Acculturation:Acculturation means cultural modification of an individual group, or people byadapting to or borrowing traits from another culture. In other words it meanssimply adjusting and adapting oneself to the conditions prevailing. “Theprocess of acculturation is a slow one – sided (the minority seekingintegration with the majority) one and is not without a sense of loss andexile. It is not a clear transformation, it gives rise to hybridity markingdifferent stages of acculturation” – Malik 156. Most characters tend to alwaysstruggle for acculturation in Indian novels. The protagonists of the novel arelead to alienation, frustration, sequestration, segregation and quest foridentity. In Indian novels there are abundant characters.
A cross – culturalcondition erupts when the people of two or more cultural groups come in closercontacts. What they bring nearer, along with some other notions is theirwillingness in parting with their much sustained totality of heritage, habits,customs. Even if these groups predispose, they cannot merge the divergentcultural identities. This chiefly occurs due to the individual’s strongindigenous psycho – cultural background, which puts them at the social crossroads.Jhumpa Lahiri is anIndian – American author who was born as Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri in London onJuly 11, 1967, of Bengali Indian descent. Lahiri was born in London, thedaughter of Indian immigrants. With thefamily nickname, “Jhumpa,” coming to be used by school teachers,Lahiri went on to attend Barnard College in New York, focusing on Englishliterature. She read at Boston University and obtained three master’s degreesin Literature.
Jhumpa Lahiri also completed a Doctorate in Renaissance. JhumpaLahiri is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for works of fiction likeInterpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland. Lahiri’sfirst book “Interpreter of Maldives” published in 1999 received plenty ofaccolades immediately. In 2000, she was awarded the prestigious Pultizer Prizefor this fiction.
“The Namesake” was her first novel published in 2003. It was in the year 2008 Lahiri came up withher second collection of stories “The Unaccustomed Earth” and it bagged theprestigious Frank O’ Connor Short Story Award for 2008. “The Lowland” publishedin 2013 is Lahiri’s second novel after “The Namesake” and is considered to beher fourth book. It is a multi–generational tale that stretches almostfive decades between Tollygunge and Rhode Island. Jhumpa Lahiri in this noveldeals with migration, dislocation and relocation, the consequences ofdisplacements and cross cultural encounters.
The Pultizer award winnernovelist, has brought out Post-Colonial concerns of identity and culture in”TheLowland” and the novel was shortlisted for the National Book Award in 2013, theMan Booker Prize 2013and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction 2014. The Lowland, was partially inspiredby real-world political eventsLahiri writes inAmerican English with Indian flavour. The American literary world celebratesher as an American author. She has been appointed by the US President, BarackObama, as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.Jhumpa Lahiri in her works, Interpreter ofMaladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland, travels through herantagonized experiences of an Indian woman across the world. She finds out thecomplex cultural encounter and shifts along with emotional imbalance andrelationship between parents and children, lovers, siblings, husband and wifeand determination of identity in general.
Jhumpa Lahiri intends to foregroundthis newness of women?s identity caught in the dichotomies of acculturation anddissociation. Partially inspired by a true story Lahiri had heard growing up;the work initially looks at two brothers, one involved in India’s Naxalitemovement of the 1960s and the other choosing a researcher’s life in the States.The death of one sibling causes reverberations through the ensuing years.The story revolvesaround the lives of brother Subash Mitra and Udayan Mitra, their choices andtheir fate.
Born just a little more than a year apart, they were often mistakenfor each other. But they are opposites, with gravely different futures ahead.Udayan went to study physics and he became friends with some members of theMarxist students. Soon Udayan in attraction to the movement started cutting classes,visiting slums and even went organizing a strike in his college.
Udayan fallsin love with a young girl Gauri and marries her without the consent of hisparents. On the other handSubhash was very cautious from his childhood. He was very close and loved hisparents and often spent most of his time with them. Subhash always accompaniedhis mother while she cooked or embroidered saris and blouse pieces also helpedhis father plant the dahlias that he grew in pots in the courtyard. Subhash wassent to study Chemical Engineering to Jadavpur. Subhash leaves home to pursuehis scientific research in America. When Subhash migratedto the U.S, he encountered many new things which influenced his lifestyle.
Theover – populous India was clearly contrasted with that of sparsely populatedIndia. It was in the Rhode Island Subhash met Holly, the pretty American womenwho was older than him. Subash was surprised to see Holly living separatelyfrom her husband for many years. Holly was ten years older than Subhash and shehad a son named Joshua. Subhash and Holly started meeting regularly and one dayshe invited him home.
Subhash is only aware of the joint family system inIndia, and is shocked when he comes to know that, there is no one to helpHolly, apart from the babysitter who looked after her son Joshua while sheworked. Though her parents were alive, though they live nearby in another partof Rhode Island, they had not come to take care of her. He knew how his brotherUdayan and his wife Gauri lived along with his parents in India. His shock was furtherextended when he visited Holly on a Friday, where Joshua was not there and hewill join on every Friday with his father. After knowing this he was terrified.
Subhash was a little bit hesitant to share bed with Holly, she did not care forany scruples in sexual matters. Subhah had a thought to marry her but gave upthe idea because of her age, her child and Holly being the wife of anotherperson. When Subhash heard thenews of his brother Udayan’s sad demise in a police encounter, he went to Indiato take part in the final rites of his brother. Subhash thought seriously aboutre – setting of Udayan’s wife Gauri.
Much against the wishes of his parents, hemarried Gauri and took her to the US to usher her into a new life. In India itis not acceptable to marry a widow, In American scenario it is acceptable. Onlyin India people use to poke their nose in others affairs, But in America theconcept of privacy is a sacrosanct. No one questioned that Gauri was his wife,or that he was soon to be the father of her child. Gauri after going to Americatransforms herself to an American.
She presents herself as the best example ofacculturation of an immigrant.Gauri totally forgetsher ethnic identity and tries to immense herself into the American culture. Shestarts admiring the American way of dressing and develops a vigorousfascination for it. She in fact starts hating sari, her traditional dress. The yardof silk sari is indeed difficult to hold as she is in her advanced stage ofpregnancy.
She liked the way American girls dressing. She felt uncomfortablewith Indian dresses. Finally she expurgated her saris, petticoats, blouses andswitches to American attire. She is not even bothered about her perturbedhairstyle. She typically changed into an American and she did not discloseeverything to Subhash as normally an Indian wife will do. Gauri is ablyadjusting and adapting to the new circumstances and becomes acculturated. Tobring out the best example of acculturation in Gauri is when she gives birth toBela (Udayan’s child), she demanded a baby – sitter for Bela like theAmericans. On the other hand Subhash is experiencing a sort of culture shockand struggles to cope with the new environment.
Subhash was against her wishand didn’t approve Gauri’s baby – sitter idea as he wanted to bring up thechild in the Indian way – under the care of the parents. Gauri was notcompromised because she imbibed herself into American craze for individualitywhereas Subhash wanted to follow his culture and tradition.Gauri wants to lead aluxury life with all comforts. She is fully Americanized and she didn’t want tomanage or carry her role as an ideal mother with responsibilities likedaughter, husband and household works.
She begins to think that her life willbe more thrilling and enjoyable without her daughter Bela and husband Subhash.Gauri fells that her sexual life with Subhash is unsatisfied and Subhash toofeels the same. She is also frustrated to see Subhash as an outstanding fatherto Bela which causes her discomfort as she knows that, he is not her biologicalfather. Subhash is ready to lead a happy life with Gauri and he insists her tohave another child for Bela’s sake, but Gauri disapproves it. When Bela isfive, Gauri starts attending her graduate school, leaving all theresponsibility of taking care of Bela.
It was Subhash who comes to the rescueof Bela and manages his time to watch Bela. Gauri never had a feel ofcommitment towards her family and begins to pursue a doctorate. In addition tothis she thinks Bela as a burden and always exempts her responsibility severaltimes in taking care of Bela. Gauri also keeps on nagging Subhash to revealBela about Udayan and he agrees to tell her one day.Subhash and Bela goesto Calcutta to meet his mother as he misses his father’s last journey. Whenthey return from Calcutta they were terrified to find out that Gauri had fledaway.
Gauri leaves a note to Subhash in which she praises him as a perfectfather and can take care of Bela all by himself, and she is going toCalifornia. Gauri, after bouncing around all of California settles in a stablejob in Claremont College. Subhash takes care of Bela who comes to adolescentage, due to stress and despair she gets physically disturbed and she was inneed of medical attention. She recovers, and becomes very active in her high schoolclub activities and finishes her high school and graduation lives a aimlesslife and spends her time researching conservation of the environment. Time runsas Bela steps into her thirties, when Subhash finds that she is expecting achild whose father is unknown. Subhash gets fury and at last revealsunwillingly, Udayan is her father and he is his step dad.
Bela upset anddisgraced walks out of him. But soon she forgives him and they start to livetogether in Rhode Island where Bela gives birth to Meghna, her daughter. Subhashsends a letter asking Gauri to give him a formal divorce which she readilyaccepts. In order to give him the divorce papers Gauri visits his house andfinds Bela and Meghna. Bela introduces her as her great aunt to Meghna and shewas full of enemity against Gauri and treats her as an unwanted guest.
In the final chapterswe come to know that the American individuality propelled Gauri to walk out ofher husband after twelve years of marriage life to enjoy sexual liberty. Gaurioften rattled lovers and sometimes she had no one. In addition to this she evencultivates a lesbian relationship with Lorna, a graduate student who seeksGauri’s help for her dissertation. In short she acculturates herself and opensthe gate for Lesbian Literature. Gauri after her separation goes to Calcutta,where deserted and in a complete anguish and depression thinks of committingsuicide. Subhash marries Elise, Bela’s teacher. Even in his last days he thinksfondly of Gauri.In our analysis welearn Lahiri introduces Gauri as a catalyst for exploring familialrelationships.
Gauri tend to be a strong contender amongst the other severalcharacters. Lahiri sketches her flaws as both a wife and mother, but it is hersuppleness and deep love for Udayan that make her compelling. Lahiri gives anhonest, insightful look at the difficulties of arranged and loveless marriages,the isolation of Indian immigrants on American soil. Lahiri masterfully limnsregion and mood and gives a perfect picturisation of the Calcutta marshy landand the Rhode Island. Lahiri takes us into Indian life and custom and makes usfeel the clash of cultures which Subhash and Gauri experience. These charactersadjust and adapt to the society in which they live. The research concludes withthe theme of immigration and cultural identity among Indian –Americans, and adetailed analysis of a true immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, theconflicts of assimilation and most poignantly the chaotic ties between generations.