Chapter 6 The Ghat of the Only World

Text Book Questions and Answers

The Ghat of the Only World About the Author

Amitav Ghosh (born 11 July 1956) is an Indian writer, best known for his work in English fiction. He was educated at the all-boys Doon School, where he edited ‘The Doon School Weekly’. His contemporaries at Doon included author Vikram Seth and Ram Guha. After Doon, he received degrees from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and Delhi School of Economics. He then won the Inlaks Foundation scholarship to complete a DPhil in social anthropology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. His first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi.He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2007. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2015, Ghosh was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow. Ghosh received the lifetime achievement award at Tata Literature Live, the Mumbai LitFest in November 2016.

The Ghat of the Only World Main Theme

This account is set in New York where the narrator struck friendship with an expatriate Agha Shahid Ali. Shahid was a poet, gregarious and a man of fine sensibilities. He hankered to return to Kashmir some day. He was battling with cancer and asked the narrator to write something about him after he was dead.

In spite of cancer, Shahid was full of life, had a clear mind and loved to spend time with friends. His collection of poetry The Country Without a Post Office came out in 1997. The narrator and Shahid met in 1998 and became friends through a series of conversations and meetings and sharing of tastes in music and poetry. Shahid loved to have parties at his home. He personally supervised cooking and offered delicious Kashmiri dishes to his guests. He loved the music of Begum Akthar and Kishore Kumar.

Shahid used to teach at Baruch College in Manhattan and was brilliant. His students adored him. He had taught at Penn State University earlier and considered it the best time of his life. He had taught in various universities and colleges across the United States.

He used to visit his parents in Kashmir every year. The growing violence in Kashmir in the 1990s profoundly affected him and gave birth to his finest work. He never projected himself as a victim. He had an open mind on religious matters and as a child had made a small temple in his room. His parents had supported him in this. He could be called the national poet of Kashmir, but did not wish to be considered ‘a nationalist poet’.

He wanted to go back to Kashmir to die, but gave up the idea towards the end. He had reconciled himself to death. He died in his sleep at 2 a.m. on 8 December.

The Ghat of the Only World Reading with Insight

Question 1.
What impressions of Shahid do you gather from the piece?
Shahid was an Indian Kashmiri expatriate living in New York. He was a poet as well as a man of refined sensibilities. He loved to host gatherings of friends, poets and intellectuals. He was fond of good food and cooking. He was a courageous, suffered from cancer and struggled through it with dignity and courage. He requested the writer to write about him after his death because he wanted to be remembered through the written word.

Question 2.
How do Shahid and the writer react to the knowledge that Shahid is going to die?
Shahid was a cancer patient but never spoke of death. When he first said, “I hope this doesn’t mean I am dying,” it was in a lighter vein. The narrator tried to say the usual things meant to comfort a dying person. Shahid wanted the author to write something about him.

Question 3.
Look up the dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘diaspora’. What do you understand of the Indian diaspora from this piece?
Indian diaspora are the non-resident Indians. They are the people of Indian origin living in other countries. Thousands of Indians have migrated to the USA for education, research and jobs. It gives a brief glimpse of the Indian diaspora in America.

Chapter 6 The Ghat of the Only World