Saturday, 16 April 2011

GLOCALIZATION AND INDIAN ENGLISH NOVEL

'Globalization' is tentatively defined as the "interconnectedness" of nations at a purely surface level, namely economics. Viewed from the vantage point of the power of socio-cultural parameters, such as race, religion, language and the economy, 'globalization' is perceived as a narrative of contradictions and incoherence. If Arthur Miller, the famous American writer, called "the Arts" a highway into the soul of the people with the power to unlock the secrets of global cultures, and when Sandeep Pandey returned his Ramon Magsaysay Award prize money because he is against 'American Hegemony,' is globalization really a 'leveler' or a 'divider'? Is it 'exclusive' rather than 'inclusive'?
Culture, the soul of people, is territorially conditioned. Although 'globalization' is meant to be culturally neutral, the language and content in gaining access to it is made out to be culturally homogenizing. This paper plans to show that contrary to the technologically and economically superior developed worldview of globalization, powerful non-English cultural territories are in the process of a counter effect. The most general view of 'globalization' is of the dominant power. The modern world-system, "has been able to flourish precisely because [it] has had within its bounds not one but a multiplicity of political systems" (Wallerstein, 1974), which holds the keys to the lives of humanity. There are differing manifestations, such as a monoculture, global neighborhood, global governance; etc. The following cartoon is taken to represent the dominant power of globalization.
This paper tries to present some interpretations of the concept with indications that global integration is superficial. Global debate has enhanced the consciousness of societies to delimit its spread so as to maintain cultural boundaries.
A JOKE
! Globalization !
Question: What is the height of globalization?
Answer: Princess Diana's death.
Question: How come?
Answer: An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was high on Scottish whiskey, followed closely by Italian Paparazzi, on Japanese motorcycles, treated by an American doctor, using Brazilian medicines! And this is sent to you by an Indian, using Bill Gates' technology, which he barrowed from the Japanese. And you are probably reading this on one of the IBM clones that use Philippine-made chips, and Korean made monitors, assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by Lorries driven by Malaysians, hijacked by Indonesians and finally sold to you by a Chinese!
That's Globalization!
GLOBALIZATION: THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF NATIONS AT A PURELY SURFACE LEVEL
Through technological advances 'globalization' has come to mean the economic and cultural interconnectedness of people in a world bereft of borders. It is a complex metaphor the world is experiencing, possibly, with the motive to expand links across humanity, to evolve a global consciousness. It is synonymous with 'modernization.' But it is with shades of difference. If we consider the works of postcolonial writers such as Chinua Achebe or Amitav Ghosh, they view 'globalization' as an emerging global phenomenon with seeds of 'progress' and 'destruction'. For Sree Krishna Alanahalli it meant the urban market products unsettling the rural fabric of our society.

Globalization according to Waters (1995) is
A social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding"
Friedman (1999) views 'globalization' as
The inexorable integration of markets, nation states, and technologies to a degree never witnessed before, in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before ... the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world.
Therefore, 'globalization' can be perceived as a historical transformation to vigorously spread and propagate practices, values and technologies in shaping human activities. It is emerging as a political response to the expansion of market power - a domain of knowledge (Mittelman, 2000) where power is intended to be centralized and un-sharable, borne out by the fact that most world organizations are moral covers for powerful nations who rule the world through a smokescreen.
GLOBALIZATION – MANY MANIFESTATIONS
To some, 'globalization' is seen in concepts such as:
■Coco-colonization - a market created to promote a consumerist culture.
■Cultural imperialism overpowering local traditions; western ideals falsely established as universal.
■McDonaldization - a fast food doctored to spread efficient, controllable, and predictable human practices.
■Americanization - the hegemonic influence of the values and habits of the United States promoted through the news media and popular culture.
However, regardless of being a major phenomenon, which is crystallized through the Television media, political conflicts and rational progress through intellectual debates aggregates to what may be termed as constitutive streams of perhaps a common world culture.

GLOBALIZATION - CULTURAL ZONES
Race, religion, and language are the most potent symbols that keep nations across the world diverse as cultural zones. One view of literature on the concept of 'globalization' indicates that its effect is to encourage diversity, through 'Pluralization'; 'differentiation;' 'contestation;' 'glocalization;' and 'nation-states-institutionalization.'

v     Pluralization is the interaction across boundaries, which leads to the mixing of cultures in particular places and practices.
v     Differentiation is the cultural flow that occurs differently in different spheres and may originate in many places.
v     Contestation is integration and the spread of ideas and images provoking reactions and resistance.
v     Glocalization is global norms or practices, which are interpreted differently according to local tradition; the universal must take particular form.
v     Institutionalization is diversity that has itself become a global value, promoted through international organizations and movements, not to mention nation-states.

"Progressive" forces counter globalization crystallizing it as opposition of a "conservative" kind. For some religious activists it represents a civilizational threat. They perceive homogenization of the globe on secular terms as imposition of alien values. Some non-religious activists both 'right' and 'left,' see it as the hegemonic power of the United States that 'influences globalization to its own advantage, harming the economic, cultural, and environmental interests of the rest of the world' .

GLOBALIZATION - IMPACT OF DIFFERING MANIFESTATIONS
If 'globalization' is towards consolidation of a world society, it could mean 'social change,' or 'modernity.' Critics see it as 'an economic nightmare for the poor' or that 'it is not only a process but also a paradigm, a novel way of thinking about the world that has contradictory implications.'
Yogendra Singh (1993) views social change in India as merely change in its social structure, heightening social cleavages brought about by the new middle class and challenging traditional values in the race towards upward mobility. While clinging on to grass root cultural ideologies of caste, religion, and community, the social movement sweeping the country through the new middle class professionals, youth and women that cuts across caste, region and religion creates a culture where homogenization and heterogenization may actually operate in tandem or even reinforce each other, heightening incoherent societal contradictions.

EMPLOYMENT OF MINORITY GROUPS
In Karnataka, the scene to 'glocalize' is apparent from the many advances in connecting the village to the globe. The 'Bhoomi Project' of Karnataka government-to-citizen initiative, targeting farmers, has computerized 20 million land records as on 26.9.02, making land records easily available to farmers at an affordable price. One of the intentions being that it is the nucleus that connects the Indian villager with the world around him. The land records contain details of crops grown in specific areas, information which is of importance to companies to update their database. Development of the 'simputer,' low cost hand held computer, which uses indigenous language and software, is being geared targeting the rural base.
Mukhya Vahini, a government-to-government Management Information System is designed to be the digital cockpit for every decision maker in Karnataka with a view to decentralize the nature of governance in the State. E-transformation of the administration in Karnataka to e-governance in a phased manner to integrate departments, to simplify and rationalize procedures, and thereby restructure the system is in the same direction.

RECENT INDIAN ENGLISH NOVEL AT GLOCALIZATION
In a scene early in Vikram Chandra's massive 2006 cops-and-robbers novel Sacred Games, the small-time gangster Ganesh Gaitonde sells some stolen gold and feels, for the first time in his life, wealthy and powerful. He goes looking for pleasure on the streets, and a pimp offers him "a high-class cheez." But no sooner is Gaitonde left alone with the prostitute than he begins to feel set up. He has only one way of finding out whether his "cheez" is as high-class as promised. "Speak English," he orders the woman. When she complies, Gaitonde cannot understand the words, but it doesn't matter. "I knew that they were really English," he thinks to himself. "I felt it in the crack of the consonants."
But the tension has taken on a new form amid the growing appeal of the "global novel" -- a story that is pitched not just to a national but a worldwide audience, and thereby necessarily written in English. As the Indian novel in English, assisted by India's rising profile in global affairs, finds an audience wherever English is spoken, it often seems to sacrifice the particularities of Indian experience for a watered-down idiom that can speak to readers across the globe.
Often such books are received very differently by those at home and those away. For instance, Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (2008), the story of an antihero and a cutthroat new culture that rests upon and often perpetuates the inequities of the old India, won the Man Booker Prize and is now a global hit. Yet within India, the best-selling book did not make the short list for the Vodafone Crossword Book Award, the country's most prestigious prize for novels in English.
Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown (2005) is a novel that deals with the contemporary issues of a global culture, secularism, terrorism and so on. In this unique narrative that reminds one of the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's novels that deal with similar issues as well, Rushdie tries to look at the ways in which the idea of terrorism evolves and how it gets defined in the global culture. Similarly, the term secularism too is looked at from different perspectives, showing how it gains multiple layers of meaning that can be self-contradictory at times. Rushdie deconstructs these terms in the context of global culture, which again is a contestable term, as it is never static and difficult to define in terms of space or time. This attempts a reading of Shalimar the Clown with reference to the real-life events in different communities of the world that are inevitably undergoing the globalization process.
But in the hands of lesser writers, much of the specificity and charge of Indian life is simply lost when rendered in English, becoming paler, weaker, and more simplistic. So what readers around the world frequently find instructive, fresh, and moving about Indian novels available to them in English is often experienced by Indian readers as dull, clich├ęd, and superficial.
 Indeed, globalization has spawned a kind of hackneyed Indian novel that, even as it tells a story, acts as a primer on Indian and Pakistani history, politics, and culture, self-consciously offering bits of potted history and contextual explanation that seem absurd coming from characters rooted in a particular world. Such novels typically use history as a crutch, pegging their tales to wars of independence, revolutions, famous assassinations, or other public events. But for all their epic canvas, they are often novelistically banal and unambitious, content for the most part to repeat the familiar gestures of an enervated realism. The result, in books like Manil Suri's The Age of Shiva (2007) or Ali Sethi's The Wish Maker (2009), is homogenized, almost cynically calculated works that inhibit the power of the novel to illuminate a particular view of life or moment in history, and that seem, like any other consumer good, to want to stupefy rather than activate the imagination and intelligence of the receiver.
 Geetha Hariharan has rightly demarcated the globalisation in her novel “In Times of Siege” published in 2003.   It's the story of Shiv Murthy, professor at an Open University in Delhi, selected as In-Charge of B. A. History in part because his Department Head trusts him to ply his profession without noise or controversy.  Into Shiv's rather quiet and ordered life comes chaos. With wife away in Seattle visiting their grown IT-type daughter, he's called upon to care for Meena, a University student of whom he is the titular ward, during her sojourn in the capital. A broken knee sends her out of the hostel and into his study, where she sheds pheromones and broadcasts activist ideals as natural by-products of her twenty-something energy. Somewhat reluctantly, Shiv takes a personal leave to help care for her, and her presence in his downstairs study becomes the magnetic pole around which his daily life is spun.
Meanwhile, back at the Open University ranch, trouble is afoot. A Medieval History course module Shiv has written on Basava, the 12th century founder of the Virsaiva movement and the first of its great poets and saints has been attacked by a group of fundamentalists who accuse him of all manner of insults to orthodox feelings. Withdrawal of the module and an apology are demanded. Shiv refuses and all hell breaks loose. Mobs and mayhem, hate mail, media frenzy, demands for resignation, and even threats against his wife and daughter in Seattle besiege him.
The interweaving of the life story and vacanas of Basava, the rhetoric of the would-be-censors, the influence and tactics of Meena and her activist friends, and Shiv's childhood memories of his father (an idealistic freedom fighter who one day just disappeared) is done with skill and wit. There is plenty of wry humor -- and a few cheap shots (like naming the western Indologist who lends credence to Shiv's attackers Dr. Fraudley)-- all in counterpoint to a serious look at what can happen when society allows axes of hate to be ground on the backs of scholars.
Then, too, there is Meena and her pheromones. There are a few interludes that fairly drip with them.
And most of all there is what all this does to Shiv.
By the end of the book, he has let go of many self-doubts and found an unsuspected resolve to face "the predatory world outside." This healing comes as Meena, too, is ready to learn to walk again, free from her cast at last.
Githa Hariharan writes:
"Even Shiv, despite a long record of lost opportunities, has found his way to the brink; from where he can, if he dares, make the necessary leap off the precipice. He has used his father's memory like a walking stick en route to this first-time risk-taking venture. It is Meena who put this stick in his hand again, coaxed his limping legs in the direction he knew -- better than she -- must be taken. Now the stick is superfluous. This is what Meena and her unlikely allies in contingency, his father, Basava, and the thought-policing touts of the Itihas Suraksha Manch have forced Shiv to see. Once he throws away all safe crutches, he can truly walk in the present. Be free to be curious, to speculate; to debate, dissent. Reaffirm the value of the only heirloom he needs from the past, the right to know a thing in all the ways possible."
The personal consequences of this new resolve are never spelled out, and the novel ends with the departure of Meena, who, having dispensed with crutches, leans instead on Shiv's father's old walking stick as she makes her way to the car waiting to take her back to her old life.
There are quotes from Ramanujan's Basava translations throughout the book, which are always a pleasure, and having his story interwoven with the modern tale definitely increased my enjoyment of the book.
I'll sign off with one of my favorite quotes in the book:
"Things standing shall fall,
but the moving shall ever stay."
and another that's not in the novel, but seems appropriate: No. 129 from Speaking of Siva translated by A. K. Ramanujan

The sacrificial lamb brought for the festival
ate up the green leaf brought for the decorations
Not knowing a thing about the kill,
it wants only to fill its belly:
born that day, to die that day.
But tell me:    did the killers survive,     O lord of the meeting rivers?

“Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “Queen of Dreams” (2004) explores the connection between wakefulness and the subconscious. Rakhi, a first-generation American of Indian descent, is the daughter of a dream teller. A painter, she’s disconnected from her parents and divorced from her husband. Rakhi’s first steps to reconciliation come when a family member dies, and the horror of 9/11 creates another opportunity for resolving longstanding issues of alienation. This type of material can easily slip into melodrama, but Divakaruni resists easy solutions. Her prose is crisp, and the elegant rhythms of Divakaruni’s native Indian tongue give “Queen of Dreams” an exotic — and yes, dreamlike — quality.
Sanjay Subrahmanyam quoted in London Review about Aravind Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’ 2008 as follows:
 "We can’t hear Balram Halwai’s voice here, because the author seems to have no access to it. The novel has its share of anger at the injustices of the new, globalised India, and it’s good to hear this among the growing chorus of celebratory voices. But its central character comes across as a cardboard cut-out. The paradox is that for many of this novel’s readers, this lack of verisimilitude will not matter because for them India is and will remain an exotic place. This book adds another brick to the patronising edifice it wants to tear down."  
The response of Indian critics to the so-called global novel has frequently been to invest the fiction of regional or "vernacular" Indian languages with the magic tag of "the authentic." But this perspective itself is an instance of simplistic binary thinking. Not all Indian writing in English panders to a Western audience or reduces the gold of Indian life into the base metal of English; nor does all vernacular literature deserve the aesthetic label of authenticity.
India is so multilingual and multicultural that it might be more truthful to think of every Indian novelist, whether writing in English, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, or Gujarati, as a kind of translator. No novelists, whatever language they work in, can be said presumptively to be "authentic," as they sometimes are in the literary-critical wars in India today. Rather, novels earn their authenticity through their attention to specific details of character and situation and through the ingenuity of their problem-solving.
A better measure to judge the Indian novel in English should perhaps be "the specific," which is a less barbed and problematic concept than "the authentic." For it is in the details presented and the others left out, that any novel reveals the quality of its engagement with life and the presumptions it makes about its audience. All too often these days, the slice of Indian literature available to Western readers is at once too specific -- excelling in stating the obvious -- and not specific enough. The "global novel" has had to make many compromises to ensure its dominion.



Dr. D. B. Gavani, Head and Co-ordinator,
Post Graduate Department of Studies in English,
K. S. S. Arts, Commerce and Science College, Gadag – 582101

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