South Asian Culture and Society

South Asian Culture and Society

Student’s Name



What do Sen’s experiences as a government official reveal about modern India?

The protagonist’s experiences of Sen as a government official makes him feel dislocated. Sen lived without vision or ambition and was addicted to marijuana. His experience shows that the modern Indian culture and society has experienced dramatic changes in the present century. The culture comprises of people with different contrasts and diversities such as Muslim Sufi Saints, Snake-Charmers, Hindu Monks, and Street side Astrologers. South Asia is a land of more than two billion people. Individual countries of South Asia like India continues to embrace cultural changes introduced by people practicing modern cultural deeds different from the past activities. English, August (An Indian Story) talks about Agastya Sen a recruit in the Indian Administrative Services. Agastya forms a good representation of the modern Indian culture. He played a major role as a government official to bring changes to the Indian culture.

Sen’s experience as a government official represented the modern India by combining traditional Hindu myths with current Boarding-School-English-Literature education. His character as presented in the Indian Story demonstrated how he played fewer roles in making the changing the modern India. The youth and civilized leaders were willing to change the Hindu society and make them embrace modern cultural practices. Despite the fact that he was named after the great Hindu, who prevented the Vindhyas from developing, Agastya’s characters contrasted those of his predecessor. Growing in an urban setting made him differ with most Indians who embraced cultural beliefs, and was willing to make the country more civilized rather than engaging in drugs and crimes. He was a reformer, acting as a symbolic representation of the younger generation. Additionally, his role in government made him address vital issues affecting the Indian middle and upper-class generations.

On the other hand, the modern India is characterized by an in-depth culture that contrasts with the new changes observed in the nation. The narration presents Agastya as a civil servant meeting with different people including top government officials, journalists, tribal people, and cultural leaders. By meeting such people, Agastya gained more experience on leadership and Indian culture, which gave him better chances of convincing people he met to embrace new Indian culture. Sen came from a stable family where he had learned about various western practices. While working as a recruit to the Indian administrative services, he came across many leaders with different approaches about change. India has undergone more than 4,000 years of philosophical and cultural development that has made leaders more civilized and modern. The interaction between different people and societies revealed that the most Indians were more concerned about culture and contrasted with the current changes brought about by civilized young generation. Agastya had introduced a new version of wife and marital status that brought change to the institution of marriage that was readily accepted by the youth. In his statement, Raju said “….contrastingly the modern youth do not believe in this good old custom.”

What problems seem to have persisted from earlier in India’s history?

The story of Agastya revealed many problems that persisted from long ago in Indian’s history. Firstly, the Indians were moved out of their ancestral territories by white settlers who took advantage of the Indian’s lack of protective measures. The invasion of Indian colonization zone led to many problems because the Indians were set under the rules of whites and could not manage to colonize their people. Moreover, Whites settlement to Indian territories resulted into changes in Indian trade, and major economic activities. Most Indians were isolated from their clans and cultures as the Whites took control of their nation. Additionally, the Americans introduced policies that were against Indians philosophical doctrines. The narrative “An Indian Story” provides an insight of how White invasion in India caused many disruptions including the problem of civilization. Characters such as Agastya demonstrated how reluctant the government was in implementing changes expected in the modern India.

On the other hand, Indians suffered from slavery from Americans who took away their ancestral lands. Whites believed that Indians were poor and defenseless and used them as slaves to work on fertile lands that they (Americans) had invaded. Americans developed treaties to acquire Indian lands by force because of their fertility. The problem affected Indian’s civilization because most people had started farming in those fertile lands. Slavery of Indians is symbolized in Chatterjee’s narrative by use of words such as blood, murder and suicide that symbolized sufferings that Indians underwent in their ancestral lands.

What new challenges have developed?

Globalization contributes into many challenges affecting many nations today. New challenges have developed in India that interferes with maintenance of ancient Indian culture and promotion of civilization. Identity and assimilation is the first challenge that has developed in India. Most Indian nationalities are confused about whether to maintain the traditional identity or adopt the new lifestyle of the modern Indian identity. Chatterjee’s narrative represents the modern India as a society for civilized people ready to leave the American culture. The history of Indians saw whites capturing Indians and making them their slaves. The issue of identity still disturbs many Indians as some want to be more westernized. Additionally, the issue of assimilation created many challenges as Indians become confused on the amount of American culture that they should maintain in order to fit in both Indian and western cultures.

Tribal sovereignty forms the second challenge that has developed in India today. South Asia consists of many tribes and sovereignty to one’s tribe is a problem to many. Tribes that managed to take prominent positions in the government have the ability of self-administering themselves. Sen’s experience as a recruit in public service administration revealed modern India as characterized by modern but naïve young generation ready to leave traditional norms and cling more to the western culture. Many tribes in India now engages in nation building, but challenges still occur in the effort of developing a sovereignty government after getting off the American’s slavery.

Finally, the Indians have the challenge of revitalizing native cultures. The modern Indian society promotes nation building through bringing together all cultures as one nation and embracing modern changes. Changing from traditional settings to modern urban lifestyle seems a challenge to many people especially those growing up in rural areas. Sen practiced a modern lifestyle because he grew up in urban areas, and his characters demonstrated that he was more civilized. He called upon the young generation to revitalize from native cultures and adopt new practices in order to move with the changing world.

How does the society portrayed by Chatterjee compare to the visions of new India expressed by various other Indian Nationalist?

The visions of new India as portrayed by other writers such as Committee on India Vision 2020 that aims at achieving a peaceful, secure and developed India by the year 2020. The new economic regime presented in India’s vision aims at ensuring equality and social justices for all people in the country. Chatterjee’s narrative also demonstrated some peace and development. The youth and middle age class demonstrated some characters that promoted peace and encouraged people to adopt new changes in order to become civilized. Civilization promotes development and encourages trade that introduces new economic regime as shown in the above statement. Moreover, the India aims at ensuring rights of her people through a working constitution.

Chatterjee’s portray of Indian society also compared to other Indian nationalists in terms of social responsibility. The modern India is characterized by responsible individuals respecting original cultures and norms practiced by ancient Indians. Likewise, Indian nationalists portray India as a more civilized society whose vision is to develop a respected and educated society. Sen’s character symbolized modern leaders and their contribution to nation building. Some of the India’s visions as portrayed by Indian nationalists include developing agendas that override politics, creating an atmosphere that boosts business, promoting domestic talents and creating a growth-oriented nation. All these visions were expressed in Chatterjee’s narrative.


Kundu Rama. Indian Writing in English 2. 2. (New Delhi: Atlantic Publ. & Distrib, 2003), 102.

India and S. P. Gupta. India Vision 2020: The Report: Report of the Committee on India Vision

2020, Planning Commission, Government of India Plus Background Papers. (New Delhi: Academic Foundation, 2004), 391-392

Raju, David. “Black Humour and Ennui in Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English, August: An Indian

Story.” The Criterion: An International Journal in English 4, no. 6 (2013): 195-204.

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