Brief Account of V.S.Naipaul’s Description of India in His Book ”an Area of Darkness

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V.S.Naipaul’s “An Area of Darkness” is a semi-autobiographical account of a year he spent in India in 1964 in which he describes the country from his outlook. The book is written in the first person narrative voice and Naipaul uses descriptive passages very well to outline his themes. The title ‘’An Area of Darkness’’ refers to India and many of the negative aspects of the Indian culture is highlighted and Naipaul seems to see the whole bleakness of the culture at every stage. Naipaul gives the reader a vivid insight into the various sects and cultural systems dominating India. Naipaul analyses the whole colonial process and there is a copious references to the Hinduism and Muslims and Buddhism and he paints some vivid pictures of the various customs, which the people engage in.

Naipaul description of India is impulsive and anecdotal. His description is his observation and is based on his assessment of the Indian characters as romantic, emotional and exotic, which is typical Western orientalist bravura. Naipaul describes India from four points of view – poverty, caste, defecation, and failure. But Naipaul being Naipaul manages to transform the squalor of the world he observes into clean, cold and lucid prose. Naipaul says that poverty is a key aspect of Indian culture and he contributes a good deal to the reason why he chose the title for his book. Naipaul abounds in his story the extreme poverty of the Country and says India as “the poorest country of the world”. He analyses in a very logical way the reasons why he thinks poverty exists in such a real way in India. He mentions in one stage how divorce of the intellect from the body labour has made of us the most resource less and the most exploited nation on earth’. Naipaul abounds grim and rather depressing images of poverty of the country in his book. Naipaul describes his paying a trip to a village who in order meets one emaciated Ramachandra who is surrounded in dire poverty he is appalled and simply want to leave the country at once. Poverty is seen as a self-defeating and destructive reality in India as seen by Naipaul.

Naipaul describes India with several stories and anecdotes about his time in India. He opened the book with a little exploration of the often Byzantine if not Sisyphean paperwork and bureaucracy of India, describing his trials and tribulations of simply trying to import a bit of alcohol to the dry port of Bombay. He describes Bombay that it was not the city he had expected to be, Prohibition-dry, bearing whisky and cheap brandy, he experienced a cultural estrangement from the country. He said that he hated to be the part of a crowd at the Church gate station and craved for preferential treatment, something that he had always got-in Trinidad. In India he found no special attentions of the Indians. He described groups of sweepers who cleaned a set of stairs; after they worked with twig brooms, rags and buckets of dirty water, the stairs and walls are not only not cleaner but dirtier than ever. However they fulfilled their function, which was to sweep, or rather to be sweepers. According to Naipaul, actual cleanliness was not the issue. He says that the Indians have been known to be picnicking on the banks of a river while some drowned, not lifting a finger to help. He writes that the Indians do not lack courage or an admiration for it, but rather see courage and the choice to risk one’s life to save another the function only of soldiers. Attempts to save government jobs for untouchables is not lauded, as this merely in many Indian’s eyes simply puts responsibility into the hands of those unqualified – by their caste – to perform that function. Those who buck the caste system, or are outside of it, such those Indians who were born overseas, are not accepted by the system and often frustrated. Naipaul described of many squatters he saw in India. He wrote of people squatting and defecating beside railway tracks, along river banks, on the streets,...
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