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Subjected Subcontinent

Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English


Eiko Ohira

This book offers a new, complex understanding of Indian writing in English by focusing its analysis on both Indo-Pakistani Partition fiction and novels written by women. The author gives a comprehensive outline of Partition novels in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh written in English as well as an overview of the challenges of studying Partition literature, particularly English translations of Partition novels in regional languages. Featured works include Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice-Candy-Man, Amitav Ghosh’s Shadow Lines, Meena Arora Nayak’s About Daddy, and Sujata Sabnis’s A Twist in Destiny. The book then moves on to a study of novels by women writers such as Githa Hariharan, Kiran Desai, Anita Desai, and Arundhati Roy, exploring their perspectives on sexuality, the body, and the diaspora.
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Chapter 9: Meena Arora Nayak’s About Daddy: The Diaspora and Partition


← 110 | 111 →CHAPTER 9

Meena Arora Nayak’s About Daddy: The Diaspora and Partition

A Quest for Identity and an Epiphany about Love

“‘I’m nothing. I’m not American, I’m not Hispanic, I’m not from Pakistan, I’m not Indian. What am I?’” This is the question that Simran, the Indian-American protagonist in Meena Arora Nayak’s About Daddy (2000) asks her parents after she is called an enemy by Farzana, her schoolmate who had just migrated from Pakistan. Farzana’s hostility causes Simran’s identity crisis. Simran is forced to look into Farzana’s image of the other, much as Calcutta is an “inverted image of the other”, Dhaka, locked into an irreversible symmetry by the line”, the “looking-glass border” in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines (233).

About Daddy is a story of Simran’s quest for her identity, which is bound to the history of the Partition because of her love for her father, again in a way similar to the unnamed narrator in The Shadow Lines, whose quest for identity is connected to modern Indian history through his father’s cousin, Tridib, his “alter ego”1 Simran internalizes his father’s guilt about India and is led to discover the suppressed story of his desire for his lost homeland, much as the narrator of The Shadow Lines imagines Tridib’s life in London during World War II and death in Dhaka in the riots of 1964 through his memories and those of people around him. Simran’s father’s guilt leaves...

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