Bakha’s Puzzle-like Clothing

“He had had glimpses, during his sojourn there, of the life the Tommies lived…. And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people. He had felt that to put on their clothes made one a sahib too. So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances. He had begged one Tommy for the gift of a pair of trousers. The man had given him a pair of breeches which he had to spare. A Hindu sepoy, for the good of his own soul, had been kind enough to make an endowment of a pair of boots and puttees. For the other items he had gone down to the rag-seller’s shop in the town…” (5).

 

The way in which Bakha views and obtains the British soldier attire stands out to me for many reasons. Initially, his desire to look like the British soldiers seems innocent. He wants to be like them after catching “glimpses” of them and their behaviors, mentioned prior to the passage above. However, this pure innocence begins to fade, slightly, when it is revealed Bakha wishes to look like the soldiers because they are “Sahibs” or “superior people”. No longer is Bakha’s wish simply to be like someone, but be like someone because they are supposedly better than others.  Another component of this passage that I really enjoyed examining was the fractured way in which Bakha attains the different parts of British soldier clothing. One part comes from a British soldier, another from a Hindu sepoy, and the rest from a rag-seller. This manner of depicting his clothes as coming from multiple sources paints Bakha’s clothing as not necessarily worldly or cosmopolitan, but almost inauthentic. Yes, they form an entire outfit, as a military uniform, but they are pieced together in this puzzle-like manner that make them almost seem forced together – possibly by Bakha – to create a certain image of himself.