An Indian possesses the abilityto disappear into the masses of the city because he does not look differentfrom those around him. Indian culture is plural and fluid and the cultures aremixed and amalgamated, as in a ‘melting pot’. The intrinsic plurality in turn providesa matrix where embedding is possible.
But when an Indian is uprooted into analien culture, say to an Anglophone community, he has to prove his worthconstantly. Maintaining ties to India and preserving Indian tradition in analien place is the shock they are exposed to. “Sometimeswe feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between twostools”, opined Salman Rushdie.Diaspora is a scattered population whose origin lieswithin a smaller geographic locale. It is basically an experience of dislocation, migrationas well as various types of displacement and relocation and different kinds of socio-cultural andpsychological experiences associated with them.
Diaspora literature is aproduct of the privileged immigrants having the advantages of education andliteracy. Immigrant experience and their struggles has been a favourite topicfor the 21st century writers. The literature has as its centralfocus discrimination, nostalgia, identity crisis and a sense of culturalalienation. It deals with the isolation of the immigrants in the new land, theproblems of discrimination and assimilation in the new society and their”straddling two cultures; at other times, the falling between two stools”. Theydeal with the tensions and identity crises that an individual undergoes whenuprooted from their native soil.
Jhumpa Lahiri, Meena Alexander, ChitraBanerjee Divakaruni, Rohinton Mistri and Kiran Desai are some of the diasporicwriters who told about the themes of cultural alienation and loss of identity.Woman writers constitute a very significant part of diaspora literature aqndthey provide valuable insights into the household activities of women, theirpastimes and several forms of identity construction. Anita Desai, one of the major diasporic writers, hasdealt with the theme of rootlessness and the ensuing tensions. Born inMussoorie, she is well-known for her depictions of modern Indian life.
Some ofher major works are Cry, the Peacock(1963), Where Shall We Go ThisSummer?(1975), Fire on the Mountain(1977), In Custody(1984), Journey toIthaca(1995), and Fasting, Feasting(1999). East-West encounters and their political views form the major theme ofmany of her novels. Born of a Bengali father and a German mother, helped herview India both as an insider and an outsider.
Her novel Bye-Bye Blackbird (1971),talks about the lives of Indian immigrants in London. The lives of two Bengaliyouths, Amit and Dev, and their sufferings in an alien land form the majortheme of the novel. In the novel, she deals with the lives of colouredimmigrants in London, and also of the ones that return to their native lands.The challenges of these cross-cultural connections have been vividly dealt within the novel.The novel, tells us about the lack of identity ofcoloured immigrants in a foreign land, their mixed feelings towards the alienland as well as towards their native soil, the love-hate relationship with theforeign culture, and the final realization that they wouldn’t be able to meltinto the foreign culture no matter how hard they try.
The novel, set in the1960s’ England, revolves around the three central characters; Dev who comes toLondon to pursue his higher studies and to seek employment, and Adit who ismarried to an English woman Sarah and has been a resident there since a longtime. When Dev arrived in London to pursue his higher studies he has to staywith Adit and Sarah. Initially he findsit very difficult to adjust with the cultural differences that he encounters inLondon. Also he is much disturbed when he finds Indians humiliated both inpublic and private spaces. In the second part of the novel, ‘the silence andthe emptiness’ of the city made him really uncomfortable in the new land makinhim highly dissatisfied about the indifference he finds in London.