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Book Review "Ravan & Eddie" by Kiran Nagarkar

Literature Review 2013 13 Pages

South Asian Studies, South-Eastern Asian Studies

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Summary of the Book

3. Presentation of Hinduism and Christianity

4. Evaluation

5. Conclusion

Bibliography

1. Introduction

There is no bigger distance on earth as the one separating two parallels from each other, even if they are very close to each other. One city, one chawl, two floors, two cultures, two languages, two religions and the enmity of two women separating them. How could their paths of life have crossed? [1]

Kiran Nagarkar's post-colonial novel was published in 1995. He tells a hilarious story set in the 1950s and 1960s about two boys: Ravan, a Maratha Hindu, and Eddie, a Roman Catholic. Both are growing up in the Central Works Department chawl number 17 in Bombay and even if they barely interact throughout the whole novel, their ways of life are very similar to each other.

I will provide a brief summary of the book, introducing the characters and storyline and describe Nagarkar's style of writing, which takes turns in the ongoing plot and documentary episodes.

The issue I want to concentrate on is the relationship and conflict between Hinduism and Christianity, two religions which coexist closely in the Indian chawl. The most important part of the book to refer to this topic is one documentary episode on neighbours, in which Nagarkar describes the life in the chawl in close detail and with much irony.

Thereafter, I will draw on books and articles of primary and secondary literature, to evaluate Nagarkar's presentation of Hinduism and Christianity in Bombay. To do so, I will explain the circumstances of that time and show similarities to the novel.

I will conclude that Nagarkar's novel provides a very good and real impression of what life and the Hindu-Christian relationship were like that time and is thus a good novel to delve into this era right after Indian independence. It is a good document of a contemporary witness, as I guess that Nagarkar has lived through a live in such a chawl himself or had at least some kind of first hand experience.

As I was working with a German version of the novel, I am not using any direct quotations from the book.

2. Summary of the Book

Ravan & Eddie is written by Kiran Nagarkar and is set in a Central Works Department Chawl[2] of the lower working class in Bombay in the mid of the 20th Century, after India became independent of British colonial rule.

It tells about two lives in this populated chawl where everyone hears and sees everything; the main characters are parents and their children. Ravan is the son of a Hindu family and Eddie a Catholic of Portuguese descent. What connects their lives is the fatal fall of little Ravan, when Eddie was not yet born. The first couple of pages are concerned with this incident: Eddies father Victor catches Ravan and dies on the spot, which is why Ravan is blamed to be the murderer of Victor. Ravan and Eddie perceive themselves as enemies.

The rest of the book is concerned with the growing up of Ravan and Eddie. The two boys are totally different from each other, but their ways of life are similar. Both of them are causing troubles quite often, but still remain innocent throughout the book. Many aspects separate them from each other: Ravan as a Hindu lives on the fourth floor of the chawl, Eddie in the fifth, where all Catholics live. They speak different languages and attend different schools. Ravan is kicked out of his Sabha[3] and instead learns Teakwondo and English, whereas Eddie becomes a member of the Sabha.

Their lives proceed parallel: both are interested in modern culture; Eddie watches Rock Around the Clock[4] and Ravan goes to Dil Deke Dekho[5]. Furthermore, both get involved in some kind of criminal business: Eddie discovers the black market to sell tickets and Ravan is asked by several people to kill someone for them.

The habitat of the chawl is highly interesting as different cultures are living there, and even if they do not mix, they get involved in each others lives and interact with each other. The way Nagarkar writes about them is very ironic. We perceive them through the eyes of children, who often do not understand certain traditions and believes and thus break with them. One passage deals exclusively on the difference between the Hindus and Christians in the chawl. On this I will refer to in detail in the relevant chapter, in which I will analyse his presentation of this relationship.

Overall, Rav an & Eddie is a very ironic novel that criticises on the two religions living that close with each other. The narrator is omniscient so that the reader is able to read the thoughts of all relevant characters. The style is highly informal most of the time, using vulgar language and lively metaphors, also playing with erotic language very often. The life in the chawl is described in close detail, which is enforced by short documentary and realistic writings in-between the plot. They could be left out, but reveal interesting issues on Indian culture and everyday life of the 1950s and 1960s in the Bombay chawl. Most of the time Nagarkar observes and comments on the daily life that is the central topic of the novel.

The narration is easy to follow and the language is simple. The centre of perception switches between Eddie and Ravan, through which Nagarkar philosophises and indirectly expresses opinions on circumstances back then. However, the reader does not follow one main plot, but many small stories, that are entangled with each other.

[...]


[1] Nagarkar 2006, p. 222; Translated from German: Es gibt keinen größeren Abstand auf Erden als denjenigen, den zwei Parallelen voneinander trennt, mögen sie einander auch noch so nah sein. Eine Stadt, ein Chawl, zwei Etagen, zwei Kulturen, zwei Sprachen, zwei Religionen und die Feinschaft von zwei Frauen trennten sie voneinander. Wie hätten sich ihre Lebenswege da kreuzen können?

[2] View title page. Special type of building from India with approx. 5 floors with 40 small rooms on each. In each rooms lives a whole family of 6 to 8 people. Water structures the daily live in the chawls, as there is more demand than supply. This is why there are fights over water very often when it does not run. (Nagarkar 2006, p. 82-87)

[3] Hindu youth group, part of RSS, compare chapter 4

[4] Western Rock'n'Roll music

[5] Hindi Romantic Comedy Film 1959

Details

Pages
13
Year
2013
ISBN (eBook)
9783656628262
ISBN (Book)
9783656628286
File size
496 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v270995
Institution / College
Charles University in Prague
Grade
1,0
Tags
book review kiran nagarkar eddie and ravan

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Title: Book Review "Ravan & Eddie" by Kiran Nagarkar