critique, Kritya, Decanto, and other Indian Journals.

Travelling and Forgetting| GOIRICK BRAHMACHARI | PG. 53 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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TRAVELLING AND FORGETTING GOIRICK BRAHMACHARI

Postcards from Chopta In your mornings music is a landscape of green memories in your music silence. white mountains of petals dead alleys, white white like death and white like the dawn a glass full of clouds, spilling over white sheets that hang from above defying gravity, and vanity under the bluest Buddhist skies

White memories. a time travel a year of rain folktales

and beyond.

Travelling and Forgetting| GOIRICK BRAHMACHARI | PG. 54 FIRST PUBLISHED IN WWW.coldnoon.com


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Leftovers Parting isn’t really the hardest thing to do. It’s those lost fragrances, images once left behind, that comes back clearly and cuts like a rusty iron blade. The fragrance of Irish coffee that fell over my jacket, The folded tissue papers of gibberish, Noise makers of China town, And cheap alcohol. Faded posters of adult movies, drenched and torn in rain. Faded newspapers in that tea stalls that smelt like charcoal and kerosene. Lazy College Street walks- wet tickets of that sticky mini bus. Working as sales men, selling Jazz at Elgin road, buying blues from free school street. The wrapped ‘Love at the time of Cholera’. Crazy Jazz Fests of Congo Square. Torn pages of my dairy that I left for you. And your skin, That smelt like a Baul Gaan.

Of Reason, Journey and Sangeet Samarohs Fading day light transcending through the senses, high, like ragas with all of their gamakas into the crazy, cold Gwalior skies. Doped and drunk for years, liquid- like Indian classical, and all the shivering memories it can bring. The road is long, a thousand miles and wide like a sea of void. Notes reach to the furthest horizons, red like fire, and red like my mindcruising through the grey cells of my past. Fast. So fast, that you cannot breathe in the air that runs in, every time you open the window in the highway full of miracles and cheap alcohol. And the streetlights, they pass like lines in my notebook, torn and dead; ever ceasing, forgetting. Waterlike notes loop in your mind, drowning yourself in thumries, bleeding,

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crying, sighing for love and everything we have ever longed for. White sheet of hope spread on the floor- peace and salvation, of humility and compassion- where everyone, old and new, rich and downtrodden sit, sleep for 4 nights and 4 days to lose themselves into the mystic of divine. And the instruments of God, players from all directions, create and recreate an aura that sings of oneness and love. Miyan Tansen floats in through the breeze, in wilderness and rain, in control of everything, every note that has been played so far. Gaus his master, resting at peace, tapping his fingers to the complex talas and rhythmic structures that hang in air, like planets in the sky. And we all nod our heads to the bending notes wearily; to agree, that love is all we need- love is all we need, love is all we need to carry on through the years of desert and drunken nights.

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NONFICTION


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MODERN DIRECTIONS IN TRAVEL WRITING: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land and William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India UPASANA DUTTA

Upasana Dutta is studying English Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Her translations have appeared in Hachette India's publication The Crazy Tales of Pagla Dashu and Co. She is interested in war poetry, travel writing, fantasy literature and queer theory.

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MODERN DIRECTIONS IN TRAVEL WRITING: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land and William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India UPASANA DUTTA

Travel writing has been around for a long time, early examples ranging as far back as the second century A.D., when Pausanius undertook his ambitious ten-volume Description of Greece, combining a first-hand observation of Greece’s topography with an insightful study of its culture and politics. It is a genre that has engaged the interest of readers across time and cultures, as the surviving accounts of Nasir Khusraw, Marco Polo, Ibn-e-Batuta, Petrarch and Richard Hakluyt, to name a few, testify. What could be the reasons that led to the birth of travel writing? One can never be sure exactly what shapes the ebb and flow of literature; it is something that is always finely responsive to contemporary interests. It might be assumed that explorers ventured out of their homelands with various motives, as pioneers of their own civilization seeking to spread their faith, as traders and merchants looking for lands full of promises of riches, or, a little more uncommonly in the early ages, simply for pleasure. Their wonder at discovering these new lands and these strange cultures, in a world where oceans and mountains were still fairly staggering obstacles, translated into travelogues. There were always a corresponding number of individuals who wished for or required this information about things hitherto unknown, and thus, possibly, travel writing came into being. It seems, then, to be a genre that was moulded by a number of forces other than the obvious creative impulse of wanting to share new impressions and observations–the knowledge of these newly-discovered territories must have served to benefit scholars and rulers alike. However, in the past few centuries, the crux of travel literature – the nature of travel itself – has changed radically. With ease of transportation, the world has become a smaller place, to take resort to a cliché, and traveling no longer remains the terrain of almost exclusively the politically and financially powerful. When every peak and every crag has been photographed and

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documented with exact dimensions, travel writing can no longer remain concerned with a fascination with the ‘exotic’. I shall attempt to study how contemporary travel literature is a particularly fluid genre, blending elements of history, anthropology, journalism and sometimes employing fictional devices in an essentially non-fictional category with particular attention to Ghosh’s In an Antique Land and Dalrymple’s Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. Dalrymple, in his article “Home Truths on Abroad” has managed to sum up the present status of travel writing quite succinctly, noticing the waning of the travel writing boom, a far cry from the excitement of about two decades ago when he published his first book In Xanadu, the time of the greats of the like of Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin. He is one of the first to recognize that the trend of chronicling “rambling accounts of every conceivable rail, road or river journey between Kamchatka and Tasmania” has lost its efficacy as an interesting narrative mode, but he is quick to assert his belief that travel literature has not reached a dead-end by any means, as he believes that “wonderfully varied ingredients can be added to a travel book: politics, archaeology, history, philosophy, art or magic. It’s possible to cross-fertilize the genre with other literary forms – biography, or anthropological writing – or, perhaps more interesting still, to follow in Chatwin’s footsteps and muddy the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction by crossing the travel book with some of the wilder forms of the novel.” Nine Lives is a work where he seems to have given this desire form, having come up with a book that is difficult to classify into any watertight compartment. The book presents first-person accounts of Dalrymple meeting nine individuals following different religious paths in India. In some cases, the faiths these individuals practice are quite marginalized socially and politically and thus come under various kinds of threat. He manages to negotiate the tricky balance of keeping his persona, his opinions and his judgment in the background and positing the stories firmly in the focus of attention without them sounding flat and indifferent. This, in fact, is a more difficult task than it sounds. Dalrymple, being a historian and having worked as a journalist and broadcaster in India itself, is well aware of the different forces that have grafted the lives of these individuals to their present state. He has consciously tried to move away from the travel-writing norms established earlier which ‘tended to

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highlight the narrator: his adventures were the subject; the people he met were often reduced to objects in the background.’ As he himself admits, ‘I have tried to invert this, and keep the narrator in the shadows, so bringing the lives of the people I have met to the fore and placing their stories centre stage.’ While Nine Lives experiments with the structural presentation of the typical travel book, it more-or-less tries to remain factual and deviates from the truth only to the extent of changing the names and blurring the details about a few characters according to their own requests. In an Antique Land, however, is an even more experimental work where Ghosh does “muddy the boundaries” of fact and fiction itself, while the narrative dissolves the boundaries of different nations and continents. It presents two parallel narratives, one revolving around Ghosh’s stays in the villages of the Nile Delta while doing field work for his doctoral thesis and a later revisiting of the same places in order to meet the community of his friends; and the other an imaginative reconstruction of the travels of a twelfth-century Jewish merchant, Abraham Ben Yiju, with the knowledge Ghosh gleaned from the documents of the Cairo Geniza, an ancient archive. To all appearances, In an Antique Land is “a factual account of two crossings widely separated in time”1, but the narrative which serves as an intelligent and imaginative ethnographic study also “straddles the generic borderlines between fact, fiction, autobiography, history, anthropology, and travel book.”2 An attempt to present the two strands which are separated by such wide swathes of time might have resulted in a book that is not cohesive enough, but the reader notices that as the book progresses, the two increasingly shade each other, each informing the other, and Ghosh’s alternating of the narratives come about naturally enough. Throughout Ghosh’s oeuvre there is a tendency to find

1“Where Fact Crosses Fiction: In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh Review”, Ramachandra Guha, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 28, No. 11 (Mar. 13, 1993), p. 451, JStor, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4399487>accessed on 31st October, 2011. 2“Anthropology as Cultural Translation: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land”, Claire Chambers, Postcolonial Text, Vol. 2, No. 3 (2006).

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connections between apparently vastly diverse subjects – nations, cultures, individuals, families find unprecedented connections tying them together in spite of being separated by time and space – ‘shadow lines’ all. He does not attempt to deny the often unbridgeable divides that a different religion or language might pose; in fact, he often speaks about the desperation and the uncomfortable hilarity of the situations in which he was often “trapped by language” (62) in Egypt, unable to explain himself in terms that would be true to his identity, and recognizable to his friends in Egypt simply because: “The language of the interrogator dictates the nature and potential of the response” 3 , and these conversations were often centered by religious and philosophical debates. He felt like an alien, often cornered, but he does at the same time forge lasting friendships with people of the very same land, relationships that flourish in spite of these differences. It is this fluidity of human emotions and relations that forms a thread of continuity with the narrative of Ben Yiju. He was a Jewish trader from Tunisia who in the early 12th century settled on the Malabar Coast. Yiju married a Nair lady from Malabar, Ashu, and acquired and then befriended a low caste slave, Bomma. Yiju and Bomma seem to have maintained a very different dynamic from the master-slave relationship as one knows it, Bomma having lived as a friend and trusted lieutenant of Yiju’s. Ashu herself seems to have been another slave of Ben Yiju, who was manumitted. It is Bomma that piques Ghosh’s interest when he first stumbles upon a letter mentioning him. According to his own words, “…the reference comes to us from a moment in time when the only people whom we can even begin to imagine properly human, individual existences, are the literate and the consequential, the wazirs and the sultans, the chroniclers and the priests – the people who had the power to inscribe themselves physically upon time” (17). The presence of the subaltern figure with a similar experience of dislocation gives him “a right to be there, a sense of entitlement” (19). He notices time

3 ‘Caught Straddling a Border: A Novelistic Reading of Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land’, Eric D. Smith, Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol. 37, No. 3, (2007),pp. 447-472, Project Muse, <10.1353/jnt.2008.0014>accessed on 3rd November, 2011.

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and again in the course of the novel how the relationships between men and women in the twelfth century were not as tainted by the cultural and political barriers as they are now, when communication is so much the easier. On one occasion when Ghosh had gone to the tomb of AbuHasira, a Muslim holy man, he is roughly interrogated by a guard who cannot comprehend what business he could have there when he professes a different religion and automatically assumes the worst. The author struggles to explain his simple motive of having wanted to visit the tomb, when it strikes him suddenly that “there was nothing I could point to within his world that might give credence to my story–the remains of those small, indistinguishable, intertwined histories, Indian and Egyptian, Muslim and Jew, Hindu and Muslim, had been partitioned long ago” (339). This partitioning of worlds, geographical and literary, is what both In an Antique Land and Nine Lives strain against. The very relationship in which Ghosh and Dalrymple stand with their subject, while different from each other, are both significantly tied to the change that Dalrymple envisions for travel writing. Scholars have long looked at travel writing, in European hands, as “the second line of imperialism”4. Travelers sent back imaginary descriptions of the decayed East which delighted readers with their assurance of the superiority of the West. Dalrymple is well aware of this line of criticism and he counters it with the fact that writing about travel stretches as far back as ‘the Epic of Gilgamesh, the wanderings of Abraham in the Old Testament, and the journeyings of the Pandava brothers in The Mahabharata’5 , and this appropriation of the genre by colonial forces is a fairly recent phenomenon compared to that. Ghosh, as Dalrymple points out, is an ideal example of someone who is ushering in the change—being one of “the “funny foreigners” who were once regarded as such amusing material by travel writers…writing some of the

4 “Trapped by Language: On Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land”, Brian Kiteley, <http://mysite.du.edu/~bkiteley/ghoshtalk.html> accessed on 31st Oct, 2011. 5 “Home Truths on Abroad”, William Dalrymple, The Guardian, 19th Sep, 2009.

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best travel pieces themselves.”6 But more than Dalrymple’s logic, it is Dalrymple’s way of work that goes farther towards convincing the reader that though the “act of domination” agenda of travel writing might have been a truth, it certainly is not an all-encompassing one. It can be said about either Dalrymple or Ghosh that “He is not a consumer of landscapes but someone who inhabits a place”7. Dalrymple is a whiteskinned firang living in India and Ghosh is more often referred to as “doktor al-Hindi” in Egypt than by his first name—their ‘foreign’-ness is an inseparable part of their narrator-identity in both the books. But both the books are marked by a rare honesty and empathy which makes them impossible to be reduced to narratives of interested exoticisation. Nine Lives, quite obviously, is a book that captures the extraordinarily diverse and rich spiritual and religious life of the subcontinent. One should notice, then, that this very diversity makes parts of Nine Lives absolutely astounding. There are ways of life which a reader might have only heard of or had a vague idea of which the book upholds with great insight and clarity. It is always filtered through the eyes of someone who is actively practicing the faith and thus one who can offer a real, ordinary perspective, the particular faith being the most natural way of life in the world for him or her. A young Jain nun who leads her life following extreme austerity and has decided to take sallekhana, a ritual fast to the death which Jain monks regard as the best route to Nirvana; a Tantric priestess who lives in a cremation ground; a Buddhist monk who joined the Tibetan resistance to protect his faith and now lives trying to atone for the violence he once committed—these are stories that would be have the tang of novelty to most of the inhabitants of India themselves. If one were to follow the line of argument of travel literature being a veiled tool of domination, there would have been a lot of scope for deliberate imaginative reconstruction which suited that purpose. Nine Lives, however, is more a book about the

6 “Home truths on abroad”, William Dalrymple, The Guardian, 19th Sep, 2009. 7 ‘Trapped by Language: On Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land’, Brian Kiteley, <http://mysite.du.edu/~bkiteley/ghoshtalk.html> accessed on 31st Oct, 2011.

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people, rather than the places, rooted in an intimate knowledge of a foreign culture that Dalrymple has evidently striven for. He actually manages to respond to even the most unconventional of practices with such openness that the depiction is always mellowed by an unexpected familiarity, seeming to say that at the end of the day, however bizarre a faith might seem, it is driven by the search for the same things that every other man seeks—love, peace and knowledge. One of the primary concerns of discussions about travel writing has been the judgment of its merit by the degree of its adherence to facts. Bruce Chatwin, for example, had been repeatedly criticized when his books included fictionalized anecdotes; the real counterparts of a few of the characters recognized themselves and disliked what they saw as the distortions of themselves and their culture. In an Antique Land is a complex text when it comes to this fact-versus-fiction divide, for Ghosh’s interactions seem honest and vulnerable and his anecdotes never seem to reduce characters to generalizations which suit a particular agenda. It is not that Ghosh does not have an agenda, but it is certainly true that this agenda is personal and historiographical. He tries to respond with truth to the strange situations that his standing as a baffling creature in a predominantly Islamic set-up throws at him, and it is successful because he is able to find a manner of continuity, a same-ness in these settings which are set far apart by both space and time. One suspects that a good deal of conjecture must still have gone into the historical narrative. A portion of the narrative is taken up by trying to trace the origin and life of a slave, a presence in the fringes of his society in his own time, after a gap of about eight centuries. In this case, of course, one cannot always rely solely on factual evidence and must try and inch his way forward on the basis of tentative conclusions. The fictionalization therefore is prompted by the very structure of the novel, and this makes it difficult to condemn the traces of deviation from fact that one might detect. In an Antique Land is much more than a straightforward narrative of Ghosh’s travels and keeps moving between genres in order to better accommodate the ways of telling to the requirements of what is being told: “By breaking down barriers between genres, Ghosh is not simply attacking the boundaries, or trying to destroy the power structures inherent in genre boundaries. He is seeking a more honest and accurate way of telling. Books ought to

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create their own structure out of the material they are made of.”8Ghosh thus comes up with a generically indefinable book: a historical study that incorporates lengthy introspection, an anthropological book that moves fluidly through continents and centuries and a travelogue that does not have a target audience of readers at home. With television channels, magazines and websites dedicated solely to travel, the place of travel writing in literature and its relevance might seem to be increasingly unstable; indeed, some might even consider it to be a more-or-less outdated genre. I would like to contend, however, that travel writing is not only a genre still full of potential, but one that is irreplaceable. Once considered a more-or-less exclusively non-fiction category, travel literature is slowly but steadily turning into an area which produces books rich in research, insight and imagination. The literary aspect of it is stronger than ever. With its practitioners having been freed from the necessity of chronicling the surface details of a place, they can delve into the intricacies of the life of a certain culture—almost like painting, which could concern itself with trying to capture the essence of things rather than only a faithful surface depiction of the subject, after the advent of photography. No other form of non-fiction, neither journalism nor the internet, allow for the space and depth of thought required to dwell with that kind of liberty on the kind of diversity that exists in the world underneath the apparent homogeneity incurred by globalization. Travel literature has claimed this unique space for itself by adapting itself to the changing times and the changing needs of readers, the kind of adaptability that is best exemplified in the work of writers like Dalrymple and Ghosh.

8“Trapped by Language: On Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land”, Brian Kiteley, <http://mysite.du.edu/~bkiteley/ghoshtalk.html> accessed on 31st Oct, 2011.

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References Chambers, Claire. “Anthropology as Cultural Translation: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land”. Postcolonial Text, 2.3, 2006. Dalrymple, William. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. Great Britain: Bloomsbury, 2009. -------- “Home Truths on Abroad”. The Guardian. Published April 12, 2009. Ghosh, Amitav. In an Antique Land. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1993. Guha, Ramachandra. “Where Fact Crosses Fiction: In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh: Review”. Economic and Political Weekly 28.11: 451. Kiteley, Brian. “Trapped by Language: On Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land”. <http://mysite.du.edu/~bkiteley/ghoshtalk.html> Accessed on 31st Oct, 2011. Smith, Eric D. “Caught Straddling a Border: A Novelistic Reading of Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land”. Journal of Narrative Theory 37.3, 2007: 447472.

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“I Am, To Them, Nothing but a Series of Destinations”:

FRACTURED IDENTITIES OF THE INDIAN DIASPORA In the Works of Jhumpa Lahiri and Kalbinder Kaur AELYA SALMAN

Aelya Salman is currently in her last year of an Honours degree in English and History at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her non-academic writing has been published in Thought Catalog; her academic work can be found on Academica.edu. Her academic interests include intersectional feminism, diaspora studies, and postcolonialism.

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“I Am, To Them, Nothing but a Series of Destinations”1:

FRACTURED IDENTITIES OF THE INDIAN DIASPORA In the Works of Jhumpa Lahiri and Kalbinder Kaur AELYA SALMAN

In Ambassador’s Report, Chester Bowle, an American envoy stationed in India in 1954 quotes the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru as having said: “I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West...out of place everywhere, at home nowhere”. Nehru goes on to express his personal uncertainties, saying “Perhaps [my] thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to [me], as she does to all her children, in innumerable ways... [I am] a stranger and alien in the West...but in [my] own country also, sometimes [I have] an exile’s feeling” (Bowle 59). Nehru’s statement hardly requires any reinforcement from scholarly sources; his sentiments are shared amongst diasporic subjects notwithstanding their racial or cultural background. However, the latter part of his statement on the matter of the inability of the diasporic subject to be free of her/his mother country’s hold is especially noteworthy when discussing Indian diasporic subjects and their relationship (or lack thereof) with India. This is not to say that other diasporas do not feel or never have felt an umbilical pull back to their respective countries, rather that this phenomena seems concentrated in the South Asian diaspora, where the ties to geographical location (and all that is contained within) are considered of the utmost importance. The reasons behind this phenomenon have not been explored extensively here, but speaking as a member of the South Asian diaspora, I imagine that this obsession with the homeland is a consequence of fractured identities that materialized because of colonial encounters. Forced engagements with British colonial powers resulted in a fragmentation of the “original” Indian identity, posing questions such as what it means to be an Indian (a fragmentation 1 Monique Truong. The Book of Salt, Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

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that would eventually splinter into another branch, asking what it means to be a Pakistani) due to British created divisions that not only separated already existing communities, but also prompted the mass relocation of several thousands of individuals. This dispersal from what William Safran calls “an original centre” (Clifford 247) as a means of avoiding colonial legacies, interrupts the process of becoming familiar with one’s country. At the same time, the aforementioned umbilical pull still remains, thus rendering the diasporic individual unable to reconcile with her/his adopted country. Safran created a list of attributes belonging to what he refers to as the “ideal” diaspora, and while he recognizes that there is no such thing as an ideal, dispersed communities engage with his list to varying degrees. According to Safran, the diaspora is a community that has a history of dispersal, actively preserves myths of the homeland, experiences alienation in the host country, possesses a desire for eventual return or believes that return is eventual, maintains an ongoing support for the homeland, and whose collective identity is shaped by this distant relationship to the homeland (ibid). The absence of quotation marks around the words home and homeland can be seen as a deliberate choice of Safran’s. I, too, will refrain from using them for I believe that the characters explored in this work already identify India as home, and any attempt at return (successful or not, physical or not) is due to an inherent connection and alliance. Put into context, the characters in Interpreter of Maladies and “When English Girls Hold Hands” by Jhumpa Lahiri and Kalbinder Kaur, respectively, maintain a relationship to India that when acted on, relocates their bodies to an environment they know or believe to be their own, regardless of how little involved they have been with it formerly or currently. This work will explore the ways in which a country is made foreign for the diasporic individuals who have returned, perhaps even more foreign than they had imagined it for themselves in the diaspora. This foreignness is created through interactions with indigenes that seek to construct India as palatable for visitors, causing dislocation and isolation despite communications that aimed for the contrary. Even outside of these interactions, the returned subject is made hyperaware of her differences through her self-realizations. Upon return to India, the diasporic subject finds that her arrival home is marked by a series of challenges. First and foremost, the business

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of knowledge and knowing: how much she knows, how much she does not know, what she should know, and how she has come to know what she does (alternatively, what methods she has used to acquire this knowledge). Knowledge and knowing are essential in the practice of differentiating between a returned subject (who is also, often marked as a foreign subject) and an indigene. Such a practice is incredibly nuanced and the competence required to differentiate between neighbour and foreigner seems to be innate, particularly when one cannot label another as an outsider, on the basis of aesthetics. Graham Huggan addresses this in his book The Post-Colonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins, where he elaborates on the links between exoticism and tourism, particularly on the ways in which the tourist gaze is perpetuated by the industry. What complicates the tourist-“native” relationship is when the would-be tourist carries all the signifiers that denote a native filiation, such as the colour of their skin. In Kaur’s “When English Girls Hold Hands” the unnamed protagonist (hereby referred to as “the girl”) is fixed at a crossroad of identity. The girl recognizes herself as Indian in obvious contrast to her white English friend Milla, with whom she is vacationing in India. While Milla potters about in shorts, admiring the craftsmanship of the “exotic” furniture, captivated by sights, sounds, and smells, the girl reprimands Milla for her choice of clothing, implying that she has an understanding of gender politics in India (something only an “authentic” Indian would know, and this knowledge brings her one step closer to the status of the indigene), and acknowledges that she “wasn’t impressed” by her surroundings (35). In the vacuum of their relationship, the girl is thoroughly Indian and Milla is undeniably a foreigner, an outsider, a tourist. The girl unknowingly revels in this, allowing herself to grow frustrated at Milla’s excitement in a manner similar to the way locals (dis)regard non-members. It is not, however, till they leave the confines of their hotel room, that the girl’s “Indian-ness” is fully called into question. For instance, she does not know if the tree Milla wishes to write home about is a banyan tree, and immediately becomes conscious of the fact that she “should [know], but [she doesn’t], so [she changes] the subject” (Kaur 34). As Milla navigates her way through throngs of people, the girl is “held up by crisp women” (35) who insist they know her mother.

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Because her skin suggests the familiar, the girl is forced to interact with the people she refers to as the “firmly indigenous” (ibid), and it is in these interactions she is made hyperaware of her shortcomings as a potential local. Her “speech is clumsy”, and upon Milla’s request to see a movie she realizes she has never stepped foot inside an Indian cinema hall, an insight that makes her nervous (36). While the girl’s filiation is impossible to contest even for herself, her affiliations are incredibly conflicted. Despite seemingly positing herself as an authentic Indian, she realizes that this authenticity is only on the basis of what Milla is not, as opposed to what the girl is; Milla is discernibly non-Indian and has proven as ignorant about Indian customs and behaviours, thus making the only viable candidate for “true Indian” the girl, disregarding how little she can actually support this designation. It is also worth noting that what the role described by the girl as “obviously the tour guide” (34) only comes as a result of the obvious-Other (that is, the white English individual) demanding answers to their questions. And while these questions are answered, at times one gets the impression it is less about hearing the answer, and more about confirming whether or not the diasporic subject knows the answer. Consequently, the diasporic subject is made excessively mindful of how much she does not know. Another obstacle the returned subject must address is cultural division and how influences from one’s adopted mores (or what William Safran would refer to as host mores) inhibit the subject’s ability to fully submit to a home culture. Earlier it was mentioned that the girl did not have to fully confront her non-member habits till leaving the hotel, for even within the confines of the hotel she performs the role of an outsider willingly. When Milla is jumping on the woven sitting table of their hotel room, the girl admits to her audience that she “would have asked for a different room, possibly one with a foam-filled settee”, and that she consciously makes “a show of civility, for them and [herself]” (35). However, she performs this role not because she wishes to, but rather because she feels as though it is required of her as a returned citizen. Her arrival is made problematic due to the accusations many diasporic subjects become accustomed to regarding having left India in the first place, and she understands this in the same innate manner the locals can identify her as a returned and/or foreign subject. “Look how far away I

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am from you”, the girl says, relating a presumably hypothetical conversation. “I am floating in the air between nations, while [you, the people who work at this hotel] are firmly indigenous. Do you even know what that means?” (ibid). There is constant back-and-forth when diasporic subjects engage with their homelands. By way of illustration, the girl possesses an understanding of gender politics in India, something only a “proper” Indian would be aware of; at the same time, she does nothing beyond simply reprimanding Milla for her clothing, as opposed to infringing on Milla’s European Otherness by obliging her to change. Later in the story, the girl insists on taking the bus back (36), but appears to have found their designated bus stop haphazardly, admitting that she does not know how she knows, just that she does (ibid). Perhaps most significant is the girl’s exasperation at Milla’s obsession with poverty and how the weather affects behaviour (Milla asserts having read that hot weather encourages barbarism), yet she chooses to stay in an airconditioned hotel which presumably provides her with all of her necessities and much more. The definition of diaspora has changed. While commonly meant to apply only to those who are physically located outside their country of origin or affiliation, a diaspora can be maintained or even created upon the return of the diasporic subject. To elaborate, if the home country was not entirely foreign to the diasporic subject, it is made foreign upon her arrival, and she experiences an unexpected estrangement; the result is a community within a community, an accidental band of outsiders. Diasporic subjects often embark on what Paul Basu considers “roots tourism” (131) in the hopes of temporarily or permanently (depending on the purposes of the trip) discarding their diasporic identities so that they too, may become “true” Indians. It is common, particularly within the South Asian community, to regard “true” community members as those who have significant memory of the country despite leaving, or those who were born there and never left. The former group presumably consists of individuals who were born in India and spent an adequate number of years collecting memories, thus keeping India alive by reliving these recollections or attempting to recreate them in the diaspora; William Safran would refer to these individuals as those who actively work to maintain a myth or a vision of the homeland, as well as a commitment to

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the homeland’s maintenance or restoration (Clifford 247). The latter group requires no explanation for their very presence in India is enough. Clifford outlines more of Safran’s premise on the diaspora, stating that “Safran himself later notes that the notion of ‘return’...is often [a] utopian projection in response to a present dystopia” (248). While neither Clifford nor Safran expand on what this dystopia might be or look like, if conflicting affiliations always remain a core apprehension for the diasporic individual, then this dystopia could present itself as a purgatory of sorts. To use the words of Nehru, the diasporic subject lives most in fear about being “out of place everywhere, at home nowhere” (Bowle 59). If diasporas are, as Clifford puts it, pitted against the norms of nation states or “authentic” people (250), then the essence of being Indian is one of a pledged allegiance to India; to all intents and purposes, nations are not accommodating of those who occupy a grey space, and the recognition of this dismissal serves as the primary catalyst for return journeys. Nevertheless, even the desire to be seen as “native” is complex, as Arjun Appadurai elucidates this in his piece “Putting Hierarchy in Its Place”. Appadurai’s article poses the question of who the native is, and divides the answer into two parts. The first and most common answer is that the Native – in this context, the authentic Indian – is “a person who is born in (and thus belongs to) the place the anthropologist is observing or writing about” (36). Appadurai explains that “proper natives” are often seen to represent their selves and their histories as separated from the interruption of external sources; in essence the histories of these natives are uncomplicated. It is a reductionist approach to the life-long inhabitants of India, and there no better example than Jhumpa Lahiri’s Mr. Kapasi from Interpreter of Maladies. Explaining the intricacies of an individual seems redundant, however the tourist gaze does not pay attention to said intricacies. Graham Huggan highlights the tendency of the tourism industry to operate in binaries, and how a large part of the business involves the establishment of power inequality; large gaping disparities between First and Third, developed and underdeveloped, the urban and the rural worlds (177). Accordingly, those on the weaker end of the power scale are reduced to props, to background noise, sometimes to nothing more than the colour of their skin or their speech inflections. A reflection on Mr. Kapasi’s life reveals that “in his youth he’d been a

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devoted scholar of foreign languages, the owner of an impressive collection of dictionaries. He had dreamed of being an interpreter for diplomats and dignitaries, resolving conflicts between people and nations, settling disputes of which he alone could understand both sides. He was a self-educated man” (58) Yet as a taxi driver, tour guide, and component of the industry, Mr. Kapasi is obligated to never transcend the boundaries of his role. Due to his obedience, the returned subjects who receive him in this role (namely the Das family) feel as though they too must stay in line with their responsibilities as tourist. Thus the opportunity for connection is missed, each party unaware of this overlooked correspondence. The second answer to Appadurai’s question can be answered by Basu, who explores return movements in his article “Roots-Tourism as Return Movement: Semantic and The Scottish Diaspora”. Basu refers to these return movements as ancestor (and by extension, ancestry) hunting excursions, a movement encouraged by the industry due to the technologies that assist this process. And while Basu’s text focuses primarily on the Scottish diaspora, the reconciliatory approach is universal in all diasporic communities as even those who are born abroad take umbrage to being called tourists, and see themselves instead as attempting to make compatible their personal East and West. The brown-skinned Das family (recall filiation versus affiliation, mentioned earlier) appear to be undertaking the responsibility of initiating the act of reconciliation. While making no explicit attempts to be seen as native Indians, they perform the pilgrimage home demanded of all diasporic subjects lest they be seen as rejecting their own culture. Unlike Kaur’s girl, Lahiri’s family does not engage in the same back and forth negotiation process. Mr. Kapasi notes that “the family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did” (49), at variance with the girl who adjusts her attire to bring herself one step closer to Indian authenticity, separating herself from the unmistakable non-members. There is an instance towards the beginning of the story, before the group sets off towards their destination, where Mr. Das compares the occasions on which he takes his middle school students on tours of the Musuem of Natural History, to Mr. Kapasi’s tour guide excursions. Mr. Das asserts that their professions are one in the same, and “in that way, [they] have a lot in common” (52). Their professions, however, are nothing alike. Even if Mr. Das guides his

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students through a museum, he is guiding them through information that is not innate to him, that was learned till naturalized. What is most interesting is that Mr. Das considers Mr. Kapasi a teacher like himself. Both men approach their interactions with each other under the assumption that neither’s role can, nor should, be changed; Mr. Kapasi will be the teacher, Mr. Das his student, and India will remain only a lesson, never an experience. Lahiri pointedly implies that despite having been to India before on visits to the Das elders (50), and in doing so fulfilling Safran’s diasporic property of seeing the ancestral homeland as a place of constant or eventual return, the Das family does not become involved in India beyond a superficial level. At another point in the short, Mr. Das stops to take a photograph of an emaciated man and his equally emaciated livestock. This action can be broken down in two analyses. First and foremost the act of photographing: while it can certainly be argued that photographs are a method of memory preservation and serve as a physical reminder of a place and/or time (similar to the function of a souvenir, but not as commodifying), photographing also inherently implies that the place and/or time was not properly experienced, and the representative photographic remnant is the only way of keeping it alive. This act also implies that the place was not worth experiencing, and that having proof of time spent in the home environment is equivalent to having engaged with it, physically or mentally. For the returned subject, photographs often serve as a tool of reassurance, a way of telling oneself that physical presence amounts to acquaintance, to awareness, and to legitimate encounter. This is common in returned subjects who, like the participants of Basu’s Scottish-Canadian questionnaire who were prompted to share their thoughts on the label of “tourist”, dislike the title of visitor. It negates, or invalidates their intentions and actively reduces their place of origin to a retreat, only to be accessed by planes, seen through cars, discussed from inside hotels. The returned subject, like the Das family, dismisses the tourist label while failing to understand that they embody the label without fault. Second, analyses of photographing also concern themselves with the subject matter. It is intriguing that Mr. Das chooses only to photograph monuments (the destinations taken to by Mr. Kapasi) and stereotypes (the man and his livestock). Without realizing it, he adheres to the

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popular belief that India exists in a dichotomy (remembering Huggan’s ideas of power inequalities, of disparities) of the old and beautiful, versus the new and malfunctioning. To Mr. Das, as to many a South-Asian returned subject, India is a museum. India does not present any opportunity or chance at settlement, and it is then unsurprising that many, like Mr. Das announce their affiliations to host countries with an “air of sudden confidence” (50). Safran admits that there is no ideal diaspora, but he speaks of this imperfectness with regard to how many of his diasporic characteristics have communities engaged with; he does not imagine that an imperfect diaspora might reinterpret any of his characteristics. One of the fundamental elements of a diaspora are individuals or groups that are committed to a maintenance of their homelands. While Safran presumably means this to be homeland preservation of the non-problematic qualities that are organic to the home country, returned subjects will often maintain divisions created by an industry that capitalizes on the diasporic purgatory and alienation. It is difficult to scrutinize a return movement. Part of this predicament is the complicated nature of personal motive, primarily when concerned with why one chooses to return. This is not to doubt the genuineness, rather it is to call into question whether or not this genuineness is prompted by external factors, something Arjun Appadurai highlighted as a staple of the diasporic makeup. Part of the difficulty is because analysis of such a personal journey feels inappropriate. Who are we to call into question why others choose to go home, for a period of time they find acceptable for themselves? Lahiri encapsulates the diasporic condition perfectly in one sentence: Mrs. Das sighs in impatience, “as if she has been travelling her whole life without pause” (52). This travelling without pause is also a travelling without realization; diasporic subjects are constantly in transition, never existing in the present, only ever in the past or the future, looking back or looking ahead. This transitory existence is a consequence of being made strange, of feeling the umbilical pull back to Mother India, only to find themselves unable to interact with the home country in a manner that is untainted by performative roles or influences of the tourism industry. Thus, the diasporic subject remains isolated both from the host community as well as the home body, perpetually inhabiting a grey space.

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References Appadurai, Arjun. “Putting Hierarchy in Its Place” Cultural Antrhopology 3.1, Place and Voice in Anthropological Theory. Blackwell, 1988: 36-49. Basu, Paul. Highland Homecomings: Genealogy and Heritage Tourism in the Scottish Diaspora. London: Routledge, 2007. Clifford, James. “Diasporas” in Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997: 244-77. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London: Routledge, 2001. Kaur, Kalbinder. “When English Girl Hold Hands”. Kin: New Fiction by Black and Asian Women. Ed. Karen McCarthy. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2003. Lahiri, Jhumpa. "Interpreter of Maladies." Interpreter of Maladies: Stories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999: 48-76. Truong, Monique T.D. The Book of Salt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

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“Yellow” Skin, “White” Mask, in Whose Lands?

A JAPANESE GLIMPSE OF ZIMBABWE (1993) AKIKO MIZOGUCHI

Akiko Mizoguchi is Associate Professor of English at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Her academic interests include colonial and postcolonial literature in/about Africa. She has published articles on Doris Lessing, Rider Haggard, Ben Okri, Dambudzo Marehcera Olive Schreiner and Sol Plaatje. Her recent academic publications include “Moving Around Moving Between: Mobility and ‘Home’ in Caryl Phillips’s Strange Fruit” in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (2010) She is currently a visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford.

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“Yellow” Skin, “White” Mask, in Whose Lands?

A JAPANESE GLIMPSE OF ZIMBABWE (1993) AKIKO MIZOGUCHI

My interest in Doris Lessing’s African stories and black Zimbabwean literature led me, in 1993, to spend three weeks in Zimbabwe before returning to Japan, my own country, from Britain, where I had been studying African literature in English. My coincidental meeting with Doris Lessing (who had just published African Laughter, an account of her revisits to Zimbabwe, her childhood homeland, after its Independence in 1980) in Britain had also fuelled my desire to have a glimpse of her “home”. Despite such amateurish desire for knowledge about Zimbabwe and its literature, and my inexperience as a traveller, I was not into the danger which my panicky parents (who had no knowledge of Zimbabwe being one of the stablest and most thriving countries in Africa at that time) had thought I would face in going alone to “Africa”; in fact, the worst thing I experienced was my embarrassment at the way in which I pestered the people I met (often complete strangers) for “literary” information. Nevertheless, I somehow survived all that embarrassment at the time, and, now, almost twenty years later, despite the extremely outdated nature of my experience (as so many things have changed since then), I have finally come to have some confidence to articulate what I learned as a result of my unreasonable persistence then.

Being a Murungu = in the Shona language, 1) a European of any nationality; 2) an employer, African or non-African Whenever I had previously been abroad (mostly in Western countries or Southeast Asia), I had always had a slightly uneasy feeling about being Japanese. The name of my nation seemed to evoke all sorts of stereotypes (e.g., money!), together with the supposition that Japan is

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culturally unique, partaking of neither East nor West. Because of this, I often preferred being categorized as an Asian to being categorized as a Japanese. Being an Asian also gave me more of a sense of belonging than being Japanese. Knowing that I cannot escape from either what I am or my country’s imperialist past (the history of Japanese colonization of other Asian countries, such as Korea, Taiwan, and the northern part of China), I could not help feeling happier when Chinese or Korean people came to talk to me, mistaking me for a compatriot. (This “mistake” happened many times in Britain, and when I told them that I was Japanese, I often recognized their stunned and almost indignant expression as they said, “But you don’t look like a Japanese!”) At the same time, I was always ready to mock aggressively the stereotypical image of Japanese people whenever it was presented to me. In short, being Japanese in foreign countries had always made me feel slightly guilty and defensive (even to the point of taking the offensive)–in other words, self-conscious. Until I went to Zimbabwe, I had not realized that all this sense of guilt and defensiveness was becoming a part of my “expected” self-image or identity abroad. I had come to expect people to react in a certain stereotypical way to my nationality or my appearance. I remember how displaced I felt when I first went to Britain, yet that was still within the limit of what I had always been prepared to deal with. When, in Zimbabwe, I felt displaced again, this time I had to deal with a completely different set of assumptions about who or what I was. This strange sense of displacement first came to me one night in Harare. I was talking to a Zimbabwean friend about my cousin in Kenya, who had been surprised to be called mzungu (“white” in Swahili). To my inquiry about what the equivalent word in Shona was, he mentioned the word murungu. It was shortly after this conversation that I myself was termed murungu in a nightclub by a friend of his, a young man who did not expect me to understand any Shona. Being called “white” was a shockingly new experience and I began to understand what it is like to be white in African and Asian countries. The word murungu, and the way it was used to apply to me, had a connotation which was very similar to gaijin, a Japanese word which, exactly speaking, means “foreigner” but which often evokes only the idea of white foreigners. Even the very

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exclusive or quite antagonistic feeling contained in murungu was very similar to that in gaijin, a word which I remembered had once been addressed by an old Japanese man, a complete stranger, to an Australian friend walking with me on the street in Tokyo. Later some British researchers told me that murungu does not necessarily mean that my complexion was “white.” It could have been referring to Japanese economic power (I was reminded of how the Japanese used to be “Honorary Whites” in South Africa) since one (even if one is African) can be murungu if one lives one’s life or runs one’s business in a different manner from the local people. Similarly, in the town of Chinoye, where the only Japanese were expatriate teachers, I was often called “teacher’” on the street. Again, is this not a title often given to any murungu (some of whom teach English) in Japan? This new “honorary” identity is not a pleasant thing when one wants to have a sense of being accepted by a society. (But why did I want to be treated as unexceptional by Zimbabwean society when I was a lone, female (and moneyed) traveller, and still not married at the age of twenty-seven, all of which showed that I was far from the social norm there at that time?) I have some sympathy toward Europeans in my country who always have to deal with their problematic gaijin status, a status that grew out of the “shock” caused by Western intrusion into Japan. However, the situation involving the construction of murungu identity in Zimbabwe is rather different, since this exclusivism on the part of generally very friendly black Zimbabweans was largely built up by their painful experience of white colonization in which white colonials, in their aggressive land settlement, deprived the Africans of their land yet hardly assimilated themselves at all into their society. Still, generally speaking, the stereotypical image of Japan seemed less well known in Zimbabwe than in other countries I had visited. At the street level, I often felt being Japanese was almost equivalent to being Chinese (at that time, there was no Chinese presence of the kind we see in Zimbabwe now. Despite the popularity of Fay Chung, Zimbabwe’s first ethnically Chinese Minister of Education 1988-1993, the overseas Chinese residents there were still regarded as a minority). I felt this especially strongly in Buluwayo, where I did not see any other Asians during my one-day stay. Kids, seeing me, happily exhibited their

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kung fu. I was also asked about Bruce Lee and whether Japan was different from Hong Kong, or whether I speak Chinese. Explaining about my country to the people who asked me these questions, I felt that Japan, which had been uncomfortably powerful in my mind, began to shrink until it was no more than a small colony of China. Indeed, geographically and historically speaking, the smallness of Japan actually makes one wonder why it did not become so. It is interesting how unsettled I became at the change of racial and cultural identity imposed on me by other people. For the first time in my life abroad, I wished I could have run into a package tour of Japanese tourists (which my snobbishness had always previously prevented me from associating with) just to confirm what I was. My new murungu or “Chinese” identity (I really should have welcomed this Chinese identity since I had always wished to be categorized as an Asian) deprived me of my previous “uncomfortable” Japanese identity, which I had thought firm enough to stand upon wherever I went. I finally came to almost physically feel this supposedly enabling, yet actually extremely unsettling notion that there is no universality in the ideas of nation or race – which are all “imagined,” (as Benedict Anderson would say) yet – contradictory as it seems – I still cannot escape from other people’s imaginings.

Lessing, Banket and Cowra Sitting in the rattling local bus to Banket, the farming community which Lessing imbued with such mysterious significance, I had great anxiety about asking the white people in Banket about Lessing, for she had always been a misfit there. Someone assured me that the people up there would not mind since they must have previously had visitors with similar inquiries. Indeed, I myself knew a Japanese scholar who had asked about Lessing there (at first pretending to be a tobacco dealer) when this country was still Southern Rhodesia and Lessing was a “prohibited immigrant.” He managed to talk to a lady who used to play with Lessing in her childhood, yet he was not reported to the police and came back to Japan safe and sound! So, it must be alright. But how could I go around just knocking on doors and asking people about her?

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As the bus neared Banket, the landscape which spread out from the window suddenly looked extremely familiar to me. A good irrigation system was working in the green fields in the bright sunshine, and several huge gum trees were growing besides the road, swaying their slender leaves against the clear blue sky. I nearly believed I was in Australia – or more specifically, Cowra, the place where I spent a year at the age of seventeen as an exchange student. It occurred to me that one thing which had intrigued me about Lessing’s African stories was that they reminded me of the Australian farming community which I loved and missed so much. The inhabitants’ life (and temporarily my life) on the farm, the grappling with the soil, the impersonality of nature, the vastness of the landscape – everything I adored was in her stories. At the same time, when I first read Lessing’s stories, her pain at being a white destroyer and invader in another people’s land (together with her unsympathetic portrayal of the white farmers, which I initially had difficulty identifying myself with due to my fond memory of my Australian host families) made me examine my own unchecked adoration for the Australian farm. Now, the spreading landscape confirmed my sense of the ironical similarity between the two countrysides, both products of land settlement by the British Empire, and similar not only in their landscape. Asking the local white people in Chinoye and Banket about Lessing was not easy, not because they were unfriendly but because most of them did not know her. Many people had never heard of her. They thought she must be someone who still lived there and for whom I was looking. I was told by the owner of the garage, whose grandfather was depicted in Lessing’s The Grass is Singing, that the buildings in Banket had changed a lot, and that even where the buildings were the same, the shops and the owners had mostly changed. Some people who knew her, or knew of her, though, assured me of how unpopular she was. A lady who kindly took me to the place where Lessing’s farm used to be told me how people in Banket felt uncomfortable when The Grass is Singing was published. It was extremely embarrassing to be told that they had never met anyone as ardent as I was to know about Lessing, a person who, they assured me, just did not fit in there. Therefore, it was such a relief, on the final day of my stay, to meet a lady who was a good

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friend of Lessing and to be able to talk about her as a mutual (and close) acquaintance. Talking to the white people in Chinoye and Banket for three days made me feel as if I were not in Zimbabwe but in Southern Rhodesia. The white people were amazed when I told them that I used what they call the “African bus” to move around. Some of them complained about the inefficiency of the government and the economic deterioration since independence. (Admittedly, black Zimbabweans complained about the same things, but in a different manner. They complained that things had not gotten as good as they had expected after Independence.) One old lady, who offered me some homemade shortbread in her British-style front room, told me how much she missed her “home,” by which she meant Scotland. She said, “I don’t know why. I don’t have any ill-feeling toward Africans, but they don’t seem to like us.” Listening to this lady, who was almost the same age as Lessing, I suddenly remembered Lessing’s sadly but firmly announced statement, “Some of the whites want to come back to Zimbabwe again and of course the blacks don’t want them. Why should they?” Really, what experience made Lessing so different from the other white people in Banket? How did she deal with that solitude in her teens, living there and questioning her position as a white in southern Africa? “It’s extremely difficult” (6). Lessing had said to me, “If you are…one single person…thinking quite differently from everybody around you, you get extremely eccentric and paranoid” (7). This does not mean that Chinoye and Banket were dominated by the whites. On the contrary, like every other part of Zimbabwe, they were predominantly black, and many black Zimbabweans did live in places which used to be for whites only. It is just that the opposite phenomenon, that of whites moving to the townships, did not happen, and the two kinds of lives seemed to remain in different worlds. Of course, now you can almost say you find only one kind of life there after the seizure of the white-owned commercial farms in the controversial Land Reform Programme that began in 2000, but my impression of Chinoye and Banket at that time was that colonial discourse and postcolonial discourse coexisted without impinging upon each other much. Indeed, during my stay there, I often had to deal with two different sets of worldviews within a period of just one or two days. One morning, for

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instance, I was walking from the hotel in Chinoye to the bus stop with a waiter from the hotel who was off-duty. In our friendly chat, he told me how his parents had come over to this area a long time before from what is now Zambia and had started working for the whites. They had had a hard time, but in the end they had realized how lucky they were in Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe was doing very well compared to the other African countries. Now his wife was expecting a second baby and he was hoping to be promoted. After I said good-bye to him, I ran into a black policeman whom I had got to know the day before, and together we hitched a ride to Banket. I did not have the Zim dollar which I was supposed to pay (according to Lonely Planet) to the driver, but the driver said it was OK, taking only the policeman’s dollar, and took us both to our destination. In the afternoon, I rode in a van driven by an old white farmer. When I asked him how much I should pay for the lift, he looked terribly offended. He straightened his back and declared that he, being an old colonial, would never take money for giving a lift in the way that Africans do. (It was only later that I found in the same guidebook that you do not pay anything if the driver is white.) The next day I rode in a van driven by a different white farmer from Banket to Chinoye. I asked him what this area had been like when his father had moved in as a settler. He told me that the land had been very sparsely inhabited and that it had been difficult to find a single kraal even after a long drive. Therefore, his father and other farmers had had to recruit black labourers from other regions to start the farm. “But now,” he said, “there is even a township and so many Africans here. We really don’t know what to do with them!” The extreme openness and friendliness of the white people in Banket and Chinoye strongly reminded me of the people in rural Australia. It really made me feel at home, but, at the same time, it made me feel trapped. The more time I spent with the white people in Banket and Chinoye, the more remote the black people became. In Harare, I had naturally seen black Zimbabweans as the dominant citizens of Zimbabwe and I had made some good friends among them and had really enjoyed their company. Now, in Banket, black Zimbabweans suddenly became shadowy figures who appeared to serve you only when they were ordered to do so by white people. Something in me was

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blinking like a red signal, telling of the danger of failing to clarify my position. Being Japanese and being a traveller enabled me to see both societies (admittedly only superficially) without much difficulty, but, at the same time, it made me feel as if I were an opportunist. Yet I did not know how to alter this comfortable yet tricky situation, just as I had not known what to do, ten years before, when I had first realized the problematic nature of my relations with the Aboriginal Australians in Cowra. In 1983, Aboriginal Australians were often associated with laziness and alcoholism in Cowra. I remembered the way in which discussion with one of my host mothers about Aboriginal peoples always ended in futility. I often insisted that, once given equal opportunities and rights, they would not stay in what the white people regarded as a “primitive condition”. I referred to the situation of African-Americans to bolster my case – a naive argument, but I was only seventeen. (I was also too young to notice the Aboriginal origin of the word cowra itself, meaning “rocks,” implying their usurped ownership of the land, and the issue of the Aboriginal land rights, unlike now, was never discussed around me.) The usual answer was, “They are different from the American blacks, they are too primitive to do anything right.” The thing to note is not only the fact of white prejudice, but also that for me, a temporary member of a white family, Aboriginals were people you talked about rather than people you talked to. In other words, they were the “Other”. Even when staying with my first host family, who believed strongly in racial equality, it was difficult to be completely unaffected by the discourse of the outside world. Seeing me chatting with my Aboriginal classmate at school, my little host brother warned me against talking to the “bad student.” Still, once I had a nice conversation with a seven-year-old Aboriginal girl at the Bahai Sunday school run by this host family. She was trying very hard to keep her restless little brother quiet, and in her attempt to find a common conversation with me, talked about her grandfather, who had been to China, all the time looking up at my face with her intent eyes. Several months later, after I had moved to a second host family, I saw her again near the school. She was doing some mischief with some bigger kids, trying to smear passers-by with some white paste-like stuff on her hand; the other students were, of

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course, looking at them with terribly annoyed and disgusted expressions. She did not seem to be very conscious of the effect of her childish mischief on other people, but I was stunned to see how totally she had already been trapped in a vicious circle. All her mischief of this kind might be judged in relation to the supposed characteristics of her ethnicity. In time she might be hurt and might react against this (probably without being able to pinpoint what was going on, at least in the beginning), and then she might be judged to be “cheeky”. In her attempt to release the resulting frustration, she might become even more mischievous (as any children in that circumstances would do), this time with more malice coming from her growing sense of despair. Several repetitions of this process might be enough to make her internalize other people’s preconception of her own people. She might need an unimaginable amount of energy and determination to break out of this vicious circle. At the present moment, though, she recognized me, ran up to me cheerfully, and asked when we could meet at the Sunday school. I said rather awkwardly that I did not know, and we said good-bye. As we parted, I was acutely aware that my awkwardness was due to my temporary position of being white, who was not supposed to be associated with the “bad student”. I never saw her again. The only difference between the whites in Australia and in what used to be Southern Rhodesia, between those who are familiarly called “Aussies” and those who are derogatorily called “Rhodeys,” seems to lie in the number of original inhabitants their ancestors killed. Does the discriminatory attitude and insularity of apparently friendly and warm people become more permissible if they form the majority in a country? The answer has to be no, but I have no right to say anything openly until I can break out of this maddening process of imagining the “Other,” in which I have been not so much victimized as a victimizer myself.

Women, and Sisterhood? In African Laughter, Doris Lessing surprised me by mentioning a supposed Japanese custom which I had never heard of: in that book she claims that people eat an extra spoonful or two of rice even after a long meal as a memorial of the time of starvation after the Second World War.

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When I asked her about this, Lessing explained that it was a custom she saw in a Japanese family in the Kansai area. When I said I had never heard of it, she admitted that it was an example of how one can make mistakes about another culture. I can hardly blame her for her generalization into a custom of a practice which was perhaps particular to a single family. I might be doing much the same thing right now. I can only hope that people are not looking for an unmediated authenticity in this writing, but will be examining the writer’s assumptions for marks of insularity. I feel this strongly especially when I write about my somewhat clumsy experience of “sisterhood” in Zimbabwe. After one week in Harare, I realized that I had hardly had any opportunity to talk to black Zimbabwean women. The gatherings which I had been invited to consisted either of white women, (often expatriates or researchers from Britain) or black men, or both. In the street, while black men often came and talked to me, black women never approached me. (This obvious imbalance made me feel as if black women “should” talk to me as well; I had completely forgotten that people in Japan do not talk to “gaijin” travellers in the street. It took me a while to speculate that there was nothing wrong with the women, and that it was the men who were not behaving themselves like men probably should in any society.) It was just when I began to crave some sisterhood that I was given what I could regard as my first opportunity. My first intimate conversation with a Zimbabwean woman took place in a train from Buluwayo to Victoria Falls. I shared a compartment with an elderly Ndebele lady. I could not speak Ndebele, and she could not speak much English, but I managed to hold some conversation with her with my elementary Ndebele words and my small photo album, which contained pictures of my childhood. She nodded and smiled at my poor explanations about myself in English (she did not have much choice in that situation anyway) and tried to teach me the equivalent words in Ndebele. This momentarily warm atmosphere was suddenly broken by a conductor who knocked on the door and “warned” me that there would be another “African woman” coming to share the compartment from the next stop. As I was musing over the sudden sense of isolation caused by

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the word “African,” the woman herself appeared. She was a cheerful well-built Shona lady carrying a baby, on her way back home after registering her baby’s name in her passport. She casually said she spoke four local languages and also English, though she had hardly been to school–a stark contrast with Japanese university students, a majority of whom, after being crammed with translation skills at high school, can hardly manage communication in English (though quite inevitably so, if one lived in a country that has never been colonized, and is supposedly “monolingual”). She offered me some of her home-made dinner, which she had packed in containers. It was sadza and chicken cooked with peanut-butter sauce and pumpkin leaves. The softness of the sadza was just right, for it was comfortable both in the fingers and in the mouth; the chicken was juicy in its rich sauce. She also offered me a huge tin mug of Masese beer (more commonly called “Chibuku”) which she had bought from the shebeen. We stuffed ourselves with the food and beer, and she became a little merry. A mother of three children at the age of twenty-five, she was surprised at the fact that I was still single at the age of twenty-seven, and she asked me why I was not married. (This is a question I was asked not only in Zimbabwe but also in my large extended family in Japan, who worried about my waning eligibility and occasionally tried to make me go though some arranged meetings with promising young men.) I told her my reasons, including my recent break-up with my boyfriend, and she gave me great sympathy and moral support. She finished all the beer and fed the baby with her milk, and then we slept. I still remember her warm and slightly tipsy voice in the dark saying, “I’ll tell my husband that I met a n-i-c-e-g-i-r-l in the train. I sure will.” Later, when I was back in Harare, I enthusiastically told a Zimbabwean actress of the incident. “I hope you don’t think all of us behave like that!” I was startled by the sharpness of her voice. “She is not at all a typical Zimbabwean woman, especially if she is married. We are not supposed to drink Masese beer in that manner. That is not what women are supposed to do. If we ever do drink, it is a glass of champagne or wine only, not that Masese beer.” It suddenly occurred to me that, while the Shona lady in the train had become more and more drunk and merry, the elderly lady had become more and more silent and

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had had an air of just managing to be polite. Did that mean that the sympathy and warmth I had received from the young woman had been a part of her transgression of social norms? Well, I had also drunk with her. Moreover, by then, without any female role-model nearby, I had already picked up the male Zimbabwean way of drinking beer – straight from the bottle! Had I been misbehaving myself, not following the Zimbabwean social norms? Or had I been exempted from the norm because I was murungu? I suddenly remembered a story told by Kate Millet, an American feminist who lived in Japan from 1961 to 1963. She mentioned how she was perplexed at simultaneously being exempted from all the restrictions Japanese women had to endure and being prevented from having an intimate relationship with them, simply because she was gaijin. My Kate Millet syndrome was miraculously cured when I was invited to a wedding in Harare between a Japanese woman and a black (though with some Portuguese blood) Zimbabwean man in Harare. At the pre-wedding home party in the suburb of Harare, the groom’s aunts were drinking some champagne from glasses. They told me that they could at least drink champagne, though only in this lady-like manner, because this was a special occasion. Therefore, the actress had been right about the manner of drinking. (Here I fell into a generalization of a practice of this family, who called themselves “Coloured,” into a custom of a typical “black” Zimbabwean family.) However, I did not care anymore–there was so much joy and excitement in the party. There was abundant food – sadza, rice, various kinds of stews and salads–and many bottles of beer lined up on the big tables in the garden, and people were ready to dance almost all night with the young couple. The groom’s aunts, who were powerfully organizing the party, insisted that they teach me their dance properly and, placing their hands on my waist, they dragged me around energetically with the music. After several sessions, I was out of breath, yet filled with the immense joy of feeling so close to these powerful and caring aunts. The wedding party held at Holiday Inn the next day, with a Zimbabwean band playing, was equally enjoyable and gave me a strong sense of belonging. It was only when I was taken away from the young couple after the wedding to the groom’s aunts’ house that my complete sense of

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happiness began to wane. The aunts were still very cordial and asked me if I wanted to come back to Zimbabwe again. When I said yes, I was taught to say “I want to come back to Zimbabwe” in Portuguese, the language of their late Portuguese father. However, every time I clumsily uttered the instructed statement, it raised an uproar of laughter, and I was asked to repeat it again and again. The third time, I suddenly discerned the name of the groom’s youngest unmarried uncle in my otherwise incomprehensible (only to me, of course) sentence, and realized it was not my poor pronunciation that was being laughed at. The very uncle, a shy man who had been introduced to me the night before and who had danced with me very briefly, was sitting not too far away from me. Later, he kindly drove me back to my hotel, and, on our way, I had to tell him very apologetically (reversing my early confession of love in Portuguese) that I could not meet his expectations. I knew how easy it was to deduce from my limited experiences a sad and reductive conclusion: my precious moments of sisterhood with Zimbabwean women were not genuine since they occurred only when either the Zimbabwean women were transgressing their social norms or when they were working in a man’s interest, and it was presumptuous of a murungu traveller to assume an intimate friendship with Zimbabwean women. A British historian, hearing of the post-wedding incident, defeated me further by ironically remarking that a friendship with me could have meant a friendship with a Japanese passport. Still, a part of me denied this conclusion very strongly, remembering how much I had been comforted by the Shona lady in the train and how warmly I had been received at the party, despite my murungu status. Also, I was aware of being in danger of having my experience named and distorted by seemingly well-informed others. Yet if the first conclusion were the more plausible one, there would be only two courses to take: console myself with the fact that female gaijins had had a similar experiences not so long ago (probably in a more insidious fashion) in my own country, or, more urgently, find every way to transgress the social norms placed on me as murungu.

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A Note on Landscape My experience in Cowra had always been a source of inspiration in pursuing my research into landscape representation. Once my longing for the place was so strong (it was not impossible to go back there, but that meant giving up just too many things) that it led me to a very Jungian dream. In that dream, after a long journey searching for a way to Cowra, I reached a place where the rural landscape of Cowra and the urban landscape of Tokyo were fused into a scene of a huge tree growing from a house. When I woke up from that dream, I knew I was “cured” of my home-sickness and divided psyche; I now had more sense of integrity. Later, I was exhilarated to find similar metaphors such as trees and gardens in the later volumes of Lessing’s Children of Violence series. I was convinced that Lessing’s strong longing for her African landscape (due to her “prohibited immigrant” status in what was then Southern Rhodesia) was sublimated into those images. (Later, I must say, this interpretation was at once rejected by Lessing herself.) This mythical house of psychoanalysis was soon shattered by the relentless deconstructing of post-colonialism. With my newly earned knowledge of the colonial background of the apparently “empty” Australian and African landscape (or, to borrow Gayatri Spivak’s phrasing, the “necessary yet contradictory assumption of an uninscribed earth” which “generates the force to make the “native” see himself as “other”” (254)), I became extremely doubtful of the “correctness” of my own appreciation of Cowra. I felt as if I had been part of the re-creation of the colonial myth by having been so easily impressed by the “spaciousness” or “grandeur” of the scenery. For some years, there was even a strong tendency in me to analyze my own perception of the landscape for marks of “colonialism.” By the time I got to Zimbabwe, my self-censoring mechanism was so complete, perfected by my acute awareness of being a tourist, that I had become (quite happily and proudly) almost indifferent to any landscape spread out before me. I was only remotely aware that my “indifference” was also related to my urban or metropolitan upbringing and my consequent inability to accommodate myself to the land in the way the Africans or Aboriginal Australians had traditionally done.

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In that sense, what I experienced in the face of Victoria Falls was not explicable. I do not remember being particularly moved by either the size or the beauty of the falls. I do not even remember much of what the falls looked like. What I can say happened is that, at that moment, a thought quietly came into my consciousness, so quietly that I did not know how it came to fill it, but basically altering my mental landscape. I suddenly knew that if I had somehow fallen off the cliff and died there, there would have been nothing to regret. I would have been very happy to accept my death. I hastily tried to erase or “name” the thought as a sign of whatever my recent post-colonial education could name, but I could not. The thought was there, like a serene yet immovable lake, as if it had been a central part of me since ancient times. It was there, refusing to be labeled. Knowing the absurdity of pigeonholing the “unnamable,” I still wished to know at least to which side my “conversion” belonged. Did it belong to the discourse of David Livingstone, who “discovered” the falls and who was so impressed by its grandeur that he “named” them after a British queen, even though he knew the already existing Makololo name for the falls, Mosi-oa-tunya (“Smoke That Thunders”)? Or did it fall on the site of Livingstone’s Makololo followers, who, according to Livingstone, saw “a type of [God]” in the glorious scenery, yet who were ultimately dismissed by Livingstone as being “not aware of His true character” and “having no admiration of the beautiful and good in their bosoms”(563)? Then it occurred to me that the scenery could have altered the psychological chemistry of Livingstone and the Makololo people equally and that it was Livingstone’s necessity to complete his deed (and tale) of “colonial discovery” alone that separated them. If so, was it really permissible for me to call my experience a sign of my truly intuiting the language of the land, as my own? Where, then, was my community? Where were my people?

A Long Forgotten Day One Saturday afternoon in Harare, I was browsing around a market looking for some souvenirs, as the typical Japanese tourist would do. I

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was going to leave Zimbabwe in a week and it was time to buy some presents for my friends and family at home. I stopped at one stall, and its owner, an old man, noticing me, asked me if I was Chinese. I was going to dismiss this familiar question when he surprised me by speaking to me in what sounded like reasonably good Chinese. Realizing I was not Chinese, he, with some air of disappointment, explained that he used to work in the mine with Chinese men. “It was a long time ago. We ate together and we taught each other our languages, Shona and Chinese. So I can speak some Chinese.” His face beamed with joy as he spoke, and suddenly I wished I could be Chinese just to share his fond memory of his Chinese coworkers. I tried to think of whatever Chinese phrase I knew, apologizing to him for my ignorance of the language, and eventually managed to emit one sentence, “Wo Ai Ni,” which means, “I love you.” The old man, to my surprise, looked puzzled or even at a loss, saying he had never heard of it before. Presuming his incomprehension had to do with my poor pronunciation (or maybe nobody wooed him in Chinese), I quickly explained the meaning of each word. His smile came back and he nodded to the each word, saying, “Yes, I know this one and that one. Yes, I see.” We looked at each other happily, with a sense of accomplishment. I bought some necklaces at his stall, said good-bye to him and resumed my shopping for more interesting souvenirs, quickly forgetting him, never realizing a possibility of a change offered to me that day.

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References Lessing, Doris. “Lessing and Africa: An Interview with Doris Lessing (Part I: Africa and Literature).” The Rising Generaton 141.3, 1995: 2-7. Livingstone, David. Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. 1857. New York: Johnson Reprint, 1971. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives.” History and Theory 24.3, 1985: 247-272.

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READING PLACES: THE GEOGRAPHY OF LITERATURE JOHN THIEME

John Thieme is a Senior Fellow at the University of East Anglia. He has held Chairs at the University of Hull and London South Bank University and has also taught at the Universities of Guyana and North London. His books include The Web of Tradition: Uses of Allusion in V.S. Naipaul's Fiction (1987), The Arnold Anthology of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (1996), Derek Walcott (1999), Post-Colonial Con-Texts: Writing Back to the Canon (2001), Post-Colonial Studies: The Essential Glossary (2003) and R.K. Narayan (2007). He was Editor of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature from 1992 to 2011 and he is General Editor of the Manchester University Press Contemporary World Writers Series. His creative writing includes the short stories “Himmelstein”, published in The International Literary Quarterly and “The Word”. He has recently finished a novel, provisionally entitled Cabinets of Curiosities

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READING PLACES: THE GEOGRAPHY OF LITERATURE JOHN THIEME Talk originally delivered as the Sir D.O. Evans Memorial Lecture. University of Wales, Aberystwyth, March 2008.

When I mentioned this title to a friend, he quickly jumped to the conclusion that I was going to talk about the places where people read and how these may influence their reading. So, taking examples from within the pages of books, Jane Austen’s Catherine Morland comes across a range of written ephemera (a linen inventory, a farrier’s bill, etc), on a dark and stormy night at Northanger Abbey, under the spell of having read Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and believes she has chanced upon a mysterious Gothic manuscript, only to find her colourful imagination has romanticized the mundane and what she has learnt about ‘human nature’ 1i from fiction doesn’t apply in a ‘real’ country house. Joyce’s Leopold Bloom enjoys a prize story in a copy of Titbits in the ‘jakes’ of his Dublin house, before his reading situation leads to his replacing romance with mundane reality in a rather different way: he finds a more utilitarian function for the story, when he uses it for toilet paper.2 One could multiply instances… My initial response to my friend was, ‘That’s not it at all. I’m going to talk about how books construct places, about how they fill up what would otherwise be blank spaces between their covers.’ Later, I realised that what I was going to talk about had more to do with the places where we read than I’d originally thought. I was planning to talk about cognitive mapping, the ways in which writing imagines particular spaces

1 Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, 1818; in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: Dent, 1965, 139. 2 James Joyce, Ulysses: The 1922 Text, Oxford: OUP, 1993, 66-7.

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onto the printed page, but just as writers invent places, readers are at the very least partners in the process of producing textual places. As Karin Littau, the author of a recent study of reading practices puts it, ‘The reader is akin to a writer, because he or she is not the passive consumer of a finished product, but – very literally – a collaborator in the process of text production, and therefore also an active producer of meanings’3, and the situations, physical and mental, in which readers consume texts influence the ways in which they imagine fictional places. Catherine Morland creates a romanticized Gothic world from ephemeral scraps, because she’s in a country house and has previously read Ann Radcliffe. Leopold Bloom’s reading context leads to his consigning the story he has been reading to the depths as so much effluvial matter. I’d like to talk about ways in which places are read in literary texts, with a particular focus on the cultural geography of the work of two Indian novelists. I’ve chosen them as case-studies because, though they both write about India and from Indian backgrounds, their attitudes to place are superficially very different. The novelists are R.K. Narayan, one of the founding figures of Indian writing in English, and Amitav Ghosh, one of the finest Indian novelists writing today. Narayan appears to offer us a stable view of place; Ghosh, in contrast seems to suggest the multiplicity of ways in which particular places can be read. I’ll talk about aspects of two of Narayan’s novels The English Teacher (1945) and The Financial Expert (1952) and slightly more fully about a single novel by Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (2004). Narayan’s novels have been seen as presenting their readers with a settled view of place; in apparent contrast, The Hungry Tide offers a view of place as contested rather than given. Ghosh would seem to have more in common with the view of place put forward by cultural geographers like Doreen Massey, who says ‘The identities of places are always unfixed, contested and multiple’ 4 and takes the view that space should be

3 Karin Littau, Theories of Reading: Books, Bodies and Bibliomania, Cambridge: Polity, 1996, 35.

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understood ‘as the sphere of the possibility of the existence of multiplicity in the sense of contemporaneous plurality; as the sphere in which distinct trajectories coexist; as the sphere therefore of co-existing heterogeneity’.5 Putting this another way, one might say that Narayan’s novels appear to be built around a sedentarist view of place, while The Hungry Tide embodies a nomadic epistemology. So the two kinds of novel would seem to offer contrasted views of place, which are not untypical of the shifts in perceptions of Indian identity that have taken place in the decades that separate their publication and perhaps reflective of changes in thinking about place more generally. I’d like to argue, though, that this opposition isn’t nearly as sharp as may initially seem to be the case and suggest that this has implications for the ways in which we read place. And I’ll conclude with some remarks on what particularly characterizes the geography of literature. Part of my argument is that an emphasis on the specificity of place often emerges most forcefully, when in fact the sense of place is insecure or threatened. I’ll develop this in relation to Narayan’s construction of his fictional South Indian town of Malgudi, an imagined community that he peopled for nearly six decades, from the mid-1930s to the early 1990s. If we think of fictional locations that have become bywords for a sense of seemingly homogeneous regional specificity, they are usually being represented as such, because of a sense that they are fleeting or endangered, or in extreme cases have vanished. Hardy’s Wessex is a case in point. The moments when one can see it as an idyllic version of rural Dorset are far outnumbered by those in which the forces of change are seen to be transforming older agrarian practices and the human geographies attached to them. To take a single example: in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Tess’s odyssey through the Wessex countryside is undertaken against the backdrop of scenes which represent the dehumanizing consequences of the mechanization of agriculture.6 The

4 Doreen Massey, Space, Place and Gender, Cambridge: Polity, 1994, 5. 5 Doreen Massey, For Space, London: Sage, 2005, 9.

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novel’s fixation with the specifics of place borders on elegy; and the ways in which literature brings places into being habitually involves some kind of backward glance, some dialogue with the past, in which writers and readers imagine space through the prism of their ongoing situations. But how does the reading of books relate to the reading of places, whether landscapes or the built environment? A character in The Hungry Tide sees a connection between the activities of reading books and reading landscapes: I had a book in my hands to while away the time and it occurred to me that in a way a landscape too is not unlike a book – a compilation of pages that overlap without any two ever being the same. People open the book according to their taste and training, their memories and desires: for a geologist the compilation opens at one page, for a boatman at another and still another for a ship’s pilot, a painter and so on. On occasion these pages are ruled with lines that are invisible to some people, while being for others, as real, as charged and as volatile as high-voltage cables.7

Reversing this analogy, one might say that the way in which we read landscapes is not dissimilar to the way in which we imagine locations in books; we invent places from the verbal information provided within their covers, according to our taste and training, our memories and desires. And it’s in this sense that part of the way in which we read is dependent on the location in which we are reading: Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey; Leopold Bloom in his Dublin ‘jakes’. Literary texts – and written discourse more generally – after all Catherine Morland is looking at a laundry list and a farrier’s bill – invite

6 E.g. the mechanical reaper, suggestive of the Grim Reaper, in Chapter 14 of the novel and the ‘despotic’ threshing-machine in Chapter 46, Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, 1891; London: Macmillan 1963, 105-6, 365. 7 The Hungry Tide, London: HarperCollins, 2004, 224; italics in original. Subsequent references cite HT and are included in the text.

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their readers into an incomplete space, populated by words, but needing their intervention for any completion of its meaning. Even the most dedicatedly naturalistic of texts can only offer word-pictures, which need readers to realize them. This may sound like a commonplace of a certain kind of reader response criticism, but I’d like to try to develop it in relation the novels I’ve mentioned. Like many of their postcolonial contemporaries, Narayan and Ghosh make place, whether it be very specifically situated or nomadic, central to their work. Narayan’s Malgudi has often been seen as representing some kind of settled Indianness. In apparent contrast, Ghosh is a writer whose work has repeatedly demonstrated the porousness of borders and the extent of transactions between cultures. As Robert Dixon puts it, Ghosh ‘does not inhabit a culture rooted in a single place, but a discursive space that flows across political and national boundaries, and even across generations in time’.8 Like Hardy’s Wessex and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Narayan’s Malgudi has generally been seen as central to his work, and in his case not just a byword for a specific region, but also as a microcosm of India. Narayan himself seems to have been altogether less sure about this! In a whimsical ‘Self-Obituary’, which he published in 1950, he imagined himself, ‘On a certain day (towards the close of the twentieth century)’ being interrogated and charged with various offences by ‘four grim men’ from the ‘I.T.F.K.E.O.N’ (‘INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL FOR KEEPING an [sic] EYE ON NOVELISTS’).9 These included: writing too much (exceeding his allotted weight limit of 60 pounds of books), inventing an ‘imaginary town’, with ‘false geography’ that was bad for the tourist industry, and leaving his ‘characters in mid-air, their destinies unsolved’.10 I’d like to focus on the second of these charges,

8 Robert Dixon, ‘“Travelling in the West”: The Writing of Amitav Ghosh’, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 31, 1 (1996), 9 9 R.K. Narayan, ‘Self-Obituary No. 5’, Illustrated Weekly of India, 23 July 1950. Copy in Special Collections, Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University, No. 737, Box 8, folder 39.

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suggesting that, whether or not the ‘false geography’ of Malgudi has been ‘bad for the tourist industry’ of South India, it has been at the centre of Narayan’s appeal to armchair tourists, who reading about Malgudi have often seen it as a site that represents quintessential Indianness. His mentor and patron Graham Greene wrote, ‘Without him I could never have known what it is like to be Indian’,11 but this is only the most famous of many testimonials to Narayan’s supposed capacity for conveying supposedly ‘authentic’ Indianness and it is mirrored in remarks made by numerous Indian commentators, for example C.D. Narasimhaiah, who says of Narayan, ‘Few writers have been more truly Indian’.12 Such critics have, often nostalgically, seen Malgudi as a microcosm for the nation, sometimes tempering this by an acknowledgement of the extent to which it is representative of a particular region of India and a particular segment of Indian society, but seldom wishing to dispute Narayan’s capacity for capturing Indianness on the printed page. E.M. Forster’s Adela Quested wants ‘to see the real India’ 13 and Forster offers three possible versions in A Passage to India (mosque, caves and temple). Salman Rushdie’s Saleem Sinai, the narrator of Midnight’s Children (1981), says there are as many versions of India as Indians.14 Narayan, if we agree with those commentators who, like Greene and Narasimhaiah, have seen him as offering access to quintessential Indianness, would seem to be offering a more grounded and, one is tempted to say, more homogeneous version of Indianness.

10 Ibid. 11 Graham Greene, Introduction to R.K. Narayan, The Bachelor of Arts, 1978; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980, v. 12 C.D. Narasimhaiah, The Swan and the Eagle: Essays on Indian English Literature, Simla: Indian Institute, 1968, 136. 13 E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, 1924; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961, 25. 14 Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children, 1981; London: Picador, 1982, 269.

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In such responses, then, Malgudi becomes a microcosm for a traditional India, a locus that exists outside time and apart from the forces of modernity. However, to most contemporary readers such an approach frequently seems wrong-headed, an expression of a dated upper-caste Hindu-centred version of Indianness (specifically a Tamil Brahmin perspective), which is no longer acceptable as a national metanarrative, because it fails to address the multiplicity of discourses that have constituted India as it exists, both today and yesterday. Recently, though, at a time when his work would seem to be less expressive of India’s rapidly changing human geography, his fiction has seen an upsurge in popularity, but this in itself is perhaps an index of the extent to which the nation is looking nostalgically in a distorted rear-view mirror, trying to conjure up an image of an India that no longer exists, if it ever did. Paradoxically, then, at a time when Narayan’s ‘false geography’ has begun to seem particularly quaint, a mythologized version of the national imaginary, which runs the risk of being dismissed as fantastic by those alert to the multitude of Indias in existence, both then and now, Malgudi has been lovingly adopted as a quintessential Indian site, memorialized as an expression of an unchanging timeless India. Like Hardy’s Wessex, it seems to evoke a fugitive past, which never existed in the form that finds expression on the printed page. The actual, as opposed to the perceived, Malgudi of Narayan’s fiction is always a multi-faceted and transitional site, an interface between older conceptions of ‘authentic’ Indianness and contemporary views that stress the ubiquitousness and inescapability of change in the face of modernity. Additionally, the small town is seen from varying angles and with shifting emphases at different points in Narayan’s career. Moreover, Malgudi is far more than a physical location. It is an episteme that incorporates numerous ways of perceiving India – social, spiritual, mythological and psychological among them – which come together to make up its distinctive cultural geography. The ‘imaginary town’ is a site that represents a set of beliefs rather than a supposed transcription of a physical space. In Narayan’s fiction locations invariably have complex cultural associations and the range of conceptual territory covered is extensive and varied, even if his writing seems to offer a narrowly bounded view of place.

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As a way of trying to identify what is most distinctive about the cultural geography of Malgudi, I should like to focus particularly on Narayan’s representation of other spaces, what Michel Foucault calls heterotopias.15 Foucault identifies heterotopias as ‘those singular spaces to be found in some given social spaces whose functions are different from or even the opposite of others’. 16 We define ourselves through contradistinction from alterity, by saying what we are not, and Narayan frequently constructs oppositions between the supposedly familiar and safe Malgudi spaces – the part of the town centred on its business hub, Market Road, and its most established and conservative street, Kabir Street, – and newer parts of the town. To exemplify how place is constituted and challenged in Narayan, I shall briefly examine two particular locations, which are central to the cultural geography of the particular Narayan novels in which they occur, The English Teacher and The Financial Expert. The first relates to what is arguably the most traumatic event in all of Narayan’s fiction, based as it was on the tragic death of his wife Rajam at a very early age. The protagonist of The English Teacher, Krishna, and his young wife Susila explore the possibility of buying a house in Lawley Extension, a location which represents the changing face of Malgudi. The impulse to ‘extend’ is itself a challenge to the world-view embodied by the centre of the old town, which in Narayan’s cosmos is closely, though not exclusively associated with orthodox Brahminical Hinduism. The ‘moving spirit’ behind the extension is Krishna’s colleague, Sastri, a logician whom he describes as ‘a most energetic ‘extender’’. In Krishna’s view Sastri is ‘a marvellous man – a strange combination of things, at one end “undistributed middle” [sic], “definition of knowledge”, “syllogisms”, and at the other he had the spirit of a pioneer. His was the first building in the New Extension […]’.17

15 See particularly, Michel Foucault, ‘Of Other Places’, trans. Jay Miskowiec Diacritics, 16, 1 (1986), 22-7. 16 ‘Space, Knowledge, and Power’, Foucault interviewed by Paul Rabinow, trans. Christian Hubert, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991, 252.

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And, as Krishna and Susila venture into this new section of the town, they do so optimistic that a similar ‘strange combination’ will provide them with a home of their own and the sense of existential autonomy that comes with it. The tragic sequel frustrates this. They eventually arrive at a house, which Krishna sees as both attractive and propitious. He is impressed by its pleasant garden and its view. Suddenly he notices that Susila, who has gone to look at the backyard, has been absent for rather too long and the mood begins to darken. She has locked herself in an unclean outside lavatory, which she has entered barefoot in the expectation that its interior will be as clean as its brightly coloured door. Krishna initially views this as no more than ‘a sad anti-climax to a very pleasing morning’ (62), but much more is involved here. Susila is thoroughly traumatized by her experience. She emerges from the lavatory filled with disgust and, although Krishna is slow to realize it, the auspicious promise of the house has been completely negated. It is a place that now has completely different connotations. Susila is taken ill and her subsequent decline and death from typhoid appears to stem from this moment, though with characteristic ambivalence Narayan stops short of categorically identifying the experience as responsible for her death. However, reading beyond the naturalistic surface of the novel and irrespective of whether the New Extension lavatory has been the cause of Susila’s illness, this encounter with a heterotopian space is represented as deeply traumatic. A Brahminbased fear of pollution seems to underpin it and, read as an allegory about spatial economies, both physical and mental, the novel suggests that it is the development of Lawley Extension that is responsible. While Susila has been undergoing her ordeal, Krishna has been busy debating the sanitation of the house’s surroundings and the clear inference is that its ‘strange combination’– the challenge represented by the coming of modernity to Malgudi – is the cause of the tragedy. Narayan’s technique leaves all this implicit, but later references to the psychic and spiritual

17 The English Teacher, 1945; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980, 56. Subsequent references cite ET and are included in the text.

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properties of place establish a pattern that makes it hard to resist the conclusion that it is the transgression of codes of cleanliness that causes Susila’s death. Read like this, then, The English Teacher is a far cry from the domestic novel of manners that it may initially appear to be. Krishna teaches his students Pride and Prejudice (45), but the novel’s account of married life is a world away from Jane Austen’s comforting conclusion, which reaffirms the conventions of her middle-class social world. The second Narayan location I’d like to focus on is the street where the protagonist of his 1952 novel, The Financial Expert, Margayya, lives. Margayya comes from a less respectable Malgudi background than most of Narayan’s protagonists: there is ‘a family secret about his caste’;18 and he also lives in a more liminal situation – Vinayak Mudali Street – close to the centre of Malgudi, but a far less prestigious address than Kabir Street, the bastion of conservative Malgudi values.19 Situated on ‘the very edge of the town’ (34), the street is clearly a borderline environment, but although it is a world away from the Kabir Street aristocracy, it has a complex past of its own. Margayya’s own house, No. 14 D, has already attained the status of ‘a famous local land-mark, for it was the earliest house to be built in that area’ (9) and his father has been seen as heroic for deciding to settle in what would then have been a heterotopian space. This claim to fame is, however, mitigated by the insalubrious aspects of the street: it is close to a cremation ground and a wide, unsanitary gutter runs in front of its houses. Anything that falls into this gutter sinks ‘deeper and deeper into a black mass’ (40) until it is irrevocably lost. Once again such physical geography seems to be associated with waste and pollution, suggesting that the street may be a similar site to the

18 The Financial Expert, London: Methuen, 1952, 183. Subsequent references cite FE and are included in the text. 19 The choice of name represents a probable allusion to the fifteenth-century mystic and philosopher, Kabir, a bhakti saint, who is revered as one of medieval India’s most important poets. Nilufer E. Bharucha, ‘Colonial Enclosures and Autonomous Spaces: R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi’, South Asian Review, 23, 1 (2002), 133, notes that Kabir ‘was a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity’.

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unsanitary Lawley Extension house, where Susila appears to contract her fatal illness. Vinayak Mudali Street is, however, more complex than this suggests. At one end of the street there is a small temple with a shrine to Hanuman, supposedly built on a spot that the monkey-god’s foot touched during his journey south to Lanka with Rama in the Sanskrit epic, The Ramayana. So, seen from another angle, the street is on the edge of hallowed ground. One way of reading this might be in terms of a Foucault-like view of the past as archaeologically layered rather than as a product of linear historiographical discourse. Vinayak Mudali Street, past and present, seem to be very different places and Narayan is clearly suggesting that the same physical space can be seen in very different, even opposed, ways. This said, the archaeological model of place as a set of palimpsests imposed one on top of another is inadequate to account for the ambivalence of the street in the present, where it is on the edge of town, situated between New Extension and the old centre around Kabir Street and Market Road. Compared with Lawley Extension, which again figures prominently in the novel, it seems to be in Malgudi and it has been built on ground which can be claimed as sanctified. Moreover, its temple is a present-day reality. But viewed from another perspective it is a location that is close to being beyond the pale. It only receives any attention from the Municipal authorities when elections are looming and the gutter is the main metonym for its unsanitary, disease-ridden condition (41).20 So the street resists unitary interpretation; it offers

20 Although it is mistaken to identify Malgudi with Mysore, Narayan’s home for most of his life, his comments on sanitation and slum clearance in the city of Mysore in his officially commissioned 1939 travel book on the state provide interesting background to this. After several pages lauding Mysore as ‘India’s most beautiful city’ and detailing the civic improvements undertaken by the Municipality that have contributed to its high standards of cleanliness, he finally comes to speak of ‘its dark spots, of the congested and slummy quarters that still disfigure its loveliness like so many ugly blotches, of the unsewered drains that run like tears down its beautiful face’, Mysore, Mysore: Government Branch Press, 1939, 113. Narayan also talks of the continuing prevalence of malaria

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different hermeneutic possibilities, depending on the viewpoint from which it is seen. Most importantly, it is simultaneously both hallowed and polluted ground in the present. These two versions of its identity are coterminous and so the archaeological model which suggests that one layer has been superimposed on another simplifies the text’s complex representation of space and place. No. 14 D, Margayya’s house, is equally ambivalent, since it has been partitioned down the middle during a dispute between Margayya and his brother after their father’s death.21 Now they inhabit separate halves of the house, which are self-contained, apart from their having to share a well, while their wives continue to feud. So the house is both a haven for Margayya and an uncomfortable kind of ‘home’, as it is a split, contested site, in which the traditional values of the joint family have been negated. And, as in earlier Narayan novels, rooms also take on particular identities and are subject to transformations. So, when in the first part of the novel Margayya decides to devote himself to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, in the hope that she will favour his business enterprises, he converts a small room in the house into a shrine where he can undertake a forty-day penance to enlist the goddess’s help. Later, when he becomes very prosperous financially, this room is assigned another identity: along with other parts of the house it becomes a store for the vast deposits of cash Margayya has accumulated. These spatial dynamics underpin the central conflicts of the novel, which centre on an evaluation of the relative merits of Margayya’s financial entrepreneurialism and the more conservative aspects of Brahmin culture. and the need for ‘a great and wholehearted drive against the mosquito […]’ (ibid., 114). 21 Cf. The Man-Eater of Malgudi, where the protagonist Nataraj experiences a similar form of family partition, The Man-Eater of Malgudi, 1961; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983, 10-12. Inevitably the signifier ‘partition’ used in novels published in the 1950s and 1960s invites interpretation as some form of national allegory, but Narayan makes no reference to the national Partition. Such a reading is arguably more sustainable for The Man-Eater, which is set in the postIndependence era than for The Financial Expert, which is set in the early 1940s (‘it was the third year of the war […]’, FE 118).

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Again, Margayya’s physical situation mirrors his position in the society. He is an interstitial figure, whose business ethics distance him from the older scribal professions. In short, The Financial Expert’s representations of place frustrate the binary opposition – the opposition between safe and polluted space – that can be seen in the section of The English Teacher that I’ve discussed. These are just two instances of ways in which Narayan loads places with cultural baggage, but they are typical of two major patterns in his fiction: his early drawing of a sharp distinction between safe and polluted space and his later movement towards the view that ‘The identities of places are always unfixed, contested and multiple’. The latter pattern provides particularly strong evidence for the case against seeing Narayan as an ‘authentic’ chronicler of a settled world, but the dividing-lines drawn in the early fiction also construct Malgudi as a split site. Narayan’s fiction may derive from very particular South Indian specifics, but it demonstrates how fluid, fractured and fleeting these specifics can be. Far from achieving its effects through offering its readers a transcribed version of a monolithically conceived ‘real’ social world, it ministers to their nostalgic fantasies of what such a world might be like and what kinds of struggles it would need to engage in to defend its older, more orthodox side from the encroachments of omnipresent heterogeneity. Narayan’s success emerges from the skill with which he persuades us to enjoy his ‘false geography’. For his readers, from Graham Greene onwards, Malgudi itself has been a heterotopia that has allowed them free rein to unleash their imaginative fantasies. The Hungry Tide is more obviously concerned with the heterogeneity of spatial trajectories and its setting, the Sundarbans, or ‘tide country’, region of West Bengal, is both a vividly realized location and a site that serves as a trope for Ghosh’s view of place as malleable. The Sundarbans is a unique landscape of mangrove-forested islands and mudflats at the mouth of Ganges Delta. As documented in Al Gore’s film about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth,22 it is one of the world’s most threatened regions and although Ghosh never explicitly introduces the issue of

22 Lawrence Bender Productions, 2006, dir. Davis Guggenheim.

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climate change into his novel, The Hungry Tide details the various natural and human disasters from which the Sundarbans has suffered, both historically and in the recent past. The novel includes numerous quotations from the Duino Elegies and Rilke’s belief that ‘life is lived in transformation’23 is central to Ghosh’s representation of the region. He accentuates the extent to which the Sundarbans undergoes constant metamorphoses, both because of daily tidal flows, with sections of land being temporarily submerged and with seawater and freshwater intermingling, and because of the periodic devastation wrought by extreme monsoon and cyclonic weather. Like the English Fens of Graham Swift’s Waterland (1983) 24 and the Venice of Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion (1987), the Sundarbans of The Hungry Tide is an amphibious location, an environment whose physical geography can be seen as a trope for the fact that the identities of places are not fixed and unitary. Unlike The Passion and unlike Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, where the Sundarbans is seen as a phantasmagoric ‘historyless’25 location, The Hungry Tide’s meticulously documented details of physical and human geography make a consideration of the various ways in which the region has been and is being shaped, by policy-makers and its various other stakeholders, inescapable. The Hungry Tide depicts the tide country as the ever-mutating product of its human as well as its physical geography, a contested site that has variously been seen as uninhabitable and as fertile territory for social projects. In addition to telling a very particular human story in a realist mode that draws heavily on researched detail,26 the novel includes

23 Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegy 7, line 51; Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. A. Poulin Jr., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977, 51; qtd. HT, 225 and 282. 24 Waterland is a novel that Ghosh particularly admires, personal conversation, Turin, April 2006. 25 Midnight’s Children, 360.

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details of a number of heterotopias, which suggest alternative ways in which the Sundarbans has been and can be read, and more importantly utilized. These take the form of projects that bring together utopian thinking and pragmatic action. In the past such initiatives have included a cooperative founded by an idealistic Scottish colonist who attempted to create a community that would transcend the caste and regional divisions of Indian society and a post-independence settlement by Bengali refugees, who established squatters’ rights on an uninhabited Sundarbans island, named Morichjhãpi, from which they were forcibly removed by the local authorities in 1979. In the present these projects are paralleled by a Development Trust, centred on the work of a hospital, which is seen as a model for NGOs working in rural India. The Morichjhãpi incident raises particular issues relating to the politically contested nature of space.27 The Hungry Tide gives an oblique account of how the Morichjhãpi settlers were evicted from the island, with many being killed by the state authorities, because they had established themselves on land designated as a wildlife conservation site for endangered species such as the Royal Bengal Tiger. Originally from Bengal, but removed to a so-called ‘resettlement’ camp in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, said to be ‘more like a concentration camp, or a prison’ (118), the refugees28 have returned to the tide country and, at least as far

26 Ghosh characteristically acknowledges numerous sources in his concluding ‘Author’s Note’ (HT, 401-3). 27 See Ross Mallick’s article, “Refugee Recruitment in Forest Reserves: West Bengal Policy Reversal and the Morichjhãpi Massacre” in The Journal of Asian Studies, 58, 1 (1999), 103-25, which Ghosh acknowledges in his ‘Author’s Note’ (HT, 402). Mallick explicitly raises the issue of the competing perspectives of the conservationists and the refugees. 28 Tim Cresswell’s comments on refugees as people who are customarily considered to be ‘out-of-place’ are very pertinent to this aspect of Ghosh’s novel. See Cresswell, Place: A Short Introduction, Malden, MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 2004, 117-22. See too Zygmunt Bauman’s view that the perceived challenge posed by newly mobile strangers, after modernity ruptured the links between

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as the authorities are concerned, established themselves on Morichjhãpi illegally. In Zygmunt Bauman’s terms, they have been criminalized by poverty. They are victims of what Bauman calls ‘glocalization’, the restratifications of the new world order, which allow ‘[s]ome [to] inhabit the globe, while others are chained to place’,29 but in their case they have transgressed by refusing to stay put. The novel continues this debate into the present, where the suggestion is that human life continues to be cheapened by the local Forestry Department’s putting internationally funded conservation work before the well-being of the region’s subalterns. So segments of the Sundarbans population have to contend with both meteorological extremes and political dispossession. However, the division between the two sets of forces seems to be porous. As I’ve said, Ghosh stops short of depicting climate change as responsible for the devastating storms that periodically strike the region,30 but this seems to be implicit: the action comes to a climax when a tsunami-like wave swamps the tide country and throughout there are suggestions that the uniquely varied biodiversity31 of its eco-system is imperilled.32 When the social interaction and physical proximity, intensified the felt need to demarcate securely ordered and bounded ‘cognitive space’, Bauman, Postmodern Ethics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993, 146. 29 Zygmunt Bauman, The Bauman Reader, ed. Peter Beilharz, Oxford: Blackwell, 2001, 307. 30 There are references to earlier disasters such as the Bengal famine of 1942 (HT, 79) and the cyclone that killed an estimated half a million people in the Ganges Delta in 1970 (HT, 203) is mentioned as one of many storms that have struck the region (HT, 201-6). 31 See, e.g., HT, 125: ‘Piya remembered a study that had shown there were more species of fish in the Sundarbans than could be found in the whole continent of Europe. […] [The] proliferation of environments was responsible for creating and sustaining a dazzling variety of aquatic life forms – from gargantuan crocodiles to microscopic fish.’

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wave strikes, an illiterate fisherman, Fokir, who has acted as a guide to one of the protagonists, Piya, an American-born cetologist of Bengali descent, with whom he has established a close non-verbal relationship that seems to bridge the gap between the mobile cosmopolitan elite and the more locally rooted poor, is killed, while saving Piya’s life for the second time. At this moment the possibility of meliorative collaboration between people who would usually be seen as polar opposites seems to have been aborted; and the novel’s poetics of space appears to have enacted the imbalances in the ways that geography, both physical and political, treats the haves and have-nots of a glocalized society. But The Hungry Tide does not end here and, as in all his work, Ghosh seems to be investigating possibilities for developing humanist alternatives to the present status quo. So the novel itself becomes a heterotopian site: in addition to documenting perceived material ‘realities’, it promotes an idealistic vision of a more egalitarian view of place. Ghosh consistently foregrounds the ways in which the tide country is a series of ever-changing chronotopes, formed by interconnecting flows that are now being accelerated by diasporic movement, glocalization and, it would seem, climate change. In addition to the various perspectives on the Sundarbans that I have mentioned, he also incorporates a mythic account of the origins of the region, which provides a very different angle of vision on the way undifferentiated space is shaped into place33 when it is invested with meaning through human interpretative practices. A group of travelling actors performs the legend of the goddess Bon Bibi, the tutelary deity of the region’s animals (102-5).34 According to this

32 An ecocritical reading is encouraged by the novel’s carefully researched information concerning the region’s animals’ behaviour. Tigers apart, Piya finds the Sundarbans’ dolphins are behaving in a previously unobserved manner. 33 Yi-Fu Tuan distinguishes between ‘space’ and ‘place’ using this terminology: ‘What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value’, Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977, 6. 34 Cf. HT, 247 and 354ff.

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legend, Bon Bibi has come to the Ganges Delta from Arabia along with her twin brother, Shah Jongoli and so their identities seem to transcend the Muslim/Hindu partitioning of Bengal. Together Bon Bibi and Shah Jongoli have defeated the demon-king of the region, Dokkhin Rai, who can assume the form of a tiger, subsequently granting him dominion over half of the Sundarbans. As the novel puts it, this division brings order to the land of the tides, ‘with its two halves, the wild and the sown, being held in careful balance’ (103). In The Hungry Tide’s account of the region’s recent and contemporary situation, differences of opinion over land ownership and usage have not been so easily resolved. A similar ‘careful balance’ between ‘the wild and the sown’ has not been maintained: the refugees transgress, cross over the line that bifurcates the two aspects of the tide country, when they settle on Morichjhãpi, but the novel enlists our sympathy for their plight, giving voice to a suppressed history of subaltern dispossession and, through the numerous Rilke intertexts that are scattered through its pages, suggesting that their predicament relates to that of disinherited peoples35 more generally. Ghosh’s penchant for researched detail draws on technical information from the professions of its two main protagonists: Piya, the cetologist, and Kanai, a Delhi-based linguist, who now runs a translation agency. Both are engaged in forms of research themselves. Piya comes to the tide country to further her work on the river dolphin and details from the history of dolphin research inform the novel. Kanai comes on what is ostensibly a more personal mission, returning to the Sundarbans island, Lusibari, where he spent time with his aunt and uncle as a young man. He does so at the request of his aunt, Nilima, who runs the hospital that is

35 The numerous Rilke intertexts in Nirmal’s notebook have the effect of broadening the dispossession of the Morichjhãpi settlers into an existential predicament. See, e.g., the use of ‘disinherited’ in the following passage: Each slow turn of the world carries such disinherited ones to whom neither the past not the future belongs,

Duino Elegy 7, lines 63-4; Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Poulin, 51; qtd. HT, 165.

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the cornerstone of the Development Trust. Nilima has asked him to come back, because his uncle, her late husband Nirmal, who died at the time of the Morichjhãpi incident, has left a notebook, which has just reappeared and which Nirmal has bequeathed to Kanai. The notebook is both the last testament of an ageing revolutionary and the medium for the novel’s vivid poetic account of the struggle over Morichjhãpi. The first half of The Hungry Tide’s braided narrative structure alternates between chapters in which Piya attempts to track river dolphins, with the help of Fokir, and chapters focused on Kanai, which move between accounts of his previous period in Lusibari, his recent return and his reading of Nirmal’s notebook. Gradually these strands begin to converge, particularly through comparisons and contrasts between the various ways in which the characters respond to the tide country. Most of the novel’s larger themes steal up on its readers, as the primary focus is on the relationships between its characters. The common denominator in most, though not all, of these relationships is that they explore varying responses to the Sundarbans and the possibility of meaningful dialogue between cosmopolitan outsiders and local subalterns. The action comes to a climax when Fokir is killed in the cyclone. Piya goes back to Lusibari and Nilima in a state of shock and when she leaves shortly afterwards, saying that she will return, Nilima assumes that, like so many other well-intentioned visitors, she will not be heard from again. The Epilogue proves Nilima wrong. Piya comes back, having secured funding for further research on the region’s dolphins, but stipulating that she will only undertake this under the sponsorship of Nilima’s Trust, so that local fishermen will be involved. She comments that she does not ‘“want to do the kind of work that places the burden of conservation on those who can least afford it”‘ (397), a remark that reflects the text’s attempt to bridge the divide between global and local imperatives. When Piya hears that Kanai, who has gone back to Delhi, may also be returning to Lusibari, she says unthinkingly, ‘“it’ll be good to have him home”‘ (399). So the novel ends on an optimistic note, typical of Ghosh’s particular brand of humanism, offering the possibility of the convergence of characters both across and within class parameters, and with Piya wishing to align her research with the developmental work of Lusibari, which through the Trust is also dedicated to the eradication of

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class boundaries and social injustice. Earlier, Piya’s time on the remote Sundarbans waterways has been supported by the specialist tools of her trade, which include a GPS that enables her to determine her precise whereabouts, and speed and direction of movement at any given moment through the use of orbiting satellites. There is no suggestion that she will, or indeed should, relinquish such equipment and so her local work will continue to be supported by global technology. Similarly, the death of Fokir and the probable return of Kanai may seem to negate the possibility of a relationship with a local subaltern and hold out the promise of a middle-class romance for a woman who has hitherto seemed to be consigned to lead a solitary life. However, the novel stops short of this kind of neat romantic resolution; and Piya’s commitment to Lusibari moves some way beyond her attraction to Fokir, not only because she reaffirms her dedication to her research on the river dolphin and seeks to involve the local fishermen, but also because she befriends Fokir’s widow, Moyna, a character who is upwardly mobile in social terms. The Hungry Tide ends proposing the possibility of an ethics of cross-class work and personal relationships, which aspires to reconcile global and local concerns. I hope that it will be clear from what I’ve said that The Hungry Tide is a very different novel from Narayan’s The English Teacher and The Financial Expert. Like Piya, Ghosh is an American-resident of Bengali parentage, concerned with global positioning, intent on finding commonalities between the cosmopolitan elite and glocalized subalterns, and seemingly committed to developing an ethics of cross-class collaboration. Narayan, writing in an earlier period, and for the most part unaware of ecological issues,36 seems to offer the possibility of a more sedentary poetics of place, only to show the proximity of pollution and danger in The English Teacher and the heterogeneity of a particular liminal location in The Financial

36 Passages in Narayan’s later fiction do engage with ecological concerns, though in a manner seemingly unaware of contemporary debates. See particularly the attack on anthropocentric thinking embodied in the use of a tiger narrator/protagonist in A Tiger for Malgudi, 1983; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984, 7-8 and passim; and the account of the ‘Cannibal Herb’ in Talkative Man, 1986; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987, 75 and 105.

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Expert. Starting as it were from different poles, both novelists demonstrate the ‘unfixed, contested and multiple’ nature of place. In so doing – and despite the fact that Narayan has been claimed by essentialist Hindu thinkers – they both demonstrate the fluid nature of place. But more than just this, like all fiction, their novels themselves are other places, heterotopian sites, apart from the external world: other places in which their authors have developed imaginative spaces, which we as readers are invited to inhabit with them. Foucault does not mention literary spaces when he talks of heterotopias, but it seems reasonable to extend his thinking on the subject to say that fictional sites are defined in contradistinction to ‘given social spaces’, since signifying practices, the act of rendering them in language inevitably renders them ‘other’. The novels I have discussed describe heterotopias, but at the same time they themselves become heterotopias, away from the ‘real’ world of ‘given social spaces’, in which their readers can build, and sometimes destroy, edifices from the raw materials provided. Catherine Morland builds a lot out of a little at Northanger Abbey; Leopold Bloom flushes the prizewinning story from Tit-Bits down his Dublin ‘jakes’. And in their very different ways, Narayan and Ghosh suggest alternative ways of reading places.

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References Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. London: Dent, 1965. Bauman, Zygmunt. The Bauman Reader. Ed. Peter Beilharz. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. -------- Postmodern Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993. Bharucha, Nilufer E. “Colonial Enclosures and Autonomous Spaces: R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi”, South Asian Review 23.1, 2002: 129-53. Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Dixon, Robert. ““Travelling in the West”: The Writing of Amitav Ghosh”, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 31.11, 996: 3-24, Forster, E.M. A Passage to India. Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1961. Foucault, Michel. ‘Of Other Places’. Trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics, 16.1, 1986: 22-7. -------- ‘Space, Knowledge, and Power. Foucault interviewed by Paul Rabinow. Trans. Christian Hubert. The Foucault Reader, Ed. Paul Rabinow, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1991: 239-56. Ghosh, Amitav. The Hungry Tide. London: HarperCollins, 2004. Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman. London: Macmillan, 1963. Joyce, James. Ulysses: The 1922 Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Littau, Karin. Theories of Reading: Books, Bodies and Bibliomania. Cambridge: Polity, 1996. Mallick, Ross. “Refugee Recruitment in Forest Reserves: West Bengal Policy Reversal and the Morichjhãpi Massacre” in The Journal of Asian Studies, 58.1 1999: 103-25. Massey, Doreen. For Space. London: Sage, 2005. -------- Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity, 1994. Narasimhaiah, C.D. The Swan and the Eagle: Essays on Indian English Literature. Simla: Indian Institute, 1968. Narayan, R.K. The Bachelor of Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. -------- The English Teacher. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. -------- The Financial Expert. London: Methuen, 1952. -------- The Man-Eater of Malgudi. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983. -------- Mysore. Mysore: Government Branch Press, 1939. -------- ‘Self-Obituary No. 5’, Illustrated Weekly of India, 23 July 1950. Special Collections, Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University, No. 737, Box 8, folder 39. -------- Talkative Man. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

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-------- A Tiger for Malgudi. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. Rilke, Rainer Maria. Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. Trans. A. Poulin Jr., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977. Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. London: Picador, 1982. Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

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A FICTIONAL REMEMBERING OF INDIA: Anna Leonowens’ Travel Writing SHOSHANNAH GANZ

Shoshannah Ganz is Assistant Professor of English at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Her interests are Canadian literature, religious influence on Canadian writing, travel writing, and women’s writing. Ganz has published on a number of Canadian authors and co-edited The Ivory Thought: Essays on Al Purdy, pub. by University of Ottawa Press. Her monograph on Canadian Literary Pilgrimage is under peer review at Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Ganz’s current book project examines the influence of Eastern thought on Canadian women travellers writing about South East Asia from 18501940.

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A FICTIONAL REMEMBERING OF INDIA: Anna Leonowens’ Travel Writing SHOSHANNAH GANZ

Anna Leonowens is chiefly remembered and celebrated as the English governess and only foreigner to ever fully infiltrate the court and harem of King Mongkut of Siam. The role she played in educating the King’s children, wives and consorts has been widely fictionalized and officially misrepresented in a number of different books, films, and even a television mini-series. The Anna Leonowens created and consumed by the American public is by and large the creation of an American missionary to Thailand, Margaret Landon. Landon whitens and baptizes the darkskinned Anglo-Indian, and Leonowens, reborn in Landon’s own image, goes on to become an icon of American resistance to a despotic Eastern, though charming, tyrant embodied by actor Rex Harrison in the 1946 film that followed Landon’s 1944 bestseller. Leonowens continues to be remade and reborn – there followed Rodger and Hammerstein’s version in 1951 and 1956, and most recently Fox films’ version starring Jodie Foster as a completely American blonde-haired and blue-eyed Anna. As such, Margaret Landon’s version of Anna – as an American missionary – and Anna Leonowens’ own self fashioning – as a proper Victorian British woman – have both survived and triumphed in popular culture. This paper does not intend to expose or celebrate the “real” and less BritishAmerican version of Leonowens; rather, I am interested in exploring one of Leonowens’ lesser known works of travel writing about India. Life and Travel in India: Being Recollections of a Journey Before the Days of Railroad (1884) has been almost entirely ignored in favour of the writing about the exciting and exotic six and a half years Anna Leonowens spent as an insider in the court of Siam. And while I will be reading Leonowens’ celebrated works of her time in Siam in various discussions of her later works and life, these will not form the main body of this exploration. I will begin by discussing the fiction of Anna Leonowens’ life and the reasons why this version of herself was important to her personal and

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literary success. Then I will explore the self she reveals and disguises in her travel writing, including particularly the places in India that she wrote about and the India she celebrates and denigrates in her penultimate work of non-fiction, Life and Travel in India: Being Recollections of a Journey Before the Days of Railroad. Finally, I will explore how this work of non-fiction written during Leonowens’ life in Canada explores equality for all people of various cultures and religions; abolishment of the oppression of women, caste, slavery and colonial oppression; and her on-going project of educating and correcting foreign misperceptions about India. Leonowens’ writing and activism for racial equality and universal education appear according to popular versions of Leonowens’ life to have found their roots in her experiences of the harem and slavery in Siam. However, I would suggest that the roots lie much further in her past in India and were merely reincarnated in Siam and the United States and later in Canada. Leonowens was born and grew up in a community that respected all races and faiths. Anna was raised in poverty but in an environment that taught her languages, cultures, religions; and through education, passion, and a gift with language she transformed and romanticized this experience and knowledge into a manual on the practices and peoples of India with that touch of romance that while arguably conforming to colonial tropes could also have been cleverly employed to evade censorship and allow for the publication and reading of a work that both disguises and reveals her Indian heritage. Regardless of the strategies Leonowens chooses to employ, like many other women writers of the time, her serious writing was largely dismissed as amateurish and by and large her writing about India had a far narrower appeal. In spite of the dismissal of her formidable knowledge and expertise on Indian history and culture during most of her lifetime, in her later years she was consulted by professors from McGill University and gave a number of lectures at universities in Canada and Europe. However, Leonowens is remembered chiefly for her writing about Siam and her writing about India is almost entirely ignored and forgotten even in scholarly biographies and serious scholarship on her work. Some of the blame for this lies almost certainly in the complicated nature of the text—at times she seems to be writing in ways that conform to colonial expectations of the time and at others seems to be writing back to the

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colony from her earlier Indian self. As a result, Leonowens’ work on India was dismissed in her day as “inaccurate” and is now dismissed as being fairly typical colonial writing of the time. The other and most obvious reason Leonowens’ Indian writing is ignored in favour of her writing about Siam is because it was not set in a harem and was filled with information and insight rather than intrigue and romance. I however argue that Leonowens’ travel writing has been far under- valued both in terms of what it reveals about the author and for the way in which it responds to much of the Canadian missionary writing of her contemporaries. This is I argue one of those rare opportunities to read a response from one of India’s native children and regardless of the fictionality of the self Leonowens presents, her positions on colonialism, religion, women, suteeism, caste and many other aspects of Indian culture and religion are interesting if conflicted tributes to her Indian heritage. According to Leslie Smith Dow’s 1991 Anna Leonowens: A Life Beyond the King and I: “Depending on whom one chooses to believe, Anna Leonowens may have been among the most accomplished, fearless and adventurous of Victorian ladies, or a complete fake who covered up her ignoble origins by inventing and exaggerating at will, simply to sell copies of her books” (1991: xi). However, even the detective work of Leslie Smith Dow, although uncovering aspects of Anna Leonowens’ early life, falls far short of the later biographical detective work of Susan Morgan, whose 2008 Bombay Anna stands as the authority on the “real” life of Anna Leonowens while at the same time questioning with proper academic skepticism the essentialism of the “real” story. However, while Morgan does a commendable job of giving a biographical account of Anna Leonowens she does seem to miss the significance of Leonowens’ travel writing written later in life and after she had become a celebrated author. By the time Leonowens’ wrote her last two works on India, her reputation as a British writer was well established. She no longer had to act the part of the British lady, but was well accepted as what she said she was—and further, she was celebrated in Halifax as an accomplished author of two well-received if disputed works and was embraced as the dowager of an established and wealthy family. What had been posturing when Leonowens first set out to write had in the interim become something of an undisputed reality and regardless in what was then the backwaters of

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Nova Scotia no one was standing up to dispute the interesting and intelligent champion of human rights and loving grandmother and educator to a growing family who was investing herself in the arts and community life of Halifax. Anna Leonowens’ early life in the barracks in Pune, India meant growing up with many people around and nothing of what would at that time have been considered a “normal” nuclear family. Most of the families Anna grew up with in India because of high rates of disease and early deaths were blended and the children of the fort “ran around in packs” (Morgan 43). The community of what came to be known as mixed-race Anglo-Indians referred to by the British as “half-castes” or “Eurasians” were part of an incredibly multicultural community. And while the conditions of poverty prevailed, the cultural situation was very rich. Christians, Muslims, and Hindus worked and played together unconstrained by the social-norms that would have prevailed had Anna been what she claimed to be, that is a proper English lady. The schooling that Anna received would also have been superior to what she would have received as part of the rural or urban poor in England. The schools in the fort used the “Madras system,” where the older children taught the younger ones and all were drilled in the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. The education Anna acquired outside of the structure of school meant that she became fluent in English and Hindi and learned to write Sanskrit, learned the cultural and religious practices of Rajputs and Mussalmans, and practiced daily the lessons of equality, tolerance, and survival. Morgan hypothesizes that Anna’s “remarkable” metamorphosis as an adult was the result of an uncanny facility with languages, photographic memory, high intelligence and probably most importantly a passion for learning and intense curiosity about the world (45). While books have been written about Anna’s early life and life before, during, and after her time in Siam, this paper focuses on her writing about India. Life and Travel in India: Being Recollections of a Journey Before the Days of Railroad was written long past the time when Anna was trying on or even practicing the part of a British lady. By the time Anna began writing about India, the fiction of her life had been accepted and she was surely less vigilant in the guarding of her past and present identities. Perhaps as Morgan suggests her identity had even actually

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become what she claimed. Regardless, the tome of her India writing, said to be the memories of two years of travel in the company of her husband, is really a rich memorial to India with perhaps even the traces of autobiography and memoir. While the “fake” story stays intact and is repeated, there are the traces of nostalgia for her homeland and a past she forsook to provide for her children following the death of her husband. In order to keep up the façade of her life as the English lady she arguably had to forsake all family and thoughts of return to India, but in her last two books, more than in the careful artifice of the first two, there is a return of her repressed past. Regardless of how accepted Leonowens’ story of her origins may have been in Halifax of the early twentieth century, Leonowens continues to invest her travel writing about India with her fictional creation of self. That in reality Leonowens’ writing about India is a memoir of her early life and early married years in India is carefully overlaid with the fictional story of her travel in India as a companion to her husband. Her knowledge of India and the languages and culture of India is explained by Leonowens’ story that her husband hired a language tutor when they first arrived in India. In the very first pages of her narrative she begins to set up the fictional apparatus to uphold her story of how she came to know India: “I have tried to give a faithful account of life in India, as well as of the sights and scenes visited by me, with my husband, before the days of railroad travel” (1884: 5). Thus in one sentence Leonowens claims the “proper” position of a Victorian lady travelling as a companion to her husband, and also attempts in the same breath to instill a sense of the authenticity of the eyewitness account. Leonowens attempts to give a “faithful account” of the “sights and scenes” she visited most importantly before the changes that readers would perceive as having taken place as a result of lasting colonial influence and “progress” as a result of the railroad. While Leonowens later suggests that the railroad did little to change India – and indeed represents India as unchanging – she still attempts to set up the authenticity of the narrative by claiming it predates the possible changes effected by the “progress” implied in the building of the railroad. I will later come back to this discussion of the “unchanging” quality of India, but will first further explore the posturing of the author as an outsider and purely British traveler to India.

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Growing up in and around Bombay and spending the first few years of her married life in Bombay, Leonowens yet promotes her self-fiction of the novelty of adult arrival in the city with her husband by introducing various aspects of the city as a novice and first-time visitor describing her first drives around and views of the city (20). Later in her colourful and knowledgeable accounts of commerce in the vibrant markets of Bombay she gives a Rousseauian digression about a ribbon 1 as proof of her innocence and lack of knowledge. Leonowens writes: “It was my first initiation to the commerce of the world to visit this spot. Previous to this day I had hardly so much as purchased a ribbon for myself, and could not conceive what trade really meant. But, driving here about ten o’clock one morning, the whole scene dawned upon me with peculiar force” (23). This description, that incidentally precedes the intimate knowledge of the bazaars, again affords Leonowens the opportunity to set herself apart as the Victorian lady, so naïve and protected that she has never even purchased a ribbon. Rousseau’s confession of an earlier lie with regards to a ribbon pales in comparison to Leonowens’ self-fashioning. Leonowens attempts to show the “peculiar force” of the bazaar as if she is a first-time observer writing: The great square was thronged with a motley crowd of darkand white-faced foreigners, all eager, jostling, and contending with each amid the confused hubbub of all languages and all manners of dialects. Here were strange specimens of every nationality and every phase of life, from the lordly English and Scotch merchants, the skilful and assiduous Parsees, to the half-nude, wretched-looking fakers and beggars who haunt this spot in the hope of getting a few pice. (23)

While to a first-time visitor to the bazaar there might appear to be a “motley crowd of dark-and white-faced foreigners” indistinguishable by nation or race, all a part of the “confused hubbub of all languages,” surely to a woman who had grown up in that diverse scene she would have been 1 Rousseau in his Confessions(1782) admits to stealing a ribbon and allowing a servant girl to be blamed. This is meant to be a key moment of truth-telling about the wretchedness of his boyhood.

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able to pick out the origins of different races and the various languages being spoken. But at this early point in the narrative, Leonowens is still attempting to posture as the outside observer and not as an adult recounting her childhood environment. By this account she is not an intimate of the scene and she cannot distinguish between the peoples or voices. While she will later give very detailed accounts of the various peoples and languages she is leading the reader into the scene as a firsttime encounter. She stands apart and sees only colour and babble as a European or Victorian lady visitor might be expected to see and hear. While her child and young adult self would dart among the crowd indistinguishable, her English-American-Canadian voice looking back detaches her earlier self from the scene and returns to it as an outsider. Prior to Leonowens ever having left India and following her marriage, she moved with her husband from Poona and into a large and expensive home on the outskirts of Bombay. The place they chose to live in was far beyond their means and they lived there for only a short time. This early home may be part of the source for the fiction of the “aviary” home in her travel writing. The Leonowens’ real home for most of their years together in Bombay was in a district known as “Black Town.” However, in spite of what would have been Anna’s incredibly intimate knowledge of “Black Town” from her happy years of residence in that part of town, Leonowens mentions this district of Bombay only in passing. Surely this is one of the greatest erasures from her story. The first mention of “Black Town” is as follows: “The Esplanade serves to separate the European from the native part of the island, the latter being vulgarly called the ‘Black Town’” (29). While she condemns the vulgarity of the European dismissal of the native part of the island as “Black Town” she does not show any interest in the text in the inner workings of the native part of the city and effectively, like the Victorian lady she claims to be, by erasing her knowledge of the place, suggests that she may never in fact have even gone into that part of the city. Later she mentions the “Black Town” of Calcutta in a similarly dismissive way, although as an AngloIndian this would have been a part of the city to which she would certainly have access and knowledge. Her discussion of Calcutta’s “Black Town” is lengthier in spite of the fact that she did not live in Calcutta and

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could only have been in this case a visitor and not a long-time resident. Leonowens writes: From the palaces of the conquering Anglo-Indians the drive to the ‘Black Town,’ as the native portion of the city is called, is enough to discourage the most enthusiastic of Christians in the world. This quarter of Calcutta stretches for some miles toward the north, presenting at once a sad contrast to the stately and grand portion occupied by the English. The transition is all the more marked because of the architectural pretensions of the one and the rude mud habitations of the other. Here reside at least three-fourths of the entire population of Calcutta. The streets are more or less narrow, filthy, unpaved, and unswept. The houses are built principally of mud, bamboo, or other course woods, swarming with an excess of population. (314)

I quote the above at length in part to show the imbalance of her discussion of the “Black Town” of Bombay that was her home for years with the “Black Town” of Calcutta, which if she visited at all was only seen as a visitor. Whatever intimate knowledge she had of the conditions would most certainly have been from her years of living in the “Black Town” of Bombay. Further, the above quotation is interesting for the sympathy she shows in the contrasting of the architecture of the English quarter with that of the Native quarter. She makes what point she will about the contrast in architecture without any real condescension except to mention the filth. However, in the sentence that directly follows the statement about the crowding of three-fourths of the population into this area she describes the town as “swarming with an excess of population”— hardly a pleasing image, but also and significantly not one that condemns the Native as being lazy or indolent (as suggested by contemporaneous missionary writing about these areas). In fact the term “swarming” suggest the industry and in fact order of a bee hive, a term used by other

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Canadian writers to describe the small towns of Canada.2 And it appears that in what follows Leonowens may in fact be suggesting that this part of the city is the hive of productivity that the “swarming” suggests. What follows is not a discussion of the diseases, poverty, starvation, beggars, lepers, theft, and drunkenness often discussed by English and Canadian writers at the time, but rather what could be read as an extended celebration of the vitality and industry of a dynamic and multicultural community. What follows both the descriptions of “Black Town” in Bombay and then Calcutta is surely a celebration however heavily she may disguise this part of town as a place she hardly knows and certainly never spent any amount of time. Leonowens writes: Within this wretched vicinity are found no less than twenty entire bazaars extending from one end of the “Black Town” to the other, well stocked with goods from all parts of the world, rare and valuable products of the Indian loom, shawls and paintings from Cashmere, kinkaubs from Benares, teas and silks from China, spices, pearls, and precious stones from Ceylon, rupees from Pegu, coffee from Java and Arabia, nutmegs from Singapore; in fact, everything that the wide world has ever produced is displayed in shops that are nothing but miserably patched mud or bamboo dwellings. Through these native bazaars the teeming population seemed to flow and gurgle unchanged through all changes of governors, constitutions, and rulers—the same to-day, in type, character, feeling, religion, and occupation, as it was before the beginning of the earliest known history. Here, assembled from the four winds of the heaven, were all the elements of an unspeakably motley crowd—nut-brown, graceful Hindoo maidens tripping daintily with rows of water-jars nicely balanced on their heads; dark-hued young Hindoo men, all clean and washed, robed in pure white, laughing, talking, or loitering around; handsomely dressed baboos—as the native gentlemen of Bengal are called—in Oriental costumes, but 2 Stephen Leacock refers ironically in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) to the fictional town of Mariposa based on Orillia, Ontario, as being a “hive of activity” (14).

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with European stockings and shoes, sauntering carelessly along; dancing-girls brilliantly attired; common street-women jeweled and bedizened with innumerable trinkets and in their distinctive garb; bheesties with water-skins on their backs; Borahs, brokers, Brahmans, Musulmans, sepoys, fakers, and gosains, in their peculiar costumes, shouting in manifold tongues and various dialects; and, above all, there may be seen strolling jugglers, snake-charmers, and fortune-tellers plying their curious arts and completing the picture of an Oriental bazaar. (314-15)

Clearly this vibrant part of the city is the site of wealth and world trade, diversity and beauty, and most interestingly, this is the part of the city that she views as unchanging. Leonowens writes: “Through these native bazaars the teeming population seemed to flow and gurgle unchanged through all changes of governors, constitutions, and rulers—the same today, in type, character, feeling, religion, and occupation, as it was before the beginning of the earliest known history” (315). Surely by this description, the Native people of the cities are the site then of a fascinating and living history, one that cannot and has not been changed by the vicissitudes of history – and particularly in this case by the attempts at colonizing and Anglicizing by the English. In fact, Leonowens states from the very start of this work of travel writing that one of her objects is to show the unchanging character of India. The unchanging character reveals the strength and self-determination that persists regardless of the colonial powers. And while Leonowens at times seems to be writing from embedded within the colonial project, as a Victorian English woman, it is surely in these celebrations of the strength and persistence of her people and culture that the reader sees the strongest points of resistance and rupture to the dominant and colonial way of seeing. Following the introductory paragraph of her work, quoted above, where she postures as a Victorian lady travelling with her husband, she immediately in the following paragraph undermines this position with a celebration of the long and persistent and unchanging quality of India. Leonowens writes “It is well known that the introduction of the railroad into India has in no sense affected the life of the people, and has only very

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slightly modified the general appearance of the country. India is still what it was in the Vèdic period, a land of peasant classes” (5). This statement is embedded however in between her personal posturing as a Victorian lady and then followed by a somewhat traditional statement about Colonial progress: “I do not, however, mean to say that India has made no progress whatever in all these years – her imaginative and glorious youth has no doubt been succeeded by the calm reason of mature age – but this transition has been gradual and progressive rather than fitful and sudden” (5). However, even in this statement about colonial progress, the underlying metaphor is one of human age spanning from “glorious youth” to “mature age” rather than a discussion of the effects of colonization from the typically economic and “civilizing” perspective. And while there does follow a discussion of the positive aspects of England’s involvement which will be discussed later, these are rather limited in scope and undeveloped. In fact, towards the end of her text Leonowens suggests that the “changes effected in the religious and social condition of the majority of the peoples since the occupation of India by the British are hardly perceptible” (319) and that “With regard to European influence, it must be admitted that it is hardly, if at all, felt by the majority of the native population” (321). Leonowens’ early in her writing states that “It can hardly be doubted that if the English were now expelled from India the few relics left of their religion, their power, and their civil and military magnificence would be swept rapidly away, and would in the course of a century or two leave not a trace behind them” (64) thus in a sentence dismissing the English influence as irrelevant to the unchanging and changeless people and landscape of India. However, Leonowens does engage with and acknowledge the present day work and power of the English. And while much of her discussion is clearly anti-colonial it seems to be fairly cleverly embedded in some very traditionally coded colonial discourse. In unpacking Leonowens’ discussion of the colonial project it becomes necessary to look at both what she sees as positive and negative. And while I am disengaging this part of her discussion from the rest of the text, it seems worthwhile to note immediately that the aspects of the colonial project she views in a positive light have almost entirely to do with movements towards the rights of women and equality of all people and perhaps have

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little to do with the force that is effecting these changes and more to do with her underlying and stronger beliefs in the rights of women and the abolishing of slavery and inequality. Leonowens begins by suggesting that the “security which England has conferred upon India, now that she is no longer disturbed by frequent wars, which desolated the land” (6) is a positive effect of colonization. Leonowens goes on to say that “Among the lasting benefits to India it may be mentioned that sutteeism, infanticide, self-immolation to the idols, Thuggism, and slavery have all been partially, if not quite, abolished by the strong arm of the law” (6). It might be noted here that Leonowens is discussing here almost entirely laws abolishing the abuse of women and children and the outlawing of slavery. She further continues that the colonial forces have also been a positive force in the following: “schools established, civil service appointments thrown open to the natives and Europeans alike, good roads made, canals and huge reservoirs for water excavated, ancient water-courses reopened, giving an impetus to private enterprise and industry in every direction” (6). However, later in her discussion it becomes apparent that this statement is not entirely her position. Leonowens takes issue with the changes to education, the problems with capitalism, the continued bondage and mistreatment of the people of India as “servants” and the negative effects of all of these on the peoples of India. In a further elaboration on the systems of education put in place by the British, Leonowens admits that “In each and every Hindoo village or town which has retained its old form the children even to-day are able to read, write, and cipher. But wherever the village-system has been swept away by foreign and other influences there the village school has also disappeared with it” (156), resulting Leonowens suggests here, and discusses at other points, in widespread illiteracy particularly among the women and the making of education inaccessible to many classes of people and children in rural areas whereas before each and every child in every village was given an education. This discussion clearly undercuts any of the “positive” effects of the British education system and rather suggests that by British rule education becomes less widely available. Surely this is one of the strongest critiques of the British system over the traditional one practiced in the Hindoo villages.

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Leonowens goes on to suggest that inequality exists not just as a result of the caste system but in fact everywhere in the world in some form (156) and notes from the very beginning the tenuous balance of power existing in India. At a possibly and probably fictional dinner party with English people in Bombay she notes that “in spite of all the laughter and merriment, the exaltation of British power and British supremacy in India. I had, somehow, a feeling of reserved force pervading those mute, motionless figures around us, and I involuntarily felt, for the first time, that it was a very solemn affair for the Briton to be in India luxuriating on her soil and on her spoils” (35). Leonowens further notices “very painfully” and seems to identify with “those dark, silent, stationary figures” (36). And whether or not these dinner parties with the elite of British society in India were attended by Leonowens and her husband (and most likely not) her identification is certainly here with the mute, dark, and silent—and it is their portraits that eerily give question to British wealth and power. Leonowens’ most direct assault on the capitalist and colonial project is an early view and commentary on the harbour. She writes: For six hours these masses of humanity struggle, work, barter, buy and sell, load and unload, and carry on the strangely-exciting warfare, not of flesh and blood, but of pounds, shillings, and pence, straining every nerve each to outdo his neighbour, to enrich himself, at great sacrifice of life, health, and at times even of honour, in the hope of returning to his native land to enjoy the spoils – a hope which, alas! is realized only in rare instances. (23)

Leonowens goes on in this same discussion to state that at four o’clock carriages depart with “white faced occupants” and then shortly after everyone else leaves the scene. And Leonowen makes bold to query, “Where is now the commerce of the world? Gone with the powerful, allgrasping white man. A silence profound as the grave succeeds to the rush, noise, and turmoil of the day” (23). Surely this description of the “masses of humanity” struggling and working and sacrificing everything for “pounds, shillings, and pense” is a critique of the entire colonial

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struggle for mastery and wealth. And the critique seems to go deeper when she notes the departure in carriages of the white men from something like the scene of a crime. The “all-grasping white man” flees the scene and what remains is a “silence profound as the grave” (23). The imagery of the result of this toil and struggle being simply emptiness and death and the cause of this horror being the “grasping white man” is stated most clearly and simply. However, because the scene seems to suggest that it is both white man and native struggling together and united in their toils it is only with the white man’s departure that he is fully indicted as the criminal and cause of suffering and death to the native people. However, the slavery of human beings to money, wealth, and progress is only a small portion of her critique. Leonowens goes on to discuss other forms of slavery and critique the secular, cultural, and religious systems that promote and allow the inequity of all people. Clearly the discussion of slaves and abuse and slavery of women is an extension of the central concerns of her first two works about King Mongkut’s harem in Siam. However the discussions of slavery and the rights of women are much less embellished and emotional in the context of this work. And while the portraits of the suffering of women and slaves in India are not nearly as gripping, there is a careful recounting of how the different religions and peoples treat women and the problems of caste and slavery. Early in the narrative there are two stories that illustrate the suffering of women, but in this case stories of European women. In the first case the woman is going to meet her husband, a missionary in India, and she dies shortly after arriving. This account illustrates both her suffering and a subtle condemnation of the missionary branch of the colonial project. The second story is again tied to the suffering and servitude of women brought over from England to participate in the colonial project in India. She tells the story of a young woman going to meet her father whom she did not know and she goes on to suggest the many problems created for thousands of European children born in India and raised apart from their parents. It would seem that this sympathetic account would be revealing of her own situation; however, quite the contrary. This inlaid and pathetic tale is really a story that seems to show personal revelation, openness and honesty, but in fact only acts to bolster her self-fiction of being raised in Wales apart from her family in India.

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Regardless of the personal mythologizing involved, both of these stories show the difficulties, suffering, and servitude of European women sacrificed to the colonial project for the betterment of fathers and husbands in India. However, most of the clearest critiques of the text circle around the problems of caste in India and in the various forms of caste that exist according to Leonowens everywhere in the world. Chu-Chueh Cheng, in Kristi Siegels Gender, Genre, and Identity in Women’s Travel Writing, accuses Leonowens of “observations with an eye of imperialism while making feminist statements from a seat of masculine power” (157); yet nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Leonowens’ personal position of powerlessness as an Anglo-Indian woman recalling a poverty stricken youth and young adulthood in India. If anything I would read her discussions of the mistreatment of women and slaves, both in her earlier discussions of the court of Siam and in her later writing about India, as exhibiting sisterly compassion without attempting as Cheng accuses her of exhibiting “racial superiority” (152) in her discussions. In fact, Leonowens seems to deploy clear maternal images in her first two works in order to bridge some of the cultural differences and share in the suffering of the women of the harem. However, in the case of her India writing as Leonowens is writing her memories of travel before the birth of her living children she seems less invested in the discourse of maternal feminism. Regardless, Leonowens employs the image of a Hindu babe at a mother’s breast as a way to show the similarities between cultures— again one of her major projects in her writing about India. Leonowens states that “In the presence of such perfect innocence and trust the narrow distinctions of races and creeds seemed to fade away: I only felt here was another woman like myself, and she a mother; and, in truth, I could not have long felt otherwise, in spite of any prejudices I may have had; Kesinèh was too natural and simple a creature for one to feel anything but at home with her.” (185) In this case, Leonowens like in her earlier writing is suggesting that maternal instincts are universal. The other discussions of the position of women in India are however far more reasoned and balanced than her “Romantic” writing employed in discussing Siam and the Harem. Clearly these are different projects. While her writing about the Harem claims to be a true account, the type

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of truth she is striving for is unclear. In fact, the title itself of “Romance” invokes an entire body of literature and contemporary style of writing in vogue at the time she was writing in America. Surely it would be a mistake to judge her work in terms of realism if the truth she is seeking is psychological. Her travel writing however is in a very different vein. There are none of the stories of torture and mistreatment, but rather a dry recounting of the different peoples’ treatment of women and how it compares to European or American laws and practices. As in her accounts of Siam, Leonowens is again concerned with slavery and particularly women’s slavery. Like her description of the Oriental despot, King Mongkut, it seems that Leonowens again blames some of the mistreatment of women on the Oriental character—thus conforming to a colonial vision of the representation of Oriental men—in this case as ruthless and cruel to women. Early in her descriptions of arrival in Bombay she witnesses “some beautiful girls landed here, and that they were slaves, brought for private sale among the rich natives, I could not doubt” (26). Leonowens later learns that women were sold each year for “rich Musulman merchants in spite of British laws” (27) and regardless of what Britain might in her terms do “for the improvement of the island” (27) this injustice continued and “it would take very many centuries before she could destroy its purely Oriental character” (27). And while at other times Leonowens claims that India is changeless in spite of the pressure of Britain, this is one aspect of the changelessness of India that Leonowens seems hopeful the British laws will abolish. From this opening scene of the women of India being sold into sexual slavery, Leonowens goes on to make note of the different religions whose practices protect or harm women. In fact this seems to be one of the chief ways in which Leonowens assesses the different religious sects of India. The other major rubric for assessment has to do with their laws in terms of equality more generally. The text of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was something of a Bible to Leonowens during her time in Siam and her lobbying for equality was not sated with the publication of two books on the inequalities and injustices of slavery and harem slavery in Siam. Writing passionately about equality, caste, and women, Leonowens suggests:

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As long as there exist in the social life certain laws, manners, and customs by which the civilized man is distinguished from the savage, the gentleman from the cowherd, the high-born dame from her lowly maid, so long will caste, which is nothing more or less than social grades, complicate the lives and destinies not only of the races of the East, but of the West. The three great problems which yet remain to be solved by the British in India are to do away with the degradation of man by caste, the bondage of woman by custom, and the deterioration of childhood through the influence of the one and the other. (138)

Regardless of Leonowens’ call for the British to solve the problems of caste, bondage of women, and mistreatment of children, she acknowledges elsewhere that some form of caste exists almost everywhere in the world and is as “fixed and absolute” (156) in the British Isles as the most binding laws and customs of ancient India. She further notes that social inequality exists “even among Americans” (156) and that “[c]aste naturally sprang up with the first mingling of the conquering and conquered races on Indian soil” (156). Leonowens’ rather unhappy consolation to almost universally practiced inequality is that at the “cemeteries of the dead of all peoples and creeds […] These graves are separated, it is true, but hardly distinguishable from one another. Desolate homes of the dead, we cannot tell which are Christian and which pagan. All sleep quietly in the same dust”(30-1). It seems that in the grave differences of caste and creed are hidden and sleeping in the same dust and that “kind nature has decked them in tender living green, with here and there a beautiful flower, while the ever encroaching sea washes away every year, bit by bit, the tombs of Hindoo, Moslem, Jain, Buddhist, and Christian alike” (30-31). Surely this conclusion shares some of the Romantic imagery employed earlier in Leonowens’ writing about Siam. And while nature may erase difference with death it seems that during life religion is just one more measure often used to create further difference. Leonowens while claiming to be a Christian, seems more interested with espousing the religions of India and in explaining to a Christian audience the similarities and goodness to be found in other

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faiths. One of the greatest examples of this is in the Jain hospital for animals. Leonowens describes this hospital to be “pagan in everything, even in that disposition which has become natural instinct to the Hindoos, the Buddhists, and the Jains, to feel respect not alone for what is stronger and more beautiful than themselves, but for what is weaker and more helpless, and even hideous” (31). And while other “missionary” writers at the time will both mock and revile Buddhists for their care and compassion for even fleas, Leonowens chooses to take the position that these religions show respect for the “weaker and helpless.” Surely to a Christian audience this recommends the “natural instinct” of the pagan to show compassion. Leonowens further identifies with the “pagan” position on reincarnation by seeming to divine intelligence and knowledge in the dying creatures. She writes: “Almost all the infirm inmates [animals] looked on their dying comrade with peculiar intelligence in their faces, as if they had a sort of vague idea of what was happening. As I looked on, I could not doubt but that each one had somehow divined the meaning of the doctor’s foreboding shake of the head” (32-3). And while Leonowens describes these hospitals as “the extreme limit to which Oriental charity is carried” and realizes with the western reader that this might “[a]t first sight […] seem[…] absurd beyond words” (33) Leonowens concludes “Who can estimate the power of an institution that is continually caring for the dumb mutes of the animal kingdom, who bear not only man’s burdens, but his harshness and neglect, with the patience of almost sanctified beings?” (33). Leonowens further commends the Buddha because “He offered equality of birthright and of spiritual office alike to all men and women. Sudra, Pariah, Khandala, bond or free, were one and the same great family. He went about declaring all men brothers. This was the strong point of Buddhism” (160). It is in the discussions of suteeism that western and women writers most appear to define themselves against their Oriental sisters – denouncing both the act and the sentiment. And while Leonowens sees the abolishment of suteeism as one of the boons of British rule, she also seems to understand the practice from the Eastern perspective. Leonowens concludes a long discussion of suteeism by stating that “It is very difficult for the Western mind to comprehend this utter selfabnegation on the part of Hindoos, and it can only be accounted for by

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their deep faith in the universal metamorphosis of life and the unreality of form” (206). Leonowens continues her explanation by stating “It renders individuality illusive, intangible, and uncertain, so that to the Hindoos life and possession assume a meaning entirely different from that with which we are disposed to regard them. It is true that life loses half its charms, but death is robbed of its terrors” (206). This explanation for suteeism, perhaps more than any other explanation, shows her alignment with and understanding of the eastern way of seeing life and death. And while she is writing from within a colonial power—Canada—her understanding seems to reach further back into her roots—roots that are still buried in the ancient soil of India and inspite of her various reincarnations during her lifetime she is still able to see with eastern eyes and understand the hearts of her eastern brethren. In this way, Leonowens at times writes back to the west from her eastern incarnation. Further, in such quotes as the following, Leonowens cleverly manages to both uphold the “beauty of Christianity” and at the same time allow for the many paths of religious enlightenment—hardly the proper path of a Victorian Christian. Leonowens writes: Within full sight and hearing of the beauty of Christianity, with all the wonders and marvels of scientific discoveries taught hard by in the public native school and in the Sanskrit college, here were these men, neither of whom lacked intellectual training, bowing down to idols of wood and stone. Surely, the more earnest and spiritual of these lowly worshippers see something of the truth, beauty, and goodness of God, denied to less ardent natures, and only discernable with closed eyes and in moments of deep, silent emotion. (224)

Embedded within this seemingly traditional denouncement of false religions and idol worship is actually a leveling of religious difference as “[s]urely, the more earnest and spiritual of these lowly worshippers see something of the truth, beauty, and goodness of God” (224) and in the lines that follow she mentions the earnest spiritual activities of a pundit and his guru and concludes “[a] Brahman is a Brahman indeed, but are Christians always the followers of Jesus” (224). Again, the slur lies

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towards the narrowness and falseness of Christians and not on the practices of the Hindu. What Leonowens appears to condemn the most is the missionary practices which have “effected a compromise between Hindooism and Christianity in India, and Eastern Christianity has assumed features as foreign to the sublime teachings of Christ as demonand serpent-worship are foreign to the pure and natural religion of the Vèdas” (171). Surely again it is the meddling work of Christian missionaries in perverting their own religion that is condemned and not the “pure and natural religion” of the peoples of India. And while at other times Leonowens has mentioned the good missionary work being done in the areas of education and health, her condemnation of missionaries seems to be the ruling tone. In her earlier writings about Siam the Catholic missionaries fare even worse. By their impiety and injustice they condemn innocent and honest Buddhist peoples and are feared for their dishonesty by the Thai people. In fact, it seems that far from what Mongkut feared—that Leonowens would attempt to teach the Christian religion to his family—Leonowens already was or became something of a Buddhist—honouring all life and respecting all religious paths to the “truth, beauty, and goodness of God” (224).

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References Cheng, Chu-Chueh. “Frances Trollope’s America and Anna Leonowens’s Siam.” Gender, Genre, & Identity in Women’s Travel Writing. Ed. Kristi Siegel. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. Dow, Leslie Smith. Anna Leonowens: A Life Beyond The King and I. Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia: Pottersfield Press, 1991. Leacock, Stephen. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1931. Leonowens, Anna Harriette. The English Governess at the Siamese Court; Being Recollections of Six Years at the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1870. -------- Life and Travel in India: Being Recollections of a Journey before the Days of Railroads. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1884. -------- Our Asiatic Cousins. Boston: D. Lothrop, 1889. -------- The Romance of the Harem. Ed. Susan Morgan. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991. Morgan, Susan. Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008.

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EDITOR Arup K Chatterjee

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CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Sebastien Doubinsky Sudeep Sen G.J.V. Prasad Lisa Thatcher K. Satchidanandan

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