on January 9, 2014
If agape is selfless love, a passion committed to the other, then that is how I felt at the end of The Jewel in the Crown.
There are two stories here, one within the other. The inner story is of a young Englishwoman named Daphne who immerses herself in India and the flow of history during the volatile period of 1942. The larger story is of the relationship between the colonizer and its subject, both yearning for India's freedom, yet unable to get it done.
In both cases, they are stories of the Siva cycle of destruction and rejuvenation (or creation), so entwined they not only can't be separated, but sometimes can't be told apart.
A story this complex that treats time as spatial may be best understood graphically. More than anything, this story reminds me of a thangka, those stylized paintings of the East, especially India, that frequently tell a story.
Perhaps Siva should occupy the center, I'm thinking with his second wife Parvati, who not so coincidentally to Scott's story is the daughter of the Englishwoman Daphne (more on her later). Parvati also is the brother of Vishnu, a deity of some significance in The Crown Jewel.
A difficulty is their posture and gestures. All goddesses in Hinduism, or so I'm led to believe, derive from Parvati. So obviously she must be portrayed as powerful.
But, also, in Scott's story, she is quite the accomplished singer of traditional Indian songs, bringing to mind the singer of the 19th century, the consort of MacGregor, moved into the house of women, displaced by the wife (required acquisition to be socially acceptable in the colonizer's social confines).
The anonymous singer, of course, runs off with her dark-skinned lover, a story that repeats itself in the more recent story of Daphne and Hari/Harry.
The problem with Siva's posture in the center of our thangka is that in Scott's story his dancing manifestation is cited. This is fine for our principal concern, the unity of the cyclic destruction and rejuvenation manifested in our larger story of colonizer and colonized, as well as the inner story of Daphne and Hari/Harry.
But it is most difficult to incorporate the union of male and female aspects, or qualities, in that posture. So, I think we should remove Parvati from the center space, and place her in the union posture with Siva below and in front of Siva's placement.
The Ganges River, flowing into the sea, dark in the foreground, completes the bottom-center foreground.
On either side of the river are Daphne and Hari/Harry, thus completing the triangle (triangles are important in Scott's story, see pages 134 & 149, for instance) of Daphne, Hari/Harry, and the union of Siva and Parvati, which aptly describes the relationship between the historical and mythical figures.
Daphne, in a posture of courage in search of wholeness (think Siva's destruction/rejuvenation), will be placed a foot in the waters, ready to give herself over to the flow, whatever may come, as there is no bridge capable of crossing (p.142).
In the upper left corner, with a line connecting it to the central Siva, is MacGregor House "where there is always the promise of a story continuing instead of finishing" (p.461) and a place of trust, compromise, exploratory, noncommittal, learning, not accusatory (p.444). Opposite in the right upper corner is Bibighar Gardens, a place where something had gone horribly wrong, still alive, that can be set right, if only one knew how. By implication it is Indian, and universal (p.398). Bibighar is the former house of women, now in ruins, but nonetheless also an arbor to provide temporary shelter for the union of Daphne and Hari/Harry, but at the same time it is the place of the union between the destructive force and Daphne.
Along either side of Siva's space, in the appropriate postures: Ludmila, who ferries the dead and understands, "For in this life, living, there is no dignity except perhaps laughter" (p.133). And Deputy Commissioner Robin White who understands "the moral drift of history" (p.342), and its matrix of "emotions," "ambitions," and "reactions." And his wife, who understood Daphne's motivations, and her sacrifice.
In the upper center, between MacGregor House and Bibighar Lady Chatterjee, whose chattering reveals far more than idle gossip, and above Siva's center positioning is the sleeping, dreaming Vishnu, brother of Paravati.
Finally, to the right and just below Hari/Harry is Parvati in her singing posture, with two attendants approaching bearing a palanquin. She sings:
Oh, my father's servants, bring my palanquin.
I am going to the land of my husband. All my
Companions are scattered. They have gone to