An Indian possesses the ability
to disappear into the masses of the city because he does not look different
from those around him. Indian culture is plural and fluid and the cultures are
mixed and amalgamated, as in a ‘melting pot’. The intrinsic plurality in turn provides
a matrix where embedding is possible. But when an Indian is uprooted into an
alien culture, say to an Anglophone community, he has to prove his worth
constantly. Maintaining ties to India and preserving Indian tradition in an
alien place is the shock they are exposed to. “Sometimes
we feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two
stools”, opined Salman Rushdie.
Diaspora is a scattered population whose origin lies
within a smaller geographic locale. It is basically an experience of dislocation, migration
as well as various types of displacement and relocation and different kinds of socio-cultural and
psychological experiences associated with them. Diaspora literature is a
product of the privileged immigrants having the advantages of education and
literacy. Immigrant experience and their struggles has been a favourite topic
for the 21st century writers. The literature has as its central
focus discrimination, nostalgia, identity crisis and a sense of cultural
alienation. It deals with the isolation of the immigrants in the new land, the
problems of discrimination and assimilation in the new society and their
“straddling two cultures; at other times, the falling between two stools”. They
deal with the tensions and identity crises that an individual undergoes when
uprooted from their native soil. Jhumpa Lahiri, Meena Alexander, Chitra
Banerjee Divakaruni, Rohinton Mistri and Kiran Desai are some of the diasporic
writers who told about the themes of cultural alienation and loss of identity.
Woman writers constitute a very significant part of diaspora literature aqnd
they provide valuable insights into the household activities of women, their
pastimes and several forms of identity construction.
Anita Desai, one of the major diasporic writers, has
dealt with the theme of rootlessness and the ensuing tensions. Born in
Mussoorie, she is well-known for her depictions of modern Indian life. Some of
her major works are Cry, the Peacock(1963), Where Shall We Go This
Summer?(1975), Fire on the Mountain(1977), In Custody(1984), Journey to
Ithaca(1995), and Fasting, Feasting(1999).
East-West encounters and their political views form the major theme of
many of her novels. Born of a Bengali father and a German mother, helped her
view 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 Bengali
youths, Amit and Dev, and their sufferings in an alien land form the major
theme of the novel. In the novel, she deals with the lives of coloured
immigrants in London, and also of the ones that return to their native lands.
The challenges of these cross-cultural connections have been vividly dealt with
in the novel.
The novel, tells us about the lack of identity of
coloured immigrants in a foreign land, their mixed feelings towards the alien
land as well as towards their native soil, the love-hate relationship with the
foreign culture, and the final realization that they wouldn’t be able to melt
into the foreign culture no matter how hard they try. The novel, set in the
1960s’ England, revolves around the three central characters; Dev who comes to
London to pursue his higher studies and to seek employment, and Adit who is
married to an English woman Sarah and has been a resident there since a long
time. When Dev arrived in London to pursue his higher studies he has to stay
with Adit and Sarah. Initially he finds
it very difficult to adjust with the cultural differences that he encounters in
London. Also he is much disturbed when he finds Indians humiliated both in
public and private spaces. In the second part of the novel, ‘the silence and
the emptiness’ of the city made him really uncomfortable in the new land makin
him highly dissatisfied about the indifference he finds in London..