The term ‘Post-Colonial’ has gained attention in recent times. In the writings of Amitav Ghosh there is post colonial consciousness. In the novel An Antique Land the novelist Amitav Ghosh talks about the history of Egypt. In The Shadow Lines we can find aspects of colonialism in detail. Countries like India, Pakistan, Egypt, Myanmar and Bangladesh have been mentioned in the novel. In The Glass Palace the novelist talks about colonial expansion and its consequences in Burma, Malaya and India. In the present novel The Hungry Tide the problems of subalterns of Suderbans in West Bengal have been highlighted. Amitav Ghosh is pre occupied with Indian concerns in almost all of his novels. The Hungry Tide was published in 2005. This novel has been divided in two sections. First is ‘The Ebb: Bhata’ and the second is ‘The Flood: Jowar’. The setting of the novel is in Sunderbans which is the easternmost coast of India. There are two narratives in the novel. The narrative explored through Nirmal’s diary unfolds the Morichjhapi incident which happened twenty eight years ago and the second narrative is the research of Piya which reveals the contemporary life experiences of people and environment of Sunderbans. The central concern of the novel is interwoven in these two narratives which creates the problems and issues of wilderness conservation of Sunderbans.
The Hungry Tide is the novel which reflects various issues like adventure, prestige, love, identity, patience, language, displacement along with some noteworthy historical incidents. For the settlers attacks by tigers, eviction and unrest are common and it brings a great problem to them. The tidal floods and land slide presents threat to those settlers and they face several problem one after another. It seems that their problems are episodic in nature. Characters like Piyali Roy, Kanai Dutt and Fokirchand are very interesting. Piyali Roy is a student of Cytology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. It is interesting to note that she is an Indian descent but an American in nature. She has come at Sunderbans to complete her research on dolphin. Kanai Dutt is an entrepreneur who works as a translator in Delhi. He has come to Sunderbans on the request of aunt Nilima for the diary that Nirmal uncle left for him. Fokirchand is a fisherman who is not educated through books and scripture but he has vast knowledge of the wild life and river of Sunderbans. He lives there with his son Tutul. Here at this place most of the people are fisherman who is uncertain of their lives. Every moment they live under threats of landslides, flood, tigers attack and many more mis happenings. In another words it can be said that they live in compelled adversities of nature. The character Kanai and Piya interact with each other and Kanai thinks that Piya was hardly an Indian. It will become clear from the following lines of the novel-
“It occurred to him suddenly that perhaps, despite her silver nose-stud and the tint of her skin, she was not Indian, except by descent. And the moment the thought occurred to him, he was convinced of it: she was a foreigner, it was stamped in her posture, in the way she stood, balancing on her heels like a fly weight boxer, with her feet planted apart.”1In an incident when some tea drops over Kanai’s paper by Piya mistakenly then the reaction of Kanai is noteworthy. Piya offers him tissue paper and they are engaged into a conversation. It further evokes the question of their identity. It is evident from the following lines of the novel
“Do I really have a choice? he said in a tone more challenging than ironic. ‘Does anyone have a choice when they’re dealing with American these days? Piya had no wish to get into an argument so she let this pass. Instead she opened her eyes wide, feigning admiration, and said. ‘But how did you guess?
About my being American? You are very observant.
This seemed to mollify him. His shoulders relaxed as he leaned back in his seat. I did guess, he said. ‘was it my accent?’
Yes, he said with a nod.”2
Thus it becomes evident that the novelist has given us a hint that language is a very important aspect related to identity. It is one of the reasons that it is one of the themes of the present novel. Fokirchand is a man who helps Piya in her research because he has a good knowledge of that geographical area. It has already been stated that Fakirchond is not an educated man but still Piya and Fokirchand manages to talk to each other through their body language. It means that body language has nothing to do with identity because it is the identity of humanity. Kanai translates the knowledge of Fokir in case Piya misunderstands him. Thus, the role of translation in post colonial literature is very important. It helps in identity formation. Childs has remarked about the concept of language and identity that-
“ In both literature and politics the post colonial drive towards identity centers around language… For the post- colonial to speak or write in the imperial tongues is to call forth a problem of identity, to be thrown into mimicry and ambivalence.”3
Thus we can figure out that the difference between language and place stands for identity and environment. The language barrier creates a problem in understanding the surrounding. It leads to strangeness and alienation. Piya and Fokirchand are well versed in their own language. The problem starts when they communicate and it is communicated to both of them that they are strange and foreign to each other. Piya finds it difficult to know about the place and Fokirchand finds it difficult to make her aware about the place.
- Ghosh, Amitav, “The Hungry Tide” ,Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2007, p.3
- Childs, Peter and Patrick Williams, “ An Introduction to post colonial theory”, Essex, England, 1977, p.193