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.


Tentative Question List

What is your full name?

What is your occupation?

What is your educational background?

What is your religion? Do you follow it the same way as you did in India?

How many siblings do you have?

Where do they live and what do they do?

How was your childhood in India?

Why/How did you come to the U.S?

How long did your decision to leave India take?

Did you travel with family or alone?

Where did you live once you arrived?

What was your source of income when you arrived?

How were your neighbors in the first place you lived in the U.S?

How long did you stay at your first home?

What was the first job you took when you arrived?

Did you enjoy your first job?

Did you live close to any family?

What are the ethnicities of your friends in America?

Did you experience any discrimination?  How so?

Do you still practice your customs/traditions from India?

How has your opinion of the United States changed from before you arrived to now?

What is your favorite experience from living in the United States?


Remembering Partition Response Paper

In a time of uncertainty, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike agreed on one issue: the Indian Peninsula needed to be divided.  Professor Gyanendra Pandey writes of this division, or Partition, in his book Remembering Partition and analyzes the various aspects that comprised it.  He seeks to investigate the violence and nationalization of large populations, as well as contrast how events were remembered or recorded.  Pandey successfully informs the reader of the events that led up to and occurred during Partition.  Additionally, the Anthropology and History professor effectively interprets varying accounts of what happened throughout this historical time.

Initially, Professor Pandey attempts to explain terms that are essential to know before understanding the violence and divisive, yet unifying anger that characterized the Partition.  The professor assumes that the reader already has knowledge of the Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs frequently mentioned throughout his investigation; this is necessary to understand why Partition was imminent.  Also, to help provide a better understanding of this event, Pandey talks about how outsiders, Indians, and Pakistanis each “remember” what happened.  Although he clearly states that some accounts are factual history, others are simply “memories.”  While this distinction is crucial, the author drags his explanation out; this tangent effectively takes the focus away from the Partition altogether.  Similarly, his comparison of European and Asian histories does aid in providing background information, but has little importance when trying to understand the formation of the two nations.  In his attempt to introduce Partition, Pandey does successfully provide initial explanations of the event, but draws away from his main idea by explaining too many insignificant or unrelated details.

Pandey then dives into recalling the events that came together to form what we know as Partition.  By separating the split of the peninsula into three separate parts, he makes understanding the history so much more simple.  With no prior knowledge of this subject, I gained not only a basic understanding of the event, but insight into details that allowed me to form my own opinions about the turning point.  I now understand why several of my Indian friends have strong feelings about Pakistan, since Partition is as divisive as it sounds.  While reading this book, it seemed to me that the Muslims pushed for the division much more so than Hindus and Sikhs.  Throughout the second chapter, Pandey provides accounts of massacres all over the peninsula, usually due to the Muslims’ fierce desire for their own nation, Pakistan.  Their desire was heavily emphasized, which makes me believe that Pandey favors the Hindus’ and Sikhs’ efforts.  Although he effectively explains Partition, the professor’s opinion does shape how the history is recalled; which means he may have left certain events out.

Professor Pandey explains what happened during the time of the Partition of the British Raj and discusses several events that occurred as well.  In his explanation of background information, he gives the reader an initial understanding of the topic, but draws away from his focus.  He then summarizes the division, however is biased in his attempt.  While the Partition did its job in creating two nations, it failed in creating a truly peaceful and unified Indian Peninsula.

British Raj: The Economic Benefits of Imperialism

As a colony of Great Britain, the British Raj received many western capital investments and ideas, which shaped society.  The British ruled the Indian Peninsula in a manner in which that industry and enterprise were able to expand and the colony could adapt to the global economy.  Benefits from British influence included creation of canals, commercialization of agriculture, and improvements to infrastructure.  These changes created a new way of life for Indians and is evident throughout society.

In this photo, boys can be seen sailing through a canal.  This canal was a result of the proliferation of irrigation within the British Raj.  These canals led way for increased food security, as seen by the use of a fishing boat.  Additionally, traveling was made easier by way of canals, as more direct routes were created.  Overall, agriculture, travel and even leisure was improved through the creation of new canals in the Raj.

Here, a relatively-new appearing road is displayed and seems to go on for a long distance.  This road was most likely the product of the British’s improvements to infrastructure in the Raj.  After the Mughal Empire, roads were in poor condition and did not fit the needs of such a large population.  The newly created roads not only helped wheeled-vehicle travel become more popular, but also made transportation much easier.


In this photo, a large amount of people are gathered near a waterfront.  This area appears to be a port, as several boats can be seen near a dock.  This could have allowed for travel, as well as a channel for trade to commence.  Several factories can be seen in the background as well, which were a result of increased industrialization in India during this time.  British influence on the economy of the peninsula is well displayed here.

SC01197572.jpgSeveral people can again be seen in this image, but this time they are gathered in an open field.  This field may have been used for public meetings, but also for the commerce.  Two men are pictured with large piles of grain, which means they most likely intend to sell it for a profit.  British influence is once again evident, as Indians are engaging in sales of an improved agricultural system.


This scene depicts a building far in the background of a large field.  This field is similar to the earlier one, and was used for public meetings.  The buildings are both large and appear complex in detail from the exterior.  Both were products of British influence and have a western style.  Creation of these buildings was possible due to capital investments from Britain, and shows how India benefitted from its rule.


This image shows a woman washing her clothes in a small lake.  Behind her, there are several other clothes hanging to dry above the lake.  This lake was most likely created because of British influence and investment into the Raj.  The women is clearly benefitting, as cleaning has become easier for her.

Short Essay Question

Whether they’re in the Mughal Empire or even the United States Government, scandals inevitably occur with high-ranking officials. In the Mughal Empire’s case, scandals were common, and eventually led to its fall and the rise of the British Raj. Unfortunately for the kingdom, the British were in the middle of imperialism and looked for any way to claim India for themselves.

In the late seventeenth century, England began to gain influence in India through trade.  One of the most important English companies at the time, the East India Company, had a major maritime presence and sought to do business with the Mughals.  The two entered into mutual trades for a years, to the point where the East India Company was one of the most popular stocks traded in the newly-founded English stock market.  Therefore, when the company’s charter failed, it used stock shares to bribe members of Parliament to renew it instead.  Additionally in the eighteenth century, Englishmen who had become rich in India and returned to England (called “nabobs”) were seen as ruining the country by marrying into powerful families and buying their way into government.  For example, one nabob, Robert Clive, took a land grant from a prince in Bengal and even received profit from the land for the rest of his life.  Similar situations reoccured many times and eventually the British saw an opportunity for large profits in the peninsula.  Over time, the company engaged in naval battles and trade, but fell into bankruptcy.  Instead of dissolving, the company was able to be revived by nabob’s insistence in Parliament.  After that, the English saw the importance in keeping close ties with India and began to claim parts of it for itself.

Due to the proliferation of trade between England and India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, scandals were bound to occur.  Englishmen in the peninsula saw the economic opportunity and capitalized on troubling times in order to gain control.  In a time of imperialism and economic turmoil, these men saw that the time was right, and thus established the British Raj.

For/Against Collaboration

Oftentimes, people work together in order to make a single product. While this collaborative process works for many, I personally have not have success with it. I usually worked with others to do projects, but the outcome was always the same – our styles didn’t flow properly.

For instance while working on a PowerPoint assignment in high school, I concisely organized my slides with few photos, while my partner only used pictures and no words. This definitely wasn’t visually appealing to my teacher, as we ended up doing poorly. Although I’ve experienced many similar situations, I know I’ll still have to work in groups in the future.

On another assignment, my partner and I tried to take all of our ideas and craft sentences together. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when we re-read the essay most of the ideas were either disorganized or didn’t make sense. Our editing process took us about double the time as it did to write the draft because we weren’t agreeing. At this point, it felt like there would be no way to successfully work on a group project.

In one of my finals during 12th grade I had to do another PowerPoint,; however this time, our project had a clear format. We decided to split up the slides evenly and then fix any mistakes later. I thought for sure that this time would end well, but we didn’t account for the due date. Both of us finished close to the deadline and couldn’t revise it. Of course, the result was the same as before.

Clearly, collaborating hasn’t worked for me in the past. I believe that this is due to poor planning processes that my partners and I have had. Collaboration is necessary in many situations though, so I will continue to find a solution.

Summarizing Collaboration

The essay about collaboration by Kenneth A. Bruffee talks about its effectiveness in a classroom environment. He claims that collaborative learning is used to help engage students with a text and that it is becoming more popular with time. Although he makes this claim, he does also argue that sometimes this form of learning does not work. Bruffee states that although each individual student may have been prepared for college, they still have a hard time adapting to the new teaching style. In order to fix this, colleges began to offer tutoring, but this only worked with tutors of similar age to the student. Additionally, students evaluated their peers’ writing and worked in small groups. The author gives one reason for supporting collaborative learning by stating that we learn through conversation which leads to reflective thought. When writing, we are technically having a conversation, however it is internal. This internality allows us to “discuss” ideas with ourselves and then write them down in a cohesive manner. Also, when students are frequently confronted with conversation in the classroom setting, they become more familiar with social contexts. In keeping with the idea of collaboration, different professionals tend to use conversation as a way of convincing or informing others in their field. This is also known as “discourse” and usually applies to a group of people who follow a similar set of guidelines. Therefore, the author claims that discourse is essential to learn in college, because it helps students gain competency in their field of study. Constantly talking and writing about a topic will aid in students’ mastery and acceptance into a specific community. If a student does not have much knowledge about something, generally a teacher or tutor can help them, so they can too be a member of that community. Overall, conversation and discourse result in a greater understanding of a topic, which supports the idea that collaboration is crucial for learning.