Topic Of The Day:-“A Complicated Man: On Sir Vidia”

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, who passed away at his London home on August 11 just six days short of his 86th birthday, will continue to challenge his readers and critics after death as he did in a writing career spanning more than five decades. It’s the way with great writers, and Naipaul’s claim to being among the greatest of them was settled long before he won the Nobel prize in 2001 — but he defied simple appraisals more than anybody else. To read Naipaul, to listen to him, to follow his life story, was to be perpetually nudged to reassess not just him, but also his subject matter and one’s own view of the world. He once said, “All my work is really one. I am writing one big book.” In that big book, he kept pushing back the chronological beginnings to understand how colonialism and migration shaped the modern world, and travelling ever wider to examine how post-colonial societies shape-shifted. It was an endeavour that started, and never veered too far, from his own biography. Born in Trinidad to parents of Indian origin, whose forebears had come to the West Indies as indentured labour, Naipaul was consumed by one ambition: to be a writer. It was, in large measure, acquired from his father, a journalist in Port of Spain struggling with the needs and bickering of a sprawling family and the lack of intellectual wherewithal to realise his dream. His father’s story would inspire Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas (1961), part of an early-life burst of brilliant fiction that began with Miguel Street, written when he was just out of Oxford University, and concluded in 1979 with A Bend in the River. It was Naipaul’s travels, however, that spanned the greater part of his writing life as he crafted his own way of seeing the world. He said in his Nobel lecture that as a child in Trinidad he felt himself “surrounded by areas of darkness”, and these became his subjects. He travelled across continents, always with a theme in mind. He opened up lines of inquiry on identity and progress. His unsparing eye and spare, clear prose ensured that readers could not un-see what he saw, whether they were in agreement or not. He was criticised for depicting the developing world through an imperial filter; he was accused of Islamophobia in his travels in Muslim countries; he raised hackles with his India trilogy — An Area of Darkness (1964), A Wounded Civilisation (1977), A Million Mutinies Now (1990). But he presciently bookmarked the debates that coming events would spark. There was definitely low-grade bigotry at play, and misogyny, too. Naipaul’s writings are too important to be overlooked on account of his intolerance; equally, his opinions cannot be excused while understanding his literary legacy.



1) Spanning

Meaning: Extend across (a period of time or a range of subjects).

Example: “their interests span almost all the conventional disciplines”

Synonyms: Last, Cover

2) Settled

Meaning: Reach a decision about; determine.

Example: “exactly what goes into the legislation has not been settled”

Synonyms: Set, Fix

3) Defied

Meaning: Openly resist or refuse to obey.

Example: “a woman who defies convention”

Synonyms: Disobey, Ignore

Antonyms: Obey, Surrender

4) Perpetually

Meaning: In a way that never ends or changes; constantly.

Example: “perpetually hungry teenage boys”

5) Nudged

Meaning: To move slowly and almost reach a higher point or level; to encourage or persuade someone to do something in a way that is gentle rather than forceful or direct

Example: Oil prices continue to nudge higher.

6) Chronological

Meaning: (of a record of events) following the order in which they occurred.

Example: “the entries are in chronological order”

Synonyms: Sequential, Consecutive

Antonyms: Random

7) Colonialism

Meaning: The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Example: “the state apparatus that was dominant under colonialism”

8) Endeavour

Meaning: An attempt to achieve a goal.

Example: “an endeavour to reduce serious injury”

Synonyms: Attempt, Try

9) Veered

Meaning: Suddenly change an opinion, subject, type of behaviour, etc.

Example: “the conversation eventually veered away from theatrical things”

10) Indentured

Meaning: Bind (someone) by an indenture as an apprentice or labourer.

Example: “Dick was indentured to the Company in 1917”

11) Bickering

Meaning: Argue about petty and trivial matters.

Example: “couples who bicker over who gets what from the divorce”

Synonyms: Squabble, Argue

Antonyms: Agree

12) Sprawling

Meaning: Existing or reaching over a large area.

Example: The sprawling city of Los Angeles.

13) Wherewithal

Meaning: The money or other means needed for a particular purpose.

Example: “they lacked the wherewithal to pay”

Synonyms: Money, Capital

14) Spanned

Meaning: Extend across (a period of time or a range of subjects).

Example: “their interests span almost all the conventional disciplines”

Synonyms: Last, Cover

15) Unsparing

Meaning: Merciless; severe.

Example: “he is unsparing in his criticism of the arms trade”

Synonyms: Merciless, Ruthless

16) Ensured

Meaning: Make certain that (something) will occur or be the case.

Example: “the client must ensure that accurate records are kept”

17) Depicting

Meaning: Portray in words; describe.

Example: “youth is depicted as a time of vitality and good health”

18) Imperial

Meaning: Relating to an empire.

Example: “Britain’s imperial past”

Synonyms: Royal, Majestic

19) Raised hackles

Meaning: To annoy someone.

Example: The president’s speech has raised hackles among members of the opposing party.

20) Trilogy

Meaning: (in ancient Greece) a series of three tragedies performed one after the other.

Example: “the Aeschylean trilogy”

21) Bigotry

Meaning: Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.

Example: “the difficulties of combating prejudice and bigotry”

Synonyms: Prejudice, Bias

Antonyms: Tolerance

22) Misogyny

Meaning: Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Example: “she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny”