CROSS CULTURE & IDENTITY CRISIS
IN BHARATHI MUKHERJEE’S
Bharati Mukherjee in her novel Jasmine 1989 longs to speak in her own voice and give a personal version of what it means to be an emigrant especially a female immigrant. Her struggle to identify herself with the new host country enables her to write from a wider and more exciting angle. She writes how the female protagonist tries to tackle the problem of loss of culture and endeavors to assume a new identity in America. The problem of cross-cultural crisis and the ultimate search for identity is one of her important themes. Shuttled between identities, by renaming, the immigrant woman has to adjust with everything like situation, environment and social pressures in society. The cultural identity of India is clearly presented in the novel. Adjustment is the essential need for the survival. This fact is presented through Jasmine. The novel Jasmine presents the immigrant experience of cross cultural encounter and transformation or recreation of oneself as an immigrant.
CROSS CULTURE & IDENTITY CRISIS
IN BHARATHI MUKHERJIS
To immigrate to greener pasture, for better prospects is human nature. Nations are emerging to be multilingual, multicultural, and multiracial. The liberal immigration policies, the rapid transportations and communication have paved the way for globalization. There is an increasing tendency today to settle down in other countries for better prospect. This phenomenon is called ‘diaspora’. The status of new immigrants, the feeling of alienation and their struggles are explored by many writers. The United States of America is a fairyland, a dream country to which people from all over the world migrate. The immigrants are dispersed from centre to margin. Usually they are not accepted by the host country. They oscillate between the homeland and the host land. “Normally diaspora fiction lingers over alienation, loneliness, homelessness, protest, and assertions and quest of identity”. (Gauri 111)
In the last twenty years, there is an increase in the number of third world writers who have migrated to the west and have written novels in English language recording there experience in the new land. Bharathi Mukherjee is one among the major novelists of Indian diaspora. She expanded one of the Middleman stories into the novel Jasmine in 1989. She is an Indian immigrant married to a Canadian writer, who has captured the immigrant experience very poignantly in her novel.
In the process of migration a woman face many hurdles, which Mukherjee herself has experienced. Mukherjee’s novel Jasmine explores female identity through the story of an Indian peasant woman whose path takes her from Punjab to Florida, New York, Iowa and California. With each new move the protagonist reinvents herself with new names - Jyothi, Jasmine, Jase or Jazzy, Jane. With each new name she moves closer to her dream of being an American. The novel’s opening phrase, “Life Times ago” set in motion the major theme the recreation of one’s self. The traditional Hindu culture and belief is portrayed by the astrologer, who forecast’s the protagonist’s eventual widowhood. Widowhood in India is the greatest doom that can fall on a woman especially in the illiterate circle and the protagonist Jyoti is cursed with this plight. The Indian belief in fate is very strong and unshakable.
Greater calamities befall Jyoti and her family she becomes the victim of violence and terrorism in their village. They are uprooted from their comfortable living in Lahore to “a village of flaky mud huts” (41). The traditional Indian match making follows the horoscope and the auspicious rituals. Jyoti being brought up in the traditional way at first finds it difficult to call her husband by his name. Prakash wants to break the feudal custom of holding a woman from servicing to the feudal lord. Unfortunately her marriage to Prakash fulfills the astrologer’s prophecy. His life,...
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