Agonies of the Immigrants in Kiran Desai’s Novel

Written by Shah Jadhav and Phil Nirmal, the article, Agonies of the Immigrants in Kiran Desai’s ‘The Inheritance of Loss’, highlights the suffering and pain that people went through whilst being in foreign countries during the post-colonial period. The authors indicate that during this period, the majority of the postcolonial societies endeavored to achieve a better life, but their dreams were blinded under the influence of the wealthy class. The elites amassed wealth from the poor and the situation resulted in a class of very wealthy people while the poor continued to become poorer. Kiran Desai’s book, The Inheritance of Loss, sheds light on immigration. In the article, Agonies of the Immigrants in Kiran Desai’s ‘The Inheritance of Loss’, Jadhav and Nirmal clearly portray the immigrants’ issue coupled with how they would transit between the West and the East. The authors show what life is like when living somewhere between East and West as an immigrant. I agree with this article’s view that moving to a foreign land will not solve people’s problems because, in every country across the world, there are inherent problems, as Asian immigrants realized upon reaching the West.

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The article illustrates that in modern society, the issue of immigration is higher than it used to be in the Medieval Ages. The authors note that modern immigration has increased due to social, economic, and political situations. Jadhav and Nirmal further note that out of immigration, terms like diaspora, acculturation, selfhood, assimilation and many others came up (143). However, the effects of the immigrants of the former years still affect the contemporary world. Jadhav and Nirmal define immigration as an individual or group change of place of living in a permanent way. Immigrants move from one country to another. As opposed to the forced and circumstantial immigration of the 20th century, contemporary immigration is largely a victim of economic reasons. In the past, immigrants from India were forced to move due to the requirements of labor provision from the colonialists.

Indians also moved to new lands acquired by powerful rulers. The authors also show how some immigrants migrated due to religious factors. In this article, Jadhav and Nirmal show that immigrants from different areas had almost similar experiences. Employment and family reunions also influenced modern immigration. In the article, the authors indicate that immigrants experienced suffering and pain. The pain and suffering that the immigrants experienced came from their failure to assimilate or associate themselves with the cultural, social, and economic activities of the residents. Immigrants faced the problem of abandoning their own culture and adapting to a new one. Jadhav and Nirmal note that most immigrants found themselves in between two cultures. The authors further note that immigrants always had a desire to go back to their roots due to the undying memories of their homeland.

Immigrants moved to England for various reasons. The article explains that the first bunch of immigrants into England was seeking higher education. The authors give an example of a man named Jemubhai Patel who went to England in search of higher education. Asian immigrants never thought that there was poverty in England. However, when Jemubhai moved to England, he realized that there were slums even around Cambridge, which was one of the most developed cities in the United Kingdom by then. One of the major problems that Asian immigrants face in England is discrimination. For example, regardless of Jemubhai’s ability to pay for rent in Cambridge, the property owners in England refused to accord him accommodation. The authors note that Jemubhai was denied a place for living by about twenty-two proprietors.

Ironically, these property owners owned the filthiest houses around Cambridge, houses that the English natives would never consider as accommodations. This immigrant only managed to get a room in a house that was located very far from the University and the houses had no other tenants. Discrimination of the immigrants also comes out in Desai’s book when the Jadhav and Nirmal claim that beautiful women on campus avoided Jemubhai on allegations that he was a stinking curry (144). The authors note that not only the beautiful girls discriminated against this Indian, but the old and bad looking ones too. The article highlights that Patel would spend days without talking to any person and he lived for a long time without forming relationships. However, the authors observe that regardless of all the discrimination against Asians in England, Patel would always envy them.

Another group of immigrants depicted in this article is the lot that moved to the West in search of a better living. These immigrants are classified into two groups: the immigrants who lived in the West as green card holders and the group that moved to the west as illegal immigrants. One such person in the narrative is Biju, an illegal immigrant to the West. The article uses this character to exemplify the sufferings of illegal Asian immigrants. They suffered loneliness in exile, feelings of alienation, and inequality with the indigenous people. The green card holders depict a feeling of loss of identity, disloyalty to the foreign nation, and loss of culture. The authors further write that immigrants to a foreign land experience a strong desire to go home, and this aspect explains why many elite immigrants love writing about their homeland. Writers in foreign lands are motivated to write due to homesickness and rejection they experience. In fact, the article explains that one cannot realize the importance of home unless he or she is displaced or is away from it.

Illegal immigrants in the West spent most of their time in search of better means of survival. For example, Biju moved from one job to another in Queen of Tarts due to low salaries. Immigrants also work for long hours, for example, Biju woke up at four o’clock every morning and went to sleep very late. The article depicts the ill jobs that immigrants do in foreign nations; for example, they work as vegetable choppers, bearers, and cooks. Biju, who stayed for a long period without a green card, faced exploitation by employers by being paid the lowest salary possible. The authors note that regardless of Biju’s efforts to live like the Western people, he ended up being a complete misfit.

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The article explains that life was hard and dangerous for Asian immigrants. The illegal immigrants engaged in risky activities that could even result in death, the indigenous people hated them, and they were separated from their families. Regardless of the painful experiences that immigrants went through in the West, many others continued to arrive. Biju lived a miserable life in New York; for example, when he got another job at Gandhi café, he slept in the restaurant’s kitchen amidst pots, masala sacks, and pans. The authors note that the kitchen was full of rats and garbage. It is worth noting that the hotel owner offered this house freely. The desire for free things makes immigrants suffer even more. When Biju suffered so much for lack of a good job and lack of a green card, he began to lose temper.

Jadhav and Nirmal also illustrate that after long-suffering, some of the immigrants decide to go back to their homelands. For example, Biju returns home owing to his long-suffering and pain in New York. He even fears that a greater loss, pain, or suffering may occur in his life if he continues to live in a foreign land. In fact, the article indicates that illegal immigrants expected to find happiness and fulfillment by going back home, and the authors note, “He felt like a baby on his mother’s lap” (146). To Biju, all the pain of being in a foreign land discriminated against and mistreated amounted to being an outcast. The problems that make immigrants move to foreign nations may not be solved in this way.

Jadhav and Nirmal use the article to show that most immigrants suffer in foreign lands and that suffering does not end when one moves back to his or her homeland. The larger message is that the world is globalized and life has no much difference anywhere. People should be cautious before deciding to move to foreign lands in search of better lives, education, or jobs. When the Asian Biju moves back home from New York, he finds life harder than it was in the foreign land. The article records that when Biju gets home, he is robbed of his property and his dignity is destroyed. Biju becomes poorer than he was when he left his country for the west. At this point, I agree with this article’s view that moving to a foreign land will not solve people’s problems because, in every country across the world, there are inherent problems as Asian immigrants realized upon reaching the West.

Works Cited

Jadhav, Shah, and Phil Nirmal. “Agonies of the Immigrants in Kiran Desai’s -The Inheritance of Loss.” Language in India 11.7 (2011): 142-147. Print.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "Agonies of the Immigrants in Kiran Desai’s Novel." October 30, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Agonies of the Immigrants in Kiran Desai’s Novel'. 30 October.

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