Theorizing Diaspora and its Literature for World Peace
Dr. Jayanta Kar Sharma
Rourkela College, Sector-4, Rourkela, (Odisha) - 769002 (India)
Ph. 98611 68455. email: jayantakarsharma@gmail.com

 

Rapid changes in social, political, economic and cultural spheres in the present time have development implications that affect the nations. Human mobility is more rapid than ever before. Today, the diasporas are potent socio-economic, political and cultural forces quite visible globally. Towards the end of 20th century, there were about 150 million people living outside their country of origin, substantial parts among them being diasporas. Mobility of human beings and international migration is an inevitable phenomenon. The UNDP Development Report 2009 “Development on the Move” emphasized a lot on the impact of people who are always on the move. Mobility of people across the border is also linked to the overall development of the society.
The term ‘Diaspora’ traditionally refers to the movement of the Jewish people away from their own country to live and work in other countries thereby carrying with it a strong connotation of suffering, loss and return. Etymologically, ‘Diaspora with its connotative political weight is drawn from Greek meaning to disperse and signifies a voluntary or forcible movement of the people from the homeland into new regions.’ Over time, the concept has also become used to describe other dispersed groups, and from the 1990s onwards, has particularly gained popularity in the field of cultural studies and social sciences. In recent years, the concept has entered the realm of policy making and there has been a growing interest in Diasporas as potential agents of development and peace building. The African Union, for example, considers Diasporas to be the sixth region of Africa. The prevailing definition of Diaspora seems to be a group that recognizes its separateness based on common ethnicity or nationality, lives in a host country, and Diaspora Literature involves an idea of a homeland, a place from where the displacement occurs and narratives of harsh journeys. Theoretical definitions of Diasporas within the existing literature are extensive and vary wide. Earlier definitions focus more on forcible dispersion and the myth of return (Safran 1990; 1999). Definitions made in the field of cultural studies particularly approach the notion of Diaspora as a type of consciousness, with an emphasis on their hybrid identities (Clifford 1994; Hall 1990). In recent years, the focus has shifted from the more limited definitions of who should be considered as part of Diasporas, to take into account the complex processes of mobilization and the heterogeneous nature of Diaspora groups (Werbner 2002; Kleist 2007). Overall, even though the definitions may vary, ‘Diaspora’ as a concept tends to build on three common criteria: dispersal; settlement in multiple locations; and, the idea of a homeland’. Various forms of dislocation, such as exile, Diaspora, and migration, have been productively and extensively explored in both postcolonial theory and literary texts. It is an undisputed historical fact that the past century has witnessed the large-scale displacement and dispersal of populations across the world as a result of major political upheavals, among them the two European wars, decolonization and the Cold war. Following on these, globalization, spurred by free trade and increased capital flows, and new technologies of communication, information, and travel, has accelerated the movement of people, commodities, ideas, and cultures across the world. Diaspora is regarded not as a singular phenomenon but as historically varied and heterogeneous in its aspect.
Moreover, the term ‘Diasporic’ or ‘Diaspora’ or ‘Diasporans’ should apply to a group of people who share the common fate of displacement but not to an individual’s migration to a new country or another country. A boundary line has to be drawn between writers of exile or immigration and writers of Diaspora. The immigrants who struggle to negotiate a new territory, culture and milieu, often suffer from fragmentation and alienation. Alienation is a part of the experience of the Indian Diaspora and even if people are at home in any part of the world it does not mean that they will not become victims of the sense of alienation. Increasing acceptance into the host society does not indicate that the Diasporic characters can feel at home. Social alienation is replaced by metaphysical alienation. Diaspora has meaning only in relation to the parent country. The question of ‘cultural identity’, based on race, gender, color, religion, language, ancestry, is a subtle issue in the post-colonial world. But when people constantly cross the borders in search of independence or in pursuance of dreams, the preservation of ethnic identity in cosmopolitan ‘melting pots’ like America becomes difficult. .Labels like ‘Asian-American’, ‘African-American’, ‘Mexican-American’, ‘Indian-American’, ‘Black -American’, ‘Native-American’ etc. invariably hints at the attempt to exclude some minority migrant population who live “beyond the centre of white pergola”(Watson 2000:38) .This raises a quintessential question related to identity, “ who is an American?” Linda Dittomar(1995) argues “ American is the only word, the united states has, to define its nationality”. Thus she relates the term to political citizenship but in the multi-cultural ‘salad bowl’ that America is, it is the process of “integration” and “assimilation” that often determines the identity of a migrant community. C.W. Watson, therefore, distinguishes these two processes determining identity. He observes, ‘Assimilation presupposes a complete erasure of identity, where as integration involves recognition of the distinct identity’(2000:37). Hence, identities like ‘American-Indian’ or ‘Indian-American’ depend on the degree of assimilation or integration with the central culture. But this again poses the question, “who is an Indian?” Does the term apply only to the citizens of India or others living outside India? Homi K. Bhabha is an exponent of this line of thought. An Indian by birth, he migrated to Britain and now lives in America. He examines in ‘The Location Of Culture’ the problem of the people who live ‘borderlines’ in between country and homeland.
Diaspora is a minority community living in exile, maintains some kind of attachment to home country. This attachment may be primarily to culture. In recent years Diaspora is used as a cover term to include all kinds of people- exiles, expatriates and immigrants writers who live in other countries away from home. While Diaspora is certainly an ancient phenomenon, it has now become an integral component of the global political and social milieu, attracting vigorous attention since the ‘9/11’ incident in both the host lands and the emigrants’ homelands. Despite all the contradictions, controversies and speculations inherent in deploying the concept of Diaspora, the notion is of continued utility. Derrida has raised several questions on critical theory of Diaspora: where then are we, where do we find ourselves, with whom can we identify in order to affirm our own identity and to tell ourselves our own history? Derrida suggests, ‘One would have to construct oneself, one should be able to invent oneself without a model and without an assured addressee. A great deal of Indian writing in English is produced not in India but in widely distributed geographical areas of indenture (‘Girmit’) i.e. Indian Diaspora in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, South Africa, Mauritius, and the contemporary Indian diasporas in the U.S.A., the U.K., Canada and Australia. The diasporic experience can serve as a form of transcultural critique, offering the possibility of ‘reading one culture’s space and time from the space and time of another’. We will also look at the strategic value of ‘doubleness’ in terms of identity constructions and self- (re)inventions, and also the concept of creolisation as a strategy for cultural resistance. Their sense of yearning for the homeland, a curious attachment to its traditions, religions and languages give birth to Diasporic literature which is primarily concerned with the individual’s or community’s attachment to the homeland. The role of these Diaspora communities is to initiate a feeling of ‘home’ and to provide a centre for mental convergence. This mental migration is a challenge for any Diasporic community. The question of settling remains unanswerable to any Diasporian unless they associate themselves with any of the two lands. Their oscillated mind, their suffering and agony out of cultural change are expressed by the Diaspora in different genres of Literature. The Post colonialist theory deals with the problems of the outcomes of Diaspora like migration, slavery, suppression, resistance, representation, difference, caste, class, culture, gender and place.
Post Colonialism has its close association with cross-culturalism in which ‘cross’ represents the crossing of discrete barriers from one construction to another which envisages a consequent expansion of boundaries. Though in the age of technological advancement which has made the traveling easier and the distance shorter so the term Diaspora has lost its original connotation, yet it has also emerged in another form healthier than the former. Globalization has produced new patterns of migration and provoked divers responses all over the world. The Diasporic consciousness manifests itself in a variety of ways: a sense of loss and dispossession, a feeling of remaining straddled between two cultures, and anxiety to belong—either to one’s native cultural milieu or the new environment; an assertion of one’s nativity or immigrant status; an attempt to turn one’s inbetweeness into strength; an agenda of multiculturalism; an active interrogation of all notions of belonging and an ultimate urgency to prove oneself.
The theme of exclusion is all-pervasive in literature. But the Diaspora literature particularly is replete with moods, mores, experiences etc. caused by the cultural exclusion of the expatriate community. Displaced and dislocated from the roots, the migrant/ immigrant/ expatriate community suffers from spatial ,emotional and cultural dislocation revealed in various forms of ‘culture shock’, ‘culture cringe’ as well as cultural ‘hybridization’. Many of the expatriate Indian writers like Raja Rao, Ashis gupta, Bharati Mukherjee, Rohinton Mistry, Anita Desai, Uma Parameswaramn, Jhumpa Lahiri etc. have documented the lives of the displaced and dour migrants, often living beyond the centre of the white pergola and longing for the lost world. The predicament of these ‘othered’, ‘smothered’ migrants, living in a collapsible world without an axis, floating rootless in a space beyond ‘home’, has been explored in many post-colonial theories in terms of binary opposites such as;‘alienation and acculturation’ (Taft, 1973),‘citizenship and sovereignty’ (Bhaba,1994), ‘displacement and belonging’ (Said, 1994), ‘revenge and reconcilliation’ (Fanon, 1967), ‘abrogation and appropriation’ (Hall, 1996) as well as ‘divergence and convergence’ (Tiffin, 1989). The theme of cultural alienation and loss of identity that immigrant faces in making a new home in a foreign land receives evocative treatment in Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’. It stresses the need to cultivate the best of modernity by intermingling of the best in the East and the West. She has made the use of the Diasporic experience of her own and her parents. Born of Bengali parents, settled down in US, She is influenced by the two cultures. Thus, the novel has a global relevance.
Indian Diaspora can be classified into two kinds: i). Forced Migration to Africa, Fiji or the Carribbean on account of slavery or indentured labour in the 18th or 19th century. ii).Voluntary Migration to U.S.A., U.K., Germany, France, Canada or other European countries for the sake of professional or academic purposes. The modern Diasporic Indian writers can be grouped into two distinct classes. One class comprises those who have spent a part of their life in India and have carried the baggage of their native land offshore. The other class comprises those who have been bred since childhood outside India. The writers of the former group have a literal displacement whereas those belonging to the latter group find themselves rootless. Both the groups of writers have produced an enviable corpus of English literature. These writers while depicting migrant characters in their fiction, explore the theme of displacement and self-fashioning. The Diasporic Indian writers’ depiction of dislocated characters gains immense importance if seen against the geo-political background of the vast Indian subcontinent. According to Amitava Ghosh, ‘the Indian Diaspora is one of the most important demographic dislocation of Modern Times’(Ghosh,) and each day is growing and assuming the form of representative of a significant force in global culture. If we take the Makarand Paranjape, we will find two distinct phases of Diaspora, these are called the visitor Diaspora and Settler Diaspora much similar to Maxwell’s ‘Invader’ and ‘Settler’ Colonialist. The first Diaspora consisted of dispriveledged and subaltern classes forced alienation was a one- way ticket to a distant Diasporic settlement. As, in the days of yore, the return to Homeland was next to impossible due to lack of proper means of transportation, economic deficiency, and vast distances so the physical distance became a psychological alienation, and the homeland became the sacred icon in the diasporic imagination of the authors also’.
But the second Diaspora was the result of man’s choice and inclination towards the material gains, professional and business interests. It is particularly the representation of privilege and access to contemporary advanced technology and communication. Vijay Mishra is correct when he finds V S Naipaul as the founding father of old Diaspora but it is also not wrong to see Salman Rushdie as the representative of Modern (second) Diaspora. V S Naipaul remarkably portrays the search for the roots in his ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’. ‘The Diasporian authors engage in cultural transmission that is equitably exchanged in the manner of translating a map of reality for multiple readerships. Diasporic writings are full of feelings of alienation, loving for homeland, dispersed and dejection, a double identification with original homeland and adopted country, crisis of identity, ethnic memory and protest against discrimination. An Autonomous space becomes permanent which non- Diasporas fail to fill’. M K Gandhi, the first one to realize the value of syncretic solutions, hence he never asked for a pure homeland for Indians in South Africa’s Socio-cultural space and so Sudhir Kumar confirms Gandhi as the first practitioner of Diasporic hybridity. Gandhi considered all discriminations of high and low, small or great, Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Sikh but found them ‘All were alike the children of Mother India.’
‘Diasporans are pulled by two forces- centripetal and centrifugal and are torn between two worlds’.(Das:2007) They face two cultures, two languages, two countries and remain suspended between them. In the nineteenth century, Europeans particularly the French and the British spread across the world both as settlers and colonizers, while the Africans and Asians were sent away to different places as indentured labourers. In old Diaspora witnessed the migration of poor people from the colonized countries to other countries the new Diaspora resulted in the migration of best minds to the west in the postcolonial period. Hence, Second Diaspora has something to do with brain drain and new colonialism. The immigrant writer writes his sense of belonging and this is worked out through retelling of the past in various ways; it is like using the same events but each time arranging them differently in order to read them differently and to exercise their hold. Thus; there are the preoccupation with the past, the lost homeland and the lost identity. Those who are routed and move to alien environment, need to hang on and stay alive. They are keen to belong to a group, retain their identity, language and culture in the new and culturally different environment. They must find acceptance in the alien society and must retain their sense of well being despite dislocation. The question of cultural survival is crucial in this particular context. They try to retain their ethnic distinction, knowledge, values and belief systems in a plural society rather than assimilate into a non- existing melting pot and transmute them to the next generation. According to Ramraj, there are two types of Diasporas- traditionalist and assimilationist, the former retains its separate identity, while the latter gradually merges with the mainstream of the host country and eventually ceases to be regarded as a Diaspora. Therefore, the theory of Diaspora believes in the principle of ‘Salad bowl or mosaic not melting pot’.
Multiculturalism performs a useful service in recalling for us that there are several dimensions of experience at stake. Identity and self-respect, a sense of belonging to a community, religion, nation, a sense of commitment to a place like home or language and a sense of history arising out of a link to the past traced through kinship and family tradition. These things have been depicted appropriately in a Hindi novel titled ‘Begane Apne’ (2006) by Vishnu Chandra Sharma. All the characters of the novel are suffering from the crisis of identity. Mauritius is an excellent example where these strived to preserve, promote and perpetuate Indian culture and ethos. Among the languages Hindi survived in most places and many have produced literature and have run Journals to record Diaspora writings. Mr. Abhimanyu Unnuth of Mauritius is the most read Hindi novelist of the Indian Diaspora. His work Lal Pasina – (The Red Sweat) is a powerful narration of the travails of Indian workers in the 19th century. Literature in Hindi and other Indian languages also evolved concomitantly with the rise of the Indian community throughout the 20th century. Other notable Diasporic writers in Hindi are Subramani of Fiji, whose novel Daura Puraan in Hindi has been described as the nineteenth Puraan. Canada has been home for many Punjabi and Gujarati writings, whereas Malaysia and Singapore have produced Tamil writings. North America has produced significant Telugu writers. Many popular writers like Chittenraju, K.V.S.Rama Rao, Kanneganti Chandra, Cherukuri Rama Devi, Satyam Mandapati, Vemuri Venkateshwara Rao, Kalasapudi Srinivasa Rao have been consistently producing for the past 30 years from their Diasporic space. Writings in Punjabi and Gujarati have been very common since the initial migration of Indians to Canada at the turn of the century. In Punjabi, Ajmer Rode, Surjit Kalsey, Ravinder Ravi, Kashmir Singh Chaman, Santosh Chinna, Darshan Gill, Gurucharan Ramapuri, Iqbal Ramuwalia, Amarjit Chahal & Tarlochan Singh Gill, are some of the writers who have been known for their writings. The Punjabis also have a number of local newspapers for the Punjabis of Indo-Canadian origin. Among them, Hindustani and Sansar are very popular ones. In Gujarati, Ramunik Shah, Ashwin Vaidya are very significant names in such a group of writers. Manobendra Mukhopadhay is an important name in Bengali. Writing in Urdu began in the 1960s and continues to enjoy a substantial readership. Although writings in Sanskrit could not get such popularity as Punjabi or Gujarati or Urdu, but their initiative dance dramas had really made a landmark in the writings of Indo-Canadians. Pancha Kanya Tarangi, Veer Kanya Vahini, Kinkini Mala, and Dima Panchakam are very popular Sanskrit dance dramas based on Buddhist themes that reveal the traditions and cultures of India in a different shade. In the field of music, “Chutney” was the name given to the pop/folk music of the East Indians that lived in the Caribbean region. The popularity of “Calcutta Woman” in 1996 provided a giant leap for the Chutney music industry.
Literature of Diaspora across the globe has something to do with postmodernism and postcolonialism. Globalization influences largely the diasporic movement in the world - more so in India. In the 19th and early Part of 20th century, since the nation was at the peak of the thought of the people because of the Imperialistic culture, anti-colonialism was foremost in the mind. Gandhi and Fanon, an Algerian revolutionist were in the forefront of the movement. So, the nation became the hallmark of the Colonial era and up to the first half of the twentieth century. But after we got our independence we find that nationalism is not enough and there is nothing called a national boundary because we cannot stop at the boundaries. The second half of the twentieth century was swept by the great migratory movement. But in the post-independent period or post-colonial period we find our best minds not only in India but of all over the colonial states are migrated towards the west and particularly to the U.S. So the whole world is governed by a great migratory movement which gave rise to the immigrant policies or it can be called as immigration Diaspora. In other terms, since the whole world was governed by the migratory movement, we cannot stop at the national boundary and the nation cannot be the boundary and that cannot imprison us either physically or mentally. As a result of which, the intellectuals travelled all over the world. Since they travelled all over the world, the whole world became one global community not only electronically or technically but also mentally. So, we find there is a question of transmigration of cultures. Jasbir Jain rightly says “With new capitalistic forces unleashed, migrations and dislocations have become the order of the day. The boundaries of the nation-state are getting fainter and fainter paradoxically at a time when nationalism itself is resurfacing with unprecedented aggressiveness. No human society has been able to avoid either migration or dislocation for whatsoever reason; and consequently none has been able to avoid multiculturalism’. (Jain.2004:Introduction) The West Indies is the classic example of a ‘created’ multicultural society. Even the so-called Islamic states have a mix of races or religions or of both.
In old Diaspora it witnessed the migration of poor people from the colonized countries to other countries where as the new Diaspora resulted in the migration of best minds to the west in the postcolonial period. Diaspora is a global phenomenon. According to Makarand Paranjape; the South Asian Diaspora is more than eleven million strong. People of Indian origin now reside in over seventy countries across all the continents of the world. The member of Diasporans is increasing by leaps and bounds in recent years. We know from history that displacement of individuals can occur in one of the two ways: forcibly and voluntarily depending upon the situation and mindset of the people. If the old Diaspora was occasional by force, the new Diaspora sprang out of the desire to make personal gain in terms of finance and international recognition. Like the theory of Deconstruction, the theory of Diaspora is open ended. Theoreticians like Stuart Hall, Edward said, Gayatri Chakraborthy Spivak, Homi. K. Bhabba, Ray Chow, Poul Gilroy, William Safron and James Clifford have studied diaspora from various angles- from exile to hybridity and from Diasporic flow to groping for a space and moving between two worlds- one lost and another to be discovered, the issue remains unresolved.
The members of a Diasporic community has permanent link with the past migration history. Even the children born to migrant parents are influenced by the past migration history of their parents or grandparents. Going back to the homeland is not an easy solution available to them. Like the mythical king Trishanku they look at two worlds and belong to neither. Diaspora is linked with memory of the past- hence it has something to do with history and culture. The Diasporic writer like Diasporic community is neither here i.e. the place of origin or birth and also like ‘Trishanku’ is suspended between the two worlds. Homi Bhaba calls it ‘a third space’ in his ‘The Location of Culture’. The Diasporans are non-resident natives of their homeland and resident-aliens of their current place of living. Diasporic writers are also moving away from the country of their work. Another important point is that the border line between the old Diaspora of the colonial period and new Diaspora in the postcolonial era is getting blurred. Makarand Paranjape aptly states the dividing lines between the older and newer Diasporas are fast disappearing because the descendants are more akin to the new Diaspora. The Diasporic writing issues out of by the Diasporic writer’s concern for his lost homeland and a new found land that means the writer is re-locating himself in his lost homeland and culture, while trying to grow roots somewhere else. Since Diaspora and homeland are interrelated, ‘the theme of belonging opposes rootedness to uprootedness, establishment to marginality. Diasporic writings are invariably concerned with the individual’s or community’s attachment to the centrifugal homeland. But ‘this attachment is countered by a yearning for a sense of belonging to the current place of abode’.
Diaspora texts are not bound by national boundaries and hence, they are transnational, Makarand paranjape is right in saying that ‘ the texts themselves are journey’s between source cultures and target cultures, between homelands and diasporas, until the two overlap, change places or merge. The product of post colonial cross-culturalism is ‘cultural hybridity’. Bhabha in his work analyses this shifting of margins in the authenticity of cultures. The diversity of cultures present in such nations and the experiences of its members and the varied social groups which are all the products of Diaspora, become a major concern in framing the term ‘Post colonial Diaspora Literature’, which turns out to be a hybrid of Post colonial Literature. Later it has been further hybridized to be called as ‘Diaspora Literature’. These feelings lead to the outcome of ‘Diaspora Literature’. The sense of isolation, alienation and aloofness amidst thousands of people in an adoptive land are depicted in the Diaspora Literature. The writers who belong to this particular category of literature may even be a Diasporian and mostly their novels would be the outcome of the sufferings and agony they experience out of the colonial encounter and also of the cultural alienation. The most prominent Diaspora writers of the contemporary Diaspora Literature are Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Bharati Mukherjee, Rohinton Mistry and others. India-born, America-settled Bharati Mukherjee, presents in her novels Wife and Jasmine the female protagonists Dimple and Jasmine, who face the problem of the loss of culture and they both endeavor to assert a new identity in the United States.
‘Indian Diaspora’-what makes it “Indian”. India is not a culturally monolithic entity, it is a compendium of ethnicities, languages and traditions. The question of the “Indianness” of Indians acquires a particular poignancy overseas, as Indians abroad shed their regional, linguistic, and ethnic identities. However it is evident that one is more easily an Indian abroad than in India; the category of “Indian” is not contested abroad as it is in India. The language is the first to go in the assimilation process for the Diasporans. But as the Indian Diasporic presence increases the usage and visibility of Indian language too increases significantly. Indians have retained their language, although with difficulty, where ever they have gone, be it Trinidad, Fiji, UK or USA. Religion is one of the identity markers that help them preserve their self-awareness and group cohesion. Religion served as a major symbolic resource in the building of the community and professing ethnic identity. The Diasporans carry with them ideas and images from the “old home” to the “new host” setting.
The Indian Diaspora has been formed by a scattering of population and not, in the Jewish sense especially after Indian independence the Indian Diasporic community has acquired a new identity due to the processes of self-fashioning and increasing acceptance by the West. It is interesting to note that the history of diasporic Indian writing is as old as the Diaspora itself. In fact the first Indian writing in English is credited to Dean Mahomed, who was born in Patna, India, and after working for fifteen years in the Bengal Army of the British East India Company, migrated to “eighteenth century Ireland, and then to England” (Kumar) in 1784. His book The Travels of Dean Mahomet was published in 1794. It predates by about forty years the first English text written by an Indian residing in India, Kylas Chunder Dutt’s “imaginary history” A Journal of Forty-Eight Hours of the Year 1945 published in 1835 (ref. Mehrotra ,95). The first Indian English novel, Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s Rajmohan’s Wife, was to be published much later in 1864. It shows that the contribution of the Indian diaspora to Indian writing in English is not new. Also interestingly, the descendants of the Indian indentured labourers in the so called “girmit colonies” have predominantly favoured writing in English, the lingua franca of the world. The likes of Seepersad Naipaul and later Shiva Naipaul, V. S. Naipaul, Cyril Dabydeen, David Dabydeen, Sam Selvon, M. G. Vassanji, Subramani, K. S. Maniam, Shani Muthoo, and Marina Budhos are significant contributors in that field. V. S. Naipaul’s characters, like Mohun Biswas from A House for Mr.Biswas or Ganesh Ramsumair from The Mystic Masseur, are examples of individuals who are generations away from their original homeland, India, but their heritage gives them a consciousness of their past. The novels of the older generation of diasporic Indian writers like Raja Rao, G. V. Desani, Santha Rama Rau, Balachandra Rajan, Nirad Chaudhuri, and Ved Mehta predominantly look back at India and rarely record their experiences away from India as expatriates. It is as if these writers have discovered their Indianness when they are out of India. Obviously they have the advantage of looking at their homeland from the outside.
The Diasporic Indian writers of the first generation have already established their credentials by winning numerous literary awards and honours. But recently, the second generation of Indian writers in the West have swelled enormously and many among them have won international recognition. Meera Syal, who was born in England, has successfully represented the lives of first generation as well as second generation non-resident Indians in the West in her novels Anita and Me and Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee. Hari Kunzru in his novel Transmission traces a part of the lives of three diverse characters Leela Zahir, an actress, Arjun Mehta, a computer expert, and Guy Swift, a marketing executive -traversing through Bollywood, the Silicon Valley, and London. Sunetra Gupta has shown with candor both the unpleasantness and the pleasantness of intercultural relationships through characters like Moni and Niharika from her novels Memories of Rain and A Sin of Colour. Jhumpa Lahiri’s book of short stories Interpreter of Maladies and her novel The Namesake convincingly illustrate the lives of both first generation and second generation Indian migrants in the US. This is possible because big issues like religious intolerance and racial discrimination are no longer the main concern of these writers. What matters now in the current world are the small things.
These Diasporic writers, some of them are by choice and some of them are by compulsion just like the settler colony and conquest colony. Similarly, there are writers of Indian Diaspora, some of them by choice and some of them by certain compulsion. These writers search for a home land. What is after all a home land and where is one’s home. They say home is something which is imaginary. It is never real, real in the sense where do we live, because he has already left his birthplace and living somewhere else. When he is living somewhere else; he is in search of a homeland which is at the mental level. We can take a writer out of the country, but cannot take the country out of his mind. The country is always there in the mind of the writer. Derek Walcott says in his poem, “I am either a nation or I am nobody” because his ancestors came from Africa, he was born and brought up in Trinidad of west Indies and worked in Boston University. Home, wherever it may physically be situated is a metaphorical and conceptual space for the Diasporic person particularly for the writers of the Diaspora.
The literature of Diaspora has richness, variety and comprehensive coverage and seems to be growing into an independent branch of literature. There are certain common themes in the representations of the Indian Diasporic experience in places as different as Trinidad, Fiji, Canada, Britain, US, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. They share a common history, culture and spiritual beliefs. However much the responses of the individual writers vary, at the core of all Diasporic fictions is the haunting presence of India. A sense of coming home in distant lands set the tone of recent Diaspora literatures. It is difficult and limiting to generalize or homogenize. “In the contemporary moment when moving populations are norm rather than exception, configurations of home, home-coming, identity, alienation, loss, forgetting, memory, rootlessness etc. become truly real and global issues. The Diasporic experience must involve a significant crossing of borders of a region or a language. Our civilization has become global. It is marked by rapid information, experience and unprecedented mobility. Hence, the term globalization is the equivalent of the Indian concept, Vasudhaiva Kulumbakram ‘The whole world is like one family. Stuart Hall corroborates this in his statement, ‘ In an era of globalization, we are all becoming diasporic. The voice of the 21st country man is either he has to take the whole world as his home or else, he will become a homeless wanderer. Therefore, theorizing the concept of Diaspora is a step ahead towards establishing world peace and the literature of Diaspora is the reflection of this.

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(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Summer 2013)