Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"The Red Carpet" by Lavanya Sankaran Discussion

In class, we will obviously be looking at how the author uses characterization in the story. But before class, I'd like to know how you feel about any of these characters. You should present your thoughts in writing and make specific reference(s) to the text. I'm looking for depth in your engagement with both the text and each other. So, the first couple of you who post will probably have to post again so you can respond to someone else.

This is a 20 point homework assignment.
  1. Post your reaction to a character (though this is not a minimum, your post should be at least a couple hundred words.) Feel free to ask questions in this section as well, since everyone will be reading these posts.
  2. You should respond by elaborating on another comment in the stream (about the same length--a couple hundred words as a minimum.)
Here's my thoughts behind the assignment: I find this story interesting on so many levels--I have strong and conflicting feelings about characters and how this may be viewed in a cultural context. I hope the story draws the same engagement from all of you and you "go with it." Unfortunately, we will only be spending one class period discussing this story, so we are going to have to use our time wisely. Talking about what "the author is doing" will be for class--but I don't want to leave this other aspect of the discussion behind--because I value it.

Images from: Resounding Ragas: Paintings and Musical Memory in India shown at the MFA in Boston from Tuesday, July 3, 2007 - Sunday, April 13, 2008 click here for description--(it was a great collection)


Cynthia R said...

Well, to start off I would like to comment that I think this is a pretty interesting short story. The story is obviously told through a nonparticipant who has insight into Raju’s thoughts.

While reading the short today I could not help but think about the cultural implications in the story. Raju often thought that ‘May-dum’s way of dressing and behaving were inappropriate. “The style wasn’t just her style of dressing-scanty outfits that revealed her arms, midriff, her legs, in fashions more suitable for a prostitute or a film star or a foreigner. It was also her style of speaking with her friends; curses, jokes, comments and conversation of frankness..And then, she smoked.” From this passage and similar ones throughout the text, it is clear that in India, women are much more conservative than here in America. At first I had thought that maybe May-dum was an American living in India, but the comment about not being a foreigner put that thought to rest. It is interesting to read about how uncomfortable Raju was about seeing May-dum behave and dress this way when in our culture it is a perfectly normal thing. These comments about May-dum’s attire remind me of an article I read once in National Geographic magazine which talked about how in many countries in the Middle East and Asia, women of middle and lower class follow traditions such as covering up their body more closely than wealthier woman do. This is due to the fact that wealthier women are exposed to more about the world at a young age and are (for the most part) more modernized. It could be that May-dum is just a wealthy and more modern woman. I certainly do not see anything wrong ith her behavior.

Another thing that caught my attention was how Raju’s father insisted that Raju do so much to get and keep the job with May-dum. Raju’s father would tell his son that, “You need a new, clean shirt. Otherwise they won’t hire you. You should look smart…You must act smart. You don’t know how to act smart. You are going to lose this good job because you must act smart and not like a coolie. When that happens, don’t blame me.” It seems as though Raju’s father has little faith in his son’s ability to get the job. Not only that, but he tells Raju to “act” smart, which implies that he does not think that Raju is smart. Also, what is going on with that “coolie” comment? From what I remember in history last year, “coolie” was a derogatory term towards Asians. Why would Raju’s father use such a word?

My final comment is on the fact that Rangappa let May-dum call him Raju. I thought it was really degrading when she told him she would call him that. To me at least, it implies that he is not important enough to be called by his own name but by whatever nickname May-dum gives him. Roots…Toby…see the connection? At least Kunta Kinte had the self respect to stand up and refuse to answer to Toby. Raju, on the other hand just went along with being called Raju all for the sake of keeping his job. Worst of all was when May-dum’s friend acciently blurted out that the last driver was also called Raju. This further implies that Raju is not an affectionate nickname but just what May-dum calls her drivers.

Wow, I have so much to say, but I will give someone else a turn. I’m sure I will have to comment on this again later since it says so in the directions. Bye!

Jenny L said...

I found the short story of The Red Carpet to be a quite interesting insight into the contrast between modern culture and culture of a more conservative society. Sankaran juxtaposes a traditional way of Indian life with a newer, more contemporary lifestyle. Written through the point of view of a narrator who seems to witness the thoughts and actions of Raju (Rangappa), readers are able to gain a very informed view of the main character. Sankaran no doubts creates contrast by placing Raju, a conservative man who seems to be slowly accepting the changes in the role of woman in society as he held high hopes for his daughter in that he envisioned that “she would work in an office, in a job that would one day earn her a car of her own [and] she would be a may-dum in her own right” against a woman who behaves much more freely than his society is comfortable with or approves of.

Raju himself seems to be a man caught between two societies. One in which he is stuck in a cycle where his job always leaves his family “a little hungry” and the other which brings him into a world whose ways and opportunities oppose those of the first. He in some ways possesses two identities: Ragappa and Raju. Readers never have a chance to get to know Ragappa but only Raju for he embraces his new name without opposition. I find this ready acceptance of a change in his name directly connected with his desire for a change to a better life for him and his family. In many ways however, Raju is a simple character with simple aspirations. He works hard for the future of his family, for the approval of his society, and for the fulfillment of the duty placed upon him in his culture.

Mrs. Choudhary, called May-dum by her workers, appears to be a more complex and interesting character than Raju. Though Raju is the protagonist of the story, May-dum seems to possess a more complex personality in comparison. She is a character who does not act according to what is expected of her and she breaks all the stereotypes impressed upon her by the traditional society. She herself, coming from a more modern and freer society, brings a change of view and ideas into the Raju’s life. May-dum represents a force of change and a break from traditional restrictions.

As I was reading I kept wondering what the title, Red Carpet, represents. It only appears during one part of the short story in which May-dum purchases a new car. While Raju admires the “gleaming red carpet”, May-dum expresses her opinion in disgust saying, “Oh, God…that red carpet! Could anything be in worse taste?” The difference in opinion represents the difference in views between Raju and May-dum. Raju views the red carpet as luxury, prestige, and power, while May-dum who possesses all of those qualities sees it as “like a greasy politician’s car!” What other meaning can the title have? What ideas do you guys have?

Kayla P said...

When I first saw this story, I was dreading reading it. I figured it would be long and dull and be a waste of time, (Sorry I doubted you Mr. G.) but after reading the first paragraph, I was like WOW! AWESOME! To comment on what Cynthia said about being called Raju, I thought that was really strange and demeaning. The fact that she called him the same name as her last driver and denied it to her friend was…well… kind of sketchy. When the friend asked if the last driver had the same name, May-dum responded with “ ‘Actually, his name was Murugesh.’ ‘Hm. I could swear…’ The other woman looked confused.”(5) Murugesh and Raju clearly aren’t the same names. I don’t think her intention was malicious though. She was noticeably kind in all other aspects of life, though her values were much different than Raju’s. Perhaps her memory was just bad or maybe she has a thing for Rajus. I did think it was strange how she told him though, almost as if she hoped he wouldn’t hear so he couldn’t protest. After hearing about his salary which had him grinning happily, ready to go home and tell his family, it was said that he “barely heard what she said next: ‘Oh, and on the job you will be called Raju.’” (3) Nice.

Raju overall was a very interesting character. I’d say he was a very round character. He wanted a good job, wanted money but wasn’t greedy, longed for a good future for his daughter, and then did a few things out of character such as tell May-dum about his worries and hopes for his daughter.

Pause. I just refreshed the comment page and saw that Jenny commented. I was also wondering about the title, and I think she came up with a really good idea about it. A red carpet wasn’t mentioned anywhere besides the car. Raju has so little, and he’s so amazed by this car, and if something like it fell into his hands, he would be so happy. But Mrs. Choudhary gets whatever she wants, and her view of the car is so much different than his.

Okay, back to what I was saying about Raju. He doesn’t really change in a huge way, but I think he has his minor changes. He finally opens up to Mrs. Choudhary, telling her everything about his little girl, and later about his town. He still blushes over her outfits, but he had more confidence in her, saying “The visit was ad he had hoped it would be. She didn’t let him down.”(10) I think Raju’s father gave him a lot less credit than he deserved, telling him to look and act smart, and also saying he wasn’t going to get the job if he didn’t get a new shirt. But from the story it seemed to me Raju was a bit naïve yet he was smart, and he was a hard worker. He pleased May-dum, which was pretty much the main thing he needed to accomplish. I found him sweet, and also believable. I didn’t feel like he was a totally made up character, and I felt like I could relate to him in a way. I’ve been nervous talking to someone who has a lot of prestige or wealth; I’ve wanted something better for my family or a friend like he wanted for his daughter, and actually, I have been embarrassed by peoples’ clothes before. So that’s why I like Raju.

Jenny L said...

Responding to Cynthia’s comment, I agree that the narrator of the story is a nonparticipant who focuses on the thoughts of Raju. He is always trying to impress May-dum, “act smart”, and keep a steady income for his family. Raju lives in a society where it is expected of him to provide for his family and even for the wedding of his sister. In response to your comment saying that “it was really degrading” when she gave him the name Raju, I did not have not initial reaction. To me it seems as thought the name he is given, Rangappa, was a name that possessed no power in the restrictive caste system of India. His name restricts him from any upward social mobility, forcing him to labor tediously to provide food just to still “always [leave] them a little hungry.” So when May-dum gave Raju his new name, I find that he did not protest because it may symbolize new opportunities for him and his family. I do agree with you that it is degrading to not be respectfully addressed by one’s own name and also I had a question as to why May-dum would constantly name her drivers Raju. What does the name mean?

I also noticed the difference in the two cultures present in the short story. I like how you brought in an outside source (National Geographic) to further prove your point. It does make sense that women who are wealthier have greater exposure to more modern views of society. May-dum is a character that definitely exemplifies such a woman. The way in which she speaks, dresses, and acts contradicts all that a female in her society should represent. Her mother in law is her opposite. Though she is a Mrs. Choundry as well, she completely changes the image Raju once had of a Mrs. Choundry. “His heart sank at the news” of at first having to be interviewed by a Mrs. Choundry, for the senior one depicts a typical wealthy woman who holds no respect for people who do not hold the same financial status or societal position as she. However, May-dum is a contradiction of his stereotype. It seems as though Sankaran tries to establish a point by creating characters that are both stereotypical and also controversial.

Also, I remember that last year in history class the term coolie is a derogatory name for Asians. When his father says do “not act like a coolie” I believe that he is trying to say that Raju must not act like someone who is unskilled and deserving of only a lowly salary for his labor. He must act as if he is worthy.

Great insights Cynthia!

Tzivia H said...

To begin, the point of view of the narrator seemed central to the progression of the story. As Cynthia stated (and many others agreed)- the POV was limited omniscience, in this case, the audience was given insight into the thoughts of Raju solely. In terms of Raju, he appears to be unable to cope with the changes of his ever modernizing society. As Jenny noted, Mrs. Choudhary serves as a juxtaposition to Raju while one contentedly assimilates into contemporary society, the other, hopes to retain tradition ideals. Raju scrutinizes his boss frequently for what he considers breeches in propriety- he notes, "What if, after all his talk and boasting, she disgraced him as only she could—carelessly, in the things that were to her utterly trivial, matters of dress and feminine deportment?" (Sankaran 8). Thus, a schism is formed between classes and between ethical structures.

Mrs. Choudhary herself is the richer of the two characters. Emphasizing such characteristics deemed immoral in Indian culture (reminiscient of Americans, good point Cynthia), she is not opposed to smoking, cursing, or dressing in a more provocative manner. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note her ability to curb such behaviors- as she did prior to the meeting with Raju's family. The implication then is that Choudhary realizes that her behavior is not ideal in her society, yet, remains unphased by it.

Names appear to be central to the story as well- "Rangappa was content to live in a realm of different names. Officially... his name was T. R. Gavirangappa. Tarikere Ranganatha Gavirangappa...His family called him Rangappa for short. But at work he was known as Raju" (Sankaran 1-2). The different names represent different facets of Raju's personality: at work, he was politely submissive never overtly indicating Mrs. Choudhary's lax scruples. As Cynthia pointed out, the nickname Raju seems to be a means of relegating and degrading him, especially since the last driver was referred to as Raju as well.

To conclude, I wished to also note the title of the piece. I came to a very similar conclusion as Jenny- that the "Red Carpet," represents the schism that formed between the the contemporary and traditional Indian society, where one viewed the red carpet with disdain and the other with awe. This title is clearly ironic in that it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.

Cynthia R said...

Well, I wanted to comment on more people, but seeing as I will be heading off to bed in a few minutes... this weill have to do.

To start off, Kayla and Jenny, you both had some great ideas I had not thought of. Kayla had mentioned that Raju is a genuinely a good guy. I guess that maybe I had been to harsh in judging him at first. Ultimately, all that he is doing is for his family and that is a very good cause.

In response to Jenny's comment about the title, I had also tried to find the connection between the title and the story. The only part I noticed was the one you already mentioned with the interior of the car. It makes sense how the differing views about the car interior could be a metaphor for different perspectives of life. It is no secret that May-dum and Raju are different people ( social class, behavior, etc) and this title might be an indication of that. Jenny you hit the nail on the head!

Thats all for now

Stephen said...

Hi Guys!
Like Kayla said, originally, when I printed this out, I thought that I would have to just trudge through it...the fine print didn't help...made it look unappealing at 11:30 last night. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Many people have commented on Maydum's renaming of Raju. Some took it as slightly derogatory. I think that there is a tradition of renaming domestic servants with names that suit the employer. I remember reading a book about Victorian England (history buff here...) and how wealthy members of society would name their butlers with generic names like "John" or "Stevens" or "Jack." Sankaran's emphasis on the fact that May-dum "renamed" the main character may be a statement about social class, and the relationships between employer and employe, emphasizing social divisions.

I love the way that the author allows the reader to see from the point of view of Raju. As many have stated, this story is narrated from a third person limited point of view, and it's very interesting to see Raju's response to Maydum. I love the conflicts that Maydum causes in Raju. In a way, it is a love-hate, like-don't like kind of relationship. Raju notes that he gets steady work, a steady paycheck (two and a half times the amount he was making before), many fringe benefits, and free gifts. He is always treated kindly, and even he notes that "she never raised her voice at him. No screaming at him...no shouting that he was a fool...no muttering that he should be fired..." In short, she is the ideal employer, except for the fact that she doesn't follow Raju's cultural norms. This causes some conflict, with Raju seeing an "inherent contradition in Maydum..."

The entire story is rooted in Raju's observances of Maydum- her status as an ideal employer, and yet a defier of social custom and tradition, who spurns the norm of Indian society. He observes "He knew that this behavior was unacceptable. Immoral. Should be stopped. He also know that she shouldn't, by any calculation, like and repect Maydum so much." Again, there is this conflict between cultures, since he respects Maydum as an employer but not her behavior.

I do have a question. Near the beginning, when Raju starts working, the narrator refers to him as "Rangappa-now Raju" In the end, the narrator refers to the same man as "Raju-once- Rangappa" Is there any significance here?

Mary N. said...

Raju’s character appears to be the typical traditional male who faces a conflict between doing what is best for his family versus doing what he desires to do. The term that would identify him as a character is a stock character. Like in most literature that revolve around the clash of traditional and necessity, there will always be a character who faces a conflict between acting traditionally due to beliefs and acting necessarily even if he disagrees with it (as it goes against the traditional beliefs).
For example, in the short story, Raju discusses his horror to the way Mrs. Choudhary dresses like “…a prostitute or a film star or a foreigner” (Sankaran 5). Mrs. Choudhary wears clothing that reveals his midriff, her ankles, her arms, and other parts of her body. (Notice the author’s usage of “like a foreigner.” Here, Sankaran suggests that Mrs. Choudhary does not dress as if she is a traditional Indian woman, but as if she is unaware of the traditional attire of an Indian woman). According to Raju, that type of attire is not acceptable, as it represents a lack of morality and respect. However, he is forced to put this thoughts behind him as he must work in the Choudhary household to support his family of five. Yet, at the same time, he feels as if there is something incredibly wrong about not speaking up.
Traditional dress leads to the idea of the importance of image in the Indian society. Image appears to be everything for Raju and his family. As Cynthia had pointed out, Raju’s father constantly tells him, “And very important, you need a new, clean shirt. Otherwise they won’t hire you. You should look smart” (2). (Notice the author had the father say “You should LOOK smart” rather than “you should BE smart). As a result, Raju always judges by the way people dresses (such as Mrs. Coudhary) and always cares what people think of him. For example, he expresses worries for informing his co-employees about Mrs. Coudhary’s visit to his family, in fear that they will speak ill of him due to disapproval or jealousy.
Sankaran begins off by discussing the name of the main character and how it changes. This could suggest that Raju questions his identity. His birth-given name is Traikere Rangantha Gavirangappa, yet his family calls him Rangappa His employer, Mrs. Choudhary, insists that in order to obtain the job as a driver, he must agree to being called Raju. Strangely, Raju never expresses any contempt for not being called by his legal name. I want to point out the scene in which Raju is staring “in front of a mirror that hung lopsided on a cracked and peeling wall” (2). A mirror usually reflects to us who we are. Notice how the mirror is lopsided, which can suggest a question in identity. The cracking and peeling wall behind the mirror further illustrates the image of a gap in identity.

Mary N. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
emily said...

I think that the most obvious theme of this story was commenting on the differences in caste systems that still exist in India today; as many people said, I think that the author was using the two main characters to show the dramatic contrast between people of different socioeconomic statuses. This is demonstrated not only in Raju’s disdain for Ms. Chourdhary’s clothing and habits, but also in issues of taste; for instance, on page 4 we see Ms. Chourhary’s hatred for the car Raju took so much pride in. She dismisses the thing that he found so upscale and glamorous as essentially tacky.
However, I would also like to point out that while the author did juxtapose Raju and Ms. Choudhary, I think there was also juxtaposition between all of the women in the story. Not only was the younger Ms. Choudhary contrasted with her mother, she was also contrasted with Raju’s wife. The older Ms. Choudhary and Raju’s wife have similar values; both appear to be very bound to traditional styles of behavior. I thought it was interesting how an older woman and a younger woman were portrayed in such a similar light. I thought that the author was commenting on how the people of a lower socioeconomic status are far less progressive than their wealthier counterparts-the poverty stricken young woman is more like an older wealthy woman than she is the wealthy woman who is closer to her age.
Raju seem preoccupied with Ms. Choudhary’s “distasteful” activities; on page 6 he admits that “he shouldn’t, by any calculation, like or respect May-dum so much.” And yet, the logical reasons we see for him to like and respect her-her excessive kindness to both Raju and her other employees, her apparent respect for him-are not enough, in his mind, to overshadow her drinking, smoking, and style of dress. I believe that this had to do with a message the author is trying to convey about the shallow nature of social acceptance.

Ashley A said...

I also agree with the previous post that The Red Carpet was interesting and insightful. Many points in the story caught my attention and forced me to rethink certain ideas the story presented, such as in the first two paragraphs, when Rangappa was renamed as Raju. The interviewer said, “the job is yours, provided you are courteous, prompt, and steady in you habits… Oh, and on the job you will be called Raju.” (1) After reading those lines, I agree with Cynthia and Kayla’s comments on how demeaning and rude it was for the interviewer to give Rangappa a new name. The way in which the interviewer told Rangappa that he would have to change his name, “Oh, and on the job you will be called Raju,” (1) was striking to me because I felt that it was made in a smug and condescending tone. To me, it was as if the interviewer had given him praise by saying “your driving was satisfactory”(1) and the interviewer was just about to give him the job, before coincidently remembering that the most important requirement for the job was being given a new name. It surprised me that Raju was more than willing to change his name because it is a significant part of his identity, signifying him as a member of the village of Tarikere and by forgoing his true identity, just for a job, was disrespectful to those apart of his community.

Again, I agree with Cynthia about the differing ideas about a women’s role in American and Indian societies. Not only are women in the Indian culture expected to cover up their entire body, they are not given the same opportunities as men. Sankaran introduces this idea in a unique way because she presents Raju’s father as someone who upholds more of the traditional Indian values, generally believing “daughters were considered the usual burden”(7) , where as Raju, thinks a little differently about a women’s role. While Raju was preparing for his interview, his father yelled down to Raju’s wife, “give your husband a new shirt,”(2) seeing as how they couldn’t afford a new shirt, Raju doesn’t get angry with his wife, he simply said, “Never mind. I’ll go as I am.”(2) Raju also states numerous times throughout the story that he desires his daughter to be “…educated…healthy… well nourished…”(7) and even a “…may-dum in her own right.”(7) Although I understand that he wants his daughter to have more opportunities than most Indian women, at the same time, he doesn’t seem to give his wife the same expectations. For instance, when the family was preparing for Mrs. Choudhary’s visit, the task of organizing the house was left up to Raju’s father and not Raju’s wife because “she lacked the experience. She was not a man of the world.” (8) To me, that comment contradicts Raju’s aspirations for his daughter because he wants her to be independent and wealthy, but yet he doesn’t want the same for his wife. Why does he hold such high expectations for his daughter and not for his wife?

Another occurrence that I found interesting occurred when Raju was talking to Mrs. Choudhary, about his daughter’s education and when he really began to think about it, he wondered, “ how… he could possible take care of Hema in the manner of his dreams?” (8) Although Raju desires to provide for his family and give his daughter a top education so she can “work in an office, in a job that would one day earn her a car of her own…” (7) when reading that line, I felt as if Raju wants to live out his dreams through his daughter. Earlier in the story, Raju said, “…he wished he could turn down his cousin” (1) because he “…decided he didn’t like the sound of the job,” (1) and it seems as if since Raju can’t accomplish his goals of working somewhere that pays him well enough that he too could have a car and not have to take two buses to get to and from work, he will invest his time in providing his daughter with the tools she will need in order to accomplish all of his goals.

Finally, in response to Jenny’s question about the title of the story and how it fits in with the text, my answer doesn’t vary much from yours because I too think that Raju associates the red carpet with wealth and power. However, Mrs. Choudhary disagrees with Raju about the carpet’s significance because it doesn’t mean as much to her as it does for a poor man of the working class. I think that Raju appoints everything of value to something that is famous and valued by all, such as the name he gave to his daughter, Hema Malini, the name of a film actress.
In essence, Raju is Mrs. Choudhary’s chafer and he when he takes her places, such as to visit Herma’s school and to clubs, there seems to be this red carpet that she walks on as people admire and recognize her. In essence, Raju is Mrs. Choudhary’s chafer the closets things he may ever come to a red carpet is the one that lies on the floor of Mrs. Choudhary’s car.

emily said...

I would like to briefly address a couple of points that people brought up that I found interesting.

Jenny mentioned the quote about Raju's heart sinking upon finding out that Ms. Choudhary would be his prospective employer; I totally agree that the author was exaggerating the contrast between Ms. Choudhary and her mother-in-law by putting them in a direct comparison to one another.

Also, in response to Steven's question, I noticed the same thing. I was thinking that maybe this had to do with some development in Raju's character; in the beginning of the story he was new to the job, but by the end his personal life and job have become completely intertwined. I think the use of the opposite terminology to explain Raju's name was somewhat symbolic of his changed views and the person he has slowly evolved into.

Mels1619 said...

Hiii Guyss!!!!!

Well I found this short story to be quite interesting. It was so engaging from beginning to end. I like the way Sankaran placed Raju, a conservative man who is all about traditions, in a whole different environment where traditions are not really follow. He obviously seemed to mind, "...was practically naked...what manner of house is this" (2), "...this behavior was unacceptable. Immoral( (6) but he stuck with it because one, he needed the money, and two, because he was "loyal" to May-dum.

As for May-dum, I see her as an unpredictable woman. The reader would have to expect the unexpected from her. At moments, she seems to be a kind woman, respectful, someone who really cares about others. But she is also an outgoing woman, who no matter her age does whatever she wants, gets drunk, dresses unlike a woman of her age and social status. May-dum helps Raju a lot, with his daughter education, paying him enough money to keep his whole family stable, and also she has been a nice boss to him. But I wonder what does her husband think about her? about her actions? He seems to not be into the story so much. I think this is important because it is another difference between the cultures. The woman is practically controlling the relationship, choosing her own path.

Another thing that I didn't understand very well was the ending. Everything was going well that day, the whole meeting with May-dum and Raju's family. Raju was glad everything turned out for the best. But going back to her home, May-dum makes Raju stopped the car and she walks away with her friend to the "clubhouse" (11). I think this is very interesting because it shows how May-dum's character changes. At first she could be so kind but then she does something that makes the reader doubt her. Like I said before, expect the unexpected.

In overall, I enjoyed reading this short story. Learning about the differences of culture and how a person so conservative like Raju, manages to separate his job with his beliefs.

Mels1619 said...

okay well I agree with cynthia and tzivia about the point of view. The narrator is limited omniscience. The narrator does not include his/herself in the story and does not judge the characters. The narrator limits his/herself to just provide the audience with the main character's thoughts and actions.

Also, to comment on the title, I believe that the title represents the wealth of May-dum and how Raju hopes for one day to have enough money to give his family the life they deserve. When I think of the title, "The Red Carpet", I think of wealth because the red carpet is usually use for famous, wealthy people to walk on. And since the story is about the difference between cultures and social status, I believe the title fits very well.

Mario P. said...

Well, for starters let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. I thought like Kayla, it would be slow paced, dull, and boring like most things I am forced to read are, but this was different. I really enjoyed the way it was written, I don't I have restate the point of view which has already been done to death.

An interesting trait I found about Raju, was the way his culture made him think. Raju would look at May-dum and judge her as a whore for dressing up and showing some cleavage. Even after a year of being employed with the woman Raju still suspected an air of imperfection in her in that sense, obsessing over the way she would look when visiting his village. This is not really Raju's fault, he'd been programmed to think like this due to his culture. No man would ever look at a woman showing legs and think that she was a prostitute, well no American man. That is was May-dum was, an American woman, and the culture shock hit Raju from the instant he saw her "naked." Naked of course being what was seemingly a pair of booty shorts and a tank top, something most girls would wear to sleep, you know, pajamas.

Cynthia, you said that May-dum's insisting that Rangappa be called Raju was degrading. I do not think it was that degrading at all. In Raju's society, it is all about getting food in the home, and staying out of the hospital. You even mentioned how his father insisted that he impress the potential employer, get a new shirt, shower up, make her smile. In the end however, its all about the money. Minimum wage now is 8 dollars an hour, if someone offered me 20 dollars an hour and paid for my education like May-dum did Raju's daughter, they could call me whatever they damn well pleased. I doubt that had May-dum been an average employer, that was male, it wouldn't be an issue.

Now, I say male because I saw hints of sexism throughout the story. One of the most evident ones to me being how Raju's father referred to his wife as "daughter." No name, no nothing, just that. Also, the idea that woman to be proper cannot expose any part of their bodies is tell tale sign as well. I do not have many thoughts on the matter, I just found it interesting that in a seemingly male oriented society, that the one thing Raju did not complain about was having a female employer. I mean, Mr. Choudhary appears only once in the story and is never mention again. Odd.

Andy V. said...

Hey everyone,
“The Red Carpet” by Lavanya Sankaran was a story that is compelling from start to finish. At first, when I looked at the length, I was a little daunted about reading the story. However I enjoyed the heartwarming tale and it makes me want to give things out of pure generosity like Mrs. Chowdhory does. She is a good example of someone doing a gratuitous act.
The character I enjoyed the most is Tarikere Ranganatha Gavirangappa, also know as, Raju. His character is very selfless and hardworking. From the beginning of the story, Raju sacrifices his comfort to have an interview with Mrs. Chowdhory, a woman who gave him a very haunting childhood memory, to support his family. He selflessly spares the water for his family conserving the “two buckets of water [that] would have to last his family for that entire day” (2). He has strong values, as he strongly encourages dressing properly and having a very family friendly personality. All in all, he is a very likeable person who always takes the pressure for his family.
To respond to what Mary N. says, it is quite interesting that Mary N. makes relations to Raju as a stock character, and the comments on the small details, like the poorly held mirror shows his lack of the image of himself are interesting points. I have to agree his is a stock character, Raju does not change too much but nearly tries his best for his family. However I thought the slanted mirror represents his poor life more than a metaphor of his lack of self identity. These are great points and I am looking forward for tomorrow’s class discussion.

Stephen said...

Hi all!
Mel1619 and several others brought up a really good point about the title of the short story, "The Red Carpet." As I said before, when I printed it out, I thought that the story would be a bit boring, about...well...red carpets and stuff. (Shows you what I know!) I see Jenny's point about the car's red carpet, and how the theme of two different perspectives on one object is explored. I also liked Mel's observation that red carpets connote wealth and prestige. One could go further and comment on Raju's reaction to the luxurious interior and Maydum's differing reaction- she thinks it too ostentatious and politician-like as examples of the two different social classes' views of wealth.

In response to Emily's response to my question, I want to put out a new question. I totally agree with Emily's analysis, that at the end of the book, he changed into something different than he was previously. My question is: has he changed for the better? Or for the worst?

Vanessa G. said...

Hello everyone. Honestly, I didn't think I would enjoy the quote on quote "short story" because it looked so...so...so long...but I guess it wasn't that bad. I could actually say I didn't regret reading it.

I just wanted to say that I've read most of everyone's comments and most of what everyone put down--I felt and thought similarly.

One point I want to bring up is something Cynthia brought up first. I noticed that Mr. Gallagher is making us read different types of reading techniques authors use in their writing and I immediately put my brain into that mode looking for them. I noticed that the story is told through the point of view of a nonparticipant and we as the readers have the opportunity to see into the mind of the protagonist, Tarikere Ranganatha Gavirangappa.

This could just be me, but did anyone think of Stevens the butler from The Remains of the Day when reading about "Raju"? I say this because, think about it, Raju wants to please his employer but doesn't really know how (so he takes his father's advice) and Stevens wanted just the same for Mr. Farraday. Also, they both kind of had the same job...oh well, I just wanted to shove that in there.

I also had difficulty in a way contemplating whether Mrs. Choudhary was American or Indian. She didn't dress the same way the average Indian would. She would dress down to the point of reaching the image of a "prostitute" as Raju feels.

After reading the story, I thought why in the world is this thing called "The Red Carpet" and then I remembered the reference to the red carpet in May-dum's car. I agree with Steven and the others that elaborated on this point that when one thinks of a red carpet, wealth, fame, and high status come to mind. But, when May-dum saw the red carpet in the car, she despised it along with her girlfriend. "Will you look at this? Velvet seats! Oh, God, and that red carpet! Could anything ve in worse taste?" (Sankaran 1). To me, it sounded like she rejected the red carpet in a way, since towards the end when she visits Raju's village, she humbles herself, and talks to the people around her, and not at all snobby like one would expect of a high status person. So, as her rejecting the red carpet, she was also being humble--not really rejecting her status but putting it aside at the same time...I wonder if that makes sense?

Matt Z! said...

When I first started to read The Red Carpet, I have to admit I was less than pleased to find out that it was another short story that had to do with “butlering”, if that’s even a word. After reading The Remains Of The Day, I didn’t think I could stand to read anything remotely related to that similar topic. Once I started to get into the short story, however, I found that I really enjoyed it. I noticed right off the bat some textbook (literally) definitions of flat and round characters. What comes to mind immediately are Raju as a round character, and his daughter Hema. Raju has a lot of depth and a complex back story. He is multifaceted, and is the main character of the story. Hema, on the other hand, is quite a minor character, although she has an important role in the story. Hema is rarely discussed in the novel, aside from the fact that she is three years old and attends school. She does, however, have one “outstanding trait”, which is that she is the best-dressed in the school. She is literally “outstanding.” The fact that she is wearing the clothing of the daughter of the wealthy employer of her father gives insight into the theme of the story, which is the exploration of the social status in India as dictated by the caste system, in comparison to the wealth and status of an immigrant from another country.

I also thought it was interesting how when Ms.Choudhary is first introduced to the story, it seems to me like she is purposely introduced to make us not like her in a subtle way. She is revealed to designate nicknames to all of her housekeepers and servants, effectively removing them from their own personal identity while they are at work with her. Also, she is portrayed to be irresponsible and a drunk who frequently visits bars, and rude because she openly criticized the car Raju brought to her. Further on in the story, however, the readers perspective of Ms. Choudhary is greatly altered because she shows herself to be an extremely levelheaded (such as when Raju dented her new car and she did not yell at him), kind (when she donated money to make sure all of Hema’s school supplies were taken care of), and respectable (such as when she insisted on removing her shoes from her feet when she entered the Indian family’s house. This apparent change in personality, or perception rather, of Ms. Choudhary would classify her as being a dynamic character.

Matt Z! said...

And just to connect to what a number of my fellow "bloggers" have addressed:

It's clearly no coincidence that the title of the story is the name for a certain vibrantly-colored carpet that celebrities walk on in real life. What Tzivia said about the title having double meaning made a lot of sense to me. On one hand, the carpet reference could be towards Miss Choudhary, because the rest of the people in her society have viewed her as some kind of important person. The story even states that people, namely all of the children at Hema's school as well as her teacher, had been "staring open-mouthed" (10) as if she was some kind of celebrity.

Michaela I. said...

Hey all, (talk about procrastination, its sooo late right now).

First of all, the story The Red Carpet was a bit bland for my taste. I guess I was waiting for a more drastic change or more action. Also, unless I missed something, I thought the theme of the story, the differences between the castes, was too apparent and a bit cliché. Perhaps I feel this way partly because Raju is a stock character as Mary mentioned. Is there anyway to use stock characters and not sound cliché because stock characters do seem to be clichés themselves? Overall I agree with Akram Bhatti’s critique; the story was nice but, “not great”.

Anyway, the author, Sankaran chooses to open the story by discussing Rangappa’s different names, therefore putting emphasis on the role of names. Why does Sankaran choose to open like this? It may be because the author wanted the reader to immediately see the difference in what the lower class appreciates and what the higher class appreciates. For example, in the introduction the narrator is discussing Rangappa’s reaction to the name Raju, “And after a while he even began to like it. There was a film star called Raju. It was that kind of name – snappy, spry, with a certain air about it.” (1). Clearly Rangappa values the name Raju as a type of exclusive, lively and fashionable nickname. Later in the story it is revealed that May-dum’s previous driver was also called Raju. To Rangappa the name Raju has much value while to May-dum the name is simply a generic, title for her drivers and nothing more than that. This name situation is exactly the same as the car situation: Raju greatly appreciates the car while May-dum is not satisfied with it.

Also I noticed many of the sentences used were concise and simple. For example, “He waited” (Sankaran 3), “She didn’t” (4), “Not so his May-dum” (5), “This was unheard of” (6), and so on. Perhaps the short sentences are simply a way to give the story a matter-of-fact tone. Matter-of-fact in the sense that the caste system is just something that exists, and cannot be changed, at least not easily changed. Well at least that’s how I interpreted it.

Kristen W. said...

Hey everyone! Sorry about the late comments, my computer wasn't working.

While reading this I immediately noticed the use of characterization that we had previously learned from our literature books. Mrs. Choudhary was defined as a flat and round character. It helped create a picture of her attitude and how she perceives things. When reading this I thought that the narration was interesting. I viewed it as nonparticipant, but we still got to see exactly what Raju was thinking and how he had felt all throughout the novel.

While reading these comments I would like to agree that I as well thought of "The Remains of the Day" when I read this. The butlers seem to have the same perspective on life in both of these books. They are these singled minded characters that do not really change as the story goes on.

I was also thinking, I wish the story had more of the reactions of the other workers in the house. I'm sure they didn't like a new person entering the house and getting as well treated as Raju. On the other hand, maybe they are treated the same way? Maybe someone has any ideas on that? Or is it completely not needed to know?

Kristen W. said...

Hey everyone!

I agree with Michaela when she said that the story was a bit boring. I was also waiting for a dramatic scene where something changes, or something outstanding happens at the house. That didn't come at all. The thing is, with the detailed and informative writing that Lavanya Sankaran offered, there is no need for this huge change of the story.

The writing opens up the senses of what Indian culture is really like. New words were written throughout the story that really got me into learning more about the culture itself. The "puja" was mentioned and later i realized it was a prayer location along with a specific prayer to go with it. I had found that very interesting.

I really wanted to comment on the fact that the last driver was known as "Raju" as well. This really caught my attention. I really thought about the fact that due to them having the same name given to them, symbolism is taking place. It is generalizing servants into one catagory basically. With the same name being used, it is as if they are worthless and mean nothing. Then it contradicts itself. Even though the same name is used, the new "Raju" is being treated extremely well for a new butler (or servant). Although they are just supposed to blend in and never be known to change, it seems as if he is treated in a different mannor. I found that to be very interesting and was wondering if anyone else caught on to that?

sodaba said...

i actually enjoyed reading the short story The Red Carpet. There are many similarities between the Indian culture and mine, so it was easier for me to relate to the character Raju. But it was interesting to see how he almost worships his May-dum. No matter how much he disagrees with her sense of fashion or her behavior he still respects her because that's what she has done with him and all the other servants. People like Raju and May-dum are hard to find, specially in a country like India. i say this because the rich always look down upon the poor, and the poor look at most of the rich in a distasteful manner.

And the name change is very common over there. even the actors and actresses change their so they're easier to remember, or to make it "snappy". And i thought it was really cute that he named her daughter after an actress. it seems a little shallow at first, but then u realize that he named her after that actress because he wants his daughter to be as successful as her.

And last thing i want to mention
is the fact that no matter how close the May-dum and Raju became they still will be very apart as shown at the end when she just leaves without saying more than "stop the car" and going with her friend. It's the social status that will keep them apart.

Pretty Lady said...

Sorry for being late guys... I couldn't sign in yesterday. Here's my blog...

Guys.. you all write so much!!
Are we trying to get a good grade or something?!
Ok... so I loved Cynthia's and Jenny's comments.Jenny: I think you got the purpose of the title just right.. and I completely agree! I also thought the title of the book could have been a play on words for the two different cultures. In America we see "The Red Carpet" as a grand event that powerful, rich people attend. In India, it's merely part of a car. (I like Jenny's idea better!)Cyndi: You brought up a good point about the usage of names in the "short" story. At first, however, I did not see Maydum callling Rangappa, Raju degrading... At first I just thought she had bad memory, or that she wasn't good at memorizing names, or even that it was an endearment (like honey or dear here). But after that encounter with her friend, I knew it wasn't that. The way I see it, is that Rangappa accepted Maydum to call him Raju as a sacrifice for the better paying job he needed. Maydum was grouping the drivers (those inferior to her) as Raju's. Often, I have to allow new friends to call me AD, or another nickname, because they have difficulty pronouncing my name (an example of why one would let others "change" their name),but seeing that this is not the case here, I do agree with Cyndi that it was degrading to change Rangappa's name, even though it wasn't intentional.
I wanted to talk about the characterization of Rangappa and Maydum...I believe that Raju is the round character and Maydum is the flat character. Raju's character is definitely well-developed throughout the short story; we are allowed into his home, family, and job. On the other hand, all we know about Maydum is that she is wealthy, dresses inappropriately according to Raju, and basically acts the way less respectful women would. Maydum does not seem to care about what others think about her (including her mother-in-law... even though she cried after leaving her house). I found it very surprising that she dressed formally and appropriate when she wen to meet Raju's family. I was wondering if her actions to help Raju's daughter was motivational or was it a gratuitous act? Perhaps she felt so sympathetic towards Raju's daughter, knew the importance of a good education, and wanted to discreetly thank Raju for his good service that she was motivated to help him out. But because it appeared out of her character to help and worry about those inferior to her, I saw it as a gratuitous act. Any thoughts?=) By the way guys... I did not find the story THAT interesting. I thought the beginning was a little slow.. but the ending was good. Just thought I should put that out there! =)

CarlaC said...

Mr.G where do i find the story i dont see it anywhere!!!

Mr. G said...

Carla, I emailed it to everyone. Come by if you need it.

CarlaC said...

i checked my email and it isnt there i think i gave you the wrong email its carlac2009@gmail.com

i didnt get a chance to check the blog until i was home but im trying to find some one who can send it to me

CarlaC said...
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CarlaC said...
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CarlaC said...

I really enjoyed reading the story the Red Carpet; to see the social differences in the same culture was really fascinating to me. The fact that Maydum was dressed just how Raju wanted her to be was really great it showed that she was willing to do what he wanted to make him happy. Exactly the way he looked past her clothes and way of life because he respected her. I noticed that her main theme was that where you live does not make you who you are. For example Raju comes from a poor and run down area but he is not ignorant or poorly educated he is a smart and well rounded man.

Also with Maydum she is really rich wears expensive and sometimes sleazy clothes and in reality is a caring and considerate person. She may not be the epitome of what a woman should be in Rajus eyes but he still greatly respects her and thinks that she is an incredible woman. He really thinks of her like a movie star and the fact that she would take the time to talk to him and care about his life amazes Raju. I really enjoyed this story allot.

CarlaC said...
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CarlaC said...

I really enjoyed reading the story the Red Carpet; to see the social differences in the same culture was really fascinating to me. The fact that Maydum was dressed just how Raju wanted her to be was really great it showed that she was willing to do what he wanted to make him happy. Exactly the way he looked past her clothes and way of life because he respected her. I noticed that her main theme was that where you live does not make you who you are. For example Raju comes from a poor and run down area but he is not ignorant or poorly educated he is a smart and well rounded man.

Also with Maydum she is really rich wears expensive and sometimes sleazy clothes and in reality is a caring and considerate person. She may not be the epitome of what a woman should be in Rajus eyes but he still greatly respects her and thinks that she is an incredible woman. He really thinks of her like a movie star and the fact that she would take the time to talk to him and care about his life amazes Raju. I really enjoyed this story allot.