Layaal Hage's Reviews > Cracking India

Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa
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May 09, 12

Read in September, 2011

Although not one of my favorites, I really appreciated Cracking India for the compelling way in which Bapsi Sidhwa portrayed its appealing themes.

The most thrilling character is Ayah. What I love most about her is that her presence is daunting and powerful, but in a positive way. She has the power to turn heads and to assemble all the men, such as Ice-candy-man, Masseur, and the gardener, by simply having a strong personality. I also think she is the perfect representation of India! When the men of different religions were together, Ayah had power; she was the one that everyone desired. However, when the various sects started to separate, Ayah became weak and broken; and at her weakest point she was kidnapped and attacked. This matches the events that happened in India seamlessly, for when all Indians were one, India was in harmony. Nevertheless, when the men of different religions started to separate, India weakened, until a part of it became Pakistan.

Part of the story is told through Lenny as a child; thus, her innocence prevents her from knowing how to think and to react. We, as readers, are already frustrated by the appalling events, but we become even more frustrated by the fact that the witness does not react! For instance, when the Muslims killed the Hindus in Bhatti Gate, Lenny casually mentions the “[charred] limbs and burnt logs [falling] from the sky” (147). It is both an effective way to involve the reader in the narration and also to successfully make the reader feel for the characters!

What I found really incredible is the way in which she depicts the effects of the partition on people’s personal lives. Ice-candy-man was once madly in love with Ayah, but what does he do to her in the midst of all the struggles? He forces her into prostitution, and then decides to marry her. This just shows how a country’s partition emotionally affects its citizens and disrupts their personal lives. Also, Ayah’s and Lenny’s relationship is indirectly ruined by the partition. It is not Lenny’s innocent confession that destroys their relationship; it is rather the torments Ayah is put through by her so-called “friends” because she is Hindu – Ayah is too weak to nurture relationships.

Although, the rhythm picked up later on, I felt so bored by the beginning of the novel! It is really slow and introduces characters, such as Lenny and Ayah. Sidhwa could have rather jumped right into the plot, and through the plot implicitly incorporated the characters.

Unfortunately, I also thought that the actions were not very interesting. Kidnapping, and killing and raping in mosques are very striking incidents, but they are predictable! Bapsi Sidhwa could have spiced things up with a word or two from those who were killed. In that way, the actions are predictable, but the way they are told is not.

Cracking India is one of the few novels that I have read that has interesting themes, such as dehumanization, loss of innocence to maturation, and displacement. With magnificent characters, captivating themes, and an involving tone, what more could a reader ask for in a novel?
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