Salman Rushdie’s Concept of Wholeness in the Context of the Literature of India

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Wholeness then can be understood as variety, versatility and complexity. Self-development occurs through the conscious integration of new facets, by our openness to change and by a certain control of our thoughts, emotions and inclinations. Instead of using words like uniformity or harmony, we should rather speak of integrated complexity. If parts of our selves are not integrated or if they are emphasised in a one-sided way, they prove to be an obstacle in achieving wholeness. They need to engage in a wellbalanced interaction with other aspects, which they do not dominate. We can illustrate this interaction between the various parts of the self by using an approach of Gestalt-psychology, which conceives the self as equilibrated structure. 1 This term describes a system of transformation, which regulates itself by striving towards equilibrium. Wholeness should also be seen as a relative instead of an absolute concept. Only then does it make sense to speak of the aim of working towards “greater wholeness”2 . In addition, we then start to regard individuals as agents who are responsible for their own lives.

Returning to my initial mentioning of wholistic approaches to individual wellbeing, I want to take up their notions of the interconnectedness between body, mind and conscience, a stance I have also purported in this study. Health in this approach leads to physical and psychological wholeness, which reflects balance between external and internal environments. 3 Consciousness of our human needs is involved here, which refers to both our physiological needs such as the need for food, sexual satisfaction and freedom from pain as well as our psychological needs like the need to be appreciated by and to be close to someone and spiritual needs like that of mental growth and enlargement. Only if we recognise our needs can we start a process of integrating them into a whole and, by then acting on them in a controlled way, become more healthy beings and especially more stable and secure in our selves. We thus attempt to maximise our potential. This includes also following our own goals and taking responsibility of our environment, which extends to other living beings that we interact with. The part of my study that focuses on Anglo-Indian texts has shown that wholeness is sometimes difficult to attain though.

This is particularly obvious in the colonial situation, which describes power-situations in which individuals are subjugated and often deprived of their humanity and individuality. Unsurprisingly, it has also frequently been difficult for individuals during the years after Independence to find and ascertain their own worth and values, which would have necessitated giving up the belief in the once-established hierarchical relations between the former colonizers and the colonised. The confusion most individuals experienced in this context has sometimes led to the adoption of radical forms of nationalism. Colonial policy has aggravated violent nationalisms between Indian groups, such as Hindu nationalism by making apparent differences blatantly obvious. However, Indian society itself has also often imposed restrictions on or has erected barriers between persons. These barriers have been strong between religious and ethnic groups where a person is expected to clearly be on one side. Individuals are also strictly categorised on the basis of caste, status and class and, although these divisions have partly loosened, they still exist and, as a result, reduce persons to some functional roles associated with the respective cause of division. Another crucial factor in Indian society has been the allocation of clearlydefined gender roles, which do often not leave much room for individual variation.

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However, my analysis of the texts has shown how individuals have tried (and sometimes at least partly achieved) to deal with their national, ethnic, religious and other aspects of their identity in new ways that go beyond the specific set of expectations set by their social and cultural environment. While doing so, provided they are at the same time still an active part in that society, they are not only able to discover their more authentic selves, but also react back on the social fabric by introducing alternative ways of being and living. As a result, society might take some of these new elements up in return and become enriched. It is worth mentioning though that society also provides the person with possibilities of identification that foster individual development, for example through confronting them with certain elements, and does not merely pose as an obstacle to individual development. Salman Rushdie develops this interaction between the individual and society especially in the context of migration. To him, it is the notion of border-crossing that becomes central to individual and social development. He approaches the issue of border-crossing in a literal and in a metaphoric sense: In the post-colonial situation and in view of migration waves bordercrossing has been a striking phenomenon of movements of a great number of people.

As a result these migrants had to learn how to cross other, invisible borders, which can be of a linguistic, racial, national and / or ethnic nature. This involved learning how to live with insecurities and the confrontation with completely new ways of life, which led to a questioning of everything one was certain of. This process is presented as a chance to enrich one’s own experiences and to widen one’s horizon. Instead of borders and categorizations that leave persons in a clearly-defined, static sphere, there is now activity and movement, a constant intermingling of various spheres and aspects within the individual: The latter is thus predominantly hybrid and ambivalent by nature. As the search for meaning is a never-ending process, Rushdie emphasises the importance of questioning, deferment of meaning and the rejection of closure as important processes for self-development. In Rushdie’s writing the complexity of a person, which mirrors the complexity of the world, is reflected in his postmodern approach, which includes the technique of Magic Realism and post-colonial - such as linguistic - elements of hybridity.

Both Rushdie’s and the analysed Anglo-Indian texts reveal the strife of persons to establish meaning in their lives as something fundamental to identity. The tendency to develop and to undergo transformations by integrating new facets and to achieve wholeness in this way is acknowledged as a shared inclination in human nature. As individuals are social beings and part of collectives, wholeness has to contain a humaneness that reaches out to others and particularly displays openness, tolerance and imagination. Wholeness therefore implies being at home with oneself and in tune with the world.

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Salman Rushdie’s Concept of Wholeness in the Context of the Literature of India. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
“Salman Rushdie’s Concept of Wholeness in the Context of the Literature of India.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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Salman Rushdie’s Concept of Wholeness in the Context of the Literature of India [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Apr 17]. Available from:

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