Stephen Gill's Immigrant :
A Study In Diasporic Consciousness
The phenomena of Diaspora and expatriation are by all means an old one. However, its impact in the present times is larger and deeper. It has become a contemporary social trait and also, a literary genre. The growing incidence of the Diaspora has given place to dislocation, disintegration, dispossession and disbelongingness. The experience of expatriation not only gradually disconnects the individual from his roots, simultaneously it polarises his existence, which straddles between nationality and exile.
Here, at the onset it will only be apt to bring into light the historical significance of the Diaspora. All serious study of diaspora traces its history way back with ethnic Jewish model ofdiaspora. However, the term is widely used now for all the activities of expatriation, which lead to emotional and physical displacement. The modern Indian Diaspora began in the later half of the nineteenth century and counts for the bigwigs like Salman Rushdie and V.S.Naipaul. Stephen Gill is an India born Canadian writer who has successfully portrayed the diasporicconsciousness of an immigrant who came to Canada in search for greener pastures and in the process physically and culturally alienates himself from his native place. His disillusionment is complete when he finds no takers of talent and qualifications. His cultural affinity with India makes him an alien in Canada where he makes repeated attempts to transmute and transform his identity.
Diaspora, therefore is an emotional and psychological state of (a) strutting between two geographical and cultural states (b) struggling between regression and progression, dislocation and then, relocation. This continuum of perpetual shift between two states of dislocation and relocation makes one interrogate the sustainability of an individual in such a situation. Diaspora relates to History and culture and this experience of inhabiting two history specific and culture specific spaces yields to subtle tension of dislocation and alienation. The strategy that accounts for such cultural shock of a migrant as that he tries to construct multiple identity and develops a hybrid vision, which eventually becomes an ongoing process for adaptation. In an essay published in the 80's, Salman Rushdie has brought out the agony and the ecstasy of being an expatriate:
Exiles or immigrants or expatriates are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. 1
He shares his own diasporic experience, thus:
But if we do look back, we must also do so, in the profound knowledge - which gives rise to profound uncertainties - that our physical alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will, in short, create fictions not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind. 2
Stephen Gill has depicted, in his novel, this hybridity of the 'immigrant' who is strutting across two spaces - geographical and cultural. He is looking forward towards the country of his settlement for acceptance and involvement and simultaneously, yearning for his 'imaginary homeland'. With a backward glance, he moves on. Reghu Nath, the immigrant lives in Canadaout of an option but never rules out the prospects of return. He opts for a migrant status in Canada and chooses to be an immigrant. However he could not break away clean from his own culture and carries the 'cultural baggage' with him.
His past experience as an Indian and his present status as a Canadian bring him close to socioeconomic and political contradictions. He understands the strategy of cultural sharing vis avis survival in a new environment. As a highly qualified Indian, he finds himself unable to get a good job in Canada and feeds on local...
References: 1. Salman Rushdie, “The Indian Writer in England”, The Eye of the Beholder : Indian writing in English, ed. M. Butcher (London: Common Wealth Institute, 1983), p. 83.
3. Stephen Gill, Immigrant (Ontario: Vesta, 1982), p. 79.
5. Salman Rushdie, “Imaginary Homelands”, London Review of Books, 7 – 20, October, 1982, p. 18.
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