The anecdotal nature provided sufficient unreliability to the narrative to make things more interesting. Although I felt that the end was I was surprised at the quality of writing and I was hooked on to it. While this did not get selected to be read together, I was so charmed by the cover and theme that I ended up buying it. It took me 2 years though to get around to reading it. The protagonist is someone who is frustrated with the banality of high society living of a big city and seeks a deeper This was one of the books recommended in an online reading group for offbeat books.
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Arvind M. In this sense, the novel is a record of a romantic nostalgia for the simple mode of life — the kind Rousseau, Thoreau, Gandhi and Wordsworth talked about. This essay discusses how the novelist expresses his distaste for the money-mindedness of the civilized people leading to the degradation of their souls. Keywords: Arun Joshi, Billy Biswas, Nature The longing for natural mode of existence is no mere fantasy or sentimental whim; it is consonant with fundamental human needs, the fulfillment of which although in different form is pre condition of our survival.
In this state one can remain pure, sensitive and mystically linked with the Nature, its authentic humanity and instinctive spontaneity. The novelist expresses his distaste for the money-mindedness of the civilized people leading to the degradation of their souls.
The novel is a severe condemnation of the spiritual uprootedness of the post-Independence Westernized Indian Society. Billy is totally fed up with the superficialities of a grossly materialistic and sterile Indian society. To escape this disaster Billy decides to flee from the phony society.
The tribal life of Maikala hills in Central India is the ideal world-view for which he rejects the post-independence, pseudo-Western values of the Delhi society. The first section of the novel establishes the character of Billy and his degraded and sterile surrounding, thereby making his escape convincing. His grandfather had been the Prime Minister of the famous princely state in Orissa. His father practiced law at Allahabad and Delhi, and had been the Indian ambassador to a European country.
While he is in America, his father is a judge in the Supreme Court. After gaining a Ph. Despite having such a background, he is ill at ease in the so-called civilized set-up of society, and is much interested in exploring his inner being. This exploitation of his real inner being makes him estranged and alienated; and never feels at home in the bourgeois society for he knows his innermost voice will go unheeded. A very human association between two Indian students in New York is depicted where Romi meets Billy while desperately searching for a room.
Billy offers to share his apartment with Romi, which is situated in one of the worst slums of New York City. Though Billy was born into an aristocratic family, he dislikes organized life of civilized society. For Billy the modern civilization is degenerate, shallow and self-centered: What got me was the superficiality, the sense of values.
Artistically, they were dry as dust. Intellectually, they could no better than mechanically mouth ideas that the West abandoned a generation ago He finds himself a misfit in this civilized world, and in search of a place where he could fit in and feel at home.
Billy returns to India and experiences only a change of scene and, Eliot-like finds the society in Delhi as spiritually dead and emotionally empty as materialistic America. To him, the people everywhere are the same- artistically dry and intellectually barren.
He returns to India and joins Delhi University as Professor in anthropology. But this hurried marriage, as he later realizes, is a blunder. This leads to his total sense of alienation and isolation from his wife, family and his own self.
Certain excerpts from the letters are worth citing. The first excerpt is expressive of his feeling as an outsider in the civilized world: When I return from an expedition, it is days before I can shake off the sounds and smell of the forest.
The curious feeling trails me everywhere that I am a visitor from the wilderness to the marts of the Big city and not the other way around The next excerpt is scathing attacks on Westernized Indian upper-crust society and its materialistic value system.
He Writes: I see a room full of finely dressed men and women seated on downy sofas and while I am looking at them under my very nose, they turn into a kennel of dogs yawning [their large teeth showing] or snuggling against each other or holding whiskey glasses in their furred paws In order to escape from the agonies of life, he takes to anthropological expeditions to the various parts of India with his students.
Once he takes his students on an anthropological expedition to the tribal areas of the Satpura Hills in Madhya Pradesh and becomes enamored of the idyllic surroundings and its inhabitants.
Unlike Meena and Rima, Bilasia is not sophisticated and shallow. She is an integral part of the rhythmic life of Nature. She is the right woman to satisfy his soul. All the phenomena of nature — flora and fauna — seem to be waiting for him and calling him to join them: Come to our primitive world that will sooner or later overcome the works of man.
We have waited for you … come, come, come. Why do you want to go back? This is all there is on earth. This and the women waiting for you in the little hut at the bottom of a hill. You thought New York was real. You thought New Delhi was your destination. How mistaken you have been! Mistaken and misled. Come now, come.
Take us until you have had your fill. Billy renounces the sophisticated Delhi urban society in favour of tribal life in the Maikala forest. His is not an escape from reality but an escape into reality on the lines of Prince Siddharth.
Billy renounces a life of hypocrisy and deceit to take a life of noble savageness. For the sake of his longing for Return to Nature he forsakes even his life. It would be apt to quote Hari Mohan Prasad. In retreat of Mr. Billy Biswas from the modern wasteland of Delhi to the ancient Garden of Eden in Maikala Jungle, from the smothering clutch of Meena to the primeval possessiveness of Bilasia, Purush meets Prakriti serving the two ends of evolution, outlined by Sankhya, enjoyment Bhoga and liberation or Sansara as well as Kaivalvya Prasad Bilasia and Maikala Hills attract the protagonist Billy Biswas more than the artificial and sophisticated atmosphere of Delhi.
Real peach, pleasure and perfection can be found in the natural and primitive atmosphere rather than in the din and bustle of big cities of Delhi. In the words of T. Joshi seems to be tremendously concerned with pretentiousness, hypocrisy and snobbery of the modern civilized society and gives a message that simplicity, quietness; tranquility and spirituality of natural primitive life are the only means of achieving sublime living.
Arnold, Matthew. Dhawan, R. Indian Literature Today. New Delhi. Ghanshyam, G. Joshi, Arun. The Strange Case of Billy Biswas. New Delhi: Orient Paperbacks. Naikar, Basavaraj. Indian English Literature. Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. Prasad, Hari Mohan. Arun Joshi. New Delhi: Arnold Heinemann. Rao, T. Saxena, O. Glimpses of Indo-English Fiction. New Delhi: Jainous Publications. Email: amnawale gmail.
The Strange Case of Billy Biswas
‘Return to Nature’: A Study of Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Biswas
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