Hybridity of Race Culture Amitav Ghosh Glass Palace

Article Posted in: Research Articles

Ashvamegh: Issue X: November 2015: ISSN: 2454-4574

Hybridity of race and Culture in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace

By – Dr. Dipika Bhatt


This paper intends to study the hybridity of race and culture in the modern world through Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Glass Palace. The Glass Palace is a book about geographical entities, space, distance and time. Many stories have been woven together. This novel of Amitav Ghosh is the story of an Indian orphan Rajkumar who is transported to Burma by accident. Through his character the writer emphasis on orphan children’s development, ideal Indian perception about women where animality is more or less left to men and women save the grace of human existence. In The Glass Palace gender relations are clear through man-woman relationship of Rajkumar-Dolly, Beni Prasad-Uma, Dinu-Alison etc. relationships. This is the true picture of Indian marriages. The couple lives together for decades without really knowing each other, without actually sharing innermost thoughts and without genuinely loving each other. Marriage becomes a matter of habit, a taken for granted ritual of life. Through these characters we find the true picture of modern relations which are not based on true love. The impact of English language and culture on education and people are clear in the novel through Beni Prasad and Arjun’s character. The racial hybridity is clear through the relationship between queen Supayalat’s (a Burmese Queen) daughter and Marathi coachman Sawant and through their marriage. Saya John’s character also reveals this type of racial hybridity. Through Uma and Dolly’s conversation Ghosh also comments on the Indian caste-system. Dolly said to Uma that all Indians are same; all obsessed with their caste and arrange marriages. She frankly tells her that in Burma when a woman likes a man, she is free to do what she wants. The double names given to Rajkumar’s children reflect the hybridity of two nations and two cultures. Languages are deployed in several ways in this novel. All of the major characters are bi-lingual or multi-lingual with strong cultural ties to more than one country. Indians born in Burma have both Indian and Burmese names and use words from both languages and even the Burmese princesses, in exile, learn Indian languages.

Key words: Gender relation, racial hybridity, English language. 

Research Paper

The Glass Palace is a book about geographical entities, space, distance and time. Many stories have been woven together. There are many characters. It is a saga of many families, their lives and their connection with each other. From the post-colonial cultural perspective, as observed by Homi Bhabha, the modern nation “Fills the void left in the uprooting of communities and kin, and turns that loss into the language of metaphor” (Mishra and Kumar 27). Bhabha emphasizes the point that nations are born of anti-imperialistic struggles and their identities are necessarily ambivalent. In the Indian context, the dispersal and scattering of people is the process of making of the nation. Rakhee Moral rightly comments, “The idea of the nation as metaphor of loss, and as being more symbolic of a Unitarians than the physical entity which is society, finds elaborate figuration in the turbulence of cultural cross-overs and conflicting histories that makes up the central concern of Ghosh” (Mishra and Kumar 27). Ghosh believes in Ashis Nandy who points out that colonialism “Represents a certain cultural baggage” (Mishra and Kumar 27). For Ghosh, the novel is an instrument of perception more like a lens than a mirror for the objective representation of reality. He is more interested in a sort of active moral engagement with human experience.

This novel of Amitav Ghosh is the story of an Indian orphan Rajkumar who is transported to Burma by accident. As a child, Rajkumar is remarkable for his exploring spirit, keen perception and his ability to take calculated risks. Rajkumar works in a tea stall of a matronly lady Ma Cho. He loves exaggerating his age just of feel like an adult. A well-travelled orphan, Rajkumar is worldly-wise. Rajkumar an orphan boy is established as bold, and remarkable. Once Rajkumar lands in Mandalay, his life-long search for places and people begins. He is taken in by the city, “Long straight roads radiated outwards from the walls, forming a neat geometrical grid. So intriguing was the ordered pattern of these streets that Rajkumar wandered far afield exploring” (Tiwari 89). This exploring boy is a complete destitute in an alien city with absolutely no acquaintances. Finally he goes to Ma Cho for job and he receives a thorough rebuke and scolding at the very outset. But his keen perception helps him to know, “That this outburst was not aimed directly at him: that it had more to do with the dust, the splattering oil and the price of vegetables than with his own presence or with anything he had said” (Tiwari 90).

Soon the boy Rajkumar develops his sense of belonging at the new place. Barriers are challenging to him, cause progress. If there would be no hurdles, a person would not think of ascending and getting beyond. As he views the fort of Mandalay the crystal shining glass palace, he instinctively knows that orphans like him cannot go there and yet “No matter what Ma Cho said, he decided, he would cross the moat-before he left Mandalay, he would find a way in” (Tiwari 90). It is this spark that sets Rajkumar apart for a life of success, adventure and prosperity. His lessons of worldly wisdom come soon. With no one to guide or look after him, he goes where his fancy takes him. Through the creaks in the wooden walls, he starts viewing Ma Cho at nights. He gets to know about female anatomy and sex in this way. He even gets his first physical sensations through Ma Cho, though fortunately she does not go beyond limits and resists herself well in time. It is pathetic to watch the condition of an orphan growing boy whose only tutor is life. He is just a toy and Ma Cho could have made him whatever she wanted. But “Abruptly, she pushed him away, with a yelp of disgust. What am I doing with this boy, this child, this half-wit kalaa? Elbowing him aside, she clambered up her ladder and vanished into her room” (Tiwari 90). Here Ghosh focuses on ideal Indian perception about women where animality is more or less left to men and women save the grace of human existence.

Life teaches him its own lessons. At his heart, he is always certain about his success in life. When the British throw down the king of Burma, Rajkumar is told that the British wish to control Burmese territory for wood. And from this point starts his shaping of his future plans. He senses wealth in teak. When the city is rampaged by the British, it is the Indian soldiers who come on orders of their colonial masters. Suddenly Indians become the target of mob frenzy. Rajkumar is also attacked; he is saved by Saya John. That day, Saya perceives something unique in Rajkumar.

There was something unusual about the boy – a kind of watchful determination. No excess of gratitude here, no gifts or offering, no talk of honour, with murder in the heart. There was no simplicity in his face, no innocence: his eyes were filled with worldliness, curiosity, and hunger. That was as it should be. (Tiwari 91)

Through Saya John a teak businessman Rajkumar gets his first job. When the palace of King Thebaw is evacuated, everyone rushes into it to loot as much as they can. Rajkumar also goes in, not for an item of loot but for his future wife Dolly. Dolly like Rajkumar is an orphan. He falls in love with Dolly at first sight at the tender age of twelve. He learns from experiences. He is receptive, he is learning to see the world not only through his own eyes but also as others see it. Saya is his tutor for all practical purposes. When Saya is rebuked by an English boss, Rajkumar flares up. It is Saya that passes his wisdom to Rajkumar, literally teaches him to see the other side of a picture. Through these poignant phases, Rajkumar grows. When Saya earnestly tells Rajkumar how to live, how to deal with people and situations, once his orphanhood strikes him right at heart, “Rajkumar could tell that Saya John was thinking not of him…but of Matthew, his absent son and the realization brought a sudden and startling pang of grief. But the pain lasted only an instant and when it had faded Rajkumar felt himself to be very much the stronger, better prepared” (Tiwari 92). His being an orphan gives him a unique sensibility. He is able to watch every scene with detachment. His only concern which is pure and simple is to defend himself and provide for himself. He is a growing boy, without strings. It is a disadvantage but sometimes it proves an advantage also. All the incidents of his life make him practical.

He reserved his trust and affection for those who earned it by concrete example and proven goodwill. Once earned, his loyalty was given wholeheartedly, with none of those unspoken provisions with which people usually guard against betrayal. In this too he was not unlike a creature that had returned to the wild. But that there should exist a universe of loyalties that was unrelated to himself and his own immediate needs – this was very nearly incomprehensible. (The Glass Palace 47)

This attitude of Rajkumar leaves out all loyalties related to place, nationhood etc. He is free; he uses this free will in building his business. His professional rise is impressive. When he decides to take a loan from Saya and establish his separate timber yard, Saya is full of doubts. Then Rajkumar gives a few tips to Saya;

Saya: The big English companies could destroy you; make you a laughing stock in Rangoon. You could be driven out of business.

Rajkumar: Saya, this is no better than a roadside teashop – I might as well be working for Ma Cho. If I’m ever going to make this business grow, I’ll have to take a few risks.

Saya: You’re just starting out. You have no idea of how these deals are struck in Rangoon. All the big people here know each other. They go to the same clubs, eat at the same restaurants, and put money on each other’s horses.

Rajkumar: It’s not just the big people who always know everything, if I could find out exactly how much the other companies are going to quote, then I might be able to put in a winning bid. (The Glass Palace 130)

With these risks he grows and grows very well. After his establishment Rajkumar is ripe to go to India to search Dolly, he is already a successful and respected businessman. He thinks that tracing Dolly is not difficult because she has been with the deposed King and Queen of Burma.

Here Ghosh through the character of Rajkumar focuses on miserable condition of orphans who are depends on their fate, family and society. Rajkumar-Dolly in The Glass Palace, Alu in The Circle of Reason, Paulette in Sea of Poppies, are some of examples of orphans. In The Glass Palace Rajkumar established himself but Dolly was a doll of queen Supayalat’s hand. She has no choice and will to live her life freely. She was wholly depends upon king’s family. An orphan girl in our society is also a big problem because she is not safe in the cruel hands of society. Through the novel Ghosh suggest that it is also a big duty to our society to give these children good education and life so that they understand the value of their life and leads a happy life.

Dolly is loyal to the king’s family. She remains with them in the most critical circumstances. One by one all the maids and servants leave the royal family and go back to Burma but Dolly does not do so. This is the reason that she has nowhere to go to. She was loyal to king’s family so the sincerity of her nature cannot be denied. She becomes an attractive young girl in her childhood. Her body and mind expand. She has nothing to look forward to. She cannot dream for herself. Her life is an appendage, a depending extension of the royal family. Sex comes as a handy rescue for this young girl to maintain her sanity. The novelist chooses to go in detail regarding Dolly’s first exposure to the life of the body. Sawant is the local servant of the king. He is the chief servant. He is the natural choice for Dolly and she for him. But soon they are caught by the first Princess who herself is growing into a woman and is also in need of engagement of some sort. To cut a long tale short, the first princess snatches Sawant and her pregnancy is dramatically announced. By this time Collector Dey and his wife have arrived on the scene. The Collector is responsible for the well being of the royal family. The Collector at one point of the novel is intrigued when he comes to know of the pregnancy of Supayalat’s first daughter. He is disgusted. He is at a loss. His sense of class and decency is deeply violated, “Was this love then: this coupling in the darkness, a princess of Burma and a Marathi coachman; this heedless mingling of sweat?” (Tiwari 103). This saga of human weaknesses gives birth to the concept of hybridity. No race is pure; nor is any caste pure. There is no pure royal blood or anything like that. Life is mixing – DNA combinations and permutations. Saya John is a fine example of this breed of hybridity. His clothes are Western. He speaks English, Hindustani and Burmese. His face looks like that of Chinese. Saya himself makes fun of his amalgamated identity;

…They (Indian soldiers) asked me this very question: how is it that you who look Chinese and carry a Christian name, can speak our language? When I told them how this had come about, they would laugh and say, you are a Dhobi Ka Kutta – a washerman’s dog – Na Ghar Ka Na Ghat Ka – you don’t belong anywhere, either by the water or on land, and I’d say, yes that is exactly what I am. He laughed, with an infectious hilarity and Rajkumar joined in. (Tiwari 104)

            This is laughter of mutual sharing. Rajkumar is as much a washerman’s dog as Saya John. There is no humiliation between the two. This is simple acceptance of fact. “Apart from characters, at the level of pure ideas also, this novel is very rich. There are relevant ideas on the process of civilization, wars and their futility, the concept of boundaries, colonization, journey, hybridity, rootlessness, childhood and the process of growing ” (Tiwari 103). When Rajkumar comes to take Dolly she is in an emotional chaos. She is not interested in Rajkumar, she forgets him. She is disturbed by some psychological transference which she identifies with the first princess and says to Rajkumar that she is awaiting the baby’s arrival. She feels the baby of princess to be her own. Uma knows her better she said; “The birth of this child will drive you out of your mind…” (Tiwari 97). When Uma coaxes her to marry Rajkumar and says that he loves her, Dolly’s reply is remarkably correct, “He’s in love with what he remembers. That isn’t me” (Tiwari 97). According to Rajkumar, Dolly appeared to be beautiful beyond belief, beyond comprehension. “She was like the palace itself, a thing of glass, inside which you could see everything your imagination was capable” (The Glass Palace 144). The Collector’s wife Uma, when she saw Dolly for the first time felt that “Miss Sein was perhaps the loveliest woman she’d ever set her eyes on” (The Glass Palace 108). A coolie woman with whom Rajkumar had an illicit relationship saw the photograph of Dolly and said to Rajkumar, “She’s so beautiful, like a princess – what do you want to do with a woman like me?” (The Glass Palace 236). Dolly goes on to tell Rajkumar about her past relationship with Sawant. He accepts everything, Rajkumar and Dolly are married. They get two sons Neel and Dinu. He celebrates to compensate for all the missed celebrations of his own life. But his life cannot be called perfect as he falls prey to the turbulent times in his old age and his world is torn apart. Dinu moves away from him, Neel dies and Dolly goes to a monastery. Although the end can be blamed at fate, one flaw is very much Rajkumar’s own. Dinu as a child develops slight polio in one leg. Dolly consumes herself day and night in Dinu’s care. She becomes more and more introvert. She cuts herself off from the world, including her elder son, Neel and husband. Dinu and his well-being remain the focal point of her existence for months or even a year or so. It is as though the mother and the son have reentered the prenatal period of oneness. The child is safely in mother’s protective presence, her womb and all his needs are fulfilled without asking. During this period Rajkumar goes into physical relationship with one of the workers forcibly and Ilongo, his illegitimate son is the result of this extramarital mating. The picture of racial hybridity is clear in these lines. Here Indian belief on fate can be seen through Rajkumar’s story.

Here our civilized and often hypocritical rules of morality will not work because this novel like other good novels is a true depiction of life. Howsoever absurd such an act may look to the cold, distant gaze; it is perhaps the most natural thing to happen in the mess of life. Dolly has withdrawn and Rajkumar succumbs to his physical needs because of lack of the power of their reasoning. He remains, despite his achievements, an uneducated orphan. Here Ghosh emphasis on educational value which enables man perfect to take a right decision. Uma develops a close friendship with Dolly. Their friendship lasts a whole lifetime. But for all her sophistication, liveliness and charm, there are problems in Uma’s life that she has not been able to sort out. The bond between her and her husband is weak. The collector has been educated abroad. He does not fit into Indian scheme of things. The author makes an indirect comment on the state of Indian marriages when he says “The wifely virtues she could offer him he had no use for: Cambridge had taught him to want more, to make sure that nothing was held in abeyance, to bargain for a woman’s soul with the coin of kindness and patience. The thought of this terrified her. This was subjection beyond decency, beyond her imagining. She could not bring herself to think of it. Anything would be better than to submit” (Tiwari 98).

            This is the clear picture of Indian marriages. The couple lives together for decades without really knowing each other, without actually sharing innermost thoughts and without genuinely loving each other. Marriage becomes a matter of habit, a taken for granted ritual of life. The Collector wants mental connection with Uma. Her resources prove to be inadequate on this account. She does not love her husband. She does not trust him. She may be having wife virtues namely timely supply of needs, patience, passivity etc. but a bond with the husband is something she dreads. On the other hand the Collector is a different type of a man, intellectually emancipated. He selected Uma after seeing her at a puja when she was sixteen. He wanted a flexible girl who is not too settled in her ideas and behavior. His family opposed Uma. “But he persisted, insisting that he didn’t want a conventional marriage. He’d been working with Europeans: it wouldn’t do to have a conservative, housebound wife. He needed a girl who would be willing to step out into society; someone young, who wouldn’t be resistant to learning modern ways” (Tiwari 98).

            Disappointment is the word that settles too soon in their relationship. Uma is leading a mechanical, lonely life playing the part of elegant hostess in all the social gathering of the Collector. Her friend Dolly releases Uma form this chain of boredom and dull schedule. She connects well with Dolly. Her husband does not occupy her psychological space. Things are bound to fall apart. Once Dolly leaves, the Collector is perceptive enough to say to Uma when she approaches him. “You have come to tell me that you want to go home” (Tiwari 99). After this incident Uma has decided to leave the Collector. She has decided that she cannot go on like that. The dialogue that follows is touching and tragic. There can be nothing much sad in this world than talk of broken dreams. The Collector does exactly the same, he said to Uma;

I used to dream about the kind of marriage I wanted…To live with a woman as an equal, in spirit and intellect: this seemed to me the most wonderful thing life could offer. To discover together the world of literature, art: what could be richer, more fulfilling? But what I dreamt is not yet possible, not here, in India, not for us. (Tiwari 99)

            Uma leaves and the Collector go to row out into the sea, never to return. He feels that there is no need to turn back home as no one would be waiting for him and he would find it hard to sleep. And thus goes a precious life, a talented, sensitive human life. The Collector commits suicide. He proves to be even more vulnerable than Uma. It is unbelievable that Uma has no feeling of sorrow to her husband after his tragic death. Instead of it the novel distastefully ends in when Rajkumar’s granddaughter Jaya said; “But that morning when I ran into Uma’s room, I found, to my surprise, that Rajkumar was in her bed. They were fast asleep, their bodies covered by a thin, cotton sheet. They looked peaceful and very tired, as though they were resting after some great exertion” (Tiwari 99-100). The lines tell that Uma’s image as woman of icy self-containment, a widow who had mourned her dead husband, for more than half a century was false. Once when Uma discloses Rajkumar’s relationship with an indentured woman Rajkumar also blames on Uma, “Have you ever built anything? Given a single person a job? Improved anyone’s life in any way? No. All you ever do is stand back, as though you were above all of us, and you criticize and criticize. Your husband was as fine a man as any I’ve ever met, and you hounded him to his death with your self-righteousness” (The Glass Palace 248).

Traditionally, men control and inhabit the power structures and they understand the dynamics of economics. Men make and take decisions on property and lay down the rules of morality. They have categorized women into good and bad and have indoctrinated both women and men to such an extent that by and large they have come to accept these categories. Men have thus evolved the dual strategy of control and exclusion. (Chakravarty 134)

For a very long time it has been ingrained in the mind of an Indian woman that marriage is the ultimate goal of her life and her husband’s home is her only abode. However, the modern educated Indian woman finds that marriage allows only an outward semblance of freedom. Indian society is still very conventional in its approach to marriage and despite numerous contradictions; husband and wife strive to maintain an outward show of balance and harmony. In the career-graph of man and woman (husband and wife), it is always the woman who must curb her individuality so that her husband’s career remains open to a meteoric rise. In The Glass Palace the next generation children of Rajkumar and Dolly, Saya John’s grand children and Uma’s nephew and nieces are no less interesting than their parents and aunts. Dolly’s younger son Dinu is the most substantial figure in this group. He possesses a unique keenness, he is sharp. Dinu is instinctively thoughtful not an extrovert even not very social. His profession is photography. When Dinu is an adolescent, Dolly encourages his interest in photography “Because she felt that she ought to encourage any activity that would draw him out of himself” (Tiwari 100-101). Here Ghosh emphasis on the importance of relationships which are really so huge in life. Without these relationships life would be meaningless. Uma alone is a detached observer of the scene. She feels that in the faces of these adolescents “She could see inscribed the history of her friendships and the lives of her friends – the stories and trajectories that had brought Elsa’s life into conjunction with Matthew’s, Dolly’s with Rajkumar’s, Malacca with New York, Burma with India” The author also delineates the psychology behind arranged marriages in India “…It was a way of shaping the future to the past, of cementing one’s ties to one’s memories and to one’s friends” (Tiwari 101).

            Dinu is attracted by Alison in the first sight. Once Uma’s nephew Arjun comes to meet with Dinu in Alison’s house, he is serving in Indian army and the equilibrium between Dinu and Alison is lost. The liveliness of Alison matches with Arjun’s power and for a short span of time Dinu loses Alison to Arjun. He is jealous of Arjun and his loud impressive ways. He tries to come to terms with the situation. He knows that Alison cannot be trusted with Arjun. But he just cannot do anything about it. He has only his inner resources. He decides not to fall a prey to self-pity. On the other hand Alison was comes to the conclusion that between Dinu and Arjun there hardly exists any comparison. Her analysis provides a beautiful picture of these two men.

Arjun – you’re not in charge of what you do; you’re a toy, a manufactured thing, a weapon in someone else’s hands. Your mind doesn’t inhabit your body…She saw that despite the largeness and authority of his presence, he was a man without resources, a man whose awareness of himself was very slight and very fragile; She saw that Dinu was much stronger and more resourceful…. (Tiwari 102)

Here we find the true picture of modern relations which are not based on true love. Dinu and Alison are soon parted forever because of the war. The relationship that might have bloomed and lasted a lifetime is ruptured by the tumult of war. Alison dies and Dinu starts a new life. He is old and mellow. He has been living a quiet married life with a well-known Burmese writer. Cultural hierarchies overlap in entwining of the high and low classes in spite of race, religion and class, in order to create new societies. The feminine consciousness in the novel recognizes the difference between a woman’s vision and man’s vision through Rajkumar-Dolly and Beni Prasad Dey and Uma relationships. Beni Prasad Dey’s relations with Uma were just like the oppressor and the oppressed. For emotional relief, he needs consolation from Uma and not the wifely virtues. It was Uma’s subjection beyond decency, beyond her imagining. She could do nothing but to submit her. Rajkumar marries Dolly and has two sons, Neel, Dinu and Ilongo is Dinu’s half-brother. He inhabits in the post-colonial space as a foreigner in Mandalay and is subjected to colonization. Neel marries Uma’s niece, Manju in Calcutta and Dinu who loves Saya John’s grand-daughter, Alison, marries a Burmese research scholar who wrote her dissertation on the Glass Palace Chronicles. According to Rakhee Moral Dinu and Alison’s love affair is; “Symbolic of exiles coming together, as it were, of families meeting out of a shared compulsion across disputed and dispossessed territories” (Mishra and Kumar 28). Saya John’s son Matthew marries an American girl Elsa and Alison is their daughter. These family ties come to full circle and the cultural differences are forgotten and the artificial borders are no more. Ania Loomba in Colonialism and Post-colonialism concludes:

If a post-colonial studies is to survive in any meaningful way, it needs to absorb itself far more deeply with the contemporary world, and with the local circumstances within which colonial institutions and ideas are being moulded into the disparate cultural and socio-economic practices which define our contemporary globality. (Mishra and Kumar 30)

Languages are deployed in several ways in this novel. All of the major characters are bi-lingual or multi-lingual with strong cultural ties to more than one country. Indians born in Burma have both Indian and Burmese names and use words from both languages and even the Burmese princesses, in exile, learn Indian languages. Especially for Rajkumar retaining the old dialect is a way of maintaining old ties despite the official dominance of English. Also there are terms peculiar to work situations for example, from the teak camps and rubber plantations, reflecting the high percentage of minorities working in such places. Language is overtly used as a weapon as well as to bind people together. For example the Burmese queen in exile speaks Hindustani fluently and uses that to embarrass and intimidates Indian officials who are Parsi or Bengali. Politically, Dinu declares the need to communicate in secret languages in Myanmar under military dictatorship. Ghosh describes the aspirations, defeats and disappointments of dislocated people in India, Burma, China, Malaysia and America such as King Thebaw, Queen Supayalat, Saya John, Rajkumar, Dolly, Uma, Alison, Dinu, Neel, Arjun, Hardayal, Kishan Singh, Jaya and Ilongo.

For Rajkumar and Jaya, there is the impulse towards family, biologically and culturally, to find a sense of belonging. It is their lack of family that both generate this desire to create a new traditional constraint of the institution. On one occasion, Rajkumar tells his loved-one, Dolly: “I have no family, no parents, no brothers, no sisters, and no fabric of small memories from which to cut a large cloth. People think this sad and so it is. But it means also that I have no option but to choose my own attachments” (Hariprasanna and Gayathri 16-17). He reads this lack of attachment as a freedom of a kind that allows him to remake family not according to racial, caste, or national dictates. Both his sons Neel and Dinu affirm the forming of a new family populated by racially and culturally mixed subjects. Finally the novel shows the positive effect of crumbling family structures that allows for the making of new communities based on common social understanding.

            Amitav Ghosh through the novel shows the cultural ways of Bengali women i.e. safe guarding a precious ornament in the folds of the sari and a mother’s last blessings to her son – beche thako. He uses a number of words ek gaz, do gaz, teen gaz referring to land measure and gaaris, horis, basti, langot etc. for material goods. Through the protagonist Dolly Ghosh also comments on the Indian caste system. Dolly said to Uma: “Oh, you Indians, you’re all the same, all obsessed with your castes and your arranged marriages. In Burma when a woman likes a man, she is free to do what she wants” (The Glass Palace 117-118). The impact of Western education and civilization is clear in the novel. The thoughts of Indian people mixed with Western civilization are clearly seen through Arjun’s remark to his friend: “Just look at us, Hardy – just look at us. What are we? We’ve learnt to dance the tango and we know how to eat roast beef with a knife and fork. The truth is that except for the color of our skin, most people in India wouldn’t even recognize us as Indians” (The Glass Palace 439). Another example of Arjun’s pride is following:

Europeans were comments on Indians that look at Punjabis, Marathas, Bengalis, Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims. Where else in India would you come across a group such as ours – where region and religion don’t matter – where we can all drink together and eat beef and pork and think nothing of it? Arjun said, every meal at an officers’ mess was an adventure, a glorious infringement of taboos. They ate foods that none of them had ever touched at home: bacon, ham and sausages at breakfast; roast beef and pork chops for dinner. They drank whisky, beer and wine, smoked cigars, cigarettes and cigarillos…After taking some whisky Arjun said that we’re the first modern Indians; the first Indians to be truly free. We eat what we like, we drink what we like, and we’re the first Indians who’re not weighed down by the past. (The Glass Palace 278-279)

Amitav Ghosh like Salman Rushdie is an insider not outsider who talks about cultural displacement through cracked lenses. He makes us think about the relation of culture to economic and political structures in the present days of globalization. As a writer of the Indian diaspora, Ghosh wants to record its historical depth and its meaning in the world. Ahdaf Soueif writes, “Ghosh is one of the most sympathetic post-colonial voices to be heard today. He looks at love and loyalty, and examines questions of Empire and responsibility, of tradition and modernity” (Mishra and Kumar 28).

Thus we can say that through his novel and its characters Ghosh emphasis on the global issue of hybridity of race and culture. We find in this novel issue like gender relation, man-woman relationship, effect of English language and culture on Indian people, Indian concept of caste system and arrange marriage.

Works Cited

Chakravarty, Joya. Indian Writing in English Perspectives. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2003. Print.

Ghosh, Amitav. The Glass Palace. India: Harper Collins, 2000. Print.

Hariprasanna, A. and T.Gayathri. “The Glass Palace-An Augmented Narrative.” International Journal of English Literature, Language and Skills 1.3(2012):14-18.


Mishra, Binod and Sanjay Kumar. Indian Writings in English. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2006. Print.

Tiwari, Shubha. Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Study. 2003. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2008. Print.

Introduction to the Author:

Dipika BhattDr. Dipika Bhatt is working as a Lecturer, in Mahila Mahavidyalaya P.G. College, Haridwar.  Ph.D holder in English Literature from Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya, Haridwar. She has completed her MA in English Literature from the same institution in 2011. Moreover, she had also taught in the same institute as a research scholar for sometimes. Her papers have found their way too many respectable journals nationally and internationally. She has published nine international papers till date. She has also attended many conferences and seminars organized by different universities.

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