HUM 210 Online Course Pack - Fall 2006 - Prof. Cora Agatucci
MLA Style Works Cited bibliographical citation - book:
Sidhwa, Bapsi. Cracking
India: A Novel. [Originally
published as Ice-Candy Man, 1988.]
"I feel if there's
one little thing I could do,
Bapsi Sidhwa (b. 1939, in Lahore; then India,
Ice-Candy-Man, published as Cracking India in the United States, has some autobiographical elements. Like Sidhwa, the young girl, Lenny, is a polio survivor who was kept out of school because of her temporary disability. In World II, Sidhwa explains that Lenny was, to an extent, her "alter ego," but far more sophisticated than Sidhwa was at a similar age. The character also shares Sidhwa's religion. The Parsis largely avoided the violence that occurred in the era of the  partition; however, other characters, such as Lenny's Hindu nanny Ayah, are members of religions directly involved in the strife.
Sidhwa is an award winning Pakistani novelist striving above all to
bring women's issues of the Indian subcontinent into public
discussion. Born in 1938 in Karachi, India, her family migrated
shortly thereafter to Lahore, also in India at the time. As a
young girl, Sidhwa witnessed first-hand the bloody Partition of
1947, in which seven million Muslims and five million
Hindus were uprooted in the largest, most terrible exchange of
population that history has known. The Partition was
caused by a complicated set of social and political factors,
including religious differences and the end of colonialism in India.
Sidhwa remembers that as a child, 'the ominous roar of distant
mobs was a constant of my awareness, alerting me, even at age seven,
to a palpable sense of the evil that was taking place in various
parts of Lahore" (Sidhwa, "New Neighbors").
Sidhwa was also witness to these evils, including an incident in
which she found the body of a dead man in a gunnysack at the side of
the road. Characteristically succinct, she says of the event, "I
felt more of a sadness than horror' (Montenegro,
Mass. Review 523).
Ayah is but one victim of the Partitioning of India and Pakistan. "Along with political ineffectiveness," according to Jay Wilder, "Sidhwa draws out the most damaging effect of the Partition, the symbolic desecration [of] women on both sides of the conflict. Sidhwa recalls the chilling shrieks and moans of recovered women at the time. She asked herself, 'Why do they cry like that? Because they are delivering unwanted babies, I'm told, or reliving hideous memories. Thousands of women were kidnapped' (Sidhwa, "New Neighbors"). Elsewhere, she continues, 'Victory is celebrated on a woman's body, vengeance is taken on a woman's body. That's very much the way things are, particularly in my part of the world' (Graeber)" (cited in Wilder).
"Sidhwa travels frequently to Pakistan in her capacities as a women's rights activist. Sidhwa works with women to help foster an awareness of their rights, including the organization of large-scale awareness-raising public protests. She also utilizes her position as an acclaimed writer to make numerous public statements in the Pakistani media aimed against repressive measures that harm women and minority communities. She has worked as the voluntary secretary in the Destitute Women and Children's home in Lahore for years, and was appointed to the advisory committee to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Women's Development" (Malmberg).
SETTING of Cracking India
(Ch. 1, pp. 11-19):
The Partition of India, by
More coming on key religions: Parsi or Parsee (aka: Zoroastrianism), Islam, and Sikism.
On the History of the British Raj
[Hindu for "rule"] in India, see Cora's India
Lenny Sethi – 1st-Person Participant-Narrator & Main Character of the novel.
Lenny is about 5 years old in 1942, the year in which the novel opens; she is afflicted with polio in her right foot, but she likes her deformed foot because of the attention is gets her (p. 18). A precocious child, Lenny discusses the advantages of having polio in infancy (pp. 20, 24). Lenny introduces her Warris Road (p. 11) neighborhood in the city of Lahore, and the novel’s leading characters.
Bapsi Sidhwa said of her third novel, Ice-Candy-Man [AKA: Cracking India] : "It is about the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The story is told through the eyes of a young Parsi girl [Lenny Sethi] who records the upheaval as her Hindu and Sikh neighbors leave and the Muslim refugees arrive." Two main characters dominate the main plot action of the novel : victim Ayah [Shanta], Hindu nanny of the Sethi children Lenny and Adi; and predator Ice-Candy-Man, the Muslim peddler. But there are other victims, other predators - Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Parsi - across religious and ethnic lines. "Through them the novel deals with religious and social biases--and the political considerations that tore a people apart."
Re: Zoroastrianism [see also
Cracking India's "story is told in the present tense [by Lenny Sethi] as the events unfold before the young girl's eyes, though moments of an older Lenny looking back are apparent. Like Sidhwa, Lenny is stricken with polio, lives in Lahore, and is a Parsi. She is clever and extremely observant narrator, though many times her understanding is limited by her young age. This naivete is apparent when she ponders if the earth will bleed when the adults 'crack' India. The historical scene of the  Partition [dividing India and Pakistan] is integrated well into the novel through Lenny's young eyes, though Sidhwa is criticized by some critics for making Lenny's character too intelligent for her age. As Lenny becomes more aware, she must confront a reality increasingly reduced into categories and labels" (Wilder; emphasis added).
Bapsi Sidhwa has explained, in an interview with Feroza Jussawalla, not only the benefits but also the limitations of Cracking India's narrative point of view, the story told primarily by first-person narrator, Lenny Sethi, who can only report on, because she is only present to witness, events in Lahore--meaning, Lenny can only report atrocities committed mostly against Hindus and Sikhs, by Muslims. To give a more balanced view of parallel atrocities committed against Muslims, by Hindis and Sikhs during the Partition, Sidhwa inserted chapters of narration voiced by a young Muslim boy, Ranna (cited by Agatucci, "Cracking India" 2). Ranna is based on a man Sidhwa knew named Rana Khan, who "lives in Houston, and still bears the deep crescent-shaped scar on the back of his head, and innumerable other scars" [see Cracking India prefatory acknowledgement]. Ranna will bear witness to the terrible violence committed against his family and other members of his Muslim village [Pir Pindo] in an East Punjab province (cited by Agatucci, "Cracking India" 2). "The Hindu-Muslim tension was like the splitting up of a family and of course the tearing apart of a community" (Sidhwa, qtd. by Agatucci, "Cracking India" 2).
"Sidhwa's widely varied narration alternates between opulent description, subtle humor, and bone-chilling strife. The narrator, Lenny, is astute beyond her years, yet the questioning nature of the child is portrayed so skillfully that it allows the author to effectively deal with serious subjects both firmly and with subtlety, whichever suits her purpose. When she discovers that her mother is illegally stockpiling gasoline, Lenny wrongly assumes that her mother is responsible for the bombings that are plaguing Lahore. This image is both funny and disturbing, highlighting the strange mixture of innocence and fear that Lenny is dealing with. When the citizens of Lahore become more apprehensive of the impending Partition, they stratify strictly upon religious lines. Lenny's perceptions of the differences in people changes at the same time. In reference to a Hindu man's caste mark, Lenny proclaims, 'Just because his grandfathers shaved their heads and grew stupid tails is no reason why Hari should.' 'Not as stupid as you think,' says Cousin. 'It keeps his head cool and his brain fresh'" (Cracking India 102). Seemingly simple passages such as this one succinctly and with humor [comment] on the realities of prejudice, and hint at a child's precise realization of the discriminatory nature of the caste system. The novel is made up of hundreds of such cleverly phrased passages, which make the book quite enjoyable to read despite the clarity with which the troubling passages are depicted" (Malmberg; emphasis added).
Point of View and Some Themes in Cracking India
"Women's issues, the implications of colonization, and the bitterly divided quagmire of partisan politics that the British left in their wake are reevaluated in the novel, picked apart by the sharp questions of a child. Sidhwa's credibility in the eyes of the press and literary critics of the subcontinent is remarkably accentuated by virtue of her being a Parsi, a woman, and a first-hand witness to the violence. The Parsis remained neutral during the Partition, a fact well remembered by two countries [India and Pakistan] that are enemies to this day over the highly disputed events of the Partition. Sidhwa uses this impartial position to its fullest, contributing greatly to the national discourse on the matter" (Malmberg; emphasis added).
"Told from the awakening consciousness of an observant eight-year-old Parsi girl [Lenny Sethi, the Narrator], the violence of the Partition threatens to collapse her previously idyllic world" (Malmberg).
In a 1991 New York Times Book Review, Shashi Tharoor comments, "The story is not about partition, though partition looms large in its pages . . . Ms. Sidhwa's novel is about a child's loss of innocence . . .[and] about servants and laborers and artisans caught up in events they barely understand, but in which they play a terrible part" (emphasis added).
"The issues dealt with in the book are as numerous as they are horrifying. The thousands of instances of rape, and public's subsequent memory loss that characterize the Partition are foremost. In the hatred that has fueled the political relations between Pakistan and India since that time, these women's stories were practically forgotten. In one of her infrequent bursts of poetry, Sidhwa writes, 'Despite the residue of passion and regret, and loss of those who have in panic fled-- the fire could not have burned for. . . Despite all the ruptured dreams, broken lives, buried gold, bricked-in rupees, secreted jewelry, lingering hopes...the fire could not have burned for months. . .' (Cracking India 149). Sidhwa replaces flowing, poetic sentences with forceful criticism when she theorizes about what caused the fires to keep burning. Sidhwa repeatedly condemns the dehumanizing impact that religious zealotry played in promoting mob mentality, separation, and revenge during the Partition" (Malmberg).
Parsi Characters [AKA:
Lenny Sethi - see above - Narrator and Main Character of Cracking India
Adi, Lenny’s “beautiful” younger brother (pp. 32-33), who is light-skinned like an “English baba” (pp. 34-35). Adi is 1 year younger than Lenny [i.e. Adi is about 4 years old at the start of the novel].
Mother—mother of Lenny and Adi
Father, whom Mother
calls Jana [Jan = life], is the father of Lenny and Adi
Oldhusband, husband of Godmother – Lenny often seeks out the house of Godmother and Oldhusband, because it provides a “haven” and “refuge from the perplexing unrealities of my home on Warris Road” (11).
Slavesister, sister of Godmother and who lives with Godmother and Oldhusband.
Electric-Aunt [AKA: Mini-Aunty], a widow “addicted to navy blue” (30); her nickname is derived from bijli = electricity, lightning (p. 30), and . . .
Cousin, “adenoidal” son of Mini-Aunty (pp. 29-30): they live on Jail Road, which intersects Warris Road and ultimately “vanishes into the dense bazaars of Mozang Chungi" (11).
Colonel Bharucha is Lenny’s doctor and resident at Mayo Hospital (p. 14); he tries to console the Sethi family by pointing out that Lenny’s destiny is to “’marry—have children—lead a carefree, happy life. No need to strain her with studies and exams’” (p. 25), and he blames her polio on “’the British! There was no polio in India before they brought it here!’” (p. 25).
Dr. Manek Mody is Godmother’s brother-in-law and lives in Rawalpindi (45).
Ayah (pp. 12-13 - "Ayah" = Hindu word for "nanny"), whose personal name is Shanta (pp. 21, 38), is Lenny and Adi Sethi’s live-in nanny: Ayah/Shanta is about 18 years old in 1942, at the start of the novel, and stunningly attractive - with many Lahore admirers of different religious faiths. Ayah/Shanta is a Hindu.
Papoo, the sweeper’s daughter and an Untouchable, who is 3 years older than Lenny (Ch. 2) – i.e. about 8 years when the novel begins. When not ill or flattened by her mother’s beatings, Papoo is “sprightly, defiant, devilish and…delightful” (21).
Muccho, Papoo’s mother, an Untouchable, who beats Papoo mercilessly; Lenny hates Muccho because of her cruelty to Papoo (55).
Moti, the Untouchable sweeper (53) for the Sethi household, is husband of Muccho and father of Papoo (54).
Shankars are a couple “newly married, fat and loving” (51), who live in the back portion of the Sethi home. “Because theirs is an arranged marriage, they are now steamily in love” (51). Gita is the wife.
Hari is the Sethi family's gardener (53).
Gandhi and Nehru are Hindu politicians who work for Swaraj, Indian home rule or independence from colonial rule by the British Raj. Mohandas K. Gandhi is also called Gandhijee and Mahatma [Hindi for "Great Soul"].
Ice-Candy-Man: a Muslim-Urdu raconteur and gossip (37) for which the novel was originally named, is a Muslim street vendor who is drawn, like many other men, by the magnetic beauty of Ayah, Lenny's nanny. "Lenny observes the transition of the Ice-Candy-Man through the roles of ice cream vendor, bird seller, cosmic connector to Allah via telephone, and pimp. This last role shows the devious methods which some, particularly politicians, will sink to in order to survive" (Wilder).
Masseur is another of Ayah's admirers, but the one that Ayah loves the best.
Yousaf is the Sethi family's odd job man (53).
Imam Din is the Sethi family's cook (53), whom Ayah calls “the Catcher-in-the-kitchen” because he sits in wait and “grabs anything soft that enters” (57). Imam Din, 65-years old, is described as “tall, big-bellied, barrel-chested, robust: he bicycles twenty miles to and from his village once a month to impregnate his fourth wife,” being “three times widowed and four times wed. He is the most respected elder in his village,” who has earned a reputation for “his benign temperament and wisdom” (Ch. 7: p. 58).
Jinnah, Muslim politician and first President of Pakistan, newly formed as a result of the Partitioning of India in 1947, when the British officially granted India, its former colony, independence and left the country
Iqbal - see
Epigraph (p. 11): poem “Complaint
to God" [in Urdu: Shikwah], by Iqbal.
Sher Singh, “the slender Sikh zoo attendant" (p. 19) who is one of Ayah's many admirers. Sher Singh's surname Singh indicates that he is a Sikh. The Sikhs, an Indian minority whose numbers are concentrated in the northwestern province of Punjab, play a significant role in the region’s power struggle.
Jagjeet Singh is one of the Sikh granthi [priests] who visit Pir Pindoo, Dos Mohammad’s Muslim village (63). Muslims and Sikhs have long coexisted in peace, but there are rumors of coming conflicts.
Rosy & Peter’s parents (Ch. 8: 68): Mr. Singh, their father, is a “turbaned and bearded Sikh”; their mother is an American (Ch. 8: 68-69). During the Sethis' dinner party, Mr. Singh and Inspector General Rogers [British] get into a fight (Ch. 8: 70-74).
Cora, ed. "Introduction to Cracking India." Handout
Humanities 210, Central
Malmberg, Jacob Lee.
"Bapsi Sidhwa, b. 1938." 2001. Voices
from the Gaps: Women Writers of
Also VISIT . . . Author
Home Page, 2000-2002
Cracking India Reviews: http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/bsidhwa/cracking_india.html
Bibliography of Critical Texts & Interviews
Email Bapsi Sidhwa!! firstname.lastname@example.org
ARE HERE ~ Introduction to Cracking India -
Pack - Fall 2006
URL of this webpage: http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum210/coursepack/crackingindia.htm
Last updated: 07 November 2006