Shadow Lines Amitav Ghosh Critical Analysis Essay

JULY 14, 2013

Triptych image: Isabel Herguera, “Accident Revisited” 2012

THIS YEAR MARKS the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Shadow Lines, the second, and without doubt, the most reactionary of Amitav Ghosh’s novels. Although the horrific events that were formative to the book’s conception have long since passed (and are, indeed, likely to be unknown to the more recent readers), something about its frank indictment of violence has always left a mark. This has a lot to do, I think, with the book’s language, although the larger canvas that the story dips in and out of — the local and the foreign, or the East and the West — will never stop speaking to a particular kind of reader. With his later work, of course, Amitav Ghosh would evolve into a different writer — much more versatile, playful, and restrained in his enquiries — but The Shadow Lines is perhaps the book that, like Sons and Lovers for D.H. Lawrence or The Good Soldier for Ford Madox Ford, many of his long-standing enthusiasts still wish to see him repeat.

For once — and this is seldom repeated in Ghosh’s later fiction — the novel does not just invoke or broaden an argument, but clarifies its own position in the stakes; it rejects, as a way of coming to terms with its central theme of human violence, a novelist’s familiar recourse to ambiguity — the condemnation is both heartfelt and explicit. Perhaps that explains the powerful impact a first reading seems to have, not just among those who have witnessed or been shattered by the frequent conflicts amongst faiths or communities or nations, but for a generation of late adolescents born in and around when the novel was written, a generation that came of age in cities and towns — outside of Europe and the United States — as they were themselves in the process of being taken over by the asymmetrical demands of globalization (with the older tensions not as much dissolved as flattened, and in a number of instances, beginning to fit into the liberal market’s new incongruities), a generation whose experience of war and riots was likely to be marginally less volatile than their fathers, and yet, would have observed the resultant shadows and divisions all around them. The special quality of fear that the narrator of the novel thinks is particular to the subcontinent, one that is borne of

the knowledge that normalcy is utterly contingent, that the spaces that surround one, the streets that one inhabits, can become, suddenly and without warning, as hostile as a desert in a flash flood.

This is a fear that anyone who has grown up in a country that was once a 20th-century colony, can never fail to recognize.


Ghosh’s second novel recalls, on the surface, the intertwined fates of two friendly families — the narrator’s connected family tree spreads from Calcutta to Dhaka to Lymington Road, London — beginning at the brink of World War II in England, 13 years before the narrator is born, and culminating around 1979, when the narrator visits London for a year and returns having pieced together his “final redemptive mystery.” However, when the book came out in India in 1988, four years after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard (in the aftermath of a military operation in the premises of Golden Temple, Amritsar, a place sacrosanct to the religion), and following a terrible riot had broken out against the Sikhs in Delhi, it was correctly identified at once as a response to those killings. In an essay written in 1995, called The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi, Ghosh informs us that he took part in many of the protests and relief programs after the disturbances of 1984, and he started The Shadow Lines “within a few months.” The essay described a bus journey that he took through the city on the day of the assassination, with incensed mobs searching every car and house and setting them alight if they contained men with swollen turbans and a single steel bangle on the wrist. The incident bears more than a passing resonance in the book to a scene when the narrator, as a child in 1964, finds his school bus being chased on the way home in Calcutta, unsuccessfully, by a group of men who nevertheless keep “laughing, with their arms around each other’s shoulders,” or a few days later in Dhaka, in the devastating central episode of the novel, where a rickshaw is seen from a distance to be “reaching heavenwards, like a gigantic anthill, and its sides are seething with hundreds of little men.” Although the 1984 riots are never once mentioned — the narrative constantly flits through time, much like the crisscrossing form of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past, though not always as effortlessly — there is little doubt that the book would never have been conceived without them, and the larger question that emerges a quarter of a century later is about the perception of authorial distance: the length of time and space that contemporary fiction seems to demand, by widespread consensus, in order to effectively translate and process spontaneous responses and sentiments. One cannot help wondering how different the novel would have read if it had been begun much later, well after the riots had shrunk from public consciousness — whether it would have retained any tremors from the witnessed atrocities on the page, whether the sentences would not have been ironed out of every obvious wrinkle. However the language might deceive us though, the book does have a vital aesthetic, one that, among other things, appears distrustful of the novelist’s usual excuses for aloofness.

Elsewhere, Ghosh has attributed the continuous success of writers from South Asia to their willingness to explore emotion, especially compared to their American counterparts. The Shadow Lines, due to its insistence on exploring sentiment in a language that is unpolished and often unsorted, seems equably replete with examples, some with trompe l’oeilprecision, some left short by the conventional phrasing. D.H. Lawrence, while writing Women In Love, is known to have deliberately imposed repetitions and unhampered scraps of writing in the manuscript, because he wanted the page to reflect the inevitable tussle of the novel’s characters with what lay beyond their interiorities, a certain mixture of forces, mystical if not downright religious, that he called the “unknown.” While Ghosh may not have intended to do something similar with emotion, to capture the imprecision and indeed banality of fear or anger or giddiness with his language, it is tempting to wonder, especially after the narrator informs you at the outset that a certain name comes “readily off my pen” and a few pages later, when he recalls himself as an eight-year-old, “close to bursting with pride.”

In fact, one of the foremost characteristics that you notice about the unnamed narrator — another nod to Proust — is that even by the tender age of 16, he is burdened, and recalls himself being so, almost to a Talmudic decree, by this inexplicable longing to remember. (“Do you remember?” “How could you not remember?” are his usual refrains in conversations.) As a child, he is in awe of his uncle Tridib, an eccentric man in his 20s when we meet him, whom the narrator last recalls seeing as a 12-year-old, boarding a plane to Dhaka. It is clear that Tridib’s oblique curiosity about the world has had a formative influence, so much so that when the narrator later goes to London, he finds himself looking at the streets through the prism of those childhood stories. Tridib is, in many ways, the antithesis of a sansaree — a sansaree has a permanent job and marriage by the time he is 30, and the rest of his life is devoted to making certain that he holds on, steadily, to these two supports. This life arc is expected from men in the mid-rungs of Bengali society; they are well-versed in shying away from affairs beyond their immediate compass. (The protagonist Apu’s father, in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, relentlessly fails to become one.)

There was a reason, though, for that pattern. Through much of the 1930s and 1940s, Bengal was plagued by devastating famines and scarcities. The eastern part became a dominion of Pakistan after independence in 1947, and there were constant riots between the Hindus and the Muslims everywhere. A family’s sense of place in the society was always slippery and vulnerable to collapse. The narrator hints at these conditions when he is taken to visit an impoverished relative in a distant part of the city:

The ground fell away sharply from the edges of the building and then levelled out into a patchwork of stagnant pools, dotted with islands of low raised ground. Clinging to these islands were little clumps of shanties, their beaten tin roofs glistening rustily in the midday sun. The pools were covered with a sludge so thick that it had defeated even the ubiquitous carpets of water hyacinth. I could see women squatting at the edges of the pools, splashing with both hands to drive back the layers of sludge, scooping up the cleaner water underneath to scrub their babies and wash their clothes and cooking utensils.

A little later, the narrator tells us “that landscape was the quicksand that seethed beneath the polished floors of our house; it was that sludge which gave our gentle decorum its fine edge of frenzy.”

Notice the innate turmoil of the “seethed beneath” and the “edge of frenzy” or the “clinging” that gives way without harmony to “clumps”; the book is replete with such instances of clumsiness. Elsewhere, the narrator remembers a room full of “honeycombs of cobwebs” and admires another female character for “she had not spared herself the sight of herself as seen through my eyes”; almost every couple of pages, one encounters these examples that are in such patent friction with accepted literary aesthetics. Verbs are appropriated without due thought from nouns (“breasted”) and are invested with a coarsened flamboyance — a rickshaw shoots down a yard, hands snake out of pockets, and heads are frequently cocked up in anger. Then there is the “accumulated spleen of quarrels” and “the limbo of reconciliation.” It is at these instants that the trauma and discontent of the characters seem to have been inflicted, without modulation, upon the page.

In the essay on the 1984 riots, Ghosh has meditated on the pervasive representations of violence in our age (“the bloody detail or the elegantly staged conflagration that closes a chapter or effects a climax”) so that the slightest feint towards mayhem induces an element of luridness; indeed, it is instructive how routinely such scenes in contemporary films are referred to as graphic. Violent scenes are condemned for failing to leave some residue for our imagination; an equal sharpness of attention in a more placid scene seldom draws that charge. At the same time, we are all too familiar, and wearied, by the soppiness lurking beneath scenes of impending cruelty, with a lady’s helpless voice coming out of a dark room or children hidden under the bed or flushed into the cellar during a raid. An unspoken pact amongst artists and writers is to tiptoe around these scenes, work their way around them, for the emotions they evoke are bound to lapse into extremities. Ghosh quotes the Bosnian writer Dzevad Karahasan who has a rather combative viewpoint on this:

The decision to perceive literally everything as an aesthetic phenomenon — completely sidestepping questions about goodness and truth — is an artistic decision. That decision started in the realm of art, and went on to become characteristic of the contemporary world.

There are, of course, plenty of arguments against this, most notably the fact that an artistic decision need not always flinch from anxieties of “goodness and truth”; the latter half of the 20th century, that most disillusioned of times, abounds in examples of writers who have a fierce sense of this goodness and truth, who employ it without any sign of disenchantment. With V.S. Naipaul, for instance, you implicitly know that when he uses the adjective great, what he precisely means by it; there are no great experiences in his terrain, but there are always great men and great civilizations. Similarly, Salman Rushdie’s sense of the false is quite stringent and is to be founded in Enlightenment precepts of reason and logic.

Nevertheless, Ghosh’s choice of weapon in the novel — written five years before he could have read Karahasan’s essay — is to enquire spontaneously into that violence and allow the language to get to its own inelegant feet, a stern refusal to let words take over the discourse at any point, for as the narrator admits about acts of sudden brutality,

[W]e can only use words of descriptions when they happen and then fall silent, for to look for words of any other kind would be to give them meaning, and that is a risk we cannot take any more than we can afford to listen to madness.

And so, when the narrator’s friend starts crying as their school bus is chased by a mob, there is “an ocean of desolation in his sobs,” and just before another car is chased in Dhaka, there is the expected silence at the street corner, and the little boy inside can sense “a chill […] spreading outwards from the pit of his stomach.” Ghosh is only trying here to be faithful to the tactile immediacy of these emotions and eschew the prose stylist’s distaste for verbosity. He keeps his language accessible to the extent that it sometimes just about qualifies a cliché — “sink to the bottom of the sea of heartbreak,” a female character that has “to raise her hand to wipe away the tear that was rolling down her cheek.” None of this is intended to be read with anything less than earnestness. But a certain kind of reader, saturated by the repetitive articulation of these images, cannot be faulted if she finds some of it excessive. That reader will be further confounded when she runs into something similar in the quieter parts of the narrative: “I sprinted down the street and up the stairs, jammed my finger into our doorbell and kept it there till my mother opened the door.”

This is just after the narrator has spotted what appears to be a turbaned stranger behind his grandmother’s window — it turns out to be the grandmother herself, her head draped in a cloth to prevent hair from falling out. No drop in temperature can be detected, however, between the “chill spreading outwards” of earned, blatant fear and the finger jammed into the doorbell of a smaller anxiety. There is a palpable gracelessness to the prose on many of these occasions, when the artistic decision to be made is too far-flung to sidestep any of Karahasan’s questions.


Tridib’s apparition hovers throughout the story: he is present when May Price confesses that the television is kept on all the time in her bedsit in Islington Green (“It is my only indulgence”); he is chuckling with us from another table when Ila takes relatives to an Indian restaurant in London, warning them “not to expect anything familiar.” There is good evidence that the narrator has inherited his uncle’s eagerness for the world, particularly when he evaluates Ila’s relationship to the cities she has inhabited as “the same tired intimacy that made us stop on our way back from the park in the evening and unbutton our shorts and aim our piss through the rusty wrought-iron railings.”

Or this, where he is thinking back, wispy-eyed, at how his mother would react if his father came home exhausted from work:

[H]er ability to modulate the volumes and harmonies of our house down to a whisper, while making sure that its rhythms kept ticking over, in perfect time, in much the way that a great conductor can sometimes produce, within a vast tumult of music, one perfect semi-breve of silence.

But with Ghosh, one does not get the impression that his concern lies in the pulse of the sentence; there are other things, more ambitious matters of structure to be attended to. In his later work, meticulous diary entries (The Hungry Tide) and long, unsparing correspondences between characters (River of Smoke) shoulder the narrative forward. Another book, In an Antique Land, attempts a merger of factual and fictional form based on a yearlong stay in Egypt and occupies the woolly interstitia between the two that we also see in Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot and Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival. The protagonist of The Shadow Lines is allowed to flutter between the characters’ memories — he remembers what his uncle Tridib had seen (and afterwards told him) as an eight-year-old in pre-war London; while being in Calcutta, he can recall what another relative felt when he got up one day in Dhaka, or how, around the same time, a girl in London failed to tell her mother that she had been sent a pornographic letter by a family friend. Much of this fluidity is of course Proustian, but Ghosh finds a way to leap into remembrances that are not his own, without forfeiting the intimacy of a first-person account. Unlike Proust, Ghosh’s interest is rarely in the pictorial and spatial debris; every detail that is evoked is there to ascribe some portent, often finding itself recalled for some purpose in a later scene. One of the characters begins his memory of a fateful day, recalling how when he woke up, he wanted to be the first to see any “trouble”; he concludes with the sight of a number of men burning tires in a street corner, knowing “that trouble had come to him at last.” In another section, the narrator remembers a time from his childhood when Tridib was missing from his Calcutta neighborhood for a couple of months. When he appears again, he tells everyone that he has been to London to visit May Price, “a family friend,” but his bluff is quite pathetically exposed. The narrator goes to London years later and meets May Price; she tells him that Tridib had sent her a Christmas card when she was an adolescent, and they had soon begun to send each other letters and photographs.

The narrator then proclaims: “I like to think that Tridib received May’s photograph the day he came to Gole Park and told us that made-up story.” There is a strange circularity at work in all of this, the underlying assumption being that our memories can be no more than mammoth jigsaw puzzles, made up of random fragments that go on floating until they are united with their exact looking-glass counterparts. The same narrator, who reminds us of the “the silence of an absolute, impenetrable banality” that often begins to color our memories of riots, is strangely unaware of the banality of his own pursuit, the sense of completion he is seeking in different places for his loss. As a consequence, there is nowhere an absence of resolution, no split ends, none of the awkwardnesses that you come to expect from a novel that borrows so much from early modernism.              


Early in the novel, the narrator’s cousin Ila, the daughter of a diplomat who is dispatched every few years to a different part of the globe, asserts that the events of Asia and Africa are unmistakably “local” in influence, when compared to the heady revolutions and wars in the West. This is not an inherent belief in a region’s supremacy, as much as a mawkish glee at having inhabited a place that is assured of its location in history, of being “really remembered”; far from being a character who has strayed aside from the realm of subcontinental mores, she emerges as someone whose existence seems to depend, however unknowingly, upon them — she has a clearer idea, more than anything, that she wants to be free of them. Ila’s point also hints at a larger theme that the novel is clearly in opposition to: the diminished fates of the lesser events in the timeline — a riot, in this case, that finds itself dwarfed by two monumental wars before and after — even within our private memories. (Perhaps the narrator is himself unaware of the extent to which Ila might have permeated his attitudes. He can recall, clearly, the documented wars India fought in 1962 and 1971, but not the neighborhood — or “local” — riots.) Riot or war, we seem bound to affix the acts of collective violence we live through with these adjectives of comparison, if only to make sense of them in the end, align them somehow with our need to comprehend. Efforts can be made to wrest oneself out of this compulsion, as Ghosh does by choosing to situate the novel far away from the disturbances of 1984. That choice appears partial after all these years; one cannot help but notice now the absence of 1984 throughout the book. It is difficult not to look at the writing too as an extension of the same unprompted struggle.


Abhrajyoti Chakraborty lives and writes, as of now, between Bombay and New Delhi.

Simply, Amitav Ghosh'sThe Shadow Lines (1988), isabout an Indian family and an   English  family in the transitional days of 1960's covering three  cities- Calcutta, London and Dhaka.  Ghosh primarily focuses on the meaning of political freedom in the modern world and the force of nationalism. One might struck by the  complexity of themes, destiny of narrative texture, or use of language in The Shadow Lines.But critics observe that Ghosh puts the very concept of nationalism and nationality, as it were, under the microscope, and analyses the ideologies, exigencies and implications inherent in it.  In fact,  Ghosh even questions the idea of nationalism and national boundaries while at the same time granting its existence an its operation upon human minds.  

 The novel, according to the blurb, focuses on "nationalism, the Shadow Lines we draw between people and nations, which is both  absurd illusion and a source of terrifying violence."Through the description of various political movements, with the introduction with some nationalists and with the description of the effect of such nationalist movements, the novelist sends the readers the question of the validity of such nationalism.

Nationalism, in modern history, movement in which the nation-state is regarded as paramount for the realization of social, economic, and cultural aspirations of a people. Nationalism is characterized principally by a feeling of community among a people, based on common descent, language, and religion. ( Hans )

Congress was the first ever biggest Indianpolitical party that included all kinds of religious people. And they had unitedly fought against the British Raj under nationalistic banner and the movement turned a success resulting the division of India. Pakistan was united for the religious nationalism instead of cultural nationalism. Read More NovelThe Hindus of Erstwhile East Pakistan started shifting to West Bengal and the Muslims of West Bengal started coming to East Pakistan because of religious affinity. But the division did not make any success because the people (Hindus and Muslims) of East and West Bengal started fighting with each other. As a result of this Tridib, the narrator's mentor who had given him the eyes to see the world, was killed in the riot of East Pakistan in 1964.

 Ghosh in The Shadow Linesnot only gives the readers the idea of nationalism but questions the so-called nationalism. The fundamental nationalism also emerged from the character of the narrator's grandmother. She is a fundamental nationalist and wants freedom. She is very passionate for freedom. As we see that when she was young during the Swadeshi movement, she wanted to john it and could do anything for the country. She says, "I would have killed his. It was for our freedom." But the author shows that the so called nationalism has no value at all. Here Thamma fails to see that nationalism has destroyed her home and spilled her kin's blood. As she says, "we have to kill them, before they kill us." Till the end she fails to realize that national liberty in no war guarantees individual liberty.

The event of the story-personal and political are set in many countries especially England, India and Bangladesh. The raw material is provided by World War II, Indian Independence, and the partition of country and subsequent riots, against which Ghosh studies the historical truths. Ghosh uses multiple narrators from whose point of vies the story or novel is described. Hence, the novel falls under the study of narratology. Read More Indian EnglishThe novel, while it is being ‘narrated t6hrough different narrators, creates a picture of their stored experiences of their past, or their memory in front of the reader. Hence, these narrators’ narrative technique relies on the way in which Amitav Ghosh wants them to narrate the things. The narrator grandmother's nationalist faiths fail her because she comes to realize that borders have a tenuous existence, and that not even a history of bloodshed can make then real and impermeable. Lines on the map are the handiwork of administrators and cartographers. In 1964, as she ramp to fly to Dhaka, she wonders he she would be able to see the border between India and East Pakistan from the plane. When her son laughs at her, she replies "where's the difference then? And if there is no difference, both sides will be the same; it will be just like it used to be before." The grandmother has a typical view about nationalism, what she is unable to realize that one can be unsafe even in one's own country.

On the other hand, the new generation is in the belief of internationalism. Tridib is an idealist and he dreams of a better place, "a place without borders and countries." Tridib also do not believe in the borders and map and, in fact, in the nationalism. Read More NovelHe really wants a world without a border. Read More Indian EnglishTridib had told the narrator of the desire that can "carry one beyond the limits of one's mind to other times and other places and, if one was lucky, to a place where there was no border between oneself and one's image in the mirror."

When May comes down from England, he wants to meet her in a ruin, in a place "without a past, without grumpy, free, really free, two people coming together with the utter freedom of strangers."

The novel has an unnamed narrator relating the story of his experience, or to be precise, his uncle Tridib’s experience most of the times. Tridib was the narrator’s guiding spirit and mentor, who taught him how to use his imagination with precision who gave him worlds to travel in and eyes to see them with. Read More NovelThe action of the novel has as its starting point the narrator’s memories of Tridib (then 8 years old) being taken to London during wartime and his experiences there with the Price family. Through the narrator’s grandmother and memories of her girlhood days in Dhaka, and her later return to the city in search of an old relative, the narrator is made aware of the tragic and violent consequences of the partition. Essentially the narrative ends with the incident, ghastly and tragic, of Tridib’s death in Dhaka riot.  

Although the narrator himself goes to London later as a student and makes contact with the Prices and his cousin Ila, it is more a relieving of Tridib’s experiences and trying to make sense of, in particular, the mystery that was his death. Read More NovelThe personal dramas are played out against the canvas of sweeping historical events, the freedom movement and the rise of insurgency in Bengal, England’s war against Germany, the Chinese aggression and the Indo-Pak war, the desecration of the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar in 1963, and the communal riots in Khulna and Calcutta in 1964 – each of which directly or indirectly impinges on the adolescent narrator’s experience. 

Here the author shows that the borders those are drawn on the surface of the earth are so called borders which can not divide one's mind and imagination and the sense of nativity and origin. The borders between India and Pakistan were drawn by administrators who believed in "the enchantment of lines, hoping perhaps that once they had etched their borders on lie map, the two bits of land would sail away from each other like the shifting tectonic plates of the prehistoric Gondwanaland." Read More NovelBut as the simultaneous riots show, there is a profound historical irony at work: " there had never been a moment in the 4000 year old history of that map when the places we know as Dhaka and Culcutta were more closely bound to each other than after they had drawn their lines- so closely that, I, in Calcutta, only had to look upon the mirror to be in Dhaka; a moment when each city was the inverted image of the other, locked into an irreversible symmetry by the line that was to set us free- our looking- glass border." The family of Dutta Choudhury and Price in London defy the borders between them, in fact, they defy nationalism and there is a continuous to and fro movement between them. So, the novel questions the efficacy of borders. Read More Indian EnglishAgain, although Thamma is in the ride of nationalism and wants self identity, but for a person locked in the present - like Ila -maps and memory are equally irrelevant.

Since the central concern of the novel is not what happened, but the meaning of what had happened, and the meaning emerges only when the past and present are considered together, the narrative does not have a linear sequence.  It shuttles back and forth in time indicating amongst other things, that the dividing line between past and present only a shadow line. And importantly, the two instances of the destructive force of nationalism in 1939 and 1964 mark not the actual times-pan of the novel but it’s hero’s growth from childhood to maturity. 

The narrator’s knowledge of war and war-time London was not gained from books but from its uncle Tridib’s experience. Tridib taught him how to use his imagination, by which he conjured up certain vivid pictures which by imperceptible degrees merged into a perception of history. Read More Indian EnglishLikewise, the narrator’s knowledge of the 1964 riots and their causes was neither first-hand although as a boy he had a brush with the violence associated with it when an ordinary school day turned into a nightmare with rioting mobs on rampage in the streets giving his school bus chase. The narrator, being a boy then, was just told that Tridib’s death was due to an accident in Dhaka. It is Tridib who explains to him how one could be carried beyond the limits of one’s mind to other times other places.

 The Shadow Lines  is a novel which stands out for its powerful imagination. Both Tridib and narrator are extraordinary men with magnificent memory and dominant imagination. Narrator visits the house of the mentor and it is there that he is shown the places on the Atlas and told stories about them, about faraway places in central America, Africa, England and Sri Lanka so that even before he had moved out of Calcutta his vision had broadened to include these places. He could imagine very precisely sloping walls of Sri Lankan houses, which differed from theirs. Read More Indian EnglishAnd it is here that he differed with his cousin ILA. She was a globe-trotting woman who had visited lots of places on the globe but actually speaking she had not travelled at all as she was a woman who lacked the power of imagination, to see the life in a story. Narrator could not persuade her to believe that a place does not merely exist, but has to be invented in one’s imagination:

“I could not persuade her that a place doesn’t really exist, that it has to be invented in one’s imagination; that her practical bustling London was no less invented than mine, neither more or nor less true, only very far apart. It was not her fault that she could not understand, for as Tridib often said of her, the invention she lived in moved with her that although she had lived in many places, she had never travelled at all.”

Tridib fires boy’s imagination and his London visit is nothing but the reliving of Tridib’s experiences and fulfillment of the visions that he had in Calcutta with him. Tridib had told him of the desire, real desire which was pure, painful and primitive that could carry one beyond the limits of one’s mind to other places and other times, and if, one was lucky , to a place where there was no border between oneself and one’s image in the mirror. The narrator perfected this so well that he could conjure up the details once told so lively and precisely as if he had lived with them. It surprises everyone when on his visit to London, he finds the house of Mrs. Price without anybody’s help nd once inside he is able to tell the way to the kitchen or where the Cherry tree was. Read More Indian EnglishTo Nick, he tells, though to his disbelief and perplexity that he was not meeting him for the first time but had actually grown with him. Ila had once told him about Nick in Raibazar when they were playing houses under the big table. After that day Nick Price whom he had never seen, and would, as far as he knew, never see, became a shadowy presence beside him, growing with him, but always bigger and better and in some way, more desirable. He did not know what, except that it was so in Ila’s eyes and therefore true. He would look into the glass and there he would be, growing always faster, always a head taller than him, with hair on his arms and chest and crotch while his were still pitifully bare. And yet he tried to look into the face of that ghostly presence , to see its nose, its teeth, its ears, there was never anything there, it had no features, no form; he would shut his eyes and try to see its face, but all he would see was a shock of yellow hair falling over a pair of bright blue eyes. Such a magnificent ability to visualize is certainly creditable.

Narrator has placed very meticulously the location of 44 Lymington Road and without help of Nick or Ila he goes on to find his own. He says, “It was easy enough on the A to Z street Atlas of London that my father had brought for me. Read More NovelI knew page 43 2F by heart; Lymington Road ought to have been right across the road from where we were. But now that we had reached the place I knew best, I was suddenly uncertain. The road opposite us was lined with terraces of cheerfully grimy, redbrick houses, stretching all the way down the length of the road. The houses were not as high or as singular as I had expected.”

“But still as I could tell that was where Lymington Road should have been, so I pointed to it and asked whether that was it. Yes said Nick. Good bye. Got it first time.” These spectacular feats of the narrator make Nick exclaim, “You are positively a mystic from the East. You have done it again.” And the narrator does it yet again by telling that they had a cherry tree in their house. Read More Indian EnglishThus, it is seen that the novel brings on the two aspects of desire and curiosity. They become food for thought for Tridib as well as the narrator and together they make a history in the novel.

Ardhendu De


 1. Kohn, Hans. "Nationalism." Microsoft® Student 2007 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation 2006. 

2. Kinder, Herrton. Politics in South Asian Novels. ABS publication, 2011. 3.The Shadow Lines.


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