From the time of childhood, the world becomes full of imaginary lines. From property borders to adult spaces, people quickly learn that certain spaces denote special uses. This extends to the idea of nationalism in which people who exist in certain spaces are loyal to that space and believe they possess qualities unique from people in other spaces. Nationalism is especially important in post-partition India in which citizens attempted to draw cultural lines between themselves and the West. This can be seen in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines in which the Grandma represents cultural nationalism which conflicts with Tridib’s representation of border crossing. This can also be seen in other texts such as Gandhi’s Autobiography and Natyantara Saghal’s Rich Like Us. Both texts examine the relationship between India, the West, and social class while attempting to simultaneously exist in that tension.
First, in Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines the character of the Grandma works to represent the idea of cultural nationalism. The Grandma is deathly afraid of laziness and insists that everyone in her household be in constant motion, never idling or resting. She believes that this is linked to poverty and poverty is the reason that the British can oppress India. This is a representation of cultural nationalism because the Grandma wants India to triumph over their oppressors. This falls in line with Gandhi’s texts in which he confesses he started eating meat in order to grow strong and conquer the British. The idea was that the British can only win as long as they continue to be strong through eating meat which is similar to the Grandma’s idea that the British could overcome India through wealth and hard work. The Grandma also supports Dhaka, an Indian nationalist group that was considered by the government to be terrorists. She says she would have joined the movement if she had not still had schooling left. This contrasts with the way that she believes in order and following the law but in her culturally nationalist ideals it somehow fits. To her, one can be a law-abiding citizen but still support terrorist organizations.
In contrast, Tridib represents border crossing and upholding Western culture in an Indian setting. His education alone separates him from the rest of society, as does his acquaintance with English people. He claims to have been in England for an extended amount of time and likes to brag about that to anyone within earshot. He is also lazy and rarely does much except for occasionally studying for university. The Grandma opposes this because she fells that he is the worst kind of lazy man who will never make anything of himself. However, she still welcomes Tridib into her home because he is the son of rich relatives. Tridib’s border crossing enthralls the narrator and exposes him to an experience beyond the cultural nationalism of his home-life.
Also, the grandmother’s house represents the partition; however, it represents the...