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A book review
Part two speaking tree

Angella Elza John


A well conducted study of Indian civilisation from the aspect of its
psychological and economic factors that played an important role in developing the
Indian society and not just limited to its art endeavours is how Part two: Speaking
Tree can be referred to. The Indian society is bisected and carefully observed from
different angles at the different periods of its history. Its social structure is exposed
and critiqued. The principle unit of a society , the family is taken as the focal point. It
is considered as the microcosm of the Indian society which I agree too. The relations
which exists within a family is both the direct and indirect result of that which exists
in the society or as I understand the very relations that exists in the family is
magnified to a larger screen that we call the society or civilisation. It may be the
reason why the author has chose to single out the most principle relations that exists
within the family to derive the social picture of India.
The author leads the readers through its chapters like a storyteller would. He divides the chapter two further into four portions by means of which
he completes his taken time period analysis. He starts of by giving a small insight into
what lies ahead as in what the chapter two holds for us and also gives us a clue as to
what to look for in chapter three. The first portion is titled the child which leaves the
readers curious as to what this child is. Here again I am reminded of a story book
which starts of with once upon a time there was a small boy. But what lies ahead is
not a story it is the crude reality that were once practised in ancient parts of India. The
child in the early historic Indian society, the way it is brought up, its development
before preschool , its youth and its adolescence is looked closely and studied. The way
a newborn child in the early times were brought up more in terms of indulgence is
clearly mentioned . He gives us a clear picture of how the child was pampered in some
tribes while in the others they were brought up strictly in terms of discipline. He draws
his point from the joint family system. How the culture, caste and the climate
contribute to the upbringing of the child. The child is well cared and brought up in a
feminine world surrounded by the important females of his life: his mother,
grandmother, aunts and nannies. It is here one needs to understand the real meaning of
feminine or the conclusions will end up far off the point. The same child if born in a
say, Kshatriya family is not cared it may be because the joint family has more than
one infant running around and the fact that the mothers are busy in their household
works that they seldom find the time to pamper their kid or simply because they
expect their child acquire true Kshatriya spirit; the famous warriors who are selfdependent and brave. The overall effect was that the child was not seen as a unique
miracle , the author justifies this by means of the rebirth theory prevalent in those
times. The upbringing of the child before preshool is also clearly pictured in this book.
The parents impose the rules of cleanliness and discipline to the child. The method of

punishment is more preferred than the method of reward for the good deeds.if at all
rewards are given they are mainly material rewards and hardly any spiritual
encouragement or acts of love. He further reveals the universal truth about how a
child s character moulds itself earlier than when the parents suspects it and how the
parent misses it. The historic times is depicted as a dark era by listing out all the
practises of the time which seems to affect or shall I say harm only one person in the
whole family i.e. the women. The child himself learns this from the age of two and
subconsciously adapts to this. It is here that we realize that the child is not perhaps
used as a universal term for both the genders but for only the son.
In early times the joint family was patriarchal the father or the eldest member
of the family was the ultimate head. Marriage was only encouraged within the caste
or at times within the family where the girl marries her uncle. The brides were usually
ignorant , shy and unprepared for the responsibilities of a married life. She had
practically never seen her bridegroom until the wedding day. It is written in the book
that the girl willingly gives herself to the person who supports and stands by her at a
time when she is surrounded by strangers. She finds a father figure in him and remains
obedient to him . This reveals how early at age was she married cause most of the girls
would just rebel if this was the case and adjust to the situation in time , perhaps here
the child was brought up in an environment were this ideology of marriage was kept
on reinforced. He also refers to the various dramas that take place under the roof in a
joint family, the conflicts between the women , the women and the men.etc , All this
study is done in the northern Indian society; how a typical joint family behaved in the
early times and to an extent to the present times. The book is good read for
understanding the families of north India and their behaviour patterns. Eventhough the
modern society is losing the joint family system , they have not completely abandoned
all the relations. The nuclear families still maintain a strong connection with their
relatives although they seem to unite with their loved ones only once or twice in a year
with the excuse of some functions. At the first read only the injustices practised at the
time becomes evident to us but Richard Lannon have tried his best to make a positive
note out of it , in the process he seems to justify that the prevalent social conditions,
trditions and caste system is to blame. Here we are left to think whether the
individuals by their presence, attitudes, behaviour and interactions form the cultures
and traditions which gives way to the larger social structure or is it the traditions and
practises which forms and mends the individuals. In a joint family the infant grows up
observing, interpreting and learning from their grown ups and if in his environment
the women hold a subservient position and has to persistently keep making demands
to achieve it , then the infant quickly learns it. He too starts to adopt the same way
with the eldersand starts ordering to the women. Though the child is more closer to his
mother he stills wants to be like the male figure in his family. It is here that the father
son relation is closely studied. The way Richard describes or rather derives from his

studies is that the father is ignorant of the son and he manages to establish this even in
the modern times where the father doesnt even know what exactly his son studies.
The fact that the child cannot open up his mind freely to his father has not changed
during the course of time makes us question our existing values in a family where one
fears his own father subconsciously to an extent where we forget to draw the line
between reverence and fright.
The second portion of the book enters deep into the realms of a
womens world and her status in this world. She is considered both as a spiritual
goddess and as a demon, kali. But what the author forgets is that kali was demonic and
frightening but she was not evil. She was erected to destroy all other evils. Therefore
considering women as impure and further drawing a parallel to kali, as readers we are
left to wonder whether the author considers everyone else as the evil in the society or
may that is they isolated women. Perhaps evil fears the greater evil who can destroy
them all rather than to befriend it. Richard Lannon has provided pictures in this
portion to validate his observation and as a reader we get a break from the long
network of carefully chosen words to tease our intellect. He ends this portion by
concluding that the caste driven individual is devoid of personal integrity and
sincerity. The third portion of the book deals with sexual relationships. He has
cleverly brought out the dual nature of the society . On one hand it condemns those
who dares to refer to it in the public and on the other hand it secretly finds pleasure in
it. The practices of the ancient times when the people adapted to sexual relations for
their survival and the time Kama sutra which consider it as mere pleasure.
The last portion of the book deals with urbanisation and its influence on the
changing young generation. The change of joint family into a nuclear family and the
equalisation of the position of both the men and women in the society.