Violence on the Street

Elvis gives the impression that parts of Lagos are unsafe, sometimes merely hinting at, other times out right describing, public and private violence. In the beginning of the story, he discusses the set up of the road and bridges in the city, focusing on the people’s ignorant use of them. The citizens do not use the bridges; rather, “pedestrians dodged between the speeding vehicles” (Abani 56). As a result, Elvis tells us that a minimum of ten people die crossing the street every day. He depicts it as a violent, gruesome way to die.

Elvis leaves little to the imagination when describes the bus running over yet another person that had been originally hit by the car in front of it; Elvis tells us, “subsequent cars [finish] the job” of killing the pedestrians (Abani 56). The image of scattered dead bodies in the road, mutilated by cars, buses, and trucks, fills a reader’s mind, and it brings a much more somber tone to the story. The idea of a violent, painful, realistic death grounds the novel, forcing readers to reflect with Elvis on both the importance and brevity of life. In Elvis’s own words, “Why do we gamble with our lives? … why not even the odds [between life and death] a little?” (Abani 57).

At this point, Abani is making a much more important statement about life in the city, saying that no part of life is certain for anyone. A passenger on the bus describes it perfectly, saying that “life in Lagos is a gamble, crossing or no crossing” (Abani 57). It is a harsh and somewhat depressing reality, but it is one that people in Lagos, aside from Elvis, have no trouble accepting. Elvis pinpoints exactly that, the blind acceptance of life, as “the trouble with this country” (Abani 58). But, despite the violent deaths and ignorant people, Elvis has one positive (albeit sarcastic) comment about the situation: “At least they take away the bodies” (Abani 57).

Bollywood Censorship

In general, censorship in India raises issues around what we as Americans consider freedom of speech. While there is freedom of expression in India, the understanding of it is much different than ours. Because of their history, the Indian Constitution places heavy restrictions on content in an effort to maintain the social and religious harmony they have achieved. The 1952 Cinematograph Act passed, placing further constraints on Indian Bollywood films than the Indian Constitution already did.

Just like films here, there is a rating system to guide viewers to appropriate material. In Bollywood, the ratings are as follows: unrestricted (U), unrestricted with parental guidance (UA), restricted to adults (A), or restricted to a special class (S). The government’s Central Board of Film Certification assigns rating based upon the amount of violence, promotion of drinking, drugs, or sex, and rate of criminal activity in the film. If a producer is asked to change his film to accommodate the rating system or if he disagrees with the assigned rating, he can appeal, but generally the board does not waiver. Films that were restricted to adults (rated A) were shown on television, but a recent law now prevents an A film from being certified for TV because “[modifying films for TV] was not a part of the Cinematograph Act.” The decision caused an uproar among the Indian people.

Before India gained independence in 1947, the country did not have such strict laws governing censorship. Now, however, a Bollywood film must not have French kissing (in fact, kisses are generally not lip to lip), nudity of any kind, or drug use. In fact, as of August 1, 2005, Bollywood films became completely smoke-free. Any “touchy political subjects like religious or ethnic violence” are impermissible, particularly if the film criticizes the current ruling party. Further, the films are judged inconsistently and vaguely; a judgment that may ring true for one film may differ for another. It depends heavily on “how the theme is handled by the producer.

The films are not only censored by the official censorship board, but by the actors themselves. It is called “self-censorship” because some actors will not film a certain way or scene. The example given was that while some on-screen kisses are permissible by the official board, some actors will refuse to film it, censoring themselves.

In all, Bollywood films are censored. Scenes are cut after films are produced based upon the judgment of a censorship board. Furthermore, an actor may refuse to film a scene, providing a form of self-censorship before the officials begin assigning a rating to the film. The rating system is close to that of Americans, but an adult film will no longer be modified for television broadcast.

One must live.

Mrs. L. I have come to look for work.

Rank. Is that a good cure for overwork?

Mrs. L. One must live, Doctor Rank.

Rank. Yes, the general opinion seems to be that it is necessary. (Ibsen, 15)


In this passage, Mrs. Linde tells Doctor Rank that she has come to town for work. She had previously explained to Nora that all she had was what she could earn and for that reason, she has been working tirelessly for years. Her statements are paradoxical because she is sick from work, but she must work to stay alive. While this conversation happens between Mrs. Linde and Doctor Rank, its paradoxical meaning can be applied to much more in the play.

Mrs. Linde is not the only character caught up in a paradoxical situation; Nora is also suffering from being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Nora reveals that she secretly borrowed money to take her husband on a trip and save his life. She believed it was right and essential, just the way Mrs. Linde felt about constant work. Nora comes to realize as the play progresses, however, that because she forged her father’s signature on the paperwork, her little secret will ruin the reputation of her whole family. Mrs. Linde is tired of and from work but works to live; Nora saved her family only to ruin them. What makes the women different is the fact that Nora is a victim of her own wrong-doing; she created her misfortune. Both women, though, only want to live because as Nora repeatedly says, “Oh, it’s a wonderful thing to be alive and happy” (Ibsen, 13).

In all forms of life, both fictitious and realistic, survival seems to be most important. One will do what needs to be done – just to make it to the next day – because “the general opinion seems to be that it is necessary” (Ibsen, 15).


Three, two, one,


Now the orange hand is glowing,

Telling me to wait.

But a bike whizzes past,

And car horns are blaring

As the T thunders by.

People gather behind me,

Backpacks on and headphones in,

Stopping just for a moment

At the green light,

At the yellow light,

And – QUICK!

Red light.

The orange hand is gone;

The “man” tells me it’s safe again.

So I take my next step


In Boston.