Jhumpa Lahiri & the discourse of the immigrants – opinion

Post Category: Opinions
Jhumpa Lahiri and the immigrant issues

It has been debated very passionately by one of my friends who has written for The Indian Authors platform. I would like to draw attention to the kindness that Mr Amit Mishra has shown towards the author of repute despite being an American citizen. Yes, Jhumpa Lahiri is an American author and she has hardly written anything that is not Indian – in reminiscence, isolation or content. It is the quality of being an Indian outside India that qualifies for being instances of highly used phrases like Indian diaspora, the NRI Indians and Indians outside. There will be continuing debates, to the full volume, about whether such categories of people should be allowed to exist or not but at the moment, it does exist. Well, let’s focus on the issue at hand – how does Jhumpa Lahiri, as an author, put forth the issues of the immigrants?

In the article that I referred to in the very first line of this piece, Amit Mishra has tried to draw the attention of his readers to the fact that Jhumpa raises only selective points about India and very limited points about the immigrant Indians who are living in the USA. She seems rather inspired by her own ‘moving’ past rather than anything else. She must have heard stories about India and Indians from her parents or grandparents and that is why she has some accounts remained in the ‘lanes’ of her memory. She uses the same in her short stories and even novels.

The true problems of the immigrants are seldom reflected in the writings of the author. For example, a name is too abstract to qualify as a problem. Alienation is too abstract as well. When it comes to discrimination at the job, educational campuses and even religious persecution of Indians just because they belong to the Hindu or Sikh religion, these are the real issues and Jhumpa never seems so alert about these problems that immigrants in the US actually face. Not only her but any author who claims to write about Indian issues writes only about India that was and not India that is… This seems rather weird because the critics and contemporary literary figures seem rather jubilant about the writings of authors from a particular line of thought…

Well, Jhumpa has raised some wonderful issues related to the immigrants in her works and credit should be given where it’s due. However, the cherry-picking from the diaries of the past and ignoring the issues at hand that must be raised by influential authors like herself do constitute a problem that she creates for herself. Nevertheless, she has a lot of writing left in front of her and readers do hope that she will do something about the missing dots that form the true picture of important immigrant issues we should know and learn more about.


by Prem Shankar S

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