Cultural Synthesis in ‘Dream in Hawaii’ by B. Bhattacharya Essay
Dept. of English, Shri. A. B. College,Deogaon, Kannad,A`bad. Cultural Synthesis in ‘Dream in Hawaii’ by B. Bhattacharya The process of interculturation between two divergent ideals started in India during the British Empire. The Cultural tradition of India, imbued with many socio-religions, economic and philosophical, has an excellent integration. The impact of the colonial rule is reflected in life, literature and culture. Bhattacharya has witnessed the colonial and post – colonial situation in India.
His writings have been greatly influenced by the political and social condition during the independence and post-independence India, which reflects a panoramic view of India’s socio-cultural life. Bhattacharya, what Cromwell says: “Is a multi, cultural person who uniquely equipped to mediate between several groups in a culturally diverse world . ”1 Bhattacharya as a social realist has focused much attention on an encounter between two divergent cultural values.
He illustrates the influence of the Western ways of living on the Easterner, which is the outcome of British rule in India for more than two centuries. The Indians were impressed by the materialistic glamour of the Westerners, forgetting their own rich tradition of spiritual upliftment. The change in the attitude-the Easterner’s hankering after the material, industrial and mechanical prosperity and the West’s interest in the spiritual practice has been delineated in the novels of Dr. Bhabani Bhattacharya. Bhagvat S. Goyal points out that the novels of Bhabani Bhattacharya are: “Somewhat more powerful and artistically satisfying expressions of the philosophico-cultural duality of East-West. ”2 Bhabani Bhattacharya, highly educated Indian English novelist has written six novels. ‘Dream in Hawaii’ (1978) is the last novel, analyses the cultures of two countries, India and the Island of Hawaii. In this novel prominently, the novelist has sketched the encounter of East and West, and like other novels he brings synthesis of two ideals at the end of the novel.
The novel is designed to project a synthesis between the materialism of the West and the spiritualism of the East. Bhattacharya’s stay in Hawaii for some years provides him with ample realistic ideas of the American life. ‘Dream in Hawaii’ is about the Indian life, social practices and their reactions and American social life of the contemporary days. The novel is a satire on life in the West and the East. The Western society is in peril due to its self-induced venom called progress. People take tranquilizers to get rid of tension and turn eastward with great expectation.
The novelist has offered a criticism of life and tradition, in which he criticizes superstition, hypocrisy and immoral acts and immoral use of religion. The novel demonstrates the Indian faith in spiritualism, tradition and in action free from desires for the fruit. Extra-sensory perception is shown to be the core of India’s strength. It gives reference of the four great personalities- Gautama Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. The novel gives a convincing and evocative picture of present day seeking and frustration of the people of the West.
The novelist is mainly concerned with growing sense of disenchantment of the people with the materialistic culture and their frantic search for inner peace. There is contradiction between Eastern spirituality and Western materialism. The action of the story is based on the novelist’s first-hand knowledge of the Island, Hawaii, where he stayed for three years during 1969-72 in connection with his job at the East-West center in Hawaii as a senior specialist. The novel gives a satirical picture of the growth of science and technology in the West and its impact and human life.
The materialistic progress of the Western people has made human life more comfortable but at the same time they have proved equally disastrous to mankind. The acquisitive nature of man results in the merciless exploitation of the fellow beings. The weak and the defenseless find it hard to exist material progress, thus implies the loss of spiritual nature of Western man. The novelist observes the commercial and technological culture of the West: “The dead rat – I call it technology; up to a point technology is good for mankind. It’s tool of civilized living.
Beyond that point it turns anti-social and defeats its original purpose. ”3 In the novel, Swami Yogananda voices the novelist’s vision of both ideas and their necessity of synthesis: “I see an East-West encounter on American earth. An encounter of the spirit. American seems to be in the throes of change. Yesterday this was wishful thinking. Today it is believable. ”4 Material hunger leads Westerns towards inhumanity, physical hunger and hatred. To get rid of this, Yogananda thinks of the need of ‘Vedanta’, which only can make human life better.
The knowledge acts as a pathfinder leading man to the state of absolute peace. Stella’s frustration exemplifies the failure of material bliss in the American society. Marriage has been reduced to dating and mating. Walter Gregson, husband, is the victim of the promiscuous habit, which has put Stella into a great harassment. Their conjugal life is severely disturbed since Walter Gregson believes in the consummation of sexual passion and any restraint of the energy is abnormal. He opposes the eastern theory of restraint. He says: “The right to enjoy sex-that’s normal.
Abstinence, societal or self-imposed that is abnormal. In our permissive society abstinence has no validity whatever for? Why kill the fires which are very substance of life. ”5 Yogananda sternly opposes the idea of free sex and full of physical pleasure. He believes in abstinence. He further states that: “Western society is imperiled by its self-induced venom called progress. Implied in that progress is science destroying as much as it creates. Implied equally is the loss of humanness. It’s hard to evade the question. Is this the death march of Western life. 6 Stella’s character explores the new dimension of the American society that the society’s permissiveness for all things, which is the hurdle to know the life and soul. Instead of making man free, it has enslaved him. Man has become a slave of money and drug culture, which in its turn has proliferated sex crimes. This permissiveness becomes the curse to American and Western civilization. The novelist, while delineating the Asian and particularly Indian civilization, gives the description of India as a land ravaged by poverty and hunger, but a land of spiritual values. Indian culture is full of spiritualism and moral.
That’s why they accepted the Gandhian way of freedom struggle, in which there was ethical touch and action. He also mentions the condition of the Indian economy, the explosion of hunger and population. In the context of India’s dependence for oil on Arab countries, the author says: “Take India’s case, it would be no exaggeration to say that India’s economic future was being decided in the Mideast desert floating on an ocean of oil. ”7 By and large, the novel briefly mentions various social problems and evils of the tradition, like widow remarriage, Indian education system etc.
Stella is deeply impressed by the fiery speech of Swami Yogananda at Ramlila Ground on the spiritual freedom. Stella feels the need of Yogananda in redeeming the permissive society in America. Yogananda’s speech at Hawaii has inspired the American youth who is affected by materialism. His speech on the theory of the Vedanta and Bhagvat Geeta metamorphoses the American youth and evokes the sense of detachment from the excessive material enjoyment and the pragmatic approach of maintaining equilibrium in action.
Violence is another important feature of contemporary American society. This great society with its entire splendor is shaken at its very foundation. People feel utterly disappointed and find nothing within or without them to depend upon. The established church has disappointed them because it is also ‘Soulless, materialistic, and money minded as the self satisfied society itself. ’ In their state of loneliness, young people desperately search for emotion based relationships. The Eastern’s are ready to offer the ways of inner adjustment and peace.
Indian values discarded in the land of their birth are attracting people abroad. This leads to the popularity of a number of spiritual movements in American society today. The ‘Hare Krishna Movement’, ‘Transcendental meditation’ and the Yogic disciplines are the forces imported from the East, which have swayed the lives of the Americans. Men and women living together in the same house lead a life of strict celibacy. This spiritual movement is spread all over the Europe. These peoples used to say ‘All the World has great need of us, but the Western world in particular. Swami Yogananda, professer-truned-yogi receives his mystical experience from Swami Vivekananda. He is considered a Neo-Buddha who will lead Americans from darkness to light. He follows the traditional way of inner purification and he lectures on the topic ‘Crisis in sick society’. He belongs to both America and India. Yogananda knows that there would be a chaotic condition when technological progress would reach its climatic point. He too observes that there is an interest for spiritualistic ideals in the West.
The novel also gives the realistic picture of India and Indian culture. India is a land of high spiritual attainments. Indians have interest somewhat higher in value. Indian philosophy emphasizes the importance of action free from desire for its fruits or results- i. e. desireless action. The novelist has also mentioned the most important personalities like Gautama Buddha, Vivekananda and Tagore, who practiced the noble ideals of Indian culture in their own lives and continued its rich tradition. All reat personnels offered ideals for common man. But India, which has produced great leaders of mankind, could produce great imposters and phony gurus who exploited the fantastic gullibility of the village folks and made money out of their blind belief. Bhabani Bhattacharya seems to be well aware about the enrichment of both East and West side. And he wants to percept the West for the goodwill of the East and vice-versa. As a social realist, nearly in all his novels, we find that he has compared the ideals of East and West with each other.
And while comparing and contrasting, he attempts to bring synthesis of both in the perspective of political and social situations. In Indian context he has shown the ideology of Gandhi and focused much attention on the teachings of Gautama Buddha; but also seems lambasted for its lack of perception by the followers and society. East has old traditions, spiritual knowledge and practical ideology. B. Bhattacharaya intends to suggest that with modern scientific technology and new approach, India may lead for the welfare of the society and to run politics smoothly.