Passage to India: A Glimpse into the Pre-independence Era

A Passage to India
A Passage to India

The colonization is one of the phenomena which is perhaps the most intriguing. It is a hot topic for conversation over a tea, in a perhaps an attempt to ‘appear smart’. Nevertheless, the conversation pretty much ends up going astray, with a bleak reminiscence of it. E.M. Foster’s ‘Passage to India’ portrays the topic of colonization by the British, the ideology of colonizers, and the effects of it.  This novel reverberates with the stark differences between the Indians and the Englishmen. The treatment of Indians at the hands of the Britishers- as they are literally at the mercy of them.

‘Passage to India’ depicts the situation in the early 1900s, in the fictional city of Chandrapore. It is divided into three parts based on the names of the places where the action takes place. The storyline revolves around Aziz, a ‘Moslem’ doctor, Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, Mr. Fielding, and Professor Godbole. Set in a small town, Mrs, Moore, and Adela, who have come from England, wish to see the ‘real India’, much like the tourists these days, who want to explore the country, beyond the architectural marvels. A ‘Bridge Party’ is organized, where Mrs. Moore and Adela get a chance to interact with several other Indians. But as the Englishmen would have it, the Indians and the English have their separate spaces at the party- irony surely died a thousand deaths that day.

Dr. Aziz, who is not happy with his senior at work, who happens to be English, befriends the crowd. He is quite surprised by the fact that he is treated as an equal by the Englishmen, which is certainly the unexpected of them. All of them decide to go on a picnic to explore the Marabar Caves, again a fictional place. Adela and Aziz go inside one of the caves, where something ‘weird’ happens to her, after offending Aziz. Later on, she flees from the spot, back to Chandrapore. Meanwhile, Mrs. Moore is taken aback by the empty feeling that she encounters at the caves. She feels disturbed, and soon, decides to go back to England. Aziz and Fielding return to Chandrapore.

Surely, Aziz did not expect himself to be arrested upon his arrival in the town, that too, in the accusation of having raped Adela. Adela has accused Aziz of the rape inside the caves, while they were alone. Fielding sided with his dear friend Aziz, as he believed that Aziz was certainly innocent. A trial ensues in the midst of riots and tension between the Indians and the English, where the Indians were already opposing the tyranny of the British Rule.

A brief courtroom drama ensues, when Adela, under the oath, withdraws her claim and the case. It proves that she had lied. The crowds gathered outside the court go into an absolute frenzy, and it becomes tough for Adela to move out. Fielding comes to rescue, and leaves Aziz in the state of wonder, whether to sue Adela for character assassination or not. He also feels hurt because Fielding helps Adela and understands that the Indians and English cannot be friends, or have any sort of amicable relationship for that matter.

Fast forward to two years later, in a Hindu town of Mau, where Dr. Aziz and Professor Godbole now reside. Both of them have made a considerable progress in the two years, far away from Chandrapore. Aziz had heard the rumors of Fielding settling down with Adela. It turns out to be just a rumor when he bumps into them in Mau, during the festivities of Gokul Ashtami. Fielding has married Mrs. Moore’s step-daughter. Upon meeting each other, both of them realize that their friendship is not very likely to survive. This is due to the differences in the several aspects of life and current circumstances.

The story is full of symbolism and several motifs, which drive home the point. The novel might seem very incoherent and confusing, but that is the deliberate intent of the author- to exemplify the ‘nothingness’, which he must have felt, as the relationship between Aziz and Fielding reverberates the bond he shared with Syed Ross Masood. Forster points out the sick ideology, ‘White Man’s Burden’, aptly named by Rudyard Kipling, of the ‘reforming the classes and masses’- who were not British, and it was upon them to civilize these people. This ideology is very much reflected in the entire novel, which is a great peek inside the Pre-Independence Era.


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