The Thing About Thhug Analysis

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This article studies TabishKhair’s representation of Amir Ali in his novel The Thing about Thugs. Amir Ali or Ameer Ali was a noted Thug immortalized through Philip Meadows Taylor’s nineteenth century novel Confessions of a Thug. Thugs, or the practitioners of Thuggee, were described by the colonizing British as cruel murderers who deceived and befriended people before murdering them. Khair deconstructs this colonial view. His Amir Ali appears as an injured innocent who becomes a ‘Thug’ under the pressure of circumstances. Up to a point, the novel appears to uphold this image of Amir. Khair’s representation, however, is open-ended, and as the novel closes one is left in doubt whether Amir is really an innocent man or a genuine Thug as he reported…show more content…
Ever since the ‘discovery’ of Thuggee by the British in the early nineteenth century, this ‘Indian’ type of crime has drawn attention to itself time and again. The incessant outputs by scholars, which have led to the establishment of an ever increasing Thug archive, evince the enduring appeal of the subject. Outside the academy, interest in it has been kept alive by popular novels and cult movies. One may mention novels like Captain Philip Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug (1839) and John Masters’ The Deceivers (1952), and movies like Gunga Din (1939) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) as examples. As embodiment of an antediluvian evil which lurks unrecognized beneath the thin crust of familiar civilization, Thuggee has the power to both fascinate and terrify. It is this feature of Thuggee that writers and filmmakers try to tap to attract the audiences and the readers.TabishKhair’sThe Thing About Thugs (2010) is one of the newest attempts to capitalize on the rich associations that Thuggee evoke. Of course, Khair’s novel is not about Thuggee itself, though the title seems to suggest so. His subject is the criminal…show more content…
The British colonizers looked upon Thuggee as a sort of organized crime whose practitioners were bound together by the feeling of fraternity. The Thugs were deceivers who befriended the unwary travellers on the road and murdered them thereafter. Indeed the English word thug has come from modern Indian (Bengali, Marathi, Hindi) thagmeaning “deceiver” or “swindler”. The Thugs were also known as phansigars(from phansimeaning noose). They strangled people with a piece of cloth called rumal. The Thugs always strangled their victims before robbing them. This they did to avoid detection. The Thugs always operated in gangs and were believed to have been efficiently organized. They were also believed to communicate in a secret language called ‘Ramasee’. Though the Thugs mainly killed people for pecuniary gains, the British colonizersusually attributed an even more sinister motive to their crime. The Thugs were said to worship the Hindu goddess Kali irrespective of their personal religious affiliations. As votaries of the goddess of destruction, the Thugs were seen to be at a never-ending war with the rest of mankind. Taylor’s Ameer Ali admits that “relentless, unerring destruction” of mankind was considered as the sacred duty of a Thug. (Taylor, 1) Clearly, to the British,Thuggee appeared as an insidious evil that threatened the very fabric of order
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