I missed you. Yes, you, the one reading these lines. I have been out of touch. So many things floating in my mind; yet, I wasn’t able to find uninterrupted moments to sit down and piece everything together. Now, I do. And here it is. Well, part of it.
I grew up with this expression, “kaar kaar-i Ingilisast”, and it took me many years to grasp what it meant and why it came to exist. It was mainly when I learned about the 1953 Cue and all that Dr. Mosadeq had to bear trying to get Iranians ownership of their own resources! And just at that exact time, when the British Government fought hardest to deprive of her rights to her resources, the prime minister, Churchill won the Nobel Peace Prize! It is a curious world, isn’t it?
I hadn’t thought about these events in detail until recently when I started reading literature from India. It is amazing: from Tagore to Ghosh, colonialism plays a deep role in everything that happens. It is an inseparable component of the psyche, the identity. The culture has a strong presence too, but that is the expected part in literature of anywhere in the world. Colonialism stands out as the main culprit responsible for many ills and sufferings of a whole nation, of many nations.
I read “Home and the World” by Tagore. I enjoyed reading it; certain aspects of the novel, the decisions to be made, resonated very well with the current state of what we think we should or we need to do or what we have to avoid. In terms of characters, it is quite old-fashioned: fairly strict and homogeneous. The hero is an angel; the anti-hero is the devil himself. And another character in between that goes through transformations. But what interests me more is the backdrop: India under colonization. That is where the symbolism comes in. Was it possible for India to break into pieces without the British Colonization? It is hard to imagine that it would.
I often saw notices regarding conferences, books, and papers on colonization and its effect on various countries, but I never understood the significance or consequences. The more I read, the more I realize how deep the effect is. One of the stories I am reading (The Sea of Poppies) takes place in a village whose people are driven to starvation because they are forced to abandon farming what they need (wheat, rice, etc) so that they can produce what the British need to sell in China: poppy plantations to produce opium for the British to sell (eventually by force) to China! And when China refuses to buy? War.
It is incredible. It is not that I didn’t know these at all before. It is putting them together, and especially in the form of literature, where people with flesh and blood and bones suffer, that made all the difference. I guess we always have that, I hope we do: the power of literature to take us into other people’s lives and minds, to familiarize us with ‘other’, to make us more compassionate, more human.
And it also makes me realize what my grandparents said. When I was a child, I thought they were old and just rambled. Now I realize there was some truth rooted in experience in their suspicions. I can see the world through their eyes. And that again, I owe to literature.