Sticks and Stones and Such-like by Sunil Badami
In Sticks and Stones and Such-like by Sunil Badami we have the theme of identity, confusion, racism, heritage, innocence, pride, belonging and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by Badami himself the reader realizes after reading the story that Badami may be exploring the theme of identity. Badami, when he was growing up in Australia, encountered racial abuse from his peers and sometimes his peer’s parents. This had an effect on Badami in so far as he began to question his identity. Through confusion Badami even tried to rub the ‘blackness’ off his skin away. This may be significant as it suggest s that Badami is not only confused over his identity but like every child all he wants to do is to fit in. To belong.
Badami continues to explore the theme of identity through his mother’s anger that Badami wants to call himself Neil. If anything Badami is attempting to reject his Indian heritage and westernize himself. So uncomfortable does he feel about being of Indian extraction. Badami as a child is also very innocent. Thinking that all Indians are doctors and have been educated in the same university. This too may be important as it suggests that Badami has his life mapped out for him by his mother (and father). Badami highlights the fact that Indian mothers like to promote their children’s achievements as though they must be better than other children. Both Indian and Australian. Indian parents seem to take great pride in what their children have achieved in a foreign country. Badami may not have adapted as well as his peers such is the feelings of isolation he feels and his inability to connect with himself due to his first name.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The rubbing of his skin to see it he is white could symbolize a strong desire by Badami to be accepted by others. It doesn’t dawn on Badami, because he is so young, that it is more important for a person to accept themselves before they can be accepted by others. The fact that Badami plays cricket with other Australian children might also represent the ability of sporting activities to transcend cultural divides. A divide that is highlighted by Badami’s strong wish to be Australian and not Indian. It is only later on in the story that Badami accepts himself for who he is and this occurs when he realizes his name comes from the god Shiva. This turning point is significant as for the first time in his life Badami feels part of something that is bigger than himself and that he can take great pride in.
So accepting is Badami of his heritage that he delights in knowing he is different to other Australian children. He does not have a well-known name. Like the Andrews in his class. He feels as though he is an exception thanks to his mother telling her the roots of his name. However there is a slight setback when Badami travels to Bangalore with his future wife and he realizes that his name actually means ‘dark one.’ However Badami has developed enough not to be overly concerned. He is comfortable, after growing up, of calling himself an India-Australian or an Australian-Indian. Something that as a child may have seemed impossible for Badami.