Sea of Poppies
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Now that the trade has come to a standstill, as a result of the resistance shown by the Chinese authorities, he is unable to clear his debt. When Mr. Burnham proposes to settle the loan for Halder's zamindary, Halder refuses the deal as the zamindary is his family's ancestral property and selling it would mean turning his back on his many dependents.
In a trial orchestrated by Burnham and his cronies, Halder is tried for forgery.
The court sentences him to be to penal transportation for seven years in Mauritius and leading him to lose caste. In prison he meets Ah Fatt, a half-Chinese, half- Parsi opium addict from Canton, and the two are put aboard the Ibis. Paulette is a French orphan who has grown up in India with Jodu, the son of her Ayah , as her best friend.
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Her father was a politically radical botanist, her mother died in childbirth, and her grandparents are the historically inspired Jeanne and Philippe Commerson. Burnham take Paulette in after her father's death. Paulette feels more at ease with Indian manners, food, and clothing than with Western ones, but the Burnham household fiercely disapproves.
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Paulette meets Zachary Reid, the American sailor, at a dinner at the Burnhams'; they are mutually attracted. Paulette becomes determined to run away because of sexual harassment by Mr. Burnham and pressure to marry his friend, the stern, elderly Justice Kendalbushe. She resolves to travel to Mauritius , as her great-aunt did, in the hope of finding a better future. Burnham's employees. Numerous plot developments are facilitated by Nob Kissin Baboo, a Vaishnavite would-be priest who is working as an overseer for Mr Burnham and comes to believe that Zachary is an avatar of Krishna.
As the stories converge, the Ibis becomes a shelter to these various misfits and exiles. He also cocks a snook at the ridiculously bastardised Hindi of the Sahibs and Memsahibs with their bobachee-connahs and cumras , and chuckmuck sights, and guddas.
In a guffaw inducing passage, Mrs. Its easy absorption of Bhojpuri as well as French presents the perfect hybrid solution to the eternal migrant problematic of that dangerous i-word—identity—and how to define it. Not only does the novel open and close with Deeti and her vision, literally as well as metaphorically, it gives voice to a significant number of gender concerns. To protect herself from further assault, she is forced to consider committing sati—an act that is applauded by her family and community for its supposed religious merit. Her rescue by Kalua and her defiant acceptance of his love are her first steps towards self-actualisation.
By the time we get to River of Smoke , we see Deeti as the matriarch, presiding over her clan and her esoteric paintings of the life-stories of the Ibis cast.
While both books in the Ibis trilogy have won considerable critical acclaim, Sea of Poppies seems to have worked more magic than River of Smoke. The latter, while brilliantly written and meticulously detailed, remains the slower paced of the two. And, in a bit of a breach of contract with the reader, it ignores most of the cast of Sea of Poppies.
In the third book, Flood of Fire, I hope Ghosh will give us more of Kalua, pick Paulette up from annoying passivity on the Redruth and throw her into the midst of action, reunite Deeti with her left-behind daughter, make Neel and we are rooting very hard here more than just a spectator, and give us more of the grey-eyed seer-of-ships-in-poppy-fields.
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This post first appeared on Scroll. We welcome your comments at ideas. Skip to navigation Skip to content. Speaking in tongues Dialect and linguistic registers can become fairly powerful tools of self-expression as well as identity-creation in the hands of a postcolonial writer.