The story also represents the contrasting cultural aspects of both countries. The story of Khamees the Rat, the notorious impotent (already twice married); of Zaghloul the weaver determined to travel to India on a donkey; of one-eyed Mohammad, so obsessed with a girl that he spent nights kneeling outside her window to listen to the sound of her breathing; of Amm ‘Taha, part-time witch, always ready to cast a spell for a little extra money; and, of course, the story of Amitav Ghosh himself, known in the village as the Indian doctor, the uncircumcised, cow-worshiping kaffir who would not convert to Islam (“www.
amitavghosh.com”). When he lands at the village of Nashawy, the million dollar question of the young boys were whether he was circumcised. Even the educated villagers try to convert Amitav to their religion thinking that his religion does not teach him the right way. Further, there are instances where the teenagers misunderstand the attitude of the author and thinks of him as an immature man.
Though India and Egypt share some common tradition and habits, yet Egypt has its own culture which leads to the misrepresentation of all Indians as Hindus.Role of food:Indian Vs Egyptian Culture (Cultural Shock of the natives): Egypt is rich in its culture which is evident from the various names given to the same place. The author is astonished by the variety of names people used to refer to the same place. He calls Cairo “an archipelago of townships” (20). The author notices the fortress and twin towers separated by the steel gate that serves as a gateway to Babylon.
Food as a cultural and Personal Identity:Food imagery helps readers to understand their characters’ true identities, because in many ways, food defines people and cultures.The article “Food in Literature— Introduction” from Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau’s Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism elaborates on the relation of psyche and eating practices which essentially identity the self and are instrumental in defining family, class, and even ethnic identity. Food could possibly signify the belief systems, religious rules and complex ideologies of a particular person or character, or even that of an entire community or culture, that may not be possibly explained explicitly in a text.Food: The Universal Metaphor:It represent universal cultural truths—aspects of the Indian cultures represented that seem to permeate all nations and cultures.
Kunow describes the semiotic quality of representation as “a stand-in, a sign of something that is (or was made to be) absent” (151). He further states, “Food has, of course, always functioned as representation: ethnographers and cultural studies specialists have long been demonstrating how food not only feeds but also organizes us, how the making, taking, and disposing of aliments are socially and culturally inflected” (151). Although food imagery had been used in literature from the past, psychological theories had examined the role of food and eating as a universal experience.Conclusion:Cliford rightly points out that In an Antique Land has reached back to a 12th-century cosmopolitan world that links Arabs, South Asians and Jews, a world not yet structured by five hundred years of Western economic and cultural expansion. Ghosh recovers, for use now, a submerged tradition of contacts between South Asia and the Middle East. And this past situates, in a sense authorises, his own late 20th-century ethnography: a series of disturbing encounters with worldly peasants in the Nile Delta (“London Review). In this work, food further shows the acceptance of one’s culture, where the writer gets adapted to the Egyptian foods while at Egypt. Though Indian Foods were available, he did not choose it due to the high cost.
Thus Egyptian food becomes his nourishment throughout his stay there.