Saturday, October 22, 2005
Indian writers in English have been dealing with the subject of alienation all the time. I guess it is if you get so far from your roots that most people see you as an alien, or conversely, feel uncomfortable around you. I don���t understand alienation cos I live with people like me. Or almost like me. My mom and sis are kind of bound by ���Indian culture��� (whatever that means). They are straight in thought action and sexuality (straight? What straight?). And sometimes I feel so far from them and just can���t understand them. But I guess ���alienation��� is too mild a word for this feeling. Right?
In post-colonial studies class yesterday, this word came up. And the lecturer started making her typical assumptions and explained alienation as what she feels when she sees her neighbour having religious functions 300 days of the year, whereas she herself does not have any religious symbols in her house.
The other thing was that in the 1982 census, it was estimated that about 4% of the Indian population is English-speaking bilinguals, the rest 96% don���t speak English and are not educated in the same way the other 4% are.
Charmian is one of the brightest girls in the class. She is a catholic from Goa. And she argued with Roshni, Runa and I that, we all are (4 of us, and most in the class) aliens to the rest of the country (that 96% which now could be 90%).
My parents went to a Bengali medium schools and English was their 2nd or 3rd language. They both completely understand the language and are conversant with it. (My dad doesn���t understand the American accent though; my mother can cos she would watch Santa Barbara). I would have studied in Bengali medium too if I were in Calcutta.
Without sounding too horrible, what Charmian forgot to mention was that the 3 of us (Roshni, Runa and I) were bi-linguals, (tri-linguals if you please). We had a mother-tongue we are comfortable with, and are totally in touch with our native state and its food, or regional literature etc. Charmian speaks only 1 language and has been asked many a times if she is a foreigner (strangely enough if she was Korean). My looks and my colour would not let that happen. This sounds a little bad but she is extremely urban and a religious minority. Runa and I come from smaller towns. I moved to bigger cities, Runa studied in them. Well! Roshni is perhaps in touch with her Bengali literature and relatives and people and claims that she does not feel alienated back home.
There was this guy in class doing his Ph.D and he said that alienation, as a psychological issue was a post 2nd world war occurrence and that he believed that in India, it is not a big problem. When we agreed with him, Charmian said that cos where he comes from, it is easy for him to slip back into his other role. Well that guy comes from Cochin and probably has a bad English accent. And thus is not alienated (acc to C)
But since the rest of us(the 3 of us) speak the language much better, we probably cant slip back into our other roles. This was kind of a bigoted logic.