Fielding’s Tea-Party in ‘A Passage To India’: How is It a Success in Achieving its Objective of Harmonizing and Bridging the Englishmen and the Indians


 The culture clash in this Fielding’s A Passage to India is wide enough to be bridged so easily. The culture clash, however, is not only between Indians and British, but also between two distinct groups of Indians—Muslims and Hindus. However, Fielding’s tea-party plays a vital role in shaping the mood of the novel.  Whereas the Collector’s Bridge Party is a failure in achieving its objective of harmonizing and bridging the Englishmen and the Indians, Fielding’s tea-party is a success. Fielding is also an Englishman. But he is kind and genial; he believes that the world is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another by the help of goodwill plus culture and intelligence. He has none of the racial arrogance of the local Britishers and is therefore disliked by them. He does not behave like the sahibs, and is not liked by the Anglo-Indian ladies.

The narrative makes it clear that these two groups have very different traditions. Dr. Aziz is proud of his Muslim heritage and considers the Hindus to be almost alien.  It is the same Dr. Aziz, however, is moved and touched by Fielding’s behaviour and warmth. He likes Fielding. Aziz is the first to arrive at the tea- party. Fielding is dressing after a bath. Aziz charmed by Fielding’s informality. Fielding asks him: “Please make yourself at home.” When Fielding loses his last collar stud, Aziz, in an impulsive gesture of generosity, removes his own and gives it to him. As they start talking, Aziz’s impulsiveness and Fielding’s goodwill dissolve the racial barriers between them and a rapid intimacy develops between the two.

When Mrs. Moore and Adela reach there, Aziz finds them easy to talk to. The result is an unconventional party where Aziz is in his full glory. He talks expansively on his Muslim past, on Muslim architecture and Mughal emperors. Aziz’s informality and warmth infect the ladies too.

With the arrival of Prof. Godbole the scene does not change much. Aziz impulsiveness and eloquence is now matched by the Hindu Brahmin’s detachment. Aziz’s gaiety and eloquence continue. Dr. Aziz invites the two British ladies to his house. Then he makes an amendment. He invites them on a picnic to the Marabar caves. He starts to describe the caves, but having never visited them himself, he cannot say much about them.

It is in the party, before the arrival of Prof. Godbole that the Britishers talk about India which is a ‘muddle’ and ‘a mystery’ to them. It is a muddle that cannot be explained by reason or intellect. The Britishers except Mrs. Moore have a stern rigidity.

Godbole refuses to talk about the secret of the caves. He sings a strange and haunting song about Krishna in which God is appealed to come but refuses to come. Godbole is content to be in the state in which God is never likely to come but this absence is only a proof to the all accepting Brahmin’s mind of the ultimate presence of God. This conception of universe is entirely strange to the Westerns. Only Mrs. Moore and Prof. Godbole have the power to admit the existence of mysteries lying outside their understanding.

(Note: E. M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread- Set it Italy, it concerns the tragic relations between an English family and a young Italian man.
  A Room With a View - also set in Italy- focuses on a clash of cultures, contrasting the conventional behavior of English characters with the more spontaneous life of the Italian characters.
 Howards End - a subtle study of English class distinctions and the uneasy relationship between aesthetic and materialistic outlooks on life. )


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