I keep finding ways that Piya is fixated on words or language. I’m not entirely sure what to think about it yet, but does anyone have any thoughts? Here’s a quote I find to be interesting:

“How do you lose a word? Does it vanish into your memory, like an old toy chest, and lie hidden in the cobwebs and dust, waiting to be cleaned out or rediscovered?” (78).

Like I said, I’m not sure how to read this about Piya yet, but I feel like it is going to be important.

Piya and language
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4 thoughts on “Piya and language

  • November 11, 2019 at 9:34 am

    I was thinking a lot about this when she compared herself and Fokir to the dolphins: “The idea that to ‘see’ was also to ‘speak’ to others of your kind, where simply to exist was to communicate” (132). Language, or lack of it, is critical to Piya and to her journey. From the beginning we know that she is entering a place where she does not know the langauge; she is separated entirely. However, her privilege allows her to get by without the language. She does not have to rely on communication to survive. I’m still trying to understand and connect Piya’s privilege to her character as a whole – is she priviledged enough to be able to enter a place where she is entirely seperated and not care about it because it does not affect her? Is that what her privelege is? Help me!

    Another important point about language: Piya comments on the futility and superficiality of it: “The two of them, Fokir and she, could have been boulders or trees for all they knew of each other, and wasn’t it better in a way, more honest, that they could not speak? For if you compared it to the ways in which dolphins’ echoes mirrored the world, speech was only a bag of tricks that fooled you into believing that you could see through the eyes of another being” (132). One way to read all of this may be to consider that Piya’s stress (maybe even angst?) about language is what draws her to the sciences and to the natural world. She sees through the superficiality of language and instead of trying to partake in the naive and futile task of trying to understand another human through language, she prefers the silence becuase numbers, data, and dolphins are things she can understand without having to fake it. One more quote because, Piper, I am with you on this language train. On page 118, when Fokir is reeling in the crabs and Piya is playing with her science machines, Ghosh writes “people who could not exchange a word with each other and had no idea of what was going on in one another’s head – was far more than surpirsing: it seemed almost miraculous. …. she saw something in his expression that told her that he too was amazed by the seemless intertwining of their pleasures and their purposes.” Communication without language. Piya seems to view it as a stronger human connection than superficial language, a more natural, effortless communcation that is more honest. Does she distrust language? Or is distrust taking it too far?

  • November 11, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I think there’s a relationship between nature and language in this book. Something about how language is manmade, and therefore not part of or necessary to nature. There’s also a moment where Kanai has a thought about how language is like the rivers that separate the Sundarbans. There are only a few rivers (and languages) but they way they intersect and divide creates many separate mini-cultures (on each island, or among each people group).

    Unrelated, maybe, but Piya understands more about people by reading their body language/valuing human interactions than Kanai understands through his multilingualism and high level of education. He thinks he understands people, but is too self-centered to actually do so.

  • November 14, 2019 at 3:30 am

    I definitely think there is something to be said about the connection between language and nature. Because Kanai also talks about language and the importance of being a translator and how that has changed him and his perspective on people.

    It also strikes me as significant that Piya has this ability to communicate so well with people without language, by just using images and gestures while Kanai’s job is to literally make it possible for people who can’t communicate because of a language barrier to communicate with spoken word. I am not quite sure what the significance of this is but I think it brings up the differences between Piya and Kanai and provides a sort of commentary on the role of language and personal connections in each of their lives.

  • November 25, 2019 at 2:02 am

    Also found Piya’s fixation on words very intriguing, especially because the familiarity of the gamchcha brings back memories for Piya. Even though the Bengali language is associated with unhappiness and anger for her, the culture, food, and other items that she grew up with allow her to connect in a very foreign land. These things truly bind her to her shared ethnicity with the other Bengalis. So even though she is the main foreigner in the novel, she is not a complete foreigner.

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