Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Crow Eaters is a picture of Parsi community and its culture but there is in the novel shown a tendency among new generation of Parsees to adopt from other cultures hence a mixing of cultures. Do you agree?

Parsees are a marginalized community. They are well off but yet a minority—a limited minority. In The Crow Eaters Bapsi Sidhwa has taken a valiant step to introduce this community in a detailed manner to others. The story from the beginning till end revolves around the Parsi culture and its way of living. But after all it is a story. Its characters grow in years with the time and a new generation is seen being brought up which accepts the changing from around them. Being a minority Parees has to live and have interaction with the people from outside their community. The first indication of their problem to have interaction with others comes in front with the reference of their sending their children to missionary schools.

Knowledge of English education in a Christian missionary school was considered essential, not because of superior instruction or knowledge but as it offered a chance for rapid social mobility.
The interaction of two cultures naturally produces tensions when for instance Putli, the wife of Freddy, resists change:
“What revolted Putli most was the demand that she, a dutiful and God-fearing wife, must walk a step ahead of her husband. She considered this hypocritical and pretentious, and most barbarous.”
Putli adopted to what she considered new-fangled customs, when she and her husband were invited to the formal tea-parties on the gracious lawns of the Government House. She is cajoled to these functions by her husband, for whom it is an opportunity for advancing contacts and consolidating friendships. The Parsi milieu of Putli had a different value system, which the author highlights:
“Deep-rooted in the tradition of a wife walking three paces behind her husband, their deportment was as painful to Putli as being marched naked in public.”
The changing social milieu and identity crisis which Bapsi Sidhwa accurately depicts was distinctively visible amongst Parsis in British India and is a social problem for many in the community.
But interestingly the young generation has lesser panic with the changing social values. Where Putli can never accept to walk ahead of her husband, the daughter of Putli, Yasmin feels no problem in doing this. When Putli snubs her for doing this she laughs the matter away saying that it is the wish of her husband.
The next generation of Parsis Behram and Tanya slowly discard the traditional dress. Tanya, for instance, still wore a sari, but it was more revealing:
“She became daring in her attire and tied her sari in a way that accentuated the perfections of her body. She took to wearing a little make-up and outlined the astonishing loveliness of her lips.”
However in form of dress, even Behram is still traditional. He urges and argues with Tanya, not to reveal her midriff so glaringly or to look boldly and mix freely with other men, as the intentions are misconstrued. Even in the relationships between man and woman, Faredoon and later his son Behram adopt double standards. Behram especially wants Tanya to appear Westernized and talk English.

However at home, he wants his wife to be servile and domestic, always at his beck and call. So the novel aptly reveals the Parsi milieu in the throes of change.

To marry outside the community is considered unbearable among Parsees. But Yazdi, the son of Faredoon, dare to love an Anglo-Indian girl. He does not have belief in the rule of not going outside the community. When forced to leave the girl, he leaves the family and the faith as well.

The Crow Eaters is a multi-dimensional novel. Its chief concern is to depict the Parsi community, its culture and way of life. But there are a number of other issues and points in it though they are not dealt with in detail. A minority always faces a problem in keeping itself aloof and detached from others. Parsees too face this problem. A culture cannot be kept untouched by others when it has to go side by side with them. Obviously it's natural for it to have a mild give and take phenomenon. The Crow Eaters throws a thin ray of light on this point and one can find a couple of examples of this while going through the pages of the novel.

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