It is a well accepted
fact that the basic theme of all literature is human being, his or her actions,
thoughts, feelings, beliefs and faiths. As human being is described as a social
animal, it is quite obvious that sociological aspect of human being is
reflected in literature. Literature deals with the number of sociological
concepts, movements aesthetically. ‘Diaspora’ is one of the sociological
concepts that find it’s reflection in today’s literature. Diaspora literature
deals with expatriate sensibility. It focuses on the lives of immigrants and
their inner and external conflicts in an alien land. By highlighting issues
like cultural dilemma, quest of identity, multiculturalism and universal
aspects of human existence, Diasporic Literature occupies an important status
in the literary field.
The word ‘Diaspora’ is
derived from the Greek word ‘Diasperio’ which means to distribute, to scatter.
The term originally associated with the Jewish historical experience but today
the term has acquired a more expanded meaning and it refers to common ancestral
homeland, voluntary or involuntary migration and a sense of marginality in the
country of residence. This term cuts across various disciplines such as
Sociology, Cultural Studies, and Political Science etc. On the background of
globalization, the term ‘Diaspora’ raises the questions of acculturation,
assimilation, the loss of identity etc.
In the last century, Indian Diaspora was
mainly a personal choice of individuals, particularly for academic pursuit or
economic gains either towards the Middle East or to the Western countries,
particularly to U.S.A. The native residents in each of these countries reacted
differently to the waves of immigrants but in all most all the cases the
expatriate did face a clash of opposing cultures, a feeling of alienation which
was then followed by the attempts to adjust, to adopt, to accept and finally
form a separate identity as a racial group to be assimilated and hence
accultured. All this is reflected in the writing, now generally placed under
the umbrella term of Expatriate Writing or Diasporic Literature. These terms
have now reached a stage of being used synonymously.
Another important fact
about Indian Diaspora is that, in the last two decades an increasing number of
third world writers have emigrated to the west. We can observe that some
of these writers still feel alienated in their new countries and tend to write
about people and events which are typical of their motherland. In fact, this
‘uprooted’, ‘sandwitch’ or ‘trishanku’ mood has been so frequent and
dominant that it has acquired a currency in the name of “Expatriate or
Diasporic Sensibility” Many Indian writers like Bharati Mukherjee, Salman
Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry have dealt with this
diasporic sensibility and explores its various aspects through their literature
Jhumpa Lahiri is one of
the recent and internationally recognized second generation expatriate writers
belong to this subset. Born to Bengali parents in 1967 in London and grew up in
U.S.A., Lahiri has won many awards and prizes including prestigious Pulitzer
Prize 2000 for her short stories collection Interpreter of Maladies.
Her latest novel The Lowland is shortlisted for Man Booker Prize, 2013.
Lahiri has won DSC PRIZE for South Asian Literature in recently held Jaipur
Litfest 2015. Through her writings, Lahiri interprets the diasporic sensibility
of the immigrants. Apart from diasporic sensibility, Lahiri has also dealt with
human relationship, victimization of helpless women through her writings.
Lahiri has convincingly shown the need to go ‘beyond’ the manmade boundaries
like culture, religion, race, nation and acknowledge the universal aspect of
human through her writings.