British Raj in India: in A Passage To India

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      E. M. Forster's A Passage to India was acclaimed as a piece of anti-imperialist propaganda; a polemic against the British rule in India. Stories are recounted of civil servants, outward bound for India, buying the novel as a suitable reading for their voyage, only to throw their copies over board when they discovered the contents. In his two visits to India, Forster had seen the prevailing conditions in India. He had a first hand knowledge of the sufferings, the oppression and the tyranny which the Indians had to face at the hands of the British bureaucrats. So his presentation of the British Raj in India in the novel is quite authentic.

      The Britishers on coming to India, imbibed many of the faults of the Indians. Bribery was an infectious disease in India and many of the English bureaucrats succumbed to it. This is what Mohmoud Ali, one of the characters in the novel has to say on this point "When we say poor blacks take bribes, we perform what we are bribed to perform, and the law discovers us in consequence. The English take and do nothing." And it is not only the British bureaucrats who have learned to take bribes, but the wives of these officers to accept bribes, in the true Indian fashion. Mrs. Turton is a typical example of a British officer's wife taking bribes.

      It seems that the British officers in India mostly managed to pick up the shortcomings of the Indians and not their qualities. Thus we see Britishers in India being rude and revengeful. Since Dr. Aziz was more competent at his work than his boss Major Callendar, he was uselessly harassed and humiliated by his boss. Dr. Aziz had been asked by Major Cailendar, to come to his house but the Major had left for the club without waiting for him. When Dr. Aziz reached the Major's bungalow, he was further humiliated by Mrs. Callendar who drove off in his tonga without taking his leave. And to add insult to injury, the servant told Aziz that the Major had said "Damn Aziz" before leaving for the club.

      Thus, it can be seen that the failure of "connection" between the Britisher and the Indians in a predominant theme throughout the novel. The gulf between the rulers and their subjects in the British Raj is perhaps best symbolized in the temple at Mau which has two shrines - the Shrine of the Head on the hill and the Shrine of the Body below. The separation is strongly emphasized in the last chapter. The two characters who have tried hardest to come together Aziz and Fielding - are shown riding on horseback. The concluding passage, in which, the whole landscape confirms Aziz's words about the impossibility of friendship between Englishmen and the natives, effectively highlights this aspect of the novel "But the horses didn't want it—they swerved apart: the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which the riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the guest house, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they did not want it, they said in their hundred voices 'No, not yet', and the sky said, 'No, not there'."

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