The Ganges and Its Tributaries by Christopher Cyrill
In The Ganges and Its Tributaries by Christopher Cyrill we have the theme of growing up, heritage, conflict, pride and fear. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed man the reader realizes after reading the story that Cyrill is writing a memory piece from events that occurred when the narrator first moved into his new home in Australia Which would suggest that Cyrill is allowing for the narrator to grow up and put his life and his Indian heritage into perspective. The theme of pride is also evident in the story with the narrator’s father taking great pride and care with his garden and the floating map of India in the pond. The fact that the narrator’s father does not allow for Pakistan to be shown may be important as since the partition of 1947 there have been hostilities between India and Pakistan. The father is too proud of his own heritage to display Pakistan.
The narrator though his mother is also not allowed to forget his heritage. Something that is noticeable when the narrator tells the reader about Visakha and the purchase of their home. The fact that Visakha is a woman might also be important as Cyrill might be suggesting that women are as good if not better than men. Something that would not really be believed in a male dominated society. So influenced by religion is the narrator’s mother that she has a statue of Joseph and Mary in the narrator’s bedroom as well as three crucifixes in each room. Though there is no real suggestion that she is Christian. She may simply believe in spirituality and the power that comes with such a belief. The fact that the Ganges is represented on the map made by the father with thick blue shoelaces just highlights the enormity of the river when compared to other rivers.
There may be further symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that the narrator and his family have settled in Australia could suggest that for many, Australia, like America for others, is a land of opportunity. Anything, once you work hard, is possible. So defined is the map in the pond that the narrator’s father even goes as far as moving the Ganges one centimetre away from Calcutta when he realizes the shoelaces are obscuring Calcutta. The birdbath with its statue of Brahma might also be important as the narrator’s father is paying tribute to Brahma the creator. Just as the father has created the landscape of his own little world which is his garden. The fact that the narrator can remember these things suggests the continued importance of his Indian Heritage to him. Though he does forget the name of the masked god that his mother hung in the kitchen.
The end of the story is interesting as Cyrill appears to be exploring the theme of fear and the continued importance of icons in the house. The narrator is afraid when the wind blows hard and he turns the statue of Mary and Joseph towards himself for protection. This is significant as it highlights further that the narrator remembers his mother’s traditions and also sees benefit in them. The narrator also likens India to Australia something that suggests that the narrator is getting well acclimatized to life in Australia. It is a new home for him with new opportunities awaiting him.