Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Old and Young

I enjoyed this anthology of Rushdie's work. I was particularly fixated on the old versus young dynamic that took place in this story as it reminded me in very subtle ways of Chandra's handling of the old/young dynamic in "Love and Longing in Bombay." It seems to me that one of the present themes in the works we've read is this idea that the young people know better or don't know better than the elderly about the conditions of their placement in the post-colonial world. Most clearly I see this theme explored in the words of the old man who admits, "Yes, I know, I'm an old man, my ideas are wrinkled with age [...] Maybe all the views of the old can be discounted now, and if that's so, let it be. But I'm telling this story and I haven't finished yet" (Rusdie 30). In my mind, I took this to mean that the elderly people's views should not be discounted as they are still alive, and still have a story left to tell and live out. It seems to me that the very set up of Chandra's story sought to impart this knowledge as well. The very first story of this anthology, "East, West," is about a woman who seeks out advice from an elderly man that she, ultimately, does not follow. Additionally, it seems as if their is this general understanding that the knowledge that the elderly posses is somehow outdated or outworn.
This strikes me as interesting because I know that in West African culture it is very much the case that when an elderly person speaks you listen. The words of the elderly are so revered and prized that I have often heard an older person say, "even if I'm speaking rubbish,you must listen to my rubbish." A proverb that I think really captures the essence of this attitude is a Nigerian proverb that roughly states, "What a young man can't see standing on the mountain, an old man can see sitting down in his chair." The general attitude is, in fact, that wisdom comes with age. I know that from my personal experiences growing up with this background in the Western world, it has been a difficult pill to swallow. I think that in the West we are so ready to accept that age doesn't prove anything, but that we have taken it one step further, and produced an idea that the young have much to teach the old. As the movers and shapers of the present and the future, our stories are important, and definitely need to be heard and not silenced. Here, I am reminded of Potiki where the characters are discussing how they must know where the location of their jumping off point so that they know where they will land. The stories of the elderly tell a history that is still useful in the formation of the present and the future.

Ultimately, I feel that the message that Rushdie and Chandra are trying to communicate is not that the elderly voices matter more than the younger generation of stories, but that we shouldn't forget their stories as we cultivate our own. The stories of the old are an important resource in the formation of the future. Often it is looked at as progressive to go against the advice or position of the old, but sometimes that may not be the case. In the end, the elderly and the young need to be in conversation with one another in order to realize their present truths.

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