The long essay The Uncolonised Mind is taken from the book The Intimate Enemy; Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism (1983) by Ashish Nandy, a well known social psychologist. Presenting the cases of two writers, Rudyard Kipling and Aurobindu, Nandy poses the question of identity (self) in colonized cultures. The work is significant as it explains how colonialism devastates individual concept of self and how counter narratives from the part of the colonized subject often crate a plethora of complex socio-cultural and psychological issues. Following the studies of Franco phone (Afro-French) intellectuals, Nandy observes the deep rooted impact of colonial ideology on the cognitive / affective domains of the subject and the role of colonialism as an agency of power which constructs the identity of its ruling/ ruled people. Any nation which has undergone the colonial process has to grapple with the loss and recovery of self and face heterogeneous aspects of identity in counter narratives.
The essay begins by quoting Rudyard Kipling’s (1862-1936) belief that to be ruled by Briton was India’s right and to rule India was Briton’s duty. In his poem white men’s Burden Kipling construed that it is the white men’s burden to civilize the non-west .why did Kipling, who was born and brought up and wrote a lot and loved India, considered ruling India as the duty of Briton? This duality found in Kipling is, according Nandy, the result of self formation in Kipling at his growing up years shared in India and Briton.
Kipling was brought up in India by Indian servants in an Indian environment. He thought, felt and dreamt in Hindustani, mainly communicated with Indians, and even looked like an Indian boy. In contrast to this, his relationship with Victorian parents was troublesome. It was formal. There was a wide gap between Kipling and his parents. Alice Kipling, Kipling's mother, didn't fit to the image of mother Kipling dreamt and she didn't encourage much emotionalism.
It was a custom among British in India to send their children to England in order to pick up European culture and manners. The Kiplings too sent Kipling and his sisters to Southsea, where his aunt Mrs. Rosa Holloway, took charge of them. At Southsea, young Kipling was exposed to bullying, restraints and sadism. Those were the most painful experience in the life of Kipling. Tortured by Mrs. Holloway and her son, he found Southsea as a house of desolation and finally he had a 'severe nervous breakdown' followed by partial blindness and hallucinations.
Later Kipling was taken away from Southsea and admitted in to a public school which catered to children of families with a military background. The school too provided harrowing experience as Rudyard was a servile, artistically minded boy who hated sports, but the school emphasized masculine and military values. These experiences introduced Kipling to the other side of English authority which produced the ruling elites of the colonies.
It is surprising to see that the England that alienated him, labeled him, treated him as a bicultural sahib and tortured his childhood, evoked in him great admiration. During those years in England Rudyard was convinced that England was a part of his self, and he had to disown his Indianness. In order to identify with the colonialism (aggressor) and to get out of victimhood/ill-treatment he had suffered in England, he has to learn not to identify with the victims. The attempt to identify with the suppressor is a complex mental response to the act of domination in many cultures. The subjects fail to see an alternative and internalize the values of the aggressor. So that they share the ‘power’ of the powerful.
Rudyard was all that he despised in his works. He disliked, the weak, effeminate, individualistic rebellious and often presented an ‘ideal victim’ he wanted to become but failed in his work Rudyard presented two kinds of victims; the first one fights well, and pays back the tormentor in his own coin, and the second is passive aggressive, effeminate and fights back through non-cooperation, shirking, irresponsibility and refusal to value face to face fights.
Though Rudyard identified with the aggressor and supported counter balance, he never realized what he disliked was there within himself. He identified with what the tormenter assumed. This mental state prevented him from a critical insight a creative writer needs. In order to cover up the hollowness of this duality, Rudyard refused to look inside ad saw the bonds of race and blood more important than person to person relationship. To drive off the troubles of his complex-mental state, he attempted to search for cultural roots through the service he was rendering to the imperial authority. It is easy to see that Rudyard has been split between parts of his own selves. The one which supported aggression, violence and counter balance and the other was the softer, more creative and happier part of his self; as the first was colonial; the second was Indian.
Then what about Kipling’s love for India? As we already indicated, Kipling admired English culture but he loved India. Though his love for India equipped him to write captivatingly about India and it appealed to his softer and creative self, he despised her. He respected the India which confronts violence with counter violence in this sense he too joins the group of writers like as Naipaul, Nirad c chauduri who respected the martial past of the India. They glorified the past heroes of the India and believed that glorious India of past can provide counter-violence to the violence of colonialism.
In a nutshell, Rudyard had great love for India, he had to take revenge over the agents of colonialism which had split his self and made his sense of identify vague.
As India of his time was incapable of producing legitimate violence to colonial one, he turned to glorious past of India, failing to make sense of the self and the world, he finally identified with the aggressor’s values and believed that glorification of the aggressor is the only way to make his vague sense of self affirmative.
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