Cracking India Reading Guide Chs.1-8
URL of this webpage:
HUM 210 Online Course Pack - Fall 2006 - Prof. Cora Agatucci

Ch. 1 (pp. 11-19) by Cora Agatucci

Ch. 1 EPIGRAPH:  Lines from poem "Complaint to God," by Iqbal (11)

MAIN SETTING: 1942; city of Lahore, Punjab province [then in pre-Partitioned India, governed by the British Raj (colonial rule), populated by people of varied ethnicities and religions--Parsee, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian--who, in narrator Lenny's view, are peacefully co-existing.  [After the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, Lahore became part of the newly created country of Pakistan]

CHARACTERS:  LENNY SETHI = First-Person Participant-NARRATOR and Main Character
[Double-Voiced Narration - Lenny the adult looking back on herself as a child:] "My world is compressed,"
Lenny begins, and describes "
the periphery of my world" (11). [CF. Ch. 15]

is about 5 years old in 1942, the year in which the novel opens.  Lenny introduces the neighborhood of the Sethi family home on Warris Road (11), in the city of Lahore. Narrator Lenny also introduces many of the novel’s characters.
Lenny will often seek out the house of Godmother and Oldhusband, because their home provides a “haven” and “refuge from the perplexing unrealities of my [Lenny's] home on Warris Road” (11).
     Ayah (12-13; "Ayah" = Hindi word for "nanny"), whose personal name is Shanta (21, 38), is Lenny and Adi Sethi’s live-in nanny: Ayah/Shanta is "chocolate brown and short, . . . 18 years old" in 1942, at the start of the novel, and stunningly attractive - with many Lahore admirers of different religious faiths (12-13). Ayah/Shanta is a Hindu.

SETTING 1:  1942, Warris Road:  When Ayah takes Lenny out in her pram, "an English gnome" confronts them, enjoining Ayah to make Lenny get up and walk, for the child is too old to be pushed about in a baby carriage (12).  Ayah and Lenny ignore the interfering Englishman.

SETTING 2: 1942, Mayo Hospital, nearby:  Lenny is afflicted with polio in her right foot, and is treated by Colonel Bharucha, the Parsee family doctor, resident at Mayo Hospital (13-14): Lenny describes him as "awesome, bald, as pink-skinned as an Englishman" (14). Colonel Barucha removes the cast on Lenny's leg, and - CHILD's POINT OF VIEW - Lenny says she is "relieved to see that my newly released foot and its valuable deformity [remain] intact . . . . I limp away happily" (15).
Later, Lenny makes clear that she likes her deformed foot because of the attention it gets her (18).

SETTING 3: 1942, Lenny's school, nearby: Lenny and her "slow, intense, observant" older Cousin demonstrate their "telepathic conspiracy" when they lie to the teacher, indicating that it is Cousin, rather than Lenny, who is "'sick and is not supposed to run'" (15).  Cousin acts the part of an invalid, while energetic Lenny cavorts before the teacher.  "The interlude is happy" (15).

SETTING 4: 1942, back at Mayo Hospital: A frightened and resisting Lenny is strapped and held down, given an anesthetic with "a brutal smell," and passes out (15-16). 

SETTING 5: 1942, back at the Sethi home: The next day, Lenny awakes to "maddening pain," a new plaster cast on her deformed leg, and her mother crying at bedside (16).  Trying to distract Lenny, Mother tells "the story of the little mouse with seven tails," but it only adds to Lenny's misery (16). To appease Lenny, Mother asks Father to call Colonel Bharucha, but later "The bitter truth sinks in" that Father never called the doctor (17). News of Lenny's operation spreads, and Lenny cries for Godmother, who finally comes and consoles Lenny (17).  That evening, amid a crowd of Lenny's relatives and neighborhood visitors, Colonel Bharucha finally makes his house call to check on Lenny. Mother blames herself for leaving Lenny to the ayahs (17-18).

SETTING 6: 1942, "A month later" - Trip to the Zoo (18): Ayah takes Lenny, now free of pain, in her stroller for an outing to the nearby zoo.  Invalid Lenny enjoys the attention she gets, momentarily eclipsing even beautiful Ayah's attractions: "I am the star attraction on the street" (18). Internal narration of Lenny's thoughts on her crippled leg reveals that she doesn't want it to be fixed, for then she would have to "behave like other children," who must act out and compete to get adult attention (18-19).  Lenny is "jolted" from her "troublesome reverie" to discover Ayah talking to Sher Singh, “the slender Sikh zoo attendant" [and one of Ayah's many admirers], in front of the lion's cage--the same lion who will frequent Lenny's nightmares (19).


Ref: Epigraph (11) by Iqbal: from poem “Complaint to God" [in Urdu: Shikwah]
Who is Iqbal?  Sir Muhammad Iqbal [AKA: Muhammad Ikbal] b. 1877, Sialkot, Punjab, India [now Pakistan]; d. 1938, Lahore, Punjab.  Indian poet and philosopher known for his influential efforts to direct fellow Muslims toward the establishment of a separate Muslim state, an aspiration that was realized in 1947—when the country was “cracked” by the creation of the separate countries of Muslim Pakistan and (predominantly) Hindu India.  Iqbal was educated at Government College, Lahore.  He then left India and earned a degree in Philosophy from University of Cambridge, qualified as a barrister in London, and received a doctorate for his thesis, “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia,” from the University of Munich.  Before going to Europe, his poetry affirmed Indian independence and nationalism, but his time in Europe made him critical of nationalism.  European nationalism had produced destructive racism and imperialism, and the Indian nationalist movement did not seem to him fueled by a sense of common purpose.  After returning to India, he practiced law but earned fame as a Persian and Urdu language poet.  Recurrent themes of his poetry include memory of the vanished glories of Islam, complaint about Islam’s modern decadence, and a call for unity and reform.  Iqbal’s long Persian poem Asrar-e khudi [trans. The Secrets of the Self], published in 1915, gained Iqbal notoriety.  He published in Persian in order to address his appeal to the entire Muslim world.  In this poem, Iqbal presents a theory of self that argues for a life of action, rather than ascetic renunciation of the world.  In his 1918 Persian poem, Rumuz-e-bikhudi [trans. The Mysteries of Selflessness], Iqbal urged the Muslim community to encourage generous service to the ideals of brotherhood and justice: one must sacrifice the self to service in causes greater than the individual self.  He was knighted in 1922.  Iqbal was extraordinarily gifted in the genre of the ghazal, or love poem.  Javid-nameh [1932; trans. The Song of Eternity] is considered Iqbal’s masterpiece, relating the poet’s ascent through all realms of thought and experience, guided by the 13th century poet Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi—reminding Western scholars of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Many consider Iqbal the greatest Urdu poet of the 20th century.

Lenny as Polio Victim: "Early in the novel, several passages evoke Lenny's experiences as a polio patient, her enjoyment of the distinction of her disability, and the ways polio affects her role within her family and wider social sphere. The fact that polio vanishes as a plotline is both disappointing and interesting: Lenny's failure to focus on disability during adolescence overturns stereotypes about disabled girls' exclusion from the social/sexual culture of adolescence. Like so much else in this novel, Sidhwa's treatment of polio is emphatically and refreshingly local, focused on the way daily life goes on in its particular, individual ways in the context of large-scale political conflicts and received notions about bodies and identities" (Holmes; emphasis added).

Ch. 2 (pp. 20-26) by Cora Agatucci

SETTING 1:  1942, Sethi Home, middle of the night: Father stirs "in the bed next to ours"--i.e. of Mother and Lenny.  Lenny's Mother and Father have been married about 6 years when the novel opens in 1942 (20). Mother calls her husband "Jana" from "Jan: life," and feels happy because Father sounds affectionate (20).   A precocious child, narrator Lenny discusses the advantages of having polio in infancy, including permitting "me access to my mother's bed in the middle of the night" (20).  
     The next morning: Urgent Ayah wakes Mother - "Baijee" - because "'Something's happened to Papoo'" . . . .  "'something terribly wrong'"  and Lenny immediately guesses that Muccho has beaten Papoo again (20).  Mother hoists Lenny, heavy with her cast, and runs to the children's nursery, where lies an unconscious Papoo, normally lively but now frighteningly still, looking "unbearably ill: shrunken" (21).  Lenny's Mother has Papoo taken to the Ganga Ram hospital, where Papoo is kept for two weeks (21).

SETTING 2: 1942, Two weeks later, Sethi home: When Papoo returns home from the hospital, Lenny is reassured to see that Papoo is “sprightly, defiant, devilish and as delightful as ever” (21).
     Exposition: CHARACTERS: Papoo is the daughter of the Sethi's sweeper [Moti] and his wife Muccho, who repeatedly beats Papoo unmercifully at the slightest provocation.  Papoo is described as "three years older" but weighing less than Lenny, indicating that ill-nourished Papoo is about 8 years old at the beginning of the novel (20).
 Ayah's personal name is Shanta (21, 38).

SETTING 3:  1942, More than 2 weeks later - Colonel Bharacha's consulting room: Her parents have brought Lenny to have her cast removed (22-26).  Col. Bharacha berates Muslim couple (wife no more than 12 years old), but especially father for letting his infant get so sick
     Historical Context/Coming Partition: "And you all want Pakistan?  How will you govern a country when you don't know what goes on in your own house?" (22).  Yet his patients have trust in the doctor's touch, believing the more Col. Bharacha roars, the more likely he will effect a cure (22).
     Lenny's view of her disability, so far saving her from usual fate of Adult Females: Surprised to learn her cast is to be removed, Lenny screams, "unable to bear the thought of an able-bodied future," which Lenny interprets to mean [for adult women of her society?] "an altered, laborious and loveless life" (23).
The cast removed, Lenny is pleased that her leg, though straighter and more functional, is still "gratifyingly abnormal" (24).  Colonel Barucha exuberantly consoles the Sethi family about Lenny's disability, which keeps her from school: he points out that girl Lenny’s destiny is to “’marry—have children—lead a carefree, happy life.  No need to strain her with studies and exams’” (25). When guilt-ridden Mother blames herself for Lenny's polio, Col. Bharucha reassures her (25).
    Historical Context/British Colonization of India & coming Partition: Colonel Bharucha, president of the Parsee community of some 200 people in Lahore (26), blames the British for Lenny's polio: “’. . . the British!  There was no polio in India before they brought it here!’” (25).  Lenny is shocked to hear of this connection between British colonizers and her polio: ". . . my first personal involvement with Indian politics: the Quit India sentiment that has fired the imagination of a subject people and will soon sweep away the Raj!"" (26).
     Exposition/Historical Context: Political situation of the Parsee minority in India (26): "the Parsees have been careful to adopt a discreet politically naive profile," and Col. Bharucha advises "'We must hunt with the hounds and run with the hare!'" (26).

Ch. 2 Backgrounds: 

"Ayah's traumatic transformation at the hands of Ice-Candy-Man, the suitor who finally possesses her, and Ice-Candy-Man's own moral erosion through the Partition, figure the situation of all people involved in the ill-planned Partition, which resulted in migration, deaths, and incidents of rape and torture, all on a massive scale" (Holmes; emphasis added).

Quit India movement: see below.

From Agatucci, Cora, ed.  Timelines of Asia: India, China, Japan: Table of
       Contents. 1997-2004. 20 Feb. 2004
India Timeline 4: Independence of India and Pakistan (20th century):

1939-1945 World War II rang the death knell for Western Colonialism in many parts of the world. In India, the British viceroy declared war on Germany in 1939, in the name of India, without consulting Indian leaders. Congress Ministries in 9 provinces resign resisting Indian support for the British war effort.
1940 Gandhi and other Indian National Congress leaders intensified their campaign for immediate self-government, naming it as the price for Indian cooperation in the war effort, and were arrested. A campaign of civil disobedience was launched in 1940, while the Muslim League and many princely states supported the British war effort. Again, vast numbers of Indian troops participated in war on the British side at home and on the fronts.
1941 Subhash Chandra Bose escapes from India to organize the I.N.A. (Indian National Army) movement to enlist support to fight against the British.
1942 Cripps Mission: Waves of anti-British agitation in India, however, prompted the British to institute the "Cripps Mission," instituting an interim government during the war and promising full independence for India after World War II. The mission failed when both Congress and Muslim League leaders objected to various sections of the proposed program. Quit India Movement started by Gandhi, resumed the civil disobedience movement. Indian resistance to rule of the British Raj intensified; Gandhi, Nehru, and 1000s of supporters were imprisoned, and the Indian National Congress was outlawed.
In August 1942, the Quit India movement was launched. Gandhi, the Mahatma ("Great Soul") declared:

"I want freedom immediately,
this very night before dawn if it can be had.'..
we shall free India or die in the attempt,
we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery."

The British resorted to brutal repression against non-violent protesting satyagrahis.

1943 Famines in Bengal
1944 Japanese invaded India along the Indian-Burmese border, encouraged by Indian disunity and anti-British agitation. After initial successes, the Japanese were forced back into Burma by Anglo-Indian troops. The British released Gandhi from jail on May 6; Gandhi and Muslim leader Jinnah began negotiations to iron out their differences, but the discussions ended in failure.
1945 India became a charter member of the United Nations, Nehru was released from prison, and the British government issued a white paper on the Indian question, with proposals resembling the Cripps mission of 1942.
1946 A new deadlock and anti-British riots provoked a new series of negotiations with Indian leaders in 1946. An interim government representing all major political groups except the Muslim League was established, with the Muslim League finally agreeing to participate. J. L Nehru is named Prime Minister of the Interim Government, formed through the Cabinet Mission’s plan to prepare India for independence. Nevertheless, anarchy threatened as Muslim-Hindu strife escalated in various parts of India, with widespread communal riots.
1947 Louis Mountbatten became viceroy and recommended immediate partitioning of India to the British government as the only means of averting catastrophe. The Indian Independence Act, incorporating Mountbatten’s recommendations, was speedily approved by the British parliament, and on August 15, India and Pakistan were established as independent dominions of the Commonwealth of Nations, with the right to withdraw or remain in the British commonwealth (India elected to remain in the Commonwealth in 1949.)

The new states of India and Pakistan were created along religious lines, areas with Hindu majorities allocated to India and those with predominantly Muslim populations assigned to East and West Pakistan (with 1000 mi. of Indian territory between them).

August 15, 1947- Partitioning of India & Pakistan Indian Independence Day: The termination of British rule in India prompted widespread celebration by Indians of every religious and political persuasion, and August 15 was officially declared Indian Independence Day. In the words of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs:

"For the first and perhaps the only time in history,
the power of a mighty global empire 'on which the sun never set',
had been challenged and overcome by the moral might of a people
armed only with ideals and courage."

(See Independence.)

Yet the 1947 partitioning of India and Pakistan (recounted in Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India) came at enormous cost. It created massive dislocations and migrations, and celebrations were darkened by bitter Hindu-Muslim-Sikh antagonisms and brutal violence, particularly in regions almost equally populated by members of these faiths. In the Punjab (including Lahore, and map) where the line of demarcation between India and West Pakistan brought nearly 2 million Sikhs, traditionally anti-Muslim, under the jurisdiction of Pakistan, bitter fighting broke out. A mass exodus of Muslims from India into Pakistan, and of Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan into Indian territory took place. In the course of the initial migrations, which involved more than 4 million people in the month of September 1947 alone, convoys of refugees were frequently attacked and massacred by fanatical partisans. Coreligionists of the victims resorted to reprisals against minorities in other sections of India and Pakistan. Indian and Pakistani authorities brought the strife under control during October, but the shift of populations in the Punjab and other border areas continued until the end of the year.
"Who Am I? Living Identities Vs. Acquired Ones" is a thought-provoking essay about the process of defining and identifying oneself as a woman or man, a Punjabi, a Hindu, a Muslim and other multilayered identities. by Madhu Kishwar, from a Punjabi family uprooted by the Partition of 1947. Kishwar speaks out on gender issues, being a refugee, and having an uprooted identity (Manushi, issue 94, May-June 1996). She concludes:

"Why is our own sense of self so fragile that we need to fear and hate others merely because they are somewhat different from us? Predominance of negative ethnocentric sentiments against others is a sure sign of a fragile, fractured, and uprooted identity. Hatred of others is usually a sign of self-contempt. Those who really like themselves, are comfortable being themselves,
are not prone to hatred and aggression towards others."

1947-1949 Kashmir is attacked by Muslim insurgents, supported by Afghanistan and Pakistan, after Hindu leader Raja Hari Singh signs documents to make Kashmir, traditionally predominantly Muslim, part of India. Pakistan questioned his right to do so. Fighting between Muslim and Indian forces broke out and continued until 1949, with the intervention of the United Nations. The U.S. sided with Pakistan and the U.S.S.R. sided with India in the Kashmiri dispute. Kashmir remains an unresolved source of troubled relations between India and Pakistan.
1948 The Mahatma ("Great Soul") Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu fanatic. Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, died later the same year.

Ch. 3 (pp. 27-31) by Cora Agatucci

SETTING 1: Outside Godmother's gate, Lahore: Ayah and Lenny witness the emergence of the English band from the Salvation Army compound - which appear to Lenny as "a slick red and white caterpillar, its legs marching, . . . its hundred sightless eyes staring ahead" (27).

SETTING 2: Queen's Park, Lahore:  Here Ayah regularly takes Lenny for outings, where Ayah's many admirers - including Faletti's Hotel cook, Government House gardener, Masseur, and Ice-Candy-Man - congregate around them, and where "Things love to crawl underneath Ayah’s sari” (28). 

Lenny's Bildungsroman: Lenny learns how "to detect the subtle exchange of signals and some of the complex rites by which Ayah's admirers coexist" (29).  "I learn fast," and thereby Lenny gains "Ayah's goodwill and complicity by accommodating her need to meet friends and relatives. . . . I learn of human needs, frailties, cruelties and joys" (29).
THEME/PLOT structure - Lenny's Education: Lenny states, "I have many teachers" (29), counting Ayah, her admirers, and Cousin among these "teachers."

SETTING 3: Home of Electric-Aunt [AKA: Mini-Aunty] and Cousin [who live on Jail Road [which intersects Warris Road and ultimately “vanishes into the dense bazaars of Mozang Chungi" (11)]: Lenny sometimes spends "days and nights with my limber electric-aunt and my knowing and instructive cousin," who is "a couple years older" than Lenny (30). 

Exposition: CHARACTERS: Electric-Aunt [AKA: Mini-Aunty] "is a resourceful widow addicted to quick decisions and quick results," as well as "navy blue” (30; her nickname is derived from bijli = electricity, lightning (30).

LENNY'S NIGHTMARES:  That night, while sleeping over at the home of Electric-Aunt and Cousin, Lenny has her "first nightmare that connects me to the pain of others" (31). 
        Historical Context/World War II: Long khaki "caterpillar" emerges from Salvation Army compound, then turns into a German soldier on a motorcycle, who stops outside Electric-Aunt's doorstep and "comes to get me" (31).  And this nightmare recalls to Lenny "another childhood nightmare from the past" (31): "Children lie in a warehouse," where Mother, Ayah, and Godmother solicitously, indulgently watch as "men in uniforms" quietly dismember the children, including Lenny.  Lenny feels no physical pain--"Only an abysmal sense of loss--and a chilling horror that no one is concerned by what's happening" (31).


Ch. 4 (pp.32-39) by Cora Agatucci

SETTING 1:  Sethi Home, same year [Lenny is still 5-years old (32, 33)]: "I pick up a brother," announces Lenny (32).
        Exposition CHARACTER:
 Adi Sethi, Lenny's brother is four years old, a year younger than Lenny  Lenny describes Adi's character, and contrasts his beauty with her own ugliness (32-33). Adi has "the concentrated beauty and venom of an angry cobra," and Lenny can't hold his attention because Adi's own "unfathomable thoughts and mercurial play pattern absorb him" (32).  Because Adi goes "to a regular school," much of his daytime life is "lived apart" from crippled Lenny (33).
        LENNY'S Daymares & NIGHTMARES: The hungry zoo lion roars, prowls the Sethi home, crashes into Lenny's bedroom and "sink[s] his fangs into my stomach" (33).

SETTING 2:  It is now Spring, end of March, already hot (33) - Early morning in Sethi Home:  Cousin and Lenny marvel over the beautiful sleeping Adi, deciding "He should have been a girl" (33, 34). Passing Ayah rescues Adi from Cousin and Lenny's examination.  Ayah proudly calls Adi "my little English baba!" (34) because of his pale color (35).  Adi can pass for an English child in Lawrence Park (35).

SETTING 3:  Winter/December, "Saturday afternoon just before Christmas" (36): One of the "bitterly cold days" when he can't sell his ices, Ice-Candy-Man transforms himself into "a birdman" (35), parades the paths "behind Lahore Gymkhana lawns and outside the Punjab Club," sells sparrows and parrots to "tenderhearted Englishwomen" by threatening to kill the birds (35), and "clears a packet" of money (36).
         Foreshadowing/Symbolic action: Ice-Candy-Man, "foreshadowing the poetic impulse of his future" (36), pretends to be tearfully touched when English memsahibs buy his birds in order to release them from their cages.
, Lenny and Adi, who watch this December performance "with concealed glee," are afterwards treated by temporarily rich Ice-Candy-Man/Birdman to "a meal at Ayah's favorite wayside restaurant in Mozang Chungi," owned by "a pahailwan: a wrestler" (36).  Ayah eats heartily while rebuffing Ice-Candy-Man's advances, but finds it difficult to get rid of Ice-Candy-Man after the meal (36-37).  To gain time with Ayah, Ice-Candy-Man tells stories: "News and gossip flow off his glib tongue like a torrent" (36)
       Exposition CHARACTER:  Ice-Candy-Man [for whom the novel was originally named], described as a Muslim Urdu-speaking "raconteur" and gossip (37), is a Muslim street vendor who is drawn, like many other men, to the magnetic beauty of Ayah, Lenny's nanny.
      Historical Context: World War II News related by Ice-Candy-Man, who reads Urdu- and English-language newspapers (37-38). Ice-Candy-Man reports that Subas Chandra Bose, "a Hindu patriot who has defected to the Japanese side in Burma," "says the Japanese will help us liberate India from the Angrez [i.e. the English]" (38).


Ayah is Punjabi, and Ice-Candy-Man asks her why she always wears Hindu saris and never wears traditional Punjabi clothes, like "shalwar-kamize" (38).  Ayah responds that she would be paid less money if she dressed as a traditional Punjabi, rather than as a Hindu (38).
Learn more about the Punjab, the region's history and cultures:

Punjab Online: 
Government of Punjab, India - Official Web Site
Web Punjab:

Ch. 5 (pp. 40-49) by Cora Agatucci

Setting:  1944-45.
Colonel Barucha is a leader of the Parsi community in Lahore,
which becomes clear in Ch. 5 (40-49).  The Sethi family's 1944 retreat to the Murree Hills [in the Himalayan foothills, where temperatures are much cooler than 116+ degree heat of Lahore], is "cut short because the Parsees of Lahore are holding a Jashan prayer to celebrate the British victory" in World War II, predicted over the radio (41). 
Speaking at the Fire Temple in Lahore, Colonel Barucha urges Parsis to “stay out of trouble”--in particular, to stay out of Gandhi’s Salt March [Gandhi is also called Gandhijee], to remain neutral and uninvolved in political and sectarian fighting that the Colonel is sure will follow the end of World War II in India (43-45).
Dr. Manek Mody, Godmother’s brother-in-law who lives in Rawalpindi, is introduced (45).

Ch. 6 (pp. 50-56) by Cora Agatucci

Ch. 6 (pp. 50-56)
More EXPOSITION: Introduction to the other members of the Sethi household:
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). 
Yousaf is the Sethi family's odd job man (53)
Imam Din is  the Sethi family's cook (53).
Moti, Untouchable sweeper (53) for the Sethi household, is husband of Muccho and father of Papoo (54).
Lenny hates Muccho because of her cruelty to her daughter Papoo (55).

Ch. 7 (pp. 57-66) by Cora Agatucci

Ch. 7 (pp. 57-66)
Imam Din, whom Ayah calls “the Catcher-in-the-kitchen” because he sits in wait and “grabs anything soft that enters” (57), is 65-years old, described as “tall, big-bellied, barrel-chested, robust: he bicycles twenty miles to and from his village [Pir Pindoo] once a month to impregnate his fourth wife,” being “three times widowed and four times wed" (58). 
Imam Din takes Lenny along on one of his trips home to Pir Pindo, and there young Lenny learns that the Sethi family cook is also "the most respected elder in his village,” with a reputation for “his benign temperament and wisdom” (58).
Pir Pindoo, Imam Din's home, is a Muslim village some 40 miles from Lahore.  Here Lenny meets Ranna, Imam Din's great-grandson (61-62), as well as the rest of Imam Din's family.
Dos Mohammad, a leader of the Muslim village of Pir Pindoo, is Imam Din's grandson and Ranna's father.  Chidda is Dos Mohammad's wife and they have three children: daughters Khatija and Parveen (62), and son Ranna, the youngest of the three children.
Jagjeet Singh is one of the Sikh granthi [priests] who visit Pir Pindoo, Dos Mohammad’s Muslim village, during Lenny's visit (63).  Muslims and Sikhs have long coexisted in peace, but there are rumors of coming conflicts.


Ch. 8 (pp. 67-78) by Cora Agatucci

Ch. 8 (pp. 67-78)
Setting: Sethi Home, Lahore. Lenny and Imam Din return from their visit to Pir Dindoo. 
Dinner Party at the Sethi Home:
Rosy & Peter’s parents (68): Mr. Singh, their father, is a “turbaned and bearded Sikh”; their mother is an American (68-69).

During the Sethis' dinner party, Mr. Singh and Inspector General Rogers [British] get into a fight ( 70-74).



"Lenny's development from childhood to adolescence concurs with India's independence from Britain and the partitioning of India into India and Pakistan. The interwoven plots give each other substantial meaning.  Partly because Lenny's family are Parsees, a religious and ethnic minority that remained relatively neutral in post-Partition religious conflicts, she has access to people of all ethnicities and religions, both within Lahore and in other locales. More significantly, she has access to a wide variety of viewpoints both pre-and post-Partition through her Ayah, a beautiful woman whose suitors are ethnically and religiously diverse" (Holmes; emphasis added). Cracking India "is a story in which individuals and their community identities are inseparable, a story of emerging nations as well as a story of single characters. Not only Lenny, but everyone in this novel experiences substantial change in the context of the Partition" (Holmes).  "The links between individuals and nations are emphasized both by multiple plots and points of view" (Holmes).

Multiple Plots - Main Plot and Subplots of Cracking India: "Lenny's passionate love of Ayah and the loss of innocence that accompanies their changing relationship through the Partition is an energetic center to the plot. Lenny's relationships with her mother, her powerful godmother, and her sexually invasive cousin are also important to the novel. Lenny's polio forms a significant early narrative thread. Other minor but compelling subplots include Lenny's parents' changing relationship, the murder of a British official, and the child marriage of the much-abused daughter of one of Lenny's family's servants" (Holmes).

Multiple Points of View:  ". . . [W]hile Lenny is the clear protagonist and narrator for most of the novel, Ranna, a Muslim child whose experiences were particularly violent and traumatic, tells his own story. A significant aspect of the novel is the marginality of Britain and the Raj in the plot; colonialism sets this trauma in place, but postcolonial characters are its focus" (Holmes; emphasis added).

Works Cited and Additional Resources

Agatucci, Cora, ed.  "Cracking India."  Handout, Humanities 210, Central Oregon Community
         College, Winter 2004.
---, ed.  "Cracking India: Novel Notes."  Handout, Humanities 210, Central Oregon Community
         College, Winter 2004.
---, ed.  "Cracking India: Novel Notes." [Online Handout] 2004. Humanities 210.  Winter 2004. 
         Central Oregon Community College.  26 Feb. 2004. <
---, ed.  "Hinduism."  Handout, Humanities 210, Central Oregon Community College, Winter 2004.
---, ed. 
Timelines of Asia: India, China, Japan: Table of Contents.  1997-2004. 20 Feb.
India Timeline 3: The British Raj (late 17th - early 20th centuries):
India Timeline 4: Independence of India and Pakistan (20th century):
Aizenberg, Edna. "The Third World Novel as Counterhistory: Things Fall Apart and Asturias's
        Men of Maize.
In Approaches to Teaching Achebe's Things Fall ApartEd. Bernth Lindfors.
        Approaches to Teaching World Literature Series: 37.  New York: Modern Language
        Association, 1991.
Bapsi Sidhwa's Home Page. 2000-2002. 20 Feb. 2004
Graeber, Laurel. "The Seeds of Partition." Review of Cracking India. New York Times Book Review
         6 Oct. 1991. [Cited in Wilder.]
Holmes, Martha Stoddard.  "Literature Annotations: Sidhwa, Bapsi: Cracking India."  2001.
         Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, 52nd ed., 2004.  New York University.  20 Feb.
         2004 <
Malmberg, Jacob Lee.  "Bapsi Sidhwa, b. 1938."  2001.  Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of
         Color. Dept. of English, Univ. of Minnesota.  2002.  20 Feb. 2004
Montenegro, David. "Bapsi Sidhwa: An Interview." Massachusetts Review 31 (1990): 513-33.
Rajan, Julie. "Cracking Sidhwa: Interview with Bapsi Sidhwa."  Monsoon Magazine 3 (2000).
        21 Feb. 2004 <>.
Sidhwa, Bapsi.  Cracking India: A Novel. [Originally published as Ice-Candy Man, 1988.]
         Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions-William Heinemann, 1991.
---. "New Neighbors." 11 Aug. 1997. Time. 20 Feb. 2004
 "Sense of the City: Lahore."  BBC News, World ed., 29 July 2003.  20 Feb. 2004
Tharoor, Shashi. "Life with Electric-Aunt and Slavesister." Rev. of Cracking India. New York Times
         Book Review. 6 Oct. 1991.
Wilder, Jay. "Bapsi Sidhwa." 1998, 2001.  Postcolonial Studies at Emory.  English Dept.,
Emory Univ. 2002. 15 Feb. 2004 <>.

See also Introduction to Cracking India

YOU ARE HERE ~ Cracking India Reading Guide Chs. 1-8 - Online Course Pack - Fall 2006
URL of this webpage:
Last updated: 09 November 2006