Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English
E. M. Forster wrote A Passage to India in 1924 after staying in India for just under a year as the secretary of a small principality’s maharajah. Although set in the 1920s, when Mahatma Gandhi and others were intensifying their resistance efforts, the novel mentions nothing about the unrest. This is one of many “questions” that the book raises.
To seek answers, I decided to visit India, taking up an invitation from Professor Harish Trivedi, head of the Department of English at the University of Delhi, to be a Visiting Professor. My flight to Mumbai arrived at 2.00 a.m. one day in December 2000, after completing a nine-month posting as a visiting researcher at the University of Cambridge.
My first challenge was to secure accommodation without being cheated by the local underworld figures so prevalent downtown. I knew that the first few days were toughest for foreigners, as Scottish and Korean students had told me that they faced outrageously high prices to stay in cheap lodgings.
I heard frightening tales almost daily. In one account, a kind-looking Indian couple rendered a Japanese train traveller nearly unconscious with a drugged banana. They were actually professional thieves. Then there was the story of a young Japanese woman hospitalized for typhus when she actually had acute gastritis, the point being that the institution lied to get the insurance money. These stories caused me to feel increasingly wary and hesitant. Then there were the excessively cumbersome...
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