Author Bapsi Sidhwa provides the reader with a child, Lenny, as a narrative voice in her novel Cracking India. Bapsi Sidhwa uses a young character to tell the story in order to create a raw and unfiltered look at the world.
The reader first learns that the narrator is young in the very beginning of the book.
My child's mind is blocked by the gloom emanating from the wire mesh screening the oblong ventilation slits. I feel such sadness for the dumb creature I imagine lurking behind the wall. I know it is dumb because I have listened to its silence, my ear to the wall.
This form of narration allows the reader to excuse any gaps in understanding that Lenny has, such as not understanding the function of the wall. In writing the novel from the perspective of a child, the author requires the reader to look past vocabulary that would be above a child’s level, such as “oblong ventilation.”
The sophisticated vocabulary that Lenny displays adds a level of precociousness to the character, which allows the reader to go along with the story. Because the narration creates such a vivid character, the reader can look beyond the language. Here, Lenny presents herself in such a haughty way that the fact that she is a child isn’t a distraction. The reader only sees a child who enjoys attention and feels that she is of a better station than others:
Lordly, lounging in my briskly rolling pram, immersed in dreams, my private world is rudely popped by the sudden appearance of an English gnome wagging a leathery finger in my ayah's face.
Bapsi Sidhwa shows a child with raw self-awareness that in an adult narrator would come across as inauthentic.
What will happen once the cast comes off? What if my foot emerges immaculate, fault-free? Will I have to behave like other children, slogging for my share of love and other handouts? Aren't I too old to learn to throw tantrums—or hold my breath and have a fit?
Bapsi Sidhwa’s narrator Lenny is a well-composed amalgamation of self-awareness and childlike innocence.