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NAIPAUL'S PERCEPTION OF INDIAManimozhi Sayee Kumar, M.A., M.Phil.
Tradition and Modernity: Story of India
India is widely known for its traditional cultural heritage. Many Indians feel proud that India will become a super economic power soon. Tradition and modernity are sought after by the elitist classes in India. 'Modernity is for economic power and reformed traditions are for social purposes' appears to be the goal of the new generation in India. In this process, the reality of the situation may be denied; especially the physical unhealthy conditions in which millions of people live in big cities will not be accepted as an important factor to measure the greatness of modern India.
On the other hand, V. S. Naipaul believes that India is dark, its civilization is wounded and the country is quite known for its unclean atmosphere. People dirty the places all over, they will not bother about any shelter; civic sense is less compared to other countries and so on. V. S. Naipaul's works such as An Area of Darkness, and India: A wounded Civilization abounds in criticism of Indian ways of life.
Historical Indian Diaspora - How Do They React to India and What Do They Look for?
Overseas Indian Diaspora is at least two-fold: early migrants and later migrants of the latter half of the 20th century. Early migrants to foreign lands went as plantation labor, small businessmen and domestic help, etc. This population of the 18th and19th centuries is now prosperous in their own right. They have been exposed to a variety of economic, social, cultural, political and religious situations. They are impacted by western education and western values, etc. While the early generations of this group had a different view of their motherland, India, as a sweet home of pilgrimage, eatables, and so on, the later generations of this group are still attracted to India, but they are also greatly disappointed with the state of social, economic and environmental conditions of modern India. But in their hearts they really wish India to prosper and quickly so that their Indian heritage may be prominently and proudly displayed. V. S. Naipaul comes from this part of the early migrants group. He is pre-occupied with India as his ancestral home, but he is also heavily disturbed to the point of downgrading India in every aspect of its modern living.
Naipaul's Perception of India
Naipaul is a distinguished writer of fiction, short stories and travelogues. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2001. His comments on diverse subjects receive good publicity and great attention in the English speaking world. He has accomplished much in his life. He is a distinguished member of the Indian Diaspora, living in almost every nation in the world. As a person of Indian ancestry, his comments must be taken seriously as good counsel, but, then, there have been serious criticism of his views as ill-informed.
Perhaps Naipaul's critical (negative?) approach to life in India paved the way for his writings to be more popular. The unusual and startling views on various subjects, people, and nations presented through stylish expressions have made his travelogues most interesting. He is of the opinion that no civilization is created in the West Indies. After his visit to India in 1961 he in an exciting encounter with the country published an account of his experience in An Area of Darkness. A reading of this will give us an idea that Naipaul came away from India with an overwhelmingly critical attitude towards the homeland of his ancestors.
Some of his comments after his second visit are recorded in The Overcrowded Baracoon. He records his vision of modern India. He expresses opinions and impressions similar to those which continue to be portrayed in the western popular media about India.
In the Trilogy he has freed himself from the nature of experiment and exploration. He has come to deal with experience and encounters which he records with greater liberty. He documents his own views, observations and they appear very much astonishing and controversial.
In the first visit he has taken a personal record of Trinidadian Naipaul who comes to his parents' homeland to see an India of his own dream. He moves from place to place, comes close to people, closely notes down the workings of people and observes various rites, rituals and he makes several visits to the temple to record the performance of rites. He makes a long stay in Srinagar, goes on a traditional pilgrimage to Amarnath a holy place which has a five feet high ice-lingam which usually forms in summer. The lingam is actually the symbol of Shiva, but for Naipaul it is the symbol of India itself. He records:
and in the cave the God the massive ice phallus. Hindu speculation soared so high; its ritual remained so elemental. Between the conception of the world as illusion and the veneration of the phallus there was no link. They derived from different starts of responses .But Hinduism discarded nothing; and it was doubly the symbol of India.1
He undertakes pilgrimage with other pilgrims, but is hardly devotional; his main idea is for documenting the Indian societies, their religion, their castes, creeds and their ways of living.
Though he hails from a priestly caste family his opinions are different. He says:
I came of a family that abounded with pundits. But I had been born an unbeliever. I took no pleasure in religious ceremonies. They were too long and the food was served at the end. I did not understand the language - it was our ancestors expected that our understanding would be instinctive and no one explained the prayers or the rituals.2.
When examining the Hindu beliefs and rituals, Naipaul discusses the concepts of Karma, Dharma and Moksha. He traces the Hindu's internalizing of these concepts through his connected study of Indian history, politics, literature and social life.
In his study of Karma, Naipaul appears to have made a strong reaction as he regards it as paralyzing, defeatist philosophy which prevents Western style individual self realization process.
Development of Stroop Effect in Bilinguals | Subtlety, Mockery and Dharma in Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel | Language Alternation Strategies in Nigerian Hip Hop and Rap Texts | Faithfulness and Adequacy in Translation - A Case Study of the Translation of a Poem Written by Bharathiar | Indianized English in Shashi Deshpande's That Long Silence | Naipaul's Perception of India | Teaching English Word Formation in Academic Writing - Analysis and Remedy | Sabotaged Submission - Interpreting the Role of Women in Scriptures | Socio-economic Profile of Women Prisoners | Study on the Levels of Living of Self-help Groups in Coimbatore District, with Particular Reference to Thondamuthur and Perianaicken Palayam Blocks | Agreement in Tamil and Telugu | Etymological Analysis for Some Words of Body Parts in Semitic Languages (Especially in Arabic & Hebrew) | HOME PAGE of February 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Manimozhi Sayee Kumar, M.A., M.Phil.
Department of English