A reading of THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY and RANGA’S MARRIAGE

These two stories prescribed for class XI are the finest examples of post-colonial resistance to westernisation.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
Khushwant Singh’s story of the grand mother and her grandson is an attempt to showcase the transition period in
India, the transition from the rural to the urban. Urbanisation, westernisation and invasion of our culture,
language,science/medicine and values were undergoing a change in the British and post-British period in India.
The spread of English language was one of the obvious signs of the change. One cannot abruptly conclude that
the change/shift/transition was without resistance. The two dominant characters in Khushwant Singh’s story
represent the two ethos. The village education described in graphic detail in the story is nothing short of a
microcosmic picture of the Indian ethos and Indian education system. The education system in India was never a
dissociated or fragmented concept. It was always integrated with life and nature. It held that there is no
point in education if it is not connected to the life and people around. The story clearly depicts how the dogs
in the village (representing animals and life around)were always an integral and inseparable part of life and
education. Education was mostly based on religion and spirituality where one was expected to learn greater or
simpler(simply greater!)aspects of life. The children at the village school learn hymns from scriptures from
the priest in the temple. Grandmother’s first cultural shock is about the education her grandson receives in
the city school. He is being fed upon Western ideas and language and she is just one of those who felt the
deterioration of our values and life style in its intense gravity. She finds life so disintegrated in the
city(stands for westernized system)where there are no dogs in the city, her grandson is given a room of his
own(the western notion of “privacy” sets in family), they hardly meet each other, he repeats English words and
talks about the subjects he learns, goes by bus to school etc. She realizes the gradual marginalisation of
her significance in moulding his character and life. But she resists the change and the cultural conversion he
and his parents have undergone in many ways: use of the spinning wheel(even today it is a symbol of our lost
identity), chanting and telling the beads of the rosary, reading the scriptures and feeding the sparrows. She
leads a life of resistance instead of just voicing it. In the end of the story, her resistance grows
stronger when the invasion is quite obvious and aggressive on her. She spurns the words and medicines of the
doctor(the western medical treatment)and devotes herself to prayer.

Khushwant Singh’s grandmother,therefore, ceases to be a person and manifests the voices of resistance against cultural invasion.
RANGA’S MARRRIAGE

Masti Venkatesha Iyengar’s story poignantly satirizes colonisation and cultural invasion. The first few paragraphs
of the story clearly question the politics of mapping. The narrator describes his village and questions the
reason for it not being displayed in any of the maps. He triggers a debate on how places find place in maps.
He is proud of his village, culture, language and identity and doesn’t want any one to take it for granted or
impose their superiority over it. Inspite of all the English education in the city and western notions of
marriage, Ranga ultimately ends up marrying a village girl in the Indian way. The narrator plays a practical
joke on him using the astrologer and discovers that all the claims of Ranga about his urban and western
exposure is thoroughly superficial and hasn’t made even an iota of change in his psyche. English has influenced
Indians as a language but not as a culture. It fails, as the story suggests,to percolate into our psyche.

Both the stories voice cultural resistance in their own unique ways and that is a clear testimony that we did have
polyphonic manifestations of cultural and colonial resistance.