Cultural Practices Descriptions

Summaries of “Memories of Montreal – and Richness” and “Lend Me Your Light”

Under what conditions should children be raised for them to have a happy life? In his fictional story, Moses Milstein, a veterinarian, and contributor to the North and West Voice reflect on his own childhood experience and that of his son (Reinking et al. 150). To make his point, the author compares his life in urban Montreal, where people of different cultures and economic layers mix, with the upper-middle-class area of Vancouver, whose residents are mostly alike. He believes that living in an area that gathers and unites various people can be advantageous for a child, as he or she has the opportunity to become acquainted with different worlds, obtain diverse experiences, and decide how to live the rest of his or life.

The author’s son is deprived of such opportunities, as he lives in a homogeneous neighborhood where everything is cozy and ordinary. Milstein admits to feeling guilty for putting his child in this comfortable cage, saying, “Sometimes I am sad for him” (Reinking et al. 152). The author concludes that a complicated childhood in a deprived and diverse area can be even better than one full of stability and gains.

Is it true that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” (“Idioms” par. 1)? In his story “Lend Me Your Light,” Rohinton Mistry, an internationally acclaimed writer, tries to answer this question (Reinking et al. 153). The narrator describes his childhood in Bombay, paying attention to the events that happened in his life and the lives of his brother Percy and his friend Jamshed. Although the boys belonged to different social classes, this never kept them from being friends. Still, over time, Percy started to pay less attention to his family, instead of spending his free time with a rich friend.

To make his point, Mistry shows how Percy changed by contrasting him with the more static characters of his brother and Jamshed. While the boy was looking for the privileges of a rich life to which he did not belong, he failed to see the beauty around him. He tried to get out but got stuck. As the narrator says, Percy wanted to move to the United States but never did, while “we both left Bombay the same year. Jamshed first, for New York, then I, for Toronto” (Reinking et al. 153). In this way, he concludes that only those people who find and accept their place can achieve success and move forward, while others tend to remain unsatisfied with their lives and cannot leave their pasts behind.

Preliminary Notes

  • Skillful use of detail allows both authors to introduce various cultures to the readers efficiently even though they focus on different cultural elements.
  • Milstein describes Jewish life in a diverse world. He shares his childhood memories so the reader can compare them with those of his son.
  • Milstein prefers to everyday practices.
  • Diversity and brightness are associated with happiness.
  • Mistry provides an opportunity for readers not just to get to know how everything looked at that time but also to sense smells and changes in weather.
  • It is possible to contrast the dietary and culinary practices of different populations by examining the descriptions of lunchtime.
  • Describing the relationship between two friends, Mistry also shows that their worlds differ and cannot blend.
  • The environment and people’s behaviors reveal the diversity that exists within one location.

Comparison of “Memories of Montreal – and Richness” and “Lend Me Your Light”

Particular populations have their own cultures, which determine how they think and act. In their works, Milstein and Mistry reveal these peculiarities through descriptions of various activities and how they are perceived by the characters. Skillful use of detail allows the authors to introduce different cultures to the readers efficiently even though they do not always focus on the same cultural elements and practices.

In “Memories of Montreal – and Richness,” Milstein describes Jewish life in a diverse world. He shares his childhood memories, for them to be compared with those of his son. The author puts his readers in that place where he lived by describing the things one could find nearby: “The ‘Jewish’ store… around the corner was Wing Ling, the Chinese laundry…” (Reinking et al. 150). He does not only name them but also adds some details about the everyday life of their owners as well as the way they interact.

For example, he refers to routine practices and tells about shopping, cooking, and leisure time. Milstein mentions that he could get “kosher Coca Cola” and French “potato chips, soft drinks, and fly-paper rolls” and give his sheets to the Chinese family who “washed and ironed” them (Reinking et al. 150). People’s behaviors and the things they interact with determine their reality. With these nuances, the narrator describes his routine in a cultural melting pot without speaking about it directly.

Instead of providing the readers with some bare facts that have no emotional coloration, Milstein turns the information he is willing to share into little notes that may seem to be insignificant from the very beginning. Still, when thinking of the story as a whole after reading it, the readers can notice that tiny pieces of information about everyday cultural practices fill the gaps in understanding the described reality.

When focusing on his son’s life, Milstein says, “He walks through this serene neighborhood unmolested, the quiet punctuated by the thwack of tennis balls coming from cozy courts nearby” (Reinking et al. 150). Even though he does not say anything negative and the situation seems to be rather peaceful and pleasant, the image that appears in the readers’ minds turns out to be rather melancholic.

In comparison with the previously discussed neighborhood and Milstein’s life in it, this one lacks diversity and brightness, which tend to be associated with happiness in this story. The routine of the author’s son includes a very limited range of interactions, as he can reach only people like him. Milstein speaks about tennis balls instead of discussing other individuals as if showing that they are the only variety one can expect. With this little detail, he shows that he is obliged to be like others because there is no other option.

Trying to appeal to readers and make them identify with his characters, Mistry introduces numerous details that add color to his writing just like Milstein. Describing every single part of his everyday routine, Mistry allows his readers not just to know how everything looked at that time but also to sense smells and changes in temperature. For example, when mentioning lunchtime, he says, “No matter what the hour of the day, that hot and dank grotto of a drill hall smelled stale and sickly, the way a vomit-splashed room does even after it is cleaned up” (Reinking et al. 153).

In this way, the readers can fully experience this situation in their imaginations. So many details make them subconsciously recollect their feelings when being in a stuffy room full of different smells. As a result, they become closer to the main characters and can feel with them. Moreover, such an approach makes it possible to contrast the dietary and culinary practices of different populations. Speaking about Jamshed, Mistry says, “His food arrived precisely at one o’clock in the chauffeur-driven, air-conditioned family car, and was eaten in the leather-upholstered luxury of the black seat” (Reinking et al. 153).

Indeed, the author skillfully highlights the lavishness of Jamshed’s lifestyle through these nuances, even though many people would probably neglect them, believing to be not so critical. Thus, how the author describes Bombay effectively reflects the cultural peculiarities of its population. Due to the detailed descriptions, the readers receive an opportunity to be in the characters’ shoes. They can imagine themselves experiencing various situations, which is likely to enhance their understanding of the text and the author’s ideas.

While describing the relationship between the two friends, Mistry also shows that their worlds differ and cannot blend. Even though they were best friends for a long time and Percy dropped his life as a part of his family for Jamshed’s company, their ways separate. They go to different colleges and lose track of each other so that soon “Jamshed showed a very superficial interest in what little he knew about Percy’s activities” (Reinking et al. 157).

Those details of the boys’ relations and their interaction with the families reveal their realities and allow the readers to fully realize what the characters had and what they lost. For example, the pieces of Percy’s childhood memories could make him closer to his brother and parents, but he abandons them, which prevents him from becoming happier. Describing boys’ relations, the author proves that even when diverse populations interact, they are still occupied by different everyday practices, which prevents them from becoming a single entity. Even though Percy and Jamshed spent much time together, the author used details to emphasize differences between their lives. In this way, those things that seemed to be insignificant turned into the determinants of the future.

Thus, Milstein and Mistry describe different cultural practices in detail to make their readers involved and sympathetic. The authors focus on everyday routine, nutrition, work, and other commonplace activities for readers to understand their point of view and see how it was reached. The environment and people’s behaviors reveal the diversity that exists within one location and is often overlooked.

Works Cited

Idioms. 2016. The Free Dictionary. Web.

Reinking, James, Robert von der Osten, Sue Cairns, and Robert Fleming. Strategies for Successful Writing, Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2007.

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