What is a summary of "By Any Other Name" by Santha Rama Rau?


Quick Answer

"By Any Other Name" by Santha Rama Rau is a story of the difficulty of holding onto one's cultural identity when dropped into a different culture. Santha and her sister Premila are placed in an Anglo-Indian day school and must face cultural diffusion.

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Full Answer

Santha and Premila's mother places the girls into an Anglo-Indian day school when the girls are 5 and 8 years old. The teacher there assigns them their new Anglo names, Cynthia and Pamela. Santha feels as if she is two different girls entirely. Her duality causes her to feel detached to Cynthia, as if she has no responsibility or concern for the person she becomes when she goes to school. The name of the story alludes to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," where Juliet states, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Santha disagrees with this idea, showing that she is a completely different person when she is Cynthia at her school.

The girls face great adversity. Despite their Anglo names, the other white children segregate themselves from the Indian girls. Near the end of the story, while Santha sits in class, Premila shows up and tells her to grab her things. The two girls walk home together, with Santha wondering what had gone wrong. At home, their mother is concerned about why they are home so early. Premila tells her that during their test, the teacher required that all of the Indian children sit in the back of the classroom with a desk separating each of them. The reason that the teacher had given was that Indian children cheat. Premila's mother agrees that they shouldn't go back to the school.

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