English Speaking Countries: India di Marilena Nicoletta

Literary Link

In the previous sections, we mentioned Delhi and poor people’s desperate conditions. In this section, you’ll find a short analysis of a passage taken from a well known Indian author Salman Rushdie .[E1] [S1][F1].

I chose this passage because it offers a cruel but exact glimpse of Indian poverty.

"There have been many, many cities of Delhi and the Old Fort, that blackened ruin, is a Delhi so ancient that, beside it, our own Old City is merely a babe in arms. (...)As she enters these causeways, where poverty eats away at the tarmac like a drought, where people lead their invisible lives (...)something new begins to assail  her.Under the pressure of  these streets, which are growing narrower and narrower by the minute, more crowded  by the inch, she has lost her "city eyes" . When you have city eyes you cannot see the invisible people, (...) the beggars in box cars don't impinge on you , and the concrete sections of future drainpipes don't look like dormitories. My mother lost her city eyes and the newness of what she was seeing made her flush , newness like a hailstorm pricking her cheeks. Look my God, those beautiful children have black teeth! Would you believe ...girl children baring their nipples! How terrible, truly! And Allahtobah, heaven forfend,  sweeper women with -no!- how dreadful! -collapsed spines,and bunches of twigs, and no caste marks; untouchables, sweet Allah!...and cripples everywhere, mutilated by loving parents to ensure them of a lifelong income from begging. ...yes beggars, in boxcars, grown men with babies' legs, in crates on wheels, made out of discarded roller- skates and old mango boxes, (...) Children tugging at the pallu of her sari , heads everywhere staring at my mother , who thinks, it's like being sorrounded by some terrible moster, a creature with heads and heads and heads; but she corrects herself, no, of course not a monster, these poor poor people- what then? A power of some sort, a force which does not know its strength, which has perhaps decayed into impotence through never having been used....

No, these are not decayed people , despite evrything. "I'm frightened ", my mother finds herself thinking , just as a hand touches her arm. Turning , she finds herself looking into the face of -impossible!- a raggedy hand  and says in a voice like a high foreign song, "Give something, Begum Sahiba..." and repeats and repeats like a stuck record while she looks with embaressement into a white face with long eyelashes and a curved patrician nose- embaressement , because he was white, and begging was not  for white people.".......


The teacher wants to

-          help students to better visualize where the text takes place;

-          help students to reflect on the Indian linguistic situation and on influences that British colonization exerted on it;

-          contextualize the work by giving some essential information about the author and the plot.

The students should be able to

-          catch some specific information in a literary text

-          analyse the background description and become aware of how the background can mirror the characters’ feelings;

-          point out the figure of speech used to make the description more vivid;

-          recognize what kind of narrator or narrative technique is employed to tell the story;

-          list the characters in which the main theme is materialized;


An Indian map.

Each student is given a copy of the text they are going to analyse: A section from The Book One, 6th  chapter “ Many headed monster”, taken from Midnight’s Children by Rushdie.


The teacher shows an Indian map to the students and asks them to point out the most important centres.

The teacher asks them if and why India can be defined an English Speaking country. (Which is the first language? Where did it become independent? -This data is meaningful as the plot began at the stroke of midnight on 15th August, 1947, at the precise moment of India’s independence-. )

He explains that they are going  to read a passage taken from “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie.

The teacher briefly introduces the author and gives some information about the plot (when and where the story began , who the main characters are, what the story was about….).

Background analysis.

Silent reading

Exploring the city…

Where does the episode take place?

How does the narrator describe the city, in general, and the streets, in particular?

What sensations does this description evoke?

Horror       Despair             Resignation

Repugnance    Disbelief

The narrator

Who is the narrator?

What kind of narrator is she?

At a certain point the narrator looses her city eyes and realizes all the drama of the situation, what metaphor describes this sudden painful awareness?

When the narrator looses her city eyes, what does she notice?

List the vivid description given by the narrator.

§         Children

§         Sweeper Women

§         Beggars

§         White beggars

The monster

The narrator uses a terrible, but incisive metaphor to describe all the cruel realities she experiences. What is it?

Underline it in the text.

The author doesn’t use exclusively the organs of sight to describe the scene, but also another sense. Which one? When?




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