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Creation and Criticism

 ISSN: 2455-9687 

(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal

Devoted to English Language and Literature)

Vol. 08, Joint Issue 30 & 31: July-Oct 2023

Research Paper

Wistful Vibes in Indian Diasporic Psyche: A Literary Rumination of Its Positive Aspect

Gunjan Saxena 

ORC ID 0000-0002-5101-7158



Diasporic stream of consciousness and its bizarre nostalgic feelings appear as umbrella terms for umpteen Indian writers. They have found the platform in the realm of diaspora to share the fluctuation of shifting emotions. Uprooted entity, displaced nostalgia, scattered notions and yearning for the native land along with a deep attachment to its traditions, religions and languages brought forth diaspora literature. The deep penchant to seek own real identity and dilemma of half-hearted alienation stimulate the literary calibre to ponder and pour out. As a result, there is the ocean of diaspora literature to be dipped into with soothing psyche and relaxant sentiments. Although distances don’t matter in the present era of technological advancement yet the imagination of emigrant remains engaged in healing the incompleteness of existence or the crisis of identity. It takes time to maintain mental equilibrium after being uprooted and re-rooted. In this reference, Indian writers continue to contribute a lot and enrich the global literature through diasporic elements in their writings. This paper aims at focusing on the nostalgic experience of alienated Indians through the superb literary pieces of Indian diasporic writers. It also fumbles the overwhelming vibes, tensions and throes of such migrated personas along with the positive features and robust ingredients of diasporic conditions.  The works of some prominent diasporic writers like V. S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharti Mukherjee and Shashi Tharoor are ventilated here with analytical approach. This literary rumination is just to comprehend and justify the nostalgic vibes which continue to disturb and haunt the human psyche of displaced persons.


KeywordsDiasporic psyche, nostalgia, alienation, identity crisis. 


Diaspora is considered a kind of traumatic exile from the concerned ancestral homeland and dispersal throughout the world. Apparently, the undertone of diaspora conditions seems negative as it includes compelled dislocation, victimization, aloofness and emotional loss. But the positive aspect is that the victims of diaspora remain successful to maintain many identities that connect them simultaneously to more than one country. This robust approach to the term is more psychological as well as philosophical to be ruminated in depths as it describes umpteen bizarre experiences and incessant struggle to recognize own mental stratum and identity. Thus, diaspora becomes the experiential journey from macrocosm to microcosm and covers the gap between ‘local and the global’. The purpose of the writers to express the traumatic experiences into words is not only to console the affliction of alienation but also to provide the possibilities to overcome the dilemma.  Among such vibrant intellectuals are V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Bharti Mukherjee, Kiran Desai, A.K. Ramanujan, Agha Shahid Ali, Vikram Seth, Shashi Tharoor, Vikas Swarup, Jhumpa Lahiri and so on. Their reaction and approach to entangled diasporic condition may vary but their motto to seek the recharging source and to make symptomatic revisitations of their belongings remains similar. It seems necessary to comprehend and delineate the awkward and pathetic feelings of dispersed Indians in positive terms so that the new generation searching new opportunities and betterment of career in foreign countries may settle down there without being panicked or having the fear of psychological adjustment in alien atmosphere, ethics, culture and tradition. Dr. Shashi Tharoor, a diplomatic writer and winner of Common Wealth prize for literature, has showcased the enthusiastic nostalgia towards his homeland India in his novels and many articles. He particularly highlights the frustration and segregation among engineers, doctors and officers who have migrated from India just for employment factor. Spellbound diasporic themes of his works conclude with the common expectation for diasporas to accept both the native and non-native cultural surroundings to avoid mental chaos and harassment. Tharoor believes that such adoption or flexibility is somewhat obscure but it is necessary for the development of India in the framework of diasporas. 


A textual scrutiny of Naipaul’s novel A House for Mr. Biswas and minute analysis of its character Mr. Mohan Biswas mirror conspicuously the alienated mental stratum while residing within his own community. His restlessness for identity crisis and dislocation can easily be diagnosed as his traumatic feelings are not restricted to an individual’s expressions but the invisible delineation of the Indian diaspora in general terms. Naipaul was the experience holder and active bearer of the dreary intolerable atmosphere of multicultural society of Trinidad. He used to find himself as a foreigner in the midst of foreigners. Mohit K. Ray writes, “Naipaul is an Indian in the West Indies and a West Indian in England, and a nomadic intellectual in a postcolonial world” (208). Therefore, Mr. Biswas, his representative, is unable to seek the familiarity or interaction with Indian as well as Trinidadian communities. His penchant to possess his own house remains unquenched. In fact, his quest can be elucidated as a metaphor for emphasizing a sense of belonging and stability in alien land. He wishes to carve out a space for his own being in multi-cultural society which usually neglects and marginalizes his cultural background. He seems in need of establishing the identity of his own entity which he fails to get from anywhere and from anybody. In order to keep his survival in multishaded diasporic environment, he is compelled to learn the colonial language, manner, cultural, lifestyle and pervading notions as well. During these ridiculous efforts, he remains seeking his own roots and meaning of his aloof existence. At every phase of life, he remains swinging between Trinidadian and Indian cultures and finds himself uncomfortable to adopt any of them in complete form. He has to face prejudice, repulse, stereotypes and identical clashes in strange atmosphere and this confrontation with reluctant mode of life intensifies his sense of alienation and seclusion. Persons from different ethnic backgrounds such as the Tulsi family or his in-laws enhance his inferiority complex as a family priest had already predicted him to be ominous. That’s why his longing for his house seems just an attempt to recognize his selfhood and his status. He utters to his son “I am just somebody. Nobody at all” (A House for Mr. Biswas 279).


Naipaul delineates the ambivalence state of his character dexterously. On the one hand, he wants to have something and on the other, he endeavours to escape from it. This dilemma and confusion continue and he neither adopts Trinidad community whole heartedly nor omits the deep-rooted memories of his birthplace India. His pathetic struggle seems the symbolic portrayal of those migrants who remain engaged in making the balance of their lost identity and their surviving reasons. Such themes manifest the considerable gap between fragmented feelings and neglected or neutral outlook of the alienated world. But same stories leave psychological impression to be aware of adverse circumstances and inspire to be flexible in balancing both identical ethics. Naipaul’s another autobiographical novel The Mimic Men discusses the restlessness of the psyche of a post-colonial individual for not having an authentic and esteemed identity or recognition of his entity.  Its protagonist Ralph faces the challenges of fragmented life being a colonized persona. He strives to embrace this bitter truth by pouring out his experiences into his memoirs. It becomes a successful effort to erase the post-colonial disillusionment of the contemporary life and to reassemble the shattered entity of an ex-colonial individual in metropolitan city. He finds solace in writing, “So writing, for all its initial distortion, clarifies, and even becomes a process of life” (The Mimic Man 274).  


Rushdie’s idea of penning down the bitter experiences resembles Ralph’s inclination towards composing the past memories in order to heal his uprooted self- “…that we will, in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind” (Imaginary Homelands 10). In   Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the protagonists Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha also strive to balance the deep difference between the real adopted environment and imaginative native surroundings. He uses the device of magical realism in order to apply the amalgamation of fanciful elements along with mundane ones. To provide the exact imprint of overbrimming diasporic pathos, Rushdie transforms Gibreel and Saladin into the ‘angel’ and the ‘devil’ respectively. This technique is used just to focus the positive aspects of post-colonial conviction of hybridity and cultural identity. For example, Hind, the Bangladesh immigrant, perceives England as vilayet where “everything she valued had been upset by the change; had in this process of translation, been lost” and “the poison of this devil-island had infected her baby girls, who were growing up refusing to speak their mother-tongue” (The Satanic Verses 249-250). Simultaneously, Saladin Chamcha considers this vilayet as the source of fascination, freedom and escape. Like other diaspora writers, he aims at providing the remedy to the identity crisis and dilemma of cultural confusion or delirium in the diasporas. In The Satanic Verses, he manifests his belief to have new outcomes and vital consequences if hybridization of two identities and cultures are accepted positively by the migrants. They have to imitate some social or ethical practices of the dominant societal surroundings just for survival. For adopting it, they are not needed to erase or detach the native culture, rituals or traditions from their routine lives. They are expected only to maintain mental equilibrium so that even in unfavourable atmosphere (which is chosen for better opportunities and employment), they can relish the nectar of past memories in spare time. In this way, the victims of diaspora can sustain the positivity and sanguine outlook of current growing movement of diaspora. As Rushdie has himself experienced the state of homelessness or strange alienation, he confesses that it is quite impossible to cease the lure of peeping into the memories of existential roots. So, negative approach to the soft feelings is not caused by looking back rather it becomes more depressive not to revise or recreate the old memories around you. Rushdie’s this diasporic gaze on the past possesses the capability to reconnect the fragmented emotions with the origin. As Christina Becchio opines that “The intentional gaze has the potency to transfer to the object the intentionality of the person looking at it” (254). Here the ‘gaze’ may be considered as ‘looking back’ and ‘object’ as ‘India’ just to clarify the concept. In this reference, myth-making plays a vital role in nurturing the diasporic mind. His novel, Midnight’s Children exemplifies this trend of reconnection by recreating, mythologizing and making different folklores in order to replace old attachments and memories. In Imaginary Homelands, he dexterously implies the essential and effective motivation behind myth-making and that is an attempt to fill the gap of identities or to recover the loss. As a crux of matter, umpteen ways are there to pacify the deep penchant arising in our hearts for our homeland while residing in foreign countries. Indian diaspora literature is enriched with varied experiences of Indian writers who have generalized their own dilemma of existential crisis in their works elaborating the inclination towards luxurious life and the poignant sentiments of rootlessness simultaneously.


Jhumpa Lahiri, an Indian-American writer, also came across the bitter realities of assimilating the dual culture and identities. Her novel The Namesake reveals each and every element of diaspora through the well-knitted plot and suffering characters. At first, the gush of nostalgia can be seen in the character of Ashima who used to see the time in the watch gifted by her family at her wedding. Through it, she immerses herself in the memory of her homeland. Then the sense of identity crisis is felt when Gogol strongly opposes to be named as Gogol as it was neither Indian nor American. Although the value of the name is clarified later on and the genuine reason of its Bengali heritage is disclosed to him yet his instability about his own identity causes his shattered personality and miserable mentality. Then, the issue of cultural conflicts is perceived in the life of uprooted family members. Ashima’s love for saree even in her labour, Ashoke’s avoidance of drinking and smoking in the celebration, Ashoke’s comparison of his childhood in Calcutta with his son’s childhood in Boston – all these incidents exhibit their emotions sandwiched between two cultures. The character of Ashima epitomizes the pain of alienation in foreign land. “I am saying I don’t want to raise Gogol alone in this country. It’s not right. I want to go back” (The Namesake 33) Diasporic irony is realized when she pines for her son not to be left alone in foreign country while her son finds himself isolated in their native country. Lahiri seems to convey the message that if the victims of diaspora don’t accept the middle way of adjustment, they have to face such existential issues throughout the lives. By the end of the novel, Ashima adopts the messy mix of Indian and American culture and Gogol also starts to cope with Bengali traditions along with generous attitude towards American ways.    


Lahiri possesses a cogent sense of human bonding with the roots of life. She realizes the obscurity of switching the emotions according to the external circumstances particularly in the case of migration. She is aware of psychological truth that the more one endeavours to alter, the more one remains same and sticks to it. This obsessive pining for the homeland converts into psychological trauma which haunts the thoughts of diasporas and disturbs their lives. The wonderful stories of Lahiri’s first book Interpreter of Maladies showcase the sighs and suffocating screams of the ‘complex and conflicted world of Indian immigrants in the United States.’ With her narrative skill, she represents these stories as the formulated hybridity and cultural encounter in post-modern theoretical discussion. That’s why, multishaded fluctuations of diasporic life are scrutinized and relished in the themes. Every point of diasporic experience and mental status of overseas Indians has been included as their subjects. Exploration for the real self continues and its consequences vary due to societal remarks, alien location, unfavourable circumstances, mode of profession, unfit surroundings and so on. Some of the stories in Interpreter of Maladies are capable to bring tears in the eyes as they touch the diasporic spirit in full-fledged potency. In the first story ‘A Temporary Matter’, Shobha and Shukumar, an Indian-American couple are introduced. It becomes an eerie experience for them to be mixed up with the people from other ethnicities and communities. They have to change the traditional culture of dressing and food habits. But with Italian culture (pasta), they maintained to relish Indian culture (rice) too. They make up their minds to consume non-veg but are not ready to eat beef as cow is worshipped as holy animal in Hindu religion. They often use the hybridity mode and mixed practices of post-modern and traditional ways to run their lives smoothly. Sometimes their forceful efforts cause many problematic issues and ego clashes between them. The sudden demise of their son and Shukumar’s absence at that crucial time increase the distance between fragmented husband and wife. The tension goes on till the electricity failure in their house. Shobha suggests to pass the time during dark hours by playing the game of ‘telling secrets’ with each other. The revelation and sharing of their soft feelings and latent love continues till they reach on the fifth day to the topic of their son’s death. Shukumar is dipped into tearful and emotional repentance for his wife and then appears the purgation of amorous feelings. “Shobha had turned the light off. She came back to the table and sat down, and after a moment Shukumar joined her. They wept together, for the things they now knew” (Interpreter of Maladies 22). This reconciliation happens in the darkness which illuminates their being and discloses their real identity. In fact, the self-alienation, invisible separation, faded sexuality, disjointed relation and crisis of identity in marital life are the consequences of unavoidable diasporic vibes. But even then, how to manage unfavourable situations, is beautifully manifested in the story.


Same mania of identity and haunting quest of true self, we find in Bharati Mukherjee’s novel Jasmine in which the protagonist Jasmine symbolizes the incessant search of rootless persona with the tinge of isolated and neglected feminine identity. She tries her best to adopt the unknown, unfamiliar cultural ethics of various locations in her life. She does the experiment to recognize her entity by changing her name accordingly like Jyoti, Jasmine, Jazzy, Jase, Jane, and again Jasmine. She utters, “I shuttled between identities” (Jasmine 77). When she renames herself Jyoti, she desires to wear Indianness and portrays the picture of Indian societal feminine issues and impact of migration. In this way, throughout her life, she remains entangled in dislocation and relocation of her existential roots. During her search, she wishes to have liberation from the shackles of stereotype of feminism. As a matter of fact, the novelist provides the message through the character of Jasmine that in post-colonial era or in multi-cultural society, adoption, absorption, assimilation, cultural modification and sense of settlement are unavoidable. They have become the need of the hour and in contemporary era, they should be accepted by the diasporas wholeheartedly.


Analysing minutely, it may be recapitulated that diaspora writers not only delineate the alienation and agony of migrants or immigrants but also emphasize the possible benefits of developing dual perspectives and experience of different cultural forms. In the comparison of first generation, the diasporic Indians of second generation are more capable to deal with this cultural modification. The diaspora of first generation remains fumbling the base of painful attachment and difficult detachment. That’s why they need more support and counselling to adjust and adopt the middle way. Detailed dexterous delivery of the delicate fluctuating emotions in the stories and novels of diasporic literature provides the overseas Indians a platform for having emotional support, resemblance and compensation of their emerging emotions related to their origin. Thus, Indian writers continue to convey the abstract notion of emotion in such compassionate and unpretentious diction that it unfolds the layers of suffocating and striving experience of immigrants with the tone of positivity and healthy outlook.


Works Cited:


Becchio, Cristina. “How the gaze of others influences object processing.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 2, no. 7, 2008. accessed on 10 January 2024.


Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies: Stories of Bengal, Boston and Beyond. Harper Collins, 1999.


Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Flamingo, 2003.


Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine. Viking Penguin, India, 1990.                                  


Naipaul, V.S. A House for Mr. Biswas. Andre Deutsch, 1961.


Naipaul, V.S. The Mimic Men. Macmillan, 1967.


Ray, M.K.  V S Naipaul: Critical Essays. Atlantic publishers, 2005.


Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism. Granta Books, 1991.


Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. Viking Penguin, 1989.



About the Author:


Dr Gunjan Saxena is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Bareilly College, Bareilly. Her area of interest is: American Literature and Indian English Literature. She can be contacted at


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