Boundaries And Boundaries In The Shadow Lines By Amitav Ghosh

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This research aims to understand the concept of borders and boundaries, their implications in the lives of common people and how it builds the national identity in the novel The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. Most often than not we are identified by the countries or for that matter the states we come from. These fragmentations brought about by the physical demarcations characterize our behavior in society. But the problem arise when these ‘lines’ are blurred which gives rise to confusion in personal and social space.
The Shadow Lines is an innovative, intricate and celebrated novel of Amitav Ghosh. It was published in 1988 and received the prestigious Sahitya Academy
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They are not ‘natural’ boundaries and thus human thinking traverses these physical ‘lines’ easily and without documents. Ghosh does not restrict the use of the shadow lines to demarcate maps and boundaries; he takes the metaphor further to indicate the “transition from youth to maturity, the past from the present, and those intangible but deeply felt markers of identity that mark oneself off from others, one’s own community from others”(Ghosh 2). These shadow lines have no physical presence as they are ‘invisible borders’ which create a sense of division in the minds of the people. Therefore Tha’mma, the narrator’s grandmother “wanted to know whether she would be able to see the border between India and East Pakistan from the plane.” She is shocked to realize that “if there is no difference both sides will be the same”(Ghosh 54). Amitav Ghosh brings out the futility of drawing lines through this statement proposing the need to co-exist in harmony with strong ties among cultures.
Kokila S. and Someshwar Sati argue that Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines is a historical narrative which projects the concept of geographical borders under many connotations. “The title, The Shadow Lines has many connotations; it does not only refer to borders between countries. Ghosh chooses his title to suggest that the borders which separate
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Identity is a very debatable proposition/ question, both theoretically and practically. “The theoretical debate about identity concerns its nature, process of formation and its existential questions. Whereas essentialists believe in singularity of individual’s identity, the post – modernists deny any such identity”(Bharali 2). Identity construction has been thus debated time and again leading to the fact that an individual’s identity circumscribes the place he comes from, the language he speaks, and the race he belongs to. These problematics of individual identity contextualizes Ghosh’s novel The Shadow Lines – the title itself suggesting the unreality and invalidity of constructions such as nation and nationality. The shadowiness of the border line puts a question mark to the geographic boundary line between countries / nations and thus its identity. Ghosh considers space / place as non neutral, non objective. “To him a place does not merely exist … It has to be invented in one’s imaginations”(Ghosh 4). Ghosh presents it through Tridib’s concept of space which was vast and comprehensive. Tridib’s mind strove to a place where there was no border between oneself and one’s image in the mirror. The character constantly brings out the unperturbed flux between the countries he has lived in, India, Bangladesh and Britain, going back and forth in time dismissing the presence of physical barriers

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