Sunday, 15 November 2009

Gora vs. Kim- Tagore vs. Kipling

Two Noble laureates born in the same decade, in the same part of the world, write novels, in the same decade, set in the same part of the world, focusing on a young lad who is actually ethnically British but who grows up thinking he is Indian. Kipling's Kim and Tagore's Gora are both about a quest for identity and have features of the classic bildungsroman.

Kipling's novel has been successfully adapted by Hollywood and, for all I know, perhaps Gora, too, has made it to the screen.
What are the differences between the two books?
Kim is exciting, full of strong memorable characters- no 'native', 'woman', or 'lower class' person is shown to be pallid, impotent or wholly heteronomous- and it has apoorvata in connection with Vedic spirituality. This follows from Kim ('who am I?') being identified with Visvamitra (friend-of-all-the world), who taught Lord Buddha the Vedas and who, in the Rg Veda, is depicted as having special powers over Rivers. Hence, Kim gets to guide the Lama to the river he seeks. No doubt, a thorough researcher will be able to point out that some Theosophist or other had written an article about Visvamitra and Vamadeva or something and that Kipling took the idea from there. Still, theosophists published all sorts of nonsense. It took Kipling's genius to fasten on something which
a) shows Veda is relevant to present day
b) adds apoorvata to our scripture reading
such that the Indian reader can say 'Bravo! A story for both children and adults- meaningful in every age!"
Now look at Gora.
1) It was already thirty years out of date at the time it was published- a major drawback given that Young Bengal was changing extremely fast and, in any case, unlike Turgenyev 's generation, Tagore's had no special importance.  By contrast, the Jugantar revolutionaries led extremely exciting lives. They had broad horizons. They were not mired in the madhouse of caste. What Thomas Mann said about Tagore's son- viz.  'he is brown and muscular- i.e masculine'- was even more true of the revolutionaries and the poetry of Kazi Nazrul, whereas Mann's criticism of Tagore- 'pallid... a nice old English lady..."- can be applied equally to the fastidious Brahmo's neo-Brahminical aesthetic.
Tagore, after a notable false start, simply fails to reflect the muscularity and broad horizons of the new generation. I'm not speaking of Aurobindo and Vivekananda but Bagha Jatin, M.N. Roy etc- in ardour and aspiration they were not exceptions, but, in fact, set the trend. I have read that Tagore himself was involved in their plot but also that the Ghaddaar's tried to assassinate him- surely a grand theme for a play- but, no, Tagore gave us Red Oleanders instead. Since Tagore himself wasn't a particularly wishy washy fellow why do we get stuck with this idea that Bengali men are all "Mamma's boys"- so good, so polite, never gets into fights, talks nonsense at such a rate that even the police spy will certify that he is 'good character- i.e. no testicles'."
2) Kim shows the Hindu Bengali and the Muslim Afghan working together to resist Russian encroachment in Afghanistan. In 1979, India should have been the first country to come forward to work with Pak to get Soviets out of that country. India shares responsibility for the terrible legacy of that aggression. What does Gora show? Sympathy for the poor and a sort of backhanded admiration for Islam. But the novel is essentially a silly and meaningless debate within high caste, comprador,  Hinduism that was of no interest to anybody under 50 years of age even at the time of publication.

Kim illustrates Kipling's belief that 'children, in India, have no caste' (Todd's amendment) and consequently they alone know India and should have a say in how to rule it. Gora illustrates Tagore's belief that Bengalis have no testicles and talk incessant shite.
Gora is venerated in India as a great work of art. Kim, however, has been vomited on by Edward Said. The vomit will, in time, be wiped off. Veneration for Gora, however, serves no useful end.


Anonymous said...

Very perfunctory treatment of a riveting topic. Queer theory explains Gora's relationship with Paresh Babu and Lolita (metaphorically, a dildo) in a purely analitickle way whereas Subaltern studies just stands around holding its dick.

windwheel said...

I think that comment has been made before- but can't place the context at this moment.
My problem with Queer Theory in relation to Tagore is that it posits what it must prove- viz 'Her shit on Dad's dick tip'- i.e. the Muse as ithyphallic mother buggering the growing lad as a 'meat condom' for the absent father.
However, as Tagore's famous epigram says 'Kadombini moriya proman korilo she more nai' (Kadambari dies only to prove she was still alive)
I think the problem a lot of people have with both Queer theory and subaltern studies is that in both cases the turd, flushing away the contemplative shitter, embarks upon a so nakedly Gogolesque careerism as to change absolutely nothing.
And, no apoorvata means no meaning.

Anonymous said...

Queer theory has clarified many aspects of Kipling's colon whereas subaltern studies never explained why colonialism happened in the first place.
You have not grasped how all female characters in Tagore are dildos for anal violation of all males by all males. I don't believe you have read Sumit Sen's article fully, let alone Partha Chatterjee's contribution to this field.

windwheel said...

Hold on there a moment! Why this rush to judgement? Since this is a blog aimed at the lay reader- not an academic clique or criminal network- a common sense approach is taken.
From the point of view of attitude as opposed to intention, gesture as opposed to sign, no question as Gayatri Spivak says 'Hegel's Antigone is the Antigone of Hegel's shopping because from Globalization I got this tshirt for $5 and twenty children went blind stitching it except they didn't coz it's a cheap knock off and Hegel's Antigone Antignoised Hegel and I once actually read Kosambi and India is named after Ram's younger brother. I also know Sanskrit coz I'm a Brahmin and can I get my money back on that tshirt. I'd look stupid wearing a cheap knock off that was produced under hygenic conditions by middle aged couples in their like garage or shit. And I'm actually a Marxist or something. But don't tell any one coz Hegel's Aunty gone all Antigone tonight. Live from Las Vegas with Seigfried and Roy."
It is in this context that Sen's buggering of Chatterjee- rather than Chatterjee's sodomisation of Sen- should be viewed by those that bought the video.

Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? or is the writer serious??? :O

Anonymous said...

Just putting down Partho Chatterjee, Sumit Sen, Gayatri Spivak and Hegel in a line does not mean anything at all... This article is so faulty, even if this is from a 'common sense approach' that I'd need another article of double word count to point out the faults. To begin with, neither Gora, nor Kim were 'ethenically British'. Both the characters were Irish, please do go back to the texts.

ATTENTION: Any student trying to understand things from this article, you are in danger!

windwheel said... at that time, the word 'British' included Ireland. Indeed, Joyce uses the term West Briton to satirize a particular sort of middle class Catholic Loyalist. The English and Lowland Scots- in so far as the descend from the Anglo Saxons- of course, aren't 'British' at all- only the Welsh can properly claim that title.