Desh and Videsh: Be/Longingness in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine
Diaspora is the movement of indigenous people or a population of a common people to a place other than the homeland. It can be voluntary or forced and usually the movement is to a place far from the original home. World history is replete with the instances about mass dispersion such as the expulsion of Jews from Europe, the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the century long exile of the Messenia’s under Spartan rule. The term Diaspora carries with it a sense of displacement with a desire in the people to return to their homeland.
Much of the literature available on the Indian Diaspora pertains to Indian migration, their socioeconomic and cultural experiences, experiences of adaptation, assimilation in the new culture with feeling of longing for past experiences. Commenting upon the reasons for displacement in the Indian context, Kingsley Davis (1968) remarks, "...pressure to emigrate has always been great enough to provide a stream of emigrants much larger than the actual given opportunities." And Tinker puts it, " there is a combination of push and pull: the push of inadequate opportunity in South Asia and the pull of the better prospects in the West."(1977:10)
Indian history provides umpteen examples of mobility of people that undoubtedly was motivated by varied interests, facilitated the cultural exchanges with the rest of the world. Bhabha remarks in his Location of Culture: “The transnational dimension of cultural transformation -- migration, diaspora, displacement, relocation – makes the process of cultural translation a complex form of signification. The natural(ized), unifying discourse of nation, peoples, or authentic folk tradition, those embedded myths of cultures particularity, cannot be readily referenced. The great, though unsettling, advantage of this position is that it makes you increasingly aware of the construction of culture and the invention of tradition” (1994: 247).The Indian classical texts describe about long journeys that saints and monks undertook for the spread of knowledge, peace and love. The spread of Hindus and Buddhists across geographical boundaries of India during the early medieval period saw the emergence of Hindu and Buddhist kingdom in several places. During the colonial period, most of the Indians were taken to other countries as indentured labourers to develop rail networks, to work for plantation and other menial work assigned to them.
Residing in the distant lands, diasporic Indians though have succeeded spectacularly in their fields but longed to maintain their emotional and cultural links with the country. Diasporic writers that have gained immense popularity in the last decade raise questions regarding the definitions of ‘home’ and ‘nation’.
Bharati Mukherjee, currently working as a professor in the department of English at the University of California, Berkeley, presents a deep insight into the Indian culture and immigrant experience...