Back in their homeland

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Unit 1 - | Corpus Sujets - 1 Sujet   Back in their homeland

Séries générales • LV1



Espaces et échanges


Amérique du Nord • Juin 2013

Séries générales • LV1

Text 1

Radha Aunty returns home

A proposal arrived for Radha Aunty even before she returned from America.

I was in my grandparents’ drawing-room, dusting all their teak furniture when I heard Ammachi telling the aunts and uncles about it. The Nagendras were the family interested in Radha Aunty. At the mention of the name, the aunts let out little sounds of pleasure and admiration. Old Mr Nagendra had been at Cambridge with Appachi, and the families were known to each other. His son, Rajan, had met Radha Aunty at a dinner party in America, and he had been so taken with her that he had written to his parents asking them to make a proposal on his behalf. Ammachi had phon­ed Radha Aunty and, according to her, Radha Aunty seemed very amenable to the idea. Rajan would be returning to Sri Lanka1 a few months after Radha Aunty was to come back.

“What kind of a man is he ” one of the uncles asked.

“An engineer,” Ammachi replied. “Works for a big company in America. Very well off.”

“An engineer!” one of the aunts cried. “How wonderful for Radha.”

“And such a good family, too,” another added.

“What about his character ” a third asked.

“Excellent,” Ammachi replied. “Doesn’t drink or womanize. And we know for a fact that there is no insanity in the family.”

As I listened to them, I felt an excitement stir in me, an excitement that had died with my expulsion from the world of the girls. There was going to be a wedding in the family! A real wedding, in a real church with a real bride. I had been at other weddings, but never had a chance to take part in the preparations that went into the marriage ceremony. Now it would be my turn to experience all those delights. I looked around the drawing-room. In a few months this room would be transformed by the preparations for a wedding. I saw it all in my mind: the buying of the sari2, the making of the confetti, the wrapping of the cake, the delicious pala harams, the jasmine garlands, the bridesmaids.

Radha Aunty, who was the youngest in my father’s family, had left for America four years ago when I was three, and I could not remember what she looked like. I went into the corridor to look at the family photographs that were hung there. But all the pictures were old ones, taken when Radha Aunty was a baby or a young girl. Try as I might, I couldn’t get an idea of what she looked like now. My imagination, however, was quick to fill in this void. Since my idea of romance was inseparable from Sinhala films and Janaki’s love-comics, the picture I formed of Radha Aunty bore a strong resemblance to that goddess of the Sinhala screen Malini Fonseka. The Radha Aunty of my mind was plump with big rounded hips. She had a fair complexion and large kohl-rimmed eyes. Her hair was straight and made into an elaborate coiffure on top of the head, and she wore a Manipuri sari with a gold border.

I was so engrossed in my daydream of this lovely creature that I didn’t notice that the aunts and uncles had left and Ammachi had come out into the corridor.

“Ah, ah!” she cried angrily when she saw me. “What are you doing here ”

Without replying, I turned and ran back into the drawing-room.

“I’m coming to check your work soon,” Ammachi called out warningly. I began to fervently dust her furniture.

Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy, 1994.

1. Sri Lanka: an island country in the Northern Indian Ocean.

2. sari: a piece of clothing worn by women in some Asian countries.

Text 2

The young entrepreneurs heading back to Indian homeland

As India’s economy grows, tens of thousands of young Indians who have studied overseas are heading back to their homeland, drawn by rising living standards. It’s a phenomenon known as the reverse brain drain.

Like many Indians, Janki left India to study overseas, hoping to gain a broader world view and a good education. She studied design in Atlanta, then worked in New York, before returning to India to start her own camping company.

“India is a very exciting market, and right now is a great time to come back to India to start something on your own,” she says.

Two years ago, Janki and her husband set up Big Red Tent, a company that runs weekends in the Indian countryside, and hopes to broaden the appeal of camping in India, where it is still not that common.

The economic downturn in the United States and a sense that India was “more conducive” to new business ideas was what drove them to start up a company back home.

“If we were in the States we’d be one of many camping companies in a saturated market, whereas here we have the space and support to start up.

“India is a fantastic untapped market, open to experimental and innovative ideas, and the middle classes now have the money and are willing to try new things,” says Janki.

Cultural affinity and family ties have often been reasons why Indians return home after studying. But the business potential that India offers right now, makes it an even more attractive prospect says Avdesh Mittal, a partner at the Mumbai1 branch of internation­al headhunters Heidrick and Struggles.

Rajini Vaidyanathan, in BBC News, Mumbai, 30 May 2011.

1. Mumbai: Bombay.


Text 1

1 Complete the sentences below with the appropriate characters:

Rajan, Radha Aunty, Ammachi, Old Mr Nagendra. (One name for each sentence.)

1. … is the narrator’s aunt.

2. … is an engineer.

3. … went to Cambridge with the narrator’s grandfather.

4. … is the narrator’s grandmother.

2 Focus on Radha Aunty.

1. Which country is she in at the moment

2. Which country is she coming back to

3 Line 26: “There was going to be a wedding in the family!”

1. Which two characters are getting married

2. How did they meet

3. How did the future husband ask for the girl’s hand Answer in your own words.

4. How did the girl react to that proposal Explain and justify your answer with a quote from the text.

4 Does the girl’s family approve of this union Explain why or why not. Give four reasons. (30 words)

5 Focus on the narrator.

1. How old is the narrator Justify your answer with a quote from the text.

2. How does the narrator feel about the wedding Explain why.

3. What elements show that the narrator’s vision of the future wedding is idealized (40 words)

Text 2

1 Which segment of the Indian population is this article about

2 Explain what the “reverse brain drain” is (line 4). Use your own words. (30 words)

3 List the reasons that explain this phenomenon. Give five different reasons. (50 words)

Both texts

What reasons do the characters in texts 1 and 2 have for going back home (50 words)


> Choose one of the following subjects.
(300 words +/-15 words) Give the number of words.

1 Do you feel mobility is an obligation or an opportunity in today’s world Discuss and illustrate with examples.

2 Radha Aunty arrives home. Imagine the scene and the conversation between the different members of the family.

Texte 1


Shyam Selvadurai est né en 1965 au Sri Lanka et vit au Canada depuis qu’il y a émigré avec sa famille à l’âge de dix-neuf ans. À la fin de ses études littéraires, il a publié Funny Boy, le premier de ses cinq romans, suivi de nombreux articles dans différents journaux. Ses romans ont été traduits dans plusieurs langues. Funny Boy raconte l’itinéraire d’un jeune garçon homosexuel, au sein d’une famille bourgeoise sri-lankaise, de son enfance à son entrée dans l’âge adulte, dans un contexte social de préjugés et de conflits inter-ethniques.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

Le jeune narrateur vient d’apprendre que sa tante Radha, qui va prochainement rentrer d’Amérique, a été demandée en mariage par le fils d’une « bonne » famille de la région. Il est trop jeune, à sept ans, pour avoir pu garder des souvenirs de Radha, mais l’idée de ce futur mariage et surtout les préparatifs de la fête l’intéressent vivement : il laisse aller son imagination, en particulier au sujet de sa tante, qu’il se représente sous les traits d’une héroïne de cinéma.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

Proposal, l. 1 (demande en mariage)  to be taken with somebody, l. 10 (être épris de quelqu’un)  on his behalf, l. 11 (en son nom)  amenable, l. 13 (disposé à écouter quelque chose)  to womanize, l. 22 (courir les femmes)  wedding, l. 26 (cérémonie de mariage)  the bride, l. 27 (la mariée)  delights, l. 30 (plaisirs)  plump, l. 45 (dodu)  hip, l. 45 (hanche)  the complexion, l. 46 (le teint)  engrossed, l. 49 (captivé, absorbé).

Texte 2


Née en Angleterre de parents indiens, Rajini Vaidyanathan est journaliste politique à la BBC, en poste à Mumbai, Inde. Elle a choisi, une fois adulte, de vivre dans son pays d’origine, l’Inde, comme ces jeunes Indiens dont elle évoque le parcours dans son article.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

L’article aborde le phénomène récent de l’inversion du cours de la « fuite des cerveaux ». La journaliste cite en illustration le cas de Janki, qui a quitté l’Inde pour faire ses études à l’étranger, en l’occurrence les États-Unis, et qui revient s’installer, une fois celles-ci terminées, dans son pays natal, où, en plus de retrouver sa famille, elle trouve un contexte économique plus propice à fonder une entreprise avec son époux.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

Brain drain, l. 4 (fuite des cerveaux)  to broaden, l. 13 (étendre, élargir)  downturn, l. 15 (déclin)  conducive, l. 16 (propice)  untapped, l. 21 (inexploité)  ties, l. 24 (liens).

Les points de convergence

En toile de fond dans le premier texte avec Radha et son futur mari Rajan, et en sujet principal dans le second avec Janki, c’est le même thème qui est abordé : le retour au pays de jeunes Sri Lankais et de jeunes Indiens après qu’ils aient fait leurs études aux États-Unis.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Pistes de recherche

La « mobilité » peut être comprise, à l’instar des deux textes, comme le fait d’aller vivre dans une autre région ou un autre pays. Elle peut consister aussi à changer de métier.

Ce peut être par obligation, quand par exemple on se trouve au chômage, et qu’un autre secteur d’activité ou une autre région offre de meilleures perspectives d’emploi. Elle permet aussi d’enrichir un CV et de prouver que vous êtes doté d’un certain dynamisme.

Mais la mobilité peut aussi être un choix, elle présente des avantages : elle vous permet par exemple d’élargir votre horizon professionnel ou culturel. On peut ressentir de la frustration à devoir restreindre sa carrière à un poste, dans une entreprise, dans un même lieu. N’oubliez pas cependant de signaler l’impact que ces changements peuvent avoir sur les proches, qui ne peuvent ou ne désirent pas nécessairement suivre ce changement.

Vocabulaire utile

Redundancy (licenciement économique)  staff (le personnel)  a resumé (US), a CV (UK) (un CV)  involvement (implication)  proficiency, skills, abilities (compétences)  to make it (réussir)  spouse/partner (conjoint)  to resent (ne pas accepter).

Le sujet d’expression 2

Pistes de recherche

Vous pouvez continuer dans le fil du texte, avec le jeune garçon pour narrateur et imaginer que tous les membres de la famille attendent Radha Aunty avec impatience. Les retrouvailles seront intenses. On aura préparé un dîner typiquement sri-lankais, comme Radha n’en a pas goûté depuis longtemps. On pourra évoquer le fiancé, le futur mariage, et le bénéfice de ces quatre années aux États-Unis. Radha Aunty correspondra-t-elle à l’image que le garçonnet s’en était faite  Il est probable qu’il restera dans son rêve et évoquera les préparatifs du mariage : il a été exclu du « monde des filles », mais il espérera avoir le droit de participer aux préparatifs, bien que cette occupation soit plutôt féminine.

Vocabulaire utile

To hug (étreindre)  to long for (attendre avec impatience)  sweet (gentil)  haven’t you grown! (comme t’as grandi !)  a big boy (un grand garçon)  the best man (le témoin).



Text 1

1 1. Radha Aunty. 2. Rajan. 3. Old Mr Nagendra. 4. Ammachi.

2 1. She is currently in America.

2. She is coming back to Sri Lanka.

3 1. Radha Aunty and Rajan.

2. They met at a dinner party in America (l. 9).

3. Following the Sri Lankan tradition, he didn’t ask her himself: he asked his parents to ask her family for her hand (l. 10-11).

4. She reacted quite positively: “Radha Aunty seemed very amenable to the idea” (l. 12-13).

4 They do approve of this union: first, he has job as an engineer which fits with her social class second, he is rather rich third, he will be a faithful husband she can trust, as he does not drink nor womanize finally, everybody is mentally healthy in his family.

5 1. The narrator is seven-years-old: “Radha Aunty […] had left for America four years ago when I was three” (l. 35-36).

2. He is quite excited at the idea: he will be able to take part in the preparations of a wedding for the first time and he imagines how wonderful it will be.

3. First he only thinks of the wedding from the superficial angle of its tradition­al stereotyped aspect: beautifully-dressed people, confetti, good food, etc. Then as he doesn’t know what the bride looks like as an adult, he imagines her as one of the Sri Lankan movie stars.

Text 2

1 The article is about young middle-class Indians who have just finished their studies abroad.

2 The “brain drain” refers to the fact that young people with the ability to become well-educated leave their country to study and/or find jobs abroad. “Reverse” implies that instead of settling abroad, they come back to their home country once they have left university.

3 India now has better living conditions (l. 3).

The U.S. economic situation is not as good as it used to be (l. 15).

There are more business opportunities than in America’s “saturated market” (l. 19).

India is now more open to economic innovation, which makes it easier to start a company of your own. (l. 9, l. 21-23).

They come back to their own culture and families (l. 24-25).

Both texts

Both Radha and Janki are going back home to start families and find a comfortable life. We know that Janki is married and has started her own company, while we can imagine that Radha, besides being married into a respectable family, has got the right skills to get a good job.


1 Guidelines

“Mobility” can be considered from a geographical angle, but also from the angle of changing jobs, and indeed fewer and fewer people nowadays keep to the same jobs and the same places all through their working lives. Mobility is an obligation when, as often happens in these difficult times, redundancy rules and can ruin people’s lives: when your company has closed down or has had to cut down on staff, you often have to go somewhere else to find a new job, either in another branch or in another company. If you want a top job, a resumé with a list of more and more important jobs in different places will show employers and headhunters that you are ambitious and eager to work and progress. In today’s business-oriented worldstaying in the same place is often looked down on as a lack of ambition or of involvement in your work.

But mobility can also be an opportunity when you decide to move up the social ladder or become better off or simply in order to see other countries and cultures. For Janki, studying in the USA is an opportunity to find the proficiency that will enable her to start a company of her own in her homeland. But she could also have decided to stay in the USA and have made it there, in another environment than where she had been brought up. If you don’t have the opportunity to be promoted or move to another region or country, you may feel frustrated and feel a lack of freedom.

But you must also remember that mobility can have an impact on family life: will it be possible for your spouse to follow you without consequences on their job Will your teenage children resent, or be excited about the prospect of leaving their friends for another country The only one who can choose is you!

2 Guidelines

The whole family hugged Radha Aunty, either laughing or crying with joy. In the dining-room a superb supper had been prepared, with all the Sri Lankan food she must have missed while in America. She was a bit taller and thinner than Malini Fonseka and I thought she was at least as good-looking as our movie star. She was beautiful beyond my imagination!

“We’ve all been longing for this moment!” Ammachi said after all the hugging and cheering. “We’ve missed you so much, but we were so happy to read that you were doing well at university and that you didn’t object to marrying Rajan. When I phoned you I was afraid you’d rather marry one of those Americans!”

“Oh no, Ammachi. Rajan is so sweet! He thinks he can easily find me a job in his company. Can you imagine that I don’t regret those four years over there: I followed the right studies and I met my future husband!”

Then she suddenly turned to me.

“Oh goodness, haven’t you grown! You’re a big boy, now!”

But my mind was only set on the wedding…

“Will you let me help with the preparations My parents won’t let me hang around with the girls any more but I wish so much I could at least see how things are prepared! Have you decided what sari you’ll be wearing Do you think Rajan will let me be his best man When am I going to meet him ”

Ammachi intervened: “You’ll see him when the Nagandras come here, but don’t get your hopes up about being his best man, I’m sure he has close friends who will be better fitted for that. As for the preparations for the wedding, that is a female affair boys, even young ones, are not supposed to take part.”

My heart sank with that feeling of exclusion, again.