In his novel The Shadow Lines, you could argue Amitav Ghosh offers borders and maps as symbols of mutability and uncertainty. The title itself suggests that maps and borders should be questioned more and adhered to less. While borders and boundaries might seem to have happened naturally or effortlessly, they are indeed constructs of humans.
Think about the scene when the narrator’s grandma tries to get her uncle to come back to Calcutta. “I don’t believe in this India-Shindia,” the uncle (Jethamoshai) replies.
It’s all very well, you’re going away now, but suppose when you get there, they decide to draw another line somewhere? What will you do then?
In the above quote, I’m focused on the “they.” The “they” indicates the arbitrary, uninformed nature of creating boundaries and countries. It hints at how “they” are often people with very little knowledge of how a country is organized. The “they” are frequently anonymous outsiders, foreigners, or, to put it bluntly, white colonists.
I should also address the “draw another line” phrase. That seems to reinforce the rudimentary and almost childlike act of boundary-making. It’s almost as if the uncle is talking about toddlers doodling and not adults creating and carving out new territories.
I also think you could say something about how the phrase “shadow lines” symbolizes the psychological or abstract nature of boundaries. I’m trying to talk about Tridib. For me, Tridib exemplifies how easy it is to cross boundaries and cultures and countries in one’s own mind. Tridib has a lot of stories. He tells the narrator about tropical snakes, Irish myths, and various London rumors. None of these topics can be restricted to a single country or territory. One could say that Tridib’s knowledge crosses boundaries.
Another way to talk about the shadowy or mutable symbolism of borders is to talk about how Hindu life is replicated in London. Think about the presence of mosques and Hindu movie posters. If boundaries and maps were such strong, powerful symbols, it shouldn’t be so easy to move the customs and culture associated with one country into another.