The topic of women’s experience in immigration has been broadly addressed in the field of social sciences. Multiple obstacles, psychological, cultural, and social barriers that women who immigrate to the USA encounter have been covered in numerous literary works. In the article under the title “Women in Diaspora: A Study of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Fiction,” Padmaja analyzes the novels and short stories written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni about the particularities of Indian women’s assimilation in American culture. The author of the article presents an in-depth analysis, deriving insights from the fiction of Banerjee Divakaruni, and explains the dilemmas and difficulties experienced by Indian women as immigrants in the western world. The study also reflects on the controversial female identity on the background of two cultures’ collisions, patriarchy, discrimination, and women’s response to different cultures that they experience. The article argues that, as demonstrated in Divakarumi’s fiction, Indian women must incorporate the particularities of both American and Indian cultures into one unique culture to benefit from the advantages of immigration.
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Divakaruni’s works acknowledge that immigrant women in the USA continue to value Indian culture, though they also accept the new cultural reality to some extent. As stated by Padmaja, “Divakaruni’s novels deal with the theme of immigrant conflict-acquired values versus adopted ones” (52). The implications of a patriarchal society that is traditional in India obstruct Indian female’s freedom even in diaspora. Commonly, women are supposed to be passive and subordinate in India. The culture has decided preordained roles for them that they are expected to fill (Padmaja 50). They are perceived as preservers of culture, heritage and are psychologically programmed to comply with patriarchy in their native country, as well as in western countries. They are expected to be submissive, and their conventional roles are of obedient nature. In the new countries, they struggle to come to terms with a new form of life and expectations. At the same time, there are new opportunities for an Indian woman in the USA. It is better for Indian divorced women to live in the USA because social stigma is associated with divorced women in India, which makes it harder for them to live their lives there.
The historical perspective allows for identifying the reasons for Indian migration and facilitates the understanding of the observed challenges. Padmaja explained the history of immigration of Indians to the USA during the 20th century (51). Till the mid-1960s, the USA required agricultural laborers; later on, in 1965, the immigration rules showed a preference for professional and educated people. The state of immigrants in the USA has markedly improved from their past. Now, the Indian immigrants in the USA are educated and have higher social statuses; they have also gained confidence and self-esteem. Nonetheless, cultural issues remain significantly influential for women in diaspora due to the differences in values, beliefs, and traditions.
Indeed, Indian women in western countries suffer from racial discrimination that affects their personal and public life. The immigrant Indian women in the USA are unclear about their identity. They question their prior identities as they see patriarchy muted in western countries. They learn about the struggle of societies in the USA against patriarchy and the movement for women empowerment. Instead of confirming and being submissive, they can think independently and decide about their lives by understanding themselves better. Still, the immigrants and their children in the USA can be subject to racism. For instance, Jagjit Singh reports a similar incidence in the novel entitled The Mistress of Spices, where the boy was continuously insulted by other children both verbally and physically (Padmaja 52). To manage these difficulties, Divakaruni suggests that Indian women should not just continue their previous culture in the new world but must incorporate certain aspects and culture of the new world in their personalities.
The author favors the interaction and absorption of the immigrant Indian females in the societies of the USA. However, all Indian immigrants in the USA experience clash of values, the values of their origin, and that of the new culture that they adopted (Padmaja 52-53). It affects the personality of those immigrants because leaving the land of origin is both pain and pleasure for immigrants that generate a duality of immigration. Immigrants try to analyze and adjust the new values and cultures with their original culture to adapt to their new area of residence. Immigrant women are identified as submissive and compliant by Divakaruni. They accept the culture of the west the same way they accepted the culture of India.
The writer identifies that despite the independence of women in the USA, men have a significant role in the encouragement of a change, as they take part in following it first. Indian men are also more absorbed in the culture of the west in comparison with Indian women. The Indian men soon adopt clothing common for the USA while living in the country, whereas women in diaspora keep wearing clothing approved by their Indian culture. The difference in culture between India and the USA is immense, which creates a dilemma for males who immigrate. However, men remain influential within the Indian communities, which is why, in addition to assimilating in the new culture of their country, the Indian women retain the values of India and continue struggling with patriarchy. It is also fractionally their mindset that is programmed to believe in patriarchal values, in addition to external limitations. They strive to comply and conform to the norms of their Indian culture while living in the USA.
The realities and cultures of the Americans continue to change too. Divakaruni explains how she was compassionate and proud of the land of her origin and was fond of its rich literature and folklore. Divakaruni also expresses positivity and hopefulness for India. She takes pride in different aspects of the culture of India, for instance, folklore and rich literature (Padmaja 55-56). To express positive sentiments for India, she used proverbs, lullabies, mythological allusions, stories, and popular songs. Thus, the article demonstrates how the writer’s ambiguity of feelings in immigration reflects the general situation affecting all Indian immigrants by opposing their homeland with their new environment.
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Hence, to survive and compete in the USA, the Indian women retrospect and recognize the requirements of the new culture. Despite numerous difficulties in the form of adjustment to patriarchy and acknowledging the opportunities for freedom, maintaining their cultural uniqueness and dealing with discrimination, as well as loving their homeland and their new country of living. Divakaruni encourages immigrants to adjust to the new country. The new world order should be based on the acceptance of certain cardinal values and a shared vision for the future that harmonizes the nation and individuals with international order.
Padmaja, C. V. “Women in Diaspora: A Study of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Fiction.” The IUP Journal of English Studies, vol. 12, no. 3, 2017, pp. 50-56.