Haroun Essay The novel “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by British Indian author Salman Rushdie is a fantastical book following the hero’s journey archetype, and an allegory of war through the eyes of a child. Due to the book being written from the perspective of a child, the writing style and the concepts introduced are simplistic yet meaningful explanations of war, especially the long-standing and ongoing conflict in the Indian subcontinent. “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” introduces the concepts of conflict between artificial divisions: division of understanding leads to prejudice and polarization, leading ultimately to conflict, and how the key to peace is dialogue and understanding. The general conflict in Haroun and the Sea of Stories is an allegory of the conflict between India and Pakistan. During colonial times, the Indian subcontinent was a group of princely states and direct mandates ruled by the British Empire. The British Empire had a large hand in both the industrial development and oppression of India, at this time, and when the time came for decolonization, the Empire found it too bulky of an area, and with too many religious and ethnic divisions to be a single independent state. Thus, first Burma (now Myanmar) and then Pakistan (including modern-day Bangladesh) were separated from British India. This division caused massive upheaval and resulted in the deaths of many minority groups: Burma was designated a Buddhist-majority state, while Pakistan was a Muslim-majority state, while the remaining Indian nation was Hindu-majority. The resulting migrations of Muslims from different parts of India into Pakistan became a bloodbath, with violent conflicts erupting between Hindus and Muslims. The Rohingya Muslims of western Burma were oppressed in their home country, as they still are today, and relations between India and Pakistan are still extremely strained. The first piece of this theme of conflict and war in Haroun and the Sea of Stories is that of division of communication, and thus understanding: the moon of Kahani is split down the middle by the Twilight Strip, as explained by Butt the Hoopoe: “the rotation of Kahani has been brought under control. As a result of the Land of Gup is bathed in Endless Sunshine, while over i Chup it’s always the middle of the night. In between the two lies the Twilight Strip,” (Rushdie 80). On one side is the land of Gup, constantly bathed in light, and on the other is the land of Chup, constantly in darkness. Although the reader is not really informed of why this is (this was apparently part of the ‘Processes Too Complicated to Explain’), it is known that this division has been around for a long period of time, long enough, really, that most people don’t remember a time when there wasn’t a division, as explained at the end of the book as the moon begins a normal rotation: “citizens had rushed open-mouthed into the streets, as night fell over Gup for the first time that anybody could remember, and the stars of the Milky Way Galaxy filled the sky” (172). The return to a regular day-night cycle signifies the beginning of the end of the division, which has existed, as stated, as long as anybody could remember. This parallels the longstanding political division between India and Pakistan: the clear difference between the light and dark representing the difference between the Hindu and Muslim majorities respectively of India and Pakistan. It is also noted that this division occurred decades ago, with much of India and Pakistan’s young and growing populations too young to remember its taking place. The second step in this theme is that of prejudice and polarization: after long periods of division between places once well-integrated, prejudice and polarization inevitably creeps in: consider North and South Korea, or the left and right wing in the United States. Countries, especially those whose founding caused some sort of conflict, tend to become echo chambers of their own nationalism, increasing animus toward other countries when it does not necessarily make sense or benefit their citizens. This is seen in Haroun and the Sea of Stories, as both sides seem to demonize each other to the extreme, and without real purpose: Bolo spends much of his time using derogatory terms to refer to the Chupwalas: “what a measly, weaselly, snivelling, drivelling sort of fellow you are” (180). Bolo says this to the Chupwala ambassador, assumed at this time to have been sent as a gesture of goodwill. Yet, Bolo goes out of his way to berate him. The parallel in the Indian subcontinent may be more sinister: nationalist politicians, sowing division against their neighbours of different faith to score cheap votes. The current Indian Prime Minister is, indeed, the leader of a nominally Hindu nationalist political party, and identity (or communal, as it is referred to in India) politics is an easy way to buy votes regardless of any corruption surrounding you. This dark side of south Asian politics is perfectly personified by Snooty Buttoo: “Much-praised Mr. Rashid, you’d better be good, or else” (205): Buttoo clearly does not run on a platform, and seems to not care for the people he is meant to represent, a good parallel to politics in both India and Pakistan. The third and final step is tangible conflict. As prejudices are spread and intensified, their ideas begin to foster actions, often violent. In Haroun and the Sea of Stories, the long period of distrust culminated in the kidnapping of Princess Batcheat, as explained by the Chupwala ambassador: “your spying nosy-parker of a Batcheat” (181). The Chupwalas call her a spy, as the idea of someone coming so close to their borders after such a long time of isolation and demonization points only to espionage in their eyes. The ensuing war between the Guppees and the Chupwalas becomes the climax of this long process, where the two sides trade bigotry and propaganda for all-out war. The parallels here include the many skirmishes that occur monthly in the disputed Kashmir area claimed by both India and Pakistan, and the repeated threats of both sides, both nuclear powers, of nuclear war. The way to end this process lies entirely in dialogue, with different amounts of dialogue needed depending upon how far along in the process any situation is. Because all of this started with a lack of communication and understanding, the reintroduction of communication, eventually leading to understanding. War, if avoidable, should be avoided at all costs. It is just as Haroun Khalifa said: “If Guppees and Chupwalas didn’t hate each other so,’ he thought, “they might actually find each other pretty interesting. Opposites attract, as they say” (125). Haroun explains how different peoples may find their differences and similarities in culture quite enlightening, if only they took the time to look. Though this has yet to be achieved between India and Pakistan, another modern example would be the dialogue currently underway between North and South Korea. Whether it bears fruit is yet to be known, however it is a promising start. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is an allegorical children’s novel that goes through this 3-step cycle: division of understanding, prejudice and violence, and it ends in dialogue. It also directly relates to the conflict between India and Pakistan, and outlines the complex concepts involved with the rivalry in ways simple enough that anybody could understand, concepts that are, in fact, universally applicable, from racial violence in the US to peace for the Korean Peninsula.