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Passage to India

In the Passages to India document, the author describes the City of Chandrapore as a deserted, uncared for and dirty beach. Upon reading the document, ones opinion of Chandrapore, or a native from Chandrapore, is decided by the characteristics surfacing visually without anyone taking the time and trouble to look at individual elements of the city (or people). Deciding the character of Chandrapore’s citizens or the image of the nation based solely on information given is called Orientalism. Edward W. Said thoroughly researched meanings of Orientalism.

Definitions of Orientalism are vague and broad, containing many different meanings depending on the specific subject discussed. Orientalism traditionally means study of the far eastern nations and cultures. Many misconceptions often derive as a result of Orientalism. When Orientalism occurs, there is potential discrimination. Orientalism is another way of stereotyping, type casting or concluding a fixed opinion based on hearsay, one excluded incident (usually negative) that made the headline news, or unexplained photographs. Many developed nations rely on its official leaders to present an overall view of how the country is perceived.

In any society not totilatarian, (centralized or represented by a leader) then, certain cultural forms predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others” (Orientalism, Page 7; par. 1). The Passage to India document, implies there is no government leaders representing Chandrapore. The city appears to have no ruling, no authority, and no organization, people make up their own rules as they see fit. “The streets are mean, the temples ineffective, and though a few fine houses exist, they are hidden away in gardens or alleys whose filth deters all but the invited guests” (Passages To India).

In Chandrapore, according to the document, it is perfectly acceptable in their culture to kill someone in the street if another persons rights are violated. “The streets are mean” translates to what actions are considered a violation of someone’s rights is completely to the discretion of that person. Regardless of one’s upbringing, religion or education, even if a child is never taught right from wrong, common sense does kick in at some point. We all know not to take or use items that belongs to someone else without permission. Courtesy is a behavior automatically understood without explanation or teaching.

In developed cultures, governments exist preventing the victim from shooting the thief, no matter how much he or she deserves it. One the other hand, someone in Chandrapore may consider someone ignoring them or refusing to engage in a conversation with them as a violation of their rights. Depending on the emotional stability of the ignored person, he or she may have tendencies to become violent. Should a person act out of rage for being ignored, there is still no government there to keep things in perspective. The rules are made up at each given situation, by the two people involved.

No one can deny certain facts about Chandrapore stand out. “Except for Marabar Caves, and twenty miles off, the City of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary” (Passages to India). On the long seashore, debris pollutes the entire area. The pollution is a natural part of Chandrapore. “River is scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish deposited so freely on the bank” (paraphrased; Passages to India). No one has a 9-5 job, no one goes to school all day long, why are the beaches allowed to get so dirty when everyone has all this free time?

The entire City of Chandrapore appears to be a place unlivable to anyone. “If we eliminate from the start any notion that “big” facts like imperial domination can be applied mechanically and deterministically to such complex matters and culture and ideas, then we will begin to approach an interesting kind of study” (Orientalism; Page 12, Par. 1). All city’s, even in developed areas have it’s good and bad areas. It is a fact (not understood fact) that where the unemployment is the highest, the area is the most unsanitary.

Not many people can understand why the areas becomes dirty in places people have so much leisure time, but the bad areas are what people talk about. The bad areas of the city are big characteristics what people talk about. Even in America, everyone speaks how dangerous Houston TX is, its exaggerated. Complaints about driving conditions are frequently mentioned. Again, its exaggerated. Everyone hears about the gentlemen’s clubs and adult bookstores in Houston, but no one hears about Hershey Park or the Houston Ballet. Chandrapore being an unkept area is a big fact everyone talks about.

The bad areas are the most visible. Eliminating the most obvious facts, Chandrapore never was a big city. They did not get grants and other funding from the government to continue developing. Perhaps something of more value to them is being overlooked, their morals and beliefs. In the 1800’s, “the zest for decorating stopped” (Passages to India). All of the nice houses currently in Chandrapore were built over two hundred years ago. Over two hundred years ago, Chandrapore was becoming a very elaborate glamorous city. The people decided not to continue with the city’s development.

The citizens of Chandrapore did not suddenly stop the city’s development for no reason at all. When a city acquires a government and government funding, there are stipulations. With rising economic class, certain behavior from individuals are expected. Cost of living rises for everybody. Simple, less expensive products are replaced with more costly, improved products. The results are less freedom. “There is nothing mysterious or natural about authority. It is formed, irradicated, disseminated; it is instrumental; persuasive; it has status, it establishes canons of taste and values.

It is virtually indistinguishable from certain ideas it dignifies as true and from traditions, perceptions and judgments it forms, transmits and produces. Above all, authority can and must be analyzed” ( Orientalism Pages 19-20; Paragraphs 4 & 1). The Passages to India does not say why the city was stopped from growing into a bigger city containing luxuries and conveniences. People can only assume or guess what the reasons were. The city valuing its freedom, or traditions and customs, more than the funding available from government grants may be one reason the city development was held up.

“Orientalism responded more to the culture that produced it than its putative (commonly accepted, or supposed or alleged) object” (Orientalism, Page 22; Par 3). “Chandrapore was never large or beautiful, but two hundred years ago, it lay on the road between Upper India, then Imperial, and the sea, and fine houses date from that period” (Passages to India). It appears undeveloped part of Chandrapore protected the developed part of the community. The nicer part of the city may have produced the bad area, by choice. This keeps outsiders out of the community.

Only people who know people living in the more affluent areas can have access to the nicer neighborhoods. Passages of India leaves the reader to fill in the blanks themselves. “If we eliminate from the start any big facts, we approach a more interesting study” (Orientalism). “Filth deters all but invited guests” (Passages to India). India may want the public to see the uninviting side of its culture to protect its individuality. During the 1800’s, the nation decided not to continue with the nations progression. On the inside however, Chandrapore may be very progressive and updated.

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