A River Sutra Historical Context

Gita Mehta

Historical Context

When India is in the American news, it is often to document another conflict between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. As a reporter, Mehta covered the Bangladesh War of 1971, a war that highlighted the conflicts between the ethnic and religious groups of the Indian sub-continent. Her life was also shaped by the conflicts between Indian nationalists and British imperialists. Her father was arrested for treason to the British Empire shortly after her birth. The ability to grow up in a free India was not an option for her parents. India's cultural ties to Britain, however, remained strong, as evidenced by Mehta's decision to attend university in Britain. Today, she lives on three continents—Europe, North America, and Asia—as she divides her time among London, New York, and India. Mehta drew on the perspective of all three cultures in her earlier works, exploring the clashes and connections between these different worlds. In A River Sutra, however, Mehta turns her authorial gaze inward to examine not the diversity of the modern world, but the diversity of India.

To understand the India Mehta describes in A River Sutra, one must understand the history of the country. Tracing the divisions of the Indian people back 4,000 years, Mehta describes how Aryan nomads invaded the Indian sub-continent, decimating the tribal people they found. The stories of these people survived, however. The tea executive Nitin Bose is reading the ancient legends of these...

(The entire section is 606 words.)