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Of Sadhus and Spinners (Australian Encounters with India)
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About the Book

 

Despite a 'shared history of British imperialism, and commonalities like the English language, a democratic polity and a craze for cricket, Australians and Indians know very little about each other. Of Sadhus and Spinners attempts to correct this with a range of stories that trace the chequered history of interactions between the two nations.

 

From John Lang's 'The Mohammedan Mother' (1859) to Yasmine Gooneratne's 'Masterpiece' (2002), the stories in this anthology foreground a variety of literary responses to Indo-Australian encounters. There are stories here of Australian visitors to India who face not only physical hardships but also challenges to their image of themselves as democratic and egalitarian, and tales that indicate the Australian's fascination with the figure of the guru. Also included are stories about and by Indians-immigrants or temporary visitors-in Australia. While 'Kumari', by pioneering writer Mena Abdullah, reveals racial prejudice in rural Australia, Manik Datar's 'My Sister's Mother' brings the comedy of cultural difference into play in the setting of a suburban kitchen.

 

Thoughtful, exploratory and often just wide-eyed in its observation of strange new worlds, the anthology provides insights into an array of fascinating cross-cultural encounters-emotional, physical and spiritual-between Australia and India over the past century and a half.

 

Introduction

 

THE STORIES IN THIS ANTHOLOGY show a variety of encounters-mental, physical and spiritual-of Australians with India over the past century and a half. Readers of these stories will engage with human dramas which reveal a fascinating range of cross-cultural encounters and emotional responses to them. Many of these stories go beyond a mere touristic interest in India and reveal interesting observations and insights within the narrative frames chosen by their authors.

 

Twenty-first century Australians like to see themselves as developing a special relationship with countries of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Yet the stories in this volume trace a chequered history of human interactions with India, ranging from bewilderment and anxiety to humour and happiness. Despite their shared history of British imperial ambition and positive legacies such as the English language, democratic institutions and the inestimable game of cricket, Australians and Indians know very little about each other's literature. This selection of stories attempts to fill part of that gap by showing a range of Australian responses to India. Perhaps it will stimulate a later volume of Indian literary responses to Australia.

 

Cross-cultural narratives come from nineteenth-century writers as well as from more contemporary Australians. John Lang's 'The Mohammedan Mother', for instance, was published in 1859 and shows the quality of an Indian woman's love for her husband and child that verges on 'devotional'. Described by CO. Narasimhaiah as 'the first Australian-born novelist on Indian soil', Lang lived for many years in India and edited a newspaper, Mojussilite, in Meerut. As he thinks about an Indian woman to whom he is attracted, Lang's narrator exhibits an understanding of the woman's psyche, her devotional and sacrificial nature. The outsider's insight may reveal as much about himself as about the' other'.

 

Another nineteenth-century Australian author to show a special interest in India was Alfred Deakin. Deakin visited India in the early 1890s, before rising to prominence as Australia's second prime minister. Deakin's graphic description of ' irrigated India', with its focus on the physical and spiritual value of water in dry countries together with his later statements about the need for dialogue between Australian and Indian thinkers in universities, retains its prophetic force a century later.

 

The charm and fascination that Indian folklore can hold for an Australian reader or listener is evident in several stories in this volume. In Mary C. Elkington's 'The Soul of the Melon Man' (I 908), for instance, her character Mrs Seymour listens closely to the narrative of her Ayah, which epitomizes the value of renunciation-a virtue often seen as central to Indian philosophical thought. A different twist is given to traditional tales in Sri Lanka-born Australian author Yasmine Goonerarne's story 'Masterpiece'. This story, based on a tale Gooneratne had heard on a train trip from New Delhi to Hyderabad in 1995, presents a clash between the 'modern' egalitarian expectations of Australians and traditional Indian notions of the 'genius' of a poet. With consummate skill, Gooneratne (who has researched and published on Jane Austen), creates an amusing comedy of competing cultural styles, values and issues.

 

There is no space in this Introduction to introduce the reader to the full range of interests and literary qualities represented in this anthology. But we can point to some recurring interests and concerns. Prominent among these are the stories of Australian visitors to India who encounter not only physical hardships, but also challenges to their image of themselves as democratic and egalitarian (eg. Clark, Koch). On the other hand, David Maloufs autobiographical essay-story 'A Foot in the Stream' reveals a relaxed, liberal and democratic attitude and a certain awe as the narrator observes the patience of Indian crowds. Humour is introduced in Dal Stivens's cricket story 'The Strange Business at Bombay and Madras'. The story reveals cricketers and commentators on the great game to be 'spinners' in more ways than one.

 

A number of stories in this book cluster around the figure of the guru, indicating an Australian fascination with this figure. The role of gurus (and sometimes sadhus, or holy men) as enunciators of Indian philosophy and expounders of Indian texts is widely accepted and respected in India, but their role as spiritual guides and instruments of liberation is questioned by many Hindus. For the outsider, the guru is often fore grounded as a marker of Hinduism, especially in an age when yoga has acquired followers a poetic transcendence through yoga of what could otherwise have been a superficial touristic experience. Satendra and an, a Fiji-born Australian, provides a contrasting comic perspective on his schoolteacher guru. Geoffrey Bewley's story 'Passage from India' offers both perspectives-the adulation of a true believer and the ironic scepticism of an Australian male who sees the guru's influence destroying his marriage.

 

This collection also contains stories about Indians in Australia-as immigrants, or temporary visitors. Mena Abdullah deserves special notice as a pioneer writer of Indian descent. She was born in Australia in 1930, the daughter of a Punjabi man who had arrived in Australia in the 1880s. Mena was brought up on a farm in New South Wales. In 'Kumari', the narrator describes herself as 'a dark girl in a white man's country, a Punjabi Muslim in a Christian country'. The incidents depicted in this story tell of racial prejudice in rural Australia as well as compassionate Australians who care for the newcomers. The story reveals the attempt by members of the narrator's family to keep the culture of their homeland alive, together with the pleasures and perils of attempting to do this. Mena Abdullah's tale of an upbringing in rural Australia has its counterpart in stories by urban or suburban Indians in Australia in the late twentieth or early twenty-first century, including Sujatha Fernandes and Manik Datar. In her delightful story 'My Sister's Mother', Manik Datar brings the comedy of cultural difference into play within the setting of a suburban kitchen.

 

The stories in this anthology, including those not mentioned in this Introduction, display a variety of literary responses to the interaction of Australians and Indians since the mid-nineteenth century. In these stories, we see Australian writers grappling with Indian realities and the literary forms with which to engage them. We also see the early stages of an Indian diaspora engaging with the geography and culture of Australia. Of Sadhus and Spinners: Australian Encounters with India offers both literary interest and new perspectives on a changing world of which Australian- Indian relations are a vital part. We believe that the stories in this book will give further depth to a bilateral relationship which is set to thrive in the early twenty-first century.

 

Contents

 

Introduction

vii

1.

The Mohammedan Mother

1

2.

Our Nearest Great Country

18

3.

The Soul of the Melon Man

22

4.

My Friend, the Maharajah

26

5.

Black and White

31

6.

The Khyber Pass and a Kidnapping

36

7.

A Democrat on the Ganges

47

8.

Mrs James Greene

55

9.

Kumari

82

10

Sadhus and Sahibs

89

11.

The Clothesline in the Himalayas

99

12.

Meeting Mister Ghosh

102

13.

The Elephant Stop

111

14.

The Strange Business at Bombay and Madras

115

15.

Passage from India

126

16.

A Foot in the Stream

142

17.

The Guru

149

18.

Monsoon

159

19.

Maisie Goes to India

166

20.

My Sister's Mother

183

21.

A Pocket Full of Stories

187

22.

Masterpiece

192

Notes on Contributors

199

Notes on Editors

203

Copyright Acknowledgments

204

 

Sample Page


Of Sadhus and Spinners (Australian Encounters with India)

Item Code:
NAJ616
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2009
ISBN:
9788172238483
Language:
English
Size:
8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Pages:
216
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 240 gms
Price:
$20.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

 

Despite a 'shared history of British imperialism, and commonalities like the English language, a democratic polity and a craze for cricket, Australians and Indians know very little about each other. Of Sadhus and Spinners attempts to correct this with a range of stories that trace the chequered history of interactions between the two nations.

 

From John Lang's 'The Mohammedan Mother' (1859) to Yasmine Gooneratne's 'Masterpiece' (2002), the stories in this anthology foreground a variety of literary responses to Indo-Australian encounters. There are stories here of Australian visitors to India who face not only physical hardships but also challenges to their image of themselves as democratic and egalitarian, and tales that indicate the Australian's fascination with the figure of the guru. Also included are stories about and by Indians-immigrants or temporary visitors-in Australia. While 'Kumari', by pioneering writer Mena Abdullah, reveals racial prejudice in rural Australia, Manik Datar's 'My Sister's Mother' brings the comedy of cultural difference into play in the setting of a suburban kitchen.

 

Thoughtful, exploratory and often just wide-eyed in its observation of strange new worlds, the anthology provides insights into an array of fascinating cross-cultural encounters-emotional, physical and spiritual-between Australia and India over the past century and a half.

 

Introduction

 

THE STORIES IN THIS ANTHOLOGY show a variety of encounters-mental, physical and spiritual-of Australians with India over the past century and a half. Readers of these stories will engage with human dramas which reveal a fascinating range of cross-cultural encounters and emotional responses to them. Many of these stories go beyond a mere touristic interest in India and reveal interesting observations and insights within the narrative frames chosen by their authors.

 

Twenty-first century Australians like to see themselves as developing a special relationship with countries of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Yet the stories in this volume trace a chequered history of human interactions with India, ranging from bewilderment and anxiety to humour and happiness. Despite their shared history of British imperial ambition and positive legacies such as the English language, democratic institutions and the inestimable game of cricket, Australians and Indians know very little about each other's literature. This selection of stories attempts to fill part of that gap by showing a range of Australian responses to India. Perhaps it will stimulate a later volume of Indian literary responses to Australia.

 

Cross-cultural narratives come from nineteenth-century writers as well as from more contemporary Australians. John Lang's 'The Mohammedan Mother', for instance, was published in 1859 and shows the quality of an Indian woman's love for her husband and child that verges on 'devotional'. Described by CO. Narasimhaiah as 'the first Australian-born novelist on Indian soil', Lang lived for many years in India and edited a newspaper, Mojussilite, in Meerut. As he thinks about an Indian woman to whom he is attracted, Lang's narrator exhibits an understanding of the woman's psyche, her devotional and sacrificial nature. The outsider's insight may reveal as much about himself as about the' other'.

 

Another nineteenth-century Australian author to show a special interest in India was Alfred Deakin. Deakin visited India in the early 1890s, before rising to prominence as Australia's second prime minister. Deakin's graphic description of ' irrigated India', with its focus on the physical and spiritual value of water in dry countries together with his later statements about the need for dialogue between Australian and Indian thinkers in universities, retains its prophetic force a century later.

 

The charm and fascination that Indian folklore can hold for an Australian reader or listener is evident in several stories in this volume. In Mary C. Elkington's 'The Soul of the Melon Man' (I 908), for instance, her character Mrs Seymour listens closely to the narrative of her Ayah, which epitomizes the value of renunciation-a virtue often seen as central to Indian philosophical thought. A different twist is given to traditional tales in Sri Lanka-born Australian author Yasmine Goonerarne's story 'Masterpiece'. This story, based on a tale Gooneratne had heard on a train trip from New Delhi to Hyderabad in 1995, presents a clash between the 'modern' egalitarian expectations of Australians and traditional Indian notions of the 'genius' of a poet. With consummate skill, Gooneratne (who has researched and published on Jane Austen), creates an amusing comedy of competing cultural styles, values and issues.

 

There is no space in this Introduction to introduce the reader to the full range of interests and literary qualities represented in this anthology. But we can point to some recurring interests and concerns. Prominent among these are the stories of Australian visitors to India who encounter not only physical hardships, but also challenges to their image of themselves as democratic and egalitarian (eg. Clark, Koch). On the other hand, David Maloufs autobiographical essay-story 'A Foot in the Stream' reveals a relaxed, liberal and democratic attitude and a certain awe as the narrator observes the patience of Indian crowds. Humour is introduced in Dal Stivens's cricket story 'The Strange Business at Bombay and Madras'. The story reveals cricketers and commentators on the great game to be 'spinners' in more ways than one.

 

A number of stories in this book cluster around the figure of the guru, indicating an Australian fascination with this figure. The role of gurus (and sometimes sadhus, or holy men) as enunciators of Indian philosophy and expounders of Indian texts is widely accepted and respected in India, but their role as spiritual guides and instruments of liberation is questioned by many Hindus. For the outsider, the guru is often fore grounded as a marker of Hinduism, especially in an age when yoga has acquired followers a poetic transcendence through yoga of what could otherwise have been a superficial touristic experience. Satendra and an, a Fiji-born Australian, provides a contrasting comic perspective on his schoolteacher guru. Geoffrey Bewley's story 'Passage from India' offers both perspectives-the adulation of a true believer and the ironic scepticism of an Australian male who sees the guru's influence destroying his marriage.

 

This collection also contains stories about Indians in Australia-as immigrants, or temporary visitors. Mena Abdullah deserves special notice as a pioneer writer of Indian descent. She was born in Australia in 1930, the daughter of a Punjabi man who had arrived in Australia in the 1880s. Mena was brought up on a farm in New South Wales. In 'Kumari', the narrator describes herself as 'a dark girl in a white man's country, a Punjabi Muslim in a Christian country'. The incidents depicted in this story tell of racial prejudice in rural Australia as well as compassionate Australians who care for the newcomers. The story reveals the attempt by members of the narrator's family to keep the culture of their homeland alive, together with the pleasures and perils of attempting to do this. Mena Abdullah's tale of an upbringing in rural Australia has its counterpart in stories by urban or suburban Indians in Australia in the late twentieth or early twenty-first century, including Sujatha Fernandes and Manik Datar. In her delightful story 'My Sister's Mother', Manik Datar brings the comedy of cultural difference into play within the setting of a suburban kitchen.

 

The stories in this anthology, including those not mentioned in this Introduction, display a variety of literary responses to the interaction of Australians and Indians since the mid-nineteenth century. In these stories, we see Australian writers grappling with Indian realities and the literary forms with which to engage them. We also see the early stages of an Indian diaspora engaging with the geography and culture of Australia. Of Sadhus and Spinners: Australian Encounters with India offers both literary interest and new perspectives on a changing world of which Australian- Indian relations are a vital part. We believe that the stories in this book will give further depth to a bilateral relationship which is set to thrive in the early twenty-first century.

 

Contents

 

Introduction

vii

1.

The Mohammedan Mother

1

2.

Our Nearest Great Country

18

3.

The Soul of the Melon Man

22

4.

My Friend, the Maharajah

26

5.

Black and White

31

6.

The Khyber Pass and a Kidnapping

36

7.

A Democrat on the Ganges

47

8.

Mrs James Greene

55

9.

Kumari

82

10

Sadhus and Sahibs

89

11.

The Clothesline in the Himalayas

99

12.

Meeting Mister Ghosh

102

13.

The Elephant Stop

111

14.

The Strange Business at Bombay and Madras

115

15.

Passage from India

126

16.

A Foot in the Stream

142

17.

The Guru

149

18.

Monsoon

159

19.

Maisie Goes to India

166

20.

My Sister's Mother

183

21.

A Pocket Full of Stories

187

22.

Masterpiece

192

Notes on Contributors

199

Notes on Editors

203

Copyright Acknowledgments

204

 

Sample Page


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