When one arrives in a new land, one has a sense of wonder and adventure at the sight and feel of a landscape so different from what one has been accustomed to; there is also a sense of isolation and fear ; and an intense nostalgia is a buffer to which many retreat. (Uma Parameshwaran)
‘Diaspora’, derived from the Greek word diaspeirein, etymologically means “to scatter” or “to disperse”. The term is applied to the dispersion of a set of people from their place of birth to another land. Although Indians have been migrating to different parts of the world since ancient times for trade and religious propagations, the large-scale migration and settlement began with the colonial rule in India when labour emigration was enforced by the colonizers. Since then, Indians have been migrating and settling in foreign lands for various personal and political reasons. Accordingly, in the present day, the term diaspora signifies “contemporary situations that involve the experiences of migration, expatriate workers, refugees, exiles, immigrants and ethnic communities” (Pandey 20).
The experiences of these people of Indian diaspora are an amalgam of both constructive and astringent experiences.
Their experiences range from trauma to felicitations, from nostalgia to amnesia. They have assimilated with the host society as well as insulated themselves. The impact they have made as well as the influence they have received in a multicultural society has either made a good reputation and brought pride to their nation or left them feeling marginalized and given them a fractured psyche (Pandey 32).
This conflict of culture, of identity, of belongingness accounts for the desperate attempts of the Indian emigrants to hold on to their traditional values, culture and most importantly, their family which ensure them that, in a far distant place, there is a “home” and “homeland” awaiting to accept and guard their sentiments.
In her debut work of fiction Interpreter of Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, Jhumpa Lahiri , the U.K born, Rhode Island raised Indian, vividly captures the nostalgic memories and maladies of people from ‘Bengal, Boston and Beyond’. Among the nine stories in this collection, seven stories attempt to explore the fears and trauma of Indian immigrants in America who oscillate between cultural polarities. These people struggle to hold firm their ‘centre’- their family and values - in the Western society which constantly contradicts and challenges the culture they had once inherited from their forefathers. The other two stories are set in Bengal and probes into the predicament of two hapless Bengali women, one of whom is an orphan and the other, cut off from her family owing to political reasons.
To love and to be loved is elementary to human mind just as food, clothing and shelter are to the body....