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Miss Sahib by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - Book Report/Review Example

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Miss Tuhy or "Miss Sahib" in the short fiction by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1968) is a colonial romantic with a colonial curiosity for India. The problem is that she mistakes it for love ultimately to realize the cultural superiority inherent in her that she cannot escape…
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Miss Sahib by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Miss Tuhy enchantment with those "dark, large, liquid Indian eyes" (Jhabvala, p.561) that mesmerized her spirit and the vibrant surrounding filled her with an engaging adventure. This 'exoticism' of the East made her quite engrossed her into a world of romantic quest, which fuelled her imagination and sustained her illusion that captured the inadequacy of the stark, frugal reality that she was made to inhabit. Infact after Independence when other English teachers went home she did not even think of joining them because "she went on teaching as if nothing had changed" (Jhabvala, p 560). She was not yet cured of her colonial gaze. She was still the "Self" and the Indians the "Other"1 and she remained "too engrossed in the present to allow fears of the future disturb her" except for "once, in an uncharacteristically realistic moment she had calculated" (Jhabvala, p 560), if she could really afford to continue with her "passionate inclination" (Jhabvala, p 560) for teaching. Her "usurpers" (Jhabvala, p 560) made her proud for it was she who has bequeathed her legacy of English language and of Western ideology to the Indian girls, thus became "sharp, emancipated, centuries ahead of their mothers and grandmothers" (Jhabvala, p.560) The story ensues with her nostalgic escape into India, once she discovers her "real love" for the country.
Miss Tuhy's quest is an idea of the orient that to her seems at once exciting and sensual but also fearful. However, the fear and disgust of the colonized seem to haunt her only after she is exposed to the human aspect of Sharmila and her grandmother. To Miss Tuhy it was the idea behind each of the people she encountered counted more than the actual being itself that was human. She considered all the Indian people a different category who inhabited her mind and she moved her affection from one cluster to another without any personal involvementthey were all the same to her - the outsiders who made her existence vibrant just by being the object of her ideal idea about the colonizers:
"She was just happy to be backand lived contentedlyonly venturing forth on Sundays to visit her former colleagues and pupilsas time went on, these Sunday visits became fewerthere was less to say nowbut it didn't matter, she was even happier staying at home because all her life was there now, and the interest and affection she had formerly bestowed on her colleagues and pupils, she now had as strongly for the other people living in the house, and even for the vegetable-seller and the cold-drink man though her contact with them never went further than smiles and nods" (Jhabvala, p 561)

She was completely detached at a human level and yet her ardor for enchantment drew her close to Sharmila, one of the few people in the house with who she established a thorough contact beyond the frontier of unabashed gaze. Yet her personal contact with her was mostly a unidirectional exchange from Sharmila's side and none from her. Infact throughout the story, only the omniscient narrator seems to know the subjective position of Miss Tuhy and she never communicates with Sharmila (maybe she considers herself inexplicable to the Indian's). She loves her role as the teacher and that of the one who instructs. This idea of Miss Tuhy about her capability of transference of knowledge from her to that of Sharmila was ... Read More
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