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|by Prof. Dr. Ram Sharma|
Manju Kapur is the most talked and appreciated current Indian English woman novelist. She is the author of four acclaimed novels, Difficult Daughters, A Married Woman, Home and The Immigrant. Difficult Daughters won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize [Eurasia] in 1998 and Home was shortlisted for the Hutch Crossword Book Award in 2006.
Immigrant psyche shows the interaction of traditional culture within the culture of an adopted alien land and bring about a transformation in the inherited tradition and culture of the immigrant.
The immigrant experience is a composite one made up of collectivities, multiple journeys, stillpoints and border crossings. Experiences are shaped by economic positions, personal skills and political relationships between country of origin and of adoption.
Migration that leads to separation may be seen as rebirth, rebirth in a new place, city, country marked by a new culture, different flora and fauna, new adjustments and so on. But even if 'Migration is reincarnation', it takes the memory back to the earlier birth even as the migrants have to 'build a new world only to die in hope and dread'. The consequences of the separation is that the migrant infuses Indian cognition in all beautiful things, that is, he makes sense of all the pleasant experiences in terms of Indian structures. He finds them everywhere. The welcome baggage of Indian reality that he carries with him as migrant enable him to interpret and recognize contemporary alien experience. This is the experience he makes sense of through Indian structures. If he sees ocean, he compares it with Indian ocean. Apart from this intrinsic cognitive belonging, there is also a good deal of similiarity search and naming to establish affinity.
In this Manju Kapur's novel Ananda experiences such immigrant experiences. He was practicing as a dentist in Dehradun and he never thought that he will leave India. Although his uncle was practicing in Canada but he had no clue about his future. Because,
Ananda landed in Halifax on the15th of August, his country's day of independence. His uncle received him and asked from him,
As Ananda walked in Canada he find empty spaces and he stated thinking and comparing this with India.
'Where are the people?' he asked,
Ananda was used to the hustle bustle and crowd of India but there he was finding no crowd in Canada so he was feeling strange.
During the breakfast his uncle and his wife Nancy taught him the manners prevalent there. Ananda again started feeling the home sickness. He was served Indian food but he pretended to like the western. There in the house of his uncle he has to make the bed. He explained to his cousin Lenny,
Ananda's uncle submitted his application to the Dean of Admissions at the Dental School. He promised him to give 100 dollars a month but Ananda had the Indianness within him to repay this debt.
Everytime his uncle Dr. Sharma encouraged him to relish there in Canada but this immigrant psyche couldn't be left behind. Does he then suffer from a nostalgia? The answer to that is 'No' and this is significant. Nostalgia implies a deep sense of loss and certain irreversibility - but here there is no loss, as things that are 'lost' he experiences all around him.Vijay Mishra talks about the belonging which is very deep rooted, very strong, ingrained so much so that the transplantation cannot dither it. This is significant because it is founded in a breadth of vision and helps him empathise with local life and conditions in the country of migration.
Dr. Sharma forced Ananda to become a cosmopolitan,
Ananda couldn't feel the fervour and frenzy during such festivals like Holi and Diwali.
Ananda was wondering that his uncle was participating in Diwali with his children and he saw small images of Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman on a raised dais. Dr. Sharma explained to him all about this,
Ananda performed well in the dental college and he broke all the taboos. He drank alcohol in the college. Now Ananda was feeling that he was changing.
'My uncle eats everything –including beef'!
'Ah yes, Dr. Sharma has been here a long time, hasn't he?
'Twenty two years, but he began with the meat when he was a student in India.'
'Andy here is a late starter. But soon you will be asking for steak', Gary rallied.
'Cows are sacred in India, Gary. You must not make fun of a person 's beliefs', said Mrs Geller.
'I am aware of that Mum - I havn't traveled in India for nothing – but Andy knows what I mean. When in Rome do as Romans do.
In this way Ananda was leaving the reminiscences of India quite behind and he was entering in the new world after getting his degree. He has new jobs, new appointments and new duties. He also started thinking about his marriage but if he marries a local girl, would he be able to adjust himself?
In Canada a wife was to support his husband and she demanded equality but in turn they also shouldered many responsibilities. Dr. Sharma's wife had a special empathy for young Indian immigrants facing his own initial difficulties. Ananda was brooding about this that to marry a white woman would be like marrying the country with your whole body. He was also wondering whether being Hindu would be a deterrent to a church wedding. Ananda's sister searched and engaged an Indian girl named Nina for him. The exchange of letters starts between them but Nina was not able to decide to migrate from India,
'Canada seems like a nice place,' Nina remarked after two months had passed.
'Many people go abroad for a better life'.
'You had the best of both worlds Ma. Living abroad, without having to leave home for ever.'
Ananda and Nina got married and migrated to Canada but Nina had still had reminiscences of Indian lifestyle and meals. She has took special pickle which her mother gave to her and which she secretely carried to 10,000 miles. Nina thinks that Indians become immigrants slowely because they are not among those who have fled persecution, destitution, famine, slavery and death threats. She further explains,
Immigrant psyche has very deep effect on Nina as a wife because she cries and feels homesick when she is alone.She has started passing her time in reading books.
The novelist has very beautifully fused the Indian political scenario of 1975 to 1977 in this novel as a background. This scenario is the most talked matter for the Indians living in Canada. Nina even was finding difficulty in arranging her Indian clothes in Canada. The novelist has very beautifully described this situation thus,
In Canada Ananda was busy in his job but for Nina it was very difficult to pass her time. Although she has been a teacher in Delhi University but she would not be able to get a job there because she was not qualified. She passes her time by hearing the report on Kumbh Mela in India which happens after twelve years.
Ananda also enjoyed this description even hearing from Nina. Ananda was surrounded in his memory when he attended Kumbh mela with his mother and father.
Nina felt the same vein of feverish memory about her father and mother.
Although Nina was enjoying her life in Canada. She was thinking that she is away from rows of jhugggis in the nalla near her house, without sanitation, water or toilet facilities in India. She started remembering how she has to go to the bus stop and she has to lift her sari. She was thinking if those poor persons are migrated to Canada they can live there peacefully because of open spaces. The novelist has described immigrant psyche not only through the eyes of Ananda and Nina but through the interest of Mandy, with whom Ananda has extra marital relations.
Nina was not satisfied with her married and she had extra marital affair with Anton. At this stage she started thinking about India where husbands were not expected to meet one's entire needs and there was no force on man—woman relationship –love—fulfilment. For an immigrant, it is very difficult to balance between two cultures and he or she keeps swinging like a pendulum from one culture to another from home country to immigrant country.
Satendra Nandan puts it in his essay on The Politics of Dispossession and Exile:
This is indeed, remaining rooted and defeating the challenges of displacement.
Manju Kapur completes this novel with this Nina's statement.,
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