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A home away from home: A mere wish in Diaspora Literature?
“Oh east is east, and west is west, And never the twain shall meet.” (The Ballad of East & West By Rudyard Kipling)
igration refers to the act of moving from one country to
another to settle down. People often leave their homelands in search of better job opportunities, freedom and even security from unstable political conditions. Many times this moving may not be voluntary like in case of slaves or people deported as laborers to other countries or even a woman married outside her home country. These migrants set up their minority community in the host country, though they are very much aware of being „minority‟. That is why; many migrants illustrate the unending desire to retain the memories of their past and a sense of belonging to the home country. Memory is understood to be a vital part of one‟s life, as important as ones identity, without which one can be stripped off his roots. Migration and memory has an interesting but a complex relationship as memory is always „a memory of loss‟1 for migrants. Once settled in another country, migrants are forced to or expected to give up their pasts and accept new culture and roles in that country which can be both tormenting or liberating at the same time. They often face ethnic prejudices, language problems, cultural and traditional differences and longing for the „home‟. As Geetanjali Singh Chanda says in one of her works,
“Old homes becomes blue-print for the new ones. But the lack of a guiding arrow or an orienting device for memory can render one homeless- both literally and emotionally.”2
One of the main problems is the acceptance of the identities of migrants either by the people of home country or the new one. As Appadurai puts it, “migration tends to be accompanied by confusion about what exactly has been lost, and thus of what needs to be recovered or remembered.”3 Thus, there are apparent mental aberrations and sufferings which are due to the displacement resulting to which one becomes conflicted.
As Andreas Huyssen says. In this paper I‟m going to focus on two such texts namely. United States. between destruction and creation of the self. This price and the „trauma of self-transformation‟4 as Bharati Mukherjee says is something an immigrant willingly pays. Therefore.2 It is quiet difficult to actually cling on to the customs of the previous society and to adopt the new ones at the same time. A very fine example of this can be seen in Naipaul‟s essay „East Indian‟ where he says that Hindus who settled in the west (Trinidad). a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri deals with a Bengali family living in Massachusetts. sense of loss and an unending desire for the old. There are certain central issues which almost every such writing deals with like the question of identity. use of metaphor of food. awaiting resurrection but collaborates between past and present.”5 Thus this literature is an attempt to understand the conflicts these people face in life and their quest for individuality. betrayal of the old. Through these texts I would further delve into the issues of haunting past memories and the subsequent quest for identity among migrants. (Though now they are permitted to do so but still the ashes are scattered in a stream of Caroni rather than Ganges). “self is remembered in a variety of recent texts.earlier were not allowed the open-air cremation by the health authorities and so the Hindus living there were buried and not cremated. It . the customs of the old home gets altered. In this process of managing the two simultaneously. image of journey etc. I will basically emphasize on the two generations with conflicting ideologies and characters‟ journey of the self. this oscillation between the cultures and practices of the new land is present in a migrant‟ life and the foundations of these new homes are built on nothing but nostalgia. fictional. first generation settlers v/s second generation. memory that does not lie dormant in the past. „The Namesake‟ by Jhumpa Lahiri and „East Is East‟ by Ayub Khan-din. Since 1980s there has been much debates and discussions about the cultural hybridism and multiculturalism which has led to an increasing interest in the new genre of writing called Diaspora Literature which explores the lives of the migrants. The Namesake (2003). negotiating between remembering and forgetting. non-fictional.
. who struggles with his hyphenated identity.S. Chanda postulates. Through him inner and outer conflict is aptly portrayed. There is a contrasting variety in the characters of these children. It quickly reminds us of the difference between the Indian mentality which stresses upon the future of the child from the day he is born and the American culture of taking things as they come. written with a great deal of sensitivity for both the parent and children‟ generation. a dollar bill (for businessman) or soil (landowner). As G. He rejects everything that his father represents and belongs to. to a tom boy Meenah. They examine how inevitably the children rebel against the traditions and the expectations of the parents. Sajid represents an inner conflict which bursts out in the climax of the play and even Saleem opts for art over engineering which was his father‟s choice. Gogol. Set in 1970‟s England is East is East (1999). We witness from the hard core rebel Tariq. She at once gets worried that her child will be brought up in a „lonely‟ environment and will be a “stranger to the tradition and hence to her. The marks of this rebellion can be first seen in his rice ceremony where unlike a typical Bengali child he refuses to choose anything from a ballpoint pen(for being a scholar). Tariq bluntly rejects his father‟ autocracy and Maneer though a follower of Muslim religion recognizes the hypocrisy of his father. It is about a father who lives in England insist his children to act as a „proper‟ Muslims. distances himself from his family and its Bengali heritage. The play deals with the immigrant Muslim family living outside their parent cultural society and is trying to balance the two. It is quintessential an immigrant novel.3 describes the lives of Ashima in an alien land and that of Gogol. in „The Namesake‟.”6 His birth marks the start of a straddling journey for Gogol where he strives to get a clear picture of his identity in his own mind. Every child seems to be rebelling in his/her own way. It is a ceremony in among Bengalis to see what a child would make when he grows up. and a devout Maneer. Both the texts show the traits of typical Diaspora literature and talk about the family dynamics. The element of nostalgia and longing for „home‟ comes across from the very beginning when Ashima is set to deliver her first child and is missing crowd of relatives eager enough to tell her what to expect. a play by a Pakistani writer Ayub Khan-din. her son.
aren‟t you?”12 This duality is also seen in Meenah‟s character. Though we first see her in a saree she looks like a „sack of spuds‟. We have to get shots before we go. My parents devote the better part o the suitcase to the medicines. Although he doesn‟t speak much throughout the play. It is an easy way of attaching himself with the American culture and keep away from the Bengali ways of his parents. “I fell in love with his world. They consider themselves „English‟ while their father insists on imbibing Muslim traditions in them. that he is an American and gets sick when they visit India.”9 Youngsters in „East is East‟ are no different. Similar engagement of love we see in Bharati Mukherjee‟s novel „Jasmine‟. It seems as if he does not fall in love with Maxine. It is as if he feels an obligation to clarify his belonging. his white girlfriend. She accepts and says.“We get sick all the time. Sajid. . “paki enough when you want feeding. its ease. It can be seen as a symbol of his hidden feelings or his attempt to hide his racial identity. She is a tomboy who dances on the tunes of bollywood songs but on the same side mocks them as well.”8 Through his infrequent visits to his parents he tries to avoid the shame of the „indianness‟ his parents embody. the youngest of all seems to be a very carefully drawn character by Din.”11 He shows hatred towards the Pak music but still insists on Meenah preparing chapattis for him. where the central character Jasmine falls in love with Taylor. but the americanness she and her family represents. Whole family tries to balance the two cultures simultaneously. Tariq. its careless confidence and graceful self absorption.”7 He thinks he‟s „not Indian enough‟ and is estranged to the relatives back in India where we see Ashoke and Ashima feeling at home even after so many years of separation. I was born here. he is one of the most interesting characters. the wayward makes it very clear to his father that he is “not gonna marry a Paki”10 and repeatedly tells his father that “dad I‟m not Pak. It is evident from the way he tells an aunt of Maxine. He embodies the one who is trapped in the extremities of both the culture. He wears a jacket with a parka which he never takes off until the end of the play.4 “Gogol in many ways typifies ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). The duality in his character is brought out by Meenah where she says.
Thus. “the host country and children born in it pull in one direction and the nostalgia for the original homes pull in the other. For them as Naipaul calls it India is just „a word‟15 which they visit as a mere tourist. Gogol becomes Nikhil. Jasmine-Jane16. George in „East is East‟ feels at ease when in Bradford (a place with majority population of Asians). Rani-Rosalind17.”13 Hence.”14 But. It is remarkable that George longs for Pakistan i. They make new memories and start life afresh but it is a life based on material foreign to them. Therefore.from their original home.e. But the parents who are the first generation settlers struggle to keep the threads of their past strong and alive. the first generation migrants become thrice alienated. for the subsequent generation it is „the home‟. All these characters articulate that their name change is the trope of identity change. it repels their grip. they keep themselves publicly passive in this new home. the presence of the old is always felt in the new home.5 The inter-generational conflict is inevitable because according to G.S. east while he lives in west (England) and also for Bradford which is in east England while he stays in Salford lying in western England. Another significant feature of the Diaspora literature is the name change. be it Ashima‟s memory of jhaal moori and the extended family or be it the setting of Khan household with the Islamic pray stickers. Similarly. picture of Taj Mahal and the use of pidgin English by George. the new home and even their children.Chanda. However. They find it difficult to relate to the original homes of their parents as they have never had any direct association with those homes and have always seen it through their parents‟ lens. Tariq becomes Tony when he wants to be a part of the American culture and visit discos. The Ganguly family in „The Namesake‟ mixes with other Bengali families only and even if they celebrate American festivals it is for their children. It is “like anticlimbing paint. By changing his name he tries to be on at least one side of his hyphenated identity. Gogol struggles with the negative connotation attached to the author Nikolai „Gogol‟ and confusion of having been named after a Russian author when he belongs to the Indian-American lot. Gogol is his Bengali side while Nikhil . this harping back to original home and traditions is unavoidable and so is the insistence of parents in „making‟ their children loyal to their original cultural heritage.
This decision shows that she desires to go back to India nevertheless she could not fully enroot herself from what was her „new home‟ which isn‟t new anymore. Nilanjana and Jhumpa. “no writer. It is his „personal story‟. It may or may not be completely autobiographical but some echoes are always a possibility. Thus as G. Also.”18 Thus it is often that writing reflects on the author‟s life. Naipaul admits that his status of an expatriate and his connection with India has always hindered him as a writer. it is noteworthy that not much of these writings give us a clear cut solution to the conflicts. The two texts discussed in this paper follow a similar pattern.”21 This description clearly resembles George. She equates herself with Gogol in his struggle for identity and feels that she has inherited a “sense of exile from her parents. She is also a second generation IndianAmerican which she says is problematic because “that‟s much harder to write about. Moreover. So you know there was huge hypocrisy there. could be separated from this society.6 represents the American side. Though both the texts end with a reconciliation of the family but there is no sense of how issues are dealt with in future and are relatively open-ended. In the analysis of this literature. Even Jhumpa Lahiri alike her character Gogol. this is a man who abandoned his culture and married an English woman. it‟s much closer to me. “I‟m portraying my father.Chanda says.”20 Likewise. But as Naipaul says. Ayub Khan-din admits in one of his interviews that the issues in his play are similar to his own background. Similarly.”19 delivers Lahiri in an interview. and then decided that his children should marry Pakistani. for other characters as well it is a way of getting easily a sense of belonging to the new culture. His hypocrisy is highlighted by his own change of name from Ghengis to George and his insistence in his children being „proper Muslim‟. the central figure of conflict in the play. Ashima decides to keep her stay divided between US and India. having two names in itself suggests the presence of more than one identity. had two names. however individual his vision. six months each. he‟s not a Pakistani everyman.S. To a certain extent. Ayub Khan sees a figure of himself in the character of Sajid „living in a parka‟. .
(text) Harper Collins Publishers ltd.„The Namesake‟.„Two Ways to belong in America‟ 5. “You have to find a balance.„Archives and Aspiration‟ 2.”22 Much of the writers of this genre believe that there is no true reconciliation possible between two cultures.„Diaspora and nation: migration into other pasts‟ 6.”26 References 1. Geetanjali Singh. Even Naipaul in one of his essays affirms that “there is no true return”25. When you decide to move to a country. Jhumpa. He finds it impossible to reclaim “precisely the thing that was lost”24.„Indian Women In the house of Fiction‟ 3. Through the whole process of redefining himself it is „within his own skin‟ that Gogol finally finds comfort and Sajid‟s taking off his parka in the end signifies that he is now ready to face the reality of their existence. Geetanjali Singh. 2006 7. you‟ve to understand that your children are going to be influenced by the culture of that country. But nonetheless one always has an option to accept things as they are and manage life with its complexities. Appadurai. Chanda. Arjun.„Indian women in the house of fiction‟ . He asserts. Lahiri.„Archives and Aspiration‟ 4. from the ashes of the old but rather.7 “significance of past is reiterated and new does not arise. Mukherjee. For instance Salman Rushdie asserts that he and the expatriate writers like himself can only make „India‟s of the mind‟23. Bharati. Huyssen Andreas. phoenix like. old is the guiding arrow that allows one to renegotiate and yet not lose one‟s bearings. Arjun. Appadurai. Hence I would like to conclude the paper with what Ayub khan said in one of his interviews which works as a succor for the lost migrants. Chanda. This thought is reflected towards the end of both the texts.
(text) Harper Collins Publishers ltd. Zubaan Books 2008 14. Ayub. 22. Naipaul. Ayub. Zubaan Books 2008 23. Ayub. 1991 24. „Still Bengali at heart‟.„East Is East‟. Bharati. Naipaul. Khan-din. Geetanjali Singh. Geetanjali Singh. Ayub „East Is East‟ 3.„Jasmine‟. „Still Bengali at heart‟.„East Is East‟.S. Jhumpa „The Namesake‟ 2. Nick Hern Books Ltd. Chanda. Salman.htm 20. Rushdie.com/smd/2003/oct/66608.8 8. The character of Rani changes her name to Rosalind. 17. (text). Act I sc III (text).V. Khan-din. V.essay „East Indian‟[From the overcrowded Barracoon] 16. Bharati. Yamin „Writing Diaspora‟ 4. Nick Hern Books Ltd. (text) Nick Hern Books Ltd. Hussain. Jhumpa. Mukherjee.„A wicked old woman‟.„Indian women in the house of fiction‟. 18. 15. Naipaul. Rushdie. Ayub. http://www. 1991 25.„Imaginary Homelands‟ Granta Books. Khan-din. Mukherjee.„Indian women in the house of fiction‟. Lahiri.„Imaginary Homelands‟ Granta Books. Khan-din.mid-day. Ayub.S –essay „East Indian‟[From the overcrowded Barracoon] 26. 13. Randhawa. Chanda. Jhumpa lahiri‟s interview in Midday. 12. Khan din. 11. Ravinder. Geetanjali Singh „ Indian women in the house of fiction‟ .„The Namesake‟.essay „Jasmine‟(1964) 19. Khan-din.An interview by Mark Olden in 1999.„East Is East‟. V. The central character Jasmine changes name to Jane. Jhumpa lahiri‟s interview in Midday. Lahiri. Ravinder„A Wicked Old Woman‟.„Jasmine‟ 10.com/smd/2003/oct/66608.An interview by Mark Olden in 1999. http://www. Salman. Randhawa. She uses it in context of the first generation settlers. Chanda.S. Bibliography 1. 2006 9.mid-day.htm 21.
R. Naipaul. Huyssen Andreas.essay „Jasmine‟(1964) 13.V.essay „East Indian‟[From The overcrowded Barracoon] 12. Rushdie.9 5. Singh.S. Mukherjee. Baldwin.S. Shauna Singh speech „With contempt or love?‟ at centre for Canadian architecture in Montreal 8.K essay „immigrant: quest for cross cultural communication‟ 7. Berardinelli. Bharati. Appadurai.„Diaspora and nation: migration into other pasts‟ 11.„Imaginary Homelands‟ Granta Books. James A review of „East is East‟ 6. Naipaul.„Two Ways to belong in America‟ 10. 1991 . Arjun essay „Archives and Aspiration‟ 9. V. Salman.
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