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WhenweconsidertheEurocentric presentationof history,thelifeof thecolonized subjectsbeginsonlyafter their encounterwith thecolonizer. TheBritish colonizers’ intrusioninto thelivesof thecolonized in Asia, includingtheir education,culturalvalues,formsof governmentandtheir dailyliveswassocompletethatithas leftbehind its legacies bothphysicallyandpsychologically thatare stillfelteventoday.In orderto understand21st centuryAsia,onemust considerthelegacies of colonialism. Thelegaciesexistin theformof identity,culture,language,andhistory.BothMidnight Children by Salman Rushdie andIndia Calling, a documentary directedby Sonali Fernando containtheseelements.
In both characters try to change their identities by changing their names
In “India Calling”, Simmah takes an English name
In Midnight`s children, Jamila takes a British name
In both, the characters have a distorted view of culture
a)In “Indiacalling”,the callers view their culture as inferior to English culture
b)In MidnightChildren,the characters view the Indian culture as inferior to British culture
In Both, characters have a distorted education based on colonialism
In “India Calling”, the callers are trained to believe the English people are better than them
In Midnight`s children, the characters are taught a false sense of their history
Oncea countryiscolonized,itis hardforitto revertto its originalself.Instead,ithas to tryto recreate itself by piecing togetherbitsandpiecesfrom their mythicalorigins,thepresentstate,andcolonialoriginsto createa newimageof themselves. Thisis alsotrueof Asia andIndia in particular since the Britishcolonized the country.After independence,theIndian citizenstriedtoadopt newidentitiesforthemselves thattriedto mergewith all theaspectsof their Indian heritageandthecolonialheritage.Partof thewayin which colonialsubjectsattemptto forma newpersonalityforthemselves is by changingtheir namesandpersonas.
Inthedocumentary “India Calling”, themoviebeginswith theIndians at thecallcenterpreparingtheir vocals to soundlike English people.Thisis becausetheyhaveto createnewpersonas as English peopleforthem to workat a callcenter.Theybelievethattheir Indian accentis inferiorto theEnglish accentandthustheyhaveto copytheEnglish accentin orderto servecustomersat thecallcenter.Theyareabletoaccomplishtalkingin English accentsdespite thefactthattheyhadneverbeento Britain.
Inaddition,theIndian callcenterrequiresthem to useEnglish namesbecauseEnglish namesare moreacceptablethan Indian names.Therefore,thesepeoplehavenochoicebutto takeon newEnglish namesandtherebyassumingnewidentities.Simmahtakesup an English name,Sandra Parker. Shedoesthisto developa differentpersonalitythat is not Indian. Shefeelsthather Indian namethat meanssomeone whois emotionalandhomelyis inferiorto theEnglish name.AsSandra Parker, Simmahfeelsmoreconfident,aggressiveandassertive.Thisis in contrastto her Indian namethat makesher feelweakandlessdesirable.AnotherIndian at thecallcenteradoptsa Scottish name.Thenineteen-year-old workingat a callcenterevengetshimself hairstylesthat reflectandresembletheonesBritish youthgetin Britain. Whenthecallerscelebrateat thecallcenter,theyshowtheir transformationsby decoratingtheir cakeswith their newEnglish names.
InSalman’s Rushdie’sMidnight children,wealsoseetheeffectof colonialism on theidentitiesof differentcharacters.After independence,theIndians are leftto tryto figureout their identityas wellas cleaningup theremnantsof thewhite man’sgarbage.Thisis depictedsymbolically whentheSinai’s buyMethworld’sestatein Bombay. Eventhoughthehouseis affordable, theypaya greatpriceto livein an English house.Astimeelapses, theybecomefamiliarwith theforeignobjectssuchas thetraditionof drinkinggin. Insteadof thispresenceof theBritish beingcivilizingas itwasbelievedto be, itbecomesdestructive.
Rushdie’scharactersalsochangetheir namesfrom Indian to English in orderto changetheir identities.Saleem’s sisterJamila Sinai changesher nameto Jamila Singer whenshebecomesa famoussingerto reflecther newidentityandpersona. Becauseof her fame,shetriesto hideher realIndian identityunder a white veil.
Ascountries,which were once colonized, emergeout of colonialism andfacea changingworldthat viewsthem as different,primitiveorbackward,theytryto rejectthepartof their identitytheybelieveis repulsiveto thecolonizer.Thisis their ownidentity,which theycannot doawaywith.Therefore,it is not surprisingto findindividuals from formercoloniesin this21st centurycravingforthecolonizer’s identityat theexpenseof their own.Indians stillsufferfrom thesepluralidentitiesandthiscan be seenin their copying of names,accentsandtakingon British identities.
Thecolonizer alsousededucationas a toolto brainwashthecolonized subjectabout their historyandto continuemaintaintheir colonialism on thecolonized. Thecolonizer distortsthehistoryof thecolonizedby makingitseeminferiorto thatof thecolonizer orerasingitaltogether.Inthedocumentary, ‘India Calling’, thecallcentertrainees are educatedandmadeto believethatBritain is a historically beautifulcountrywith flowersandthebestof everything includingroads,highways,housesanditis pollutionfree.In contrast,India is presentedas poorandundesirable.Therefore,thesecall centertrainees allaspireto goto Britain. Theydemonstratea greatloveforBritain, a countrytheyhaveonlyheardabout andtheir mainreasonof traininghardis to becomelike theBritish.
Inthesameway,charactersin Midnight Children must alsodealwith thehistoricallegacy of colonialism. TheBritish representstheir worldas betterthan thatof thecolonized. In thememoriesof Aadam Aziz, heremembersthathewastaught,“India, like radium wasdiscoveredby theEuropeans” (11). Thismeansthatbefore Europeans discoveredIndia, itdidnot exist.Therefore,thehistoryof India onlybeginsafter contactwith white people.Thisis typicalof thecolonialviewof theworldthat divideshumanityinto superiororinferiorcategories.TheWestern hegemoniesassignednegativeattributesto theEast whiletheWhite manwasgiventhepositivecharacteristics.
Methwoldsimilarlysetsan insignificantpriceon thehouseheis vacating,butdemandsthatthebuyersremovenothingbeforethedayof independence.His planis forthenewIndian inhabitantsto learnabout thepleasuresof theEnglish lifestyle andbecomehookedon it.Thisis symbolicof thewhite peoplemaintainingtheir colonialholdon thesubjects.
ColonialismandCultureThedocumentary, “India Calling” andRushdie’s Midnight Children reflectIndia’s currentculturalsituationthat isinfluencedby colonizationandmodernization in thiscurrenteraof globalization. Thegrowthof theBritish Empire in India waslargelydependenton thecolonized, depictingthem as primitive,savageandmarginalthusdefininghumanityandcivilization.Thishas ledto themarginalized colonial subjectto rejecttheir owncultureandvaluesin favorof thoseof thecolonizer. Theeffectsof culturalcolonizationon thecolonized subjectstillprevailto thisday.
Inthedocumentary, “India Calling,” weseetheseyoungpeopledoingtheir bestto rejecttheir culturalvaluesin favorof Western values.Thetrainees are taughtthebehaviorsof British peoplerightfrom thetimethethey wakeup to thetimetheygoto sleep.Theyaretaughttheir mannerisms,likes,anddislikes.Theyarealsotaughtthedressingcodeof theBritish. Cultureis alsotransmittedthrough languageandthusby learningtheEnglish languagetheylearntheculture.Thenineteen-year-old alsotriesto copyBritish cultureby seekingto gethairstylessimilarto thoseacquiredby British youth.Theyworksohardat learningandacquiringthisforeigncultureat theexpenseof their ownculture.
InRushdie’s Midnight Children, thepreferenceforthedominatingwhite cultureis alsoevident.WhenAhmed’s skinstartsturningwhite eachday,hepretendsto be worriedabout it.However,helateradmits,“Allthebestpeopleare white under theskinI havemerelygivenup pretending”(179). Ahmed’scousinZohra alsorevealsher Eurocentric biasedperceptionby saying,“Howawfulto be black, cousin,to wakeeverymorningandseeitstaringat you,in themirrorto be shownproofof your inferiority.”(70). Thisdisplaysthementalityingrained in thecolonized as inferiorto their colonizers.
CurrentRelationship of Asia and Other Countries in Relation to the Legacy ofColonialism
Indiawas colonized by Britain for almost a century. In fact, Britishimperialism has had a lasting impact on the nation. For example, thecolonial aspiration of civilizing the native Indians by the Britishhas played a key role in affecting women’s rights, which arecurrently closely modeled on the English law. These include changesin age of consent laws, widow inheritance and abortion laws.Additionally, colonial Britain imperialism established a centralgovernment in India thereby bringing together a diverse people withdiverse cultures. This has led to uneven economic development indifferent parts of India since the central government was weak in itsrole of centrally planned development. Britain also opened Indianeconomy to the benefits of increased trade with other countries andaccess to capital markets and this has led to India’s currentsubservient position in the modern world market.
Itis, therefore,truethatforus to understand21st centuryAsia andits placein a globalized worldwehaveto understandfirstthelegacy of colonialism on thesepeople.Thislegacy is bothpsychologicalandphysical.Physically,wehavethelanguages,institutionsof government,andeducationsystemsamong others. Thepsychologicallegacy of colonialism isfeltin theidentitiesof Asians, their culture,andvalues.
Rushdie,Salman. Midnight`sChildren: A Novel.New York: Knopf, 1981. Print.
SonaliFernando"IndiaCalling."Vimeo.Web.8 Dec. 2014. <http://vimeo.com/60693275>.