Discuss the quality of innocence in the narrator of Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India

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Lenny, a Pakistani woman, narrates Bapsi Sidhwa's novel as an adult looking back at her childhood experiences. In her grown status, she is not innocent, but she recognizes the crucial ways that innocence—or perhaps more accurately, naiveté—influenced her behavior during the period she considers. The eighty-year-old girl’s lack of understanding of the adult world, including the class and gender divisions that structured it, affected not only her but those close to her. The adult’s reflections are saturated with nostalgia and, to some extent, regret.

The years that Lenny looks back on constituted the period when most of the Indian subcontinent, formerly subsumed into the British colonial “Raj,” became independent and was divided into India and Pakistan. This period, which began in 1947, is sometimes called Independence but more often Partition, referring to that division and the widespread violence that accompanied it. Much of this was based on religious differences, as the majority of India’s people were Hindu, while those of Pakistan were Muslim.

The young Lenny was an upper class girl leading a rather sheltered life in a lovely home in Lahore, a large city in the part of India that became Pakistan. Emotionally closer to the Ayah, or nursemaid, than to her own mother, Lenny sees Ayah as popular with men and does not understand the importance of the nursemaid’s Hindu faith in the political turmoil. A series of misunderstandings, as the family home serves as a refuge amidst the city’s violence, first endanger Ayah and then contribute to a former friend abducting and raping her. Lenny plays an unwitting role in this tragedy.

That Lenny’s innocence contributed to Ayah’s assault seems to represent in miniature the larger colonial situation. However, the colonized peoples of the subcontinent were purposely kept in ignorance by the imperial rulers, whereas Lenny’s innocence is portrayed more as an appropriate reflection of the knowledge level corresponding to her age.

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Lenny's innocence is significant because it represents the key aspect of her characterization as well as symbolically representing how Partition destroyed the innocence in the nation of India.

Lenny is unaware of the implications of Partition.  Lenny's world is innocent and consists of she, her Ayah, and the immediate world around them.  In this way, in having an innocent and small personal world, she is like the millions of Indians who lived in one country until geographic lines were drawn to divide--to partition--it and them.  She is akin to the Pre-Partition Indians who were concerned with their own innocent interests. 

When Partition hits India, Lenny is forced to pay attention to the violence that consumes her world.  Lenny becomes aware of the cruelty and savagery that is newly a part of the world around her.  Her innocence is replaced with horrifying awareness about what human beings can do to one another.  She is similar to the Indians who are divided into groups of "Hindus" and "Muslims" and who commit atrocities on both sides.  The innocence that once made these people see themselves as "Indians" is supplanted by a sectarian and divisive condition in which many sought to eliminate a group of people.

Seeing that Lenny's narration takes place when she is an adult, she is able to fully process her own involvement in this sad chapter of history.  She is able to understand that she was the victim of manipulation.  Her innocence prevented her from seeing that people like the Ice-Candy Man were skillfully manipulating others for their own benefit.  Ice-Candy Man is able to masterfully develop from one who has no power to one who is a leader who extracts information for his own benefit.  Lenny's awakening realization is similar to that of the Hindus and Muslims who are able to look back on Partition and see how their leaders were skilled at exacerbating tensions in order to reinforce their own political position.  This shows a further comparison between Lenny's innocence and the original innocence of Indians before Partition.

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