Gender, Globalization and Media in the Indian Diaspora
Chapter 4 National Texts and Transnational Identities
The outsider/insider dilemma is exquisitely explored in Jhumpa La- hiri’s well-known novel, Namesake. Lahiri’s vignettes of Ashima, who arrives as a young Indian immigrant wife are replete with dilemmas, contradictions, struggles, triumphs, and setbacks. Ashima’s initial ter- ror of bringing up her child in a land “where she is related to no one, where she knows so little” gives way finally to a reconciliation with her migrant self—unafraid, independent, “a resident everywhere and nowhere.”1 However, Ashima’s story is not necessarily a linear narra- tive that culminates in assimilation. Instead, at the very moment that she finally emerges comfortable, knowledgeable, and adapted in her new world, she decides to return to her home culture. Her circular route reminds us to think of immigrant identity as complicated, al- ways in process, and interminably incomplete. The return in the final chapter of Ashima’s story emphasizes the seductive power of “home” and “nation” for non-Western, non-white immigrants in a society that typically considers them as perpetual outsiders. Novelist Amitav Ghosh remarks, “the spaces of India travel with the migrant,” and India too “has no vocabulary for separating the mi- grant from India.”2 Ghosh’s comments can be demonstrated through examples of NRIs (non-resident Indians) being constantly wooed by the Indian government, multinational corporations, and the media. These include peddling ways in which immigrants can recuperate a sense of homeland through discounted phone rates on festivals, in- vestments in time-share properties in India, diasporic editions of national news magazines, special awards recognizing successful...
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