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A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies

by John Murray

In many of these stories the discipline of classifying insects is the sounding board for human attempts to find order, pattern, purpose, fulfilment in lives made problematic by cross-cultural stress, the acceptance or rejection of tradition, religion and parental values. With a deft understatement the feel of being an Indian ex-pat comes through; how vulnerable and quixotic English idealism becomes when transplanted onto the Indian soul.

Extract

There was cholera in the slums of Bombay when she arrived. On the second day of training, she told Raj Singh that she wanted to visit the slums and see the epidemic for herself. Her parents were Indian, she told him, and she wanted to understand how people lived. She needed observations, real data, to help her understand. The density and chaos, the crippled people, the sheer desperation of the streets were things her parents had never talked about. Her parents remembered houses with trees and servants. They had gone to English schools where they read Walter Scott and Conrad, heard bagpipes played at morning assembly, and stared up at the names of prefects recorded in gold lettering on oak boards in the school chapel.

Parallels

I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops by Hanan al-Shaykh
The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin
 

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