Indian Characters in the Novel A Passage To India

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      Actual and True to Life Portrayal. A realistic true-to-life portrayal of the characters in this novel of Forster has been acknowledged as a remarkable feature by all the critics. Forster was in India Only for a short time before he began writing this novel. Still he was able to observe the customs and conventions, rites and rituals, behavioral patterns and natural attitude of the different communities and present them without any undue prejudice and bias. He was not blind to the good points; nor did he portray the evil ones with a vengeance. What an impartial but keen observer could note, has been noted and depicted by him.

      The Two Main Communities. Forster has portrayed a few Muslims and a few Hindus as representative of their respective religious groups. Dr. Aziz and Professor Godbole are the main ones. Their attitudes towards the alien rulers as well as towards one another have been characteristically delineated with all the underlying hostility, suspicion and projected psychological complexes.

      Hostility of the Natives Towards Alien Rulers. The snobbery, arrogance and superiority complex of the bureaucrats had aroused the hostility of all the natives, but the author portrays the hostility of the Muslims as the more aggressive of the two. Hamidulla, a Cambridge graduate who has been very cordially treated by the Englishmen in their native setting did not get even ordinary courteous treatment from the Anglo-Indian officialdom. The City Magistrate, the Collector, the Superintendent of Police and lesser fry too did not hesitate to illtreat their subordinates and harass them frequently.

      Aziz. Aziz can be called the hero in this novel. He was a man of genial temperament. He was a widower with three children. He becomes acquainted with Mrs. Moore by chance and immediately begins to like and even venerate the elderly lady for her nicety of behavior and conversation.

      At the Bridge Party. The Collector, in a shrewd political move, invites some Indian leaders and officials for a get-together in order to "bridge the gulf between the rulers and the ruled." Aziz does not attend this as it was held on the very anniversary day of the death of his wife. Nawab Bahadur, a rich philanthropist leader of the Muslims, attends the party. The Indian women who attend the party are too reserved and shy to take any active part in the proceedings. Mrs. Bhattacharya invites Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested to their house, promising to send the carriage to fetch them but somehow forgets everything.

      Fielding's Party. Fielding, the college principal, throws a party for Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested which Aziz also attends along with Professor Godbole, a Maharashtrian Brahmin whose contention was that the English people snatched the Indian Empire from the Maharashtrians and not from the Moghuls. Godbole was enigmatically polite and less vociferous during the party. Ronny takes away Miss Quested and his mother from Fielding's party and warns them of Hindu, Muslim riots during Moharram. The professor's song on Krishna assuages the strained feelings of the people here.

      The Tussle between Hindus and Muslims. The main communities of India were a bit hostile to one another because each was fanatically devoted to its own customs and conventions, beliefs and basic notions. There is a clear hint of this in the novel.

      Aziz Invites the English Ladies to the Caves. Dr. Aziz makes elaborate arrangements for a picnic party at the Marabar Caves. The ladies are taken by train and then on elephant back to the site of the caves. Godbole and Fielding miss the train but Fielding arrives there by a car. The party ends tragically and Dr. Aziz is arrested on a charge by Miss Quested that he attempted to molest her.

      The Aftermaths of the Arrest. Dr. Aziz's arrest infuriates the natives who are quite sure that he was innocent. The Muslims are excessively annoyed. Nawab Bahadur undertakes to bear all the expenses connected with a legal defense of Dr. Aziz. The Indians clearly exhibit their solidarity against a common enemy when Miss Quested withdraws the charge and Dr. Aziz is honorably acquitted, the reaction of the Indians is spontaneously gay and boisterous. The two communities had come together in the hour of their crisis and naturally feel elated on their success. The Nawab Bahadur renounces his title and becomes plain Zulfikar. Dr. Pannalal would have been a prosecution witness if the trial had proceeded, but after its abrupt termination there is no necessity for it. still the Doctor apologizes for having consented to be the witness.

      Myths, Legends and Rituals of India have been referred to here and there in the course of the story. The celebration of Gokul Ashtami described in the last section is ennobling for its new interpretation despite its amusing character. How religious beliefs and devout feelings get deeply rooted in the lives of the common people is clearly shown in it.

      Aziz's Personal Relationship with the Foreigners. Azia is deeply touched by the news of the tragic death of Mrs. Moore. His anti-English feelings had never marred his respectful love towards the elderly lady. Although it was due to the importunity of Fielding that Dr. Aziz did not press his claim for a compensation from Miss Quested, yet he instinctively felt that Mrs. Moore, too, would not have approved of it, if he had been too adamant.

      Indo-British Friendship on a Personal Level. In the beginning itself Dr. Aziz was skeptical of the workability and even the advisability of a personal level friendship between an Indian and an Englishman or woman. Later on he attempted at it in the case of Fielding but miserably failed, partly due to his own undue credulity in rumors and partly due to the adverse character of the political atmosphere. Unless and until India became free and consequently the status of the Indians too came to the same level as that of the Englishmen, there cannot be any friendship at all—that is what Forster felt and conveyed in his novel.

      Inadequate Development of the Head. Forster was of the opinion that the Indians had a remarkable development of the heart but not of the head. They were immature because they did not eschew a narrow communal outlook when the clash of religious beliefs occurred. Pride of ancestral legacy and the consequent vanity together with irrational adherence to outmoded social conventions were a bane to all the Indians in the view of Forster.

University Questions

Is Forster's portrayal of the Indian characters in A Passage to India truthful? In what light does he present them?
Write a note on the Indian character in A Passage to bring out their attitudes to each other and to foreigners. Also comment on the maturity of their minds.
Forster fails miserably with the Hindu characters. Agree or disagree with this view giving an analytical justification for your opinion.

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