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This novel to my mind narrates the exposure of Indian people to capitalist demands, mediated as it was by a period dominated by the accumulative logic of British capitalism.When I say people, I don’t use it in the usual populist sense, but in a much wider one; “people” includes the ordinary people, feudal lords, women, men, children, everybody.But with new properties there came a great number of dependants who had all to be fed and maintained; much of the new land proved to be uncultivable, and the new houses quickly became an additional drain since the Raja would not suffer them to be rented”.
So then this becomes one of the many wars fought for the “profit motive.” By distribution I refer to the market and to the entire process that determines what is sold in the market and the means used to perpetuate the rule of the market.
Finally, poppy becomes a symbol for an entire way of life, a life of un-involvement, of alienation, of escapism.
Interestingly, Deeti a poor rural woman seems to be able to handle it better than Neel, the upper class, male .
But having said that, it is true, I think, that they are unable to gain a reasonable grasp over the swift changes that engulf their lives.
I speak of a general sense of having been caught up like pawns in a chess game, like minor characters in the determined world of a tragedy.
I don’t suggest that no person had agency, but the larger was nonetheless of being ruled.
To come to its second signification, saying that this refers to capitalist distribution is somewhat deceptive insofar as the spheres of production and distribution are internally related moments in the same circuit of capital in which surplus value is created and realised.
The Opium Wars of 1839-40 were fought because the paternalistic Chinese monarchy was unwilling to let the British continue poisoning its subjects, and such unwillingness defied the interests of British capitalism.
The epistemological thrust of the novel is such that it continuously redefines itself as a genre/art and also resuscitates and radically transforms what it takes as its subject.
So, novelisation of Indian colonial history would be to render to a state of ambiguity and open-endedness a discourse that for the Indian imagination is a finished narrative. To answer this question in a regrettably schematic manner: it signifies three things.