Lahiri Essay Question

For some, the only way to lead a successful life is to be able to adapt to a new environment. This is essentially the main component of diaspora, in which citizens of one region migrate to varying, new locations. The idea of a diasporic lifestyle is thoroughly discussed by Jhumpa Lahiri in the collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies. More specifically, the stories “Interpreter of Maladies” and “The Third and Final Continent” discuss the lives of Indians and Indian Americans, their roots, and how they have adjusted to life in an unfamiliar location. Lahiri successfully portrays the diasporic lifestyle of people with Indian heritage by providing realistic stories about how immigrants have changed when compared to native citizens.

Initially, the author discusses the effects of diaspora by discussing an Indian American family, relatively unfamiliar with their roots in India. Throughout the short story, Lahiri makes sure to allude to the Das family’s unawareness of Indian culture. For example, the Das children seem to lack respect for their parents, unlike traditional Indian children, by refusing to listen to them. This can be attributed to the fact that the children and parents were born and raised in America, and do not have knowledge of true Indian ideals. Additionally, Mr. Kapasi points out that the Das’s are Americanized when he admires how Mrs. Das is dressed. Unlike his wife, who always covers her body with some sort of clothing, Mrs. Das is wearing clothing which shows off her legs. Clearly, she does not know or possibly just doesn’t care about the Indian style of dressing and continues her American ways. Finally, most Indian parents tend to be strict with their children, but the Das’s are quite the opposite of this. Both Mr. and Mrs. Das neglect their child Bobby and allow him to be attacked by monkeys. Had they watched him more carefully, Bobby would not be in such a dangerous situation in the first place. The Indian American family does not follow common Indian traditions, as they are generally unaware of them or just don’t feel a need to continue them.

Similarly, in “The Third and Final Continent” an Indian immigrant in America loses touch with his roots as time progresses. The narrator of this short story comes from India, but has lived in London, and later settles down in Boston. As soon as he arrives in the U.S, he already is exposed to American ideals, such as the patriotism that Americans felt after two men had landed on the moon. Citizens being unified by a national achievement is not something he experiences during his time in India. Over time, he also eats more American food, like cereal, instead of Indian food and this difference is seen when compared to his wife. They are brought together through an arranged marriage (a common Indian tradition), but she does not join him in the U.S. for the first weeks. By the time that they are reunified, the narrator has only spoken English and is more accustomed to the American lifestyle. However, he still speaks to her in Bengali and even eats with his hands, like when he was in India. As time goes on though, Mala’s Indian traditions subside as well. She stops covering her head with a sari and eventually becomes a citizen with her husband. Finally, their son is Americanized to the point where he goes to the top American university, Harvard, and does not hold onto Indian traditions without his parents encouragement. Both of his parents feel that he will totally lose touch with his roots once they die, and this is a common fear of first generation Indian immigrants. Although the narrator and his wife attempt to maintain their Indian culture, they become more American as they integrate into a new society.

The author properly represents the effects of diaspora on Indians by providing detailed short stories about immigrants’ lives. She talks of an Indian American family that has lost touch with its Indian roots almost entirely. Additionally, she writes of an Indian immigrant’s experience after moving to Boston to start his new life. In both cases, the Indians follow common traditions less and less, and adopt a more American lifestyle. Although living in an unfamiliar location can be daunting, becoming immersed in the society will lead to success that was originally unobtainable.


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