The Offsprings of Immigrants

One day, Subhash joins his parents for lunch. Subhash doesn’t like the way his parents treat Gauri. She used to take meals in the Kitchen, as a custom of segregating widow from the rest of the family. When Subhash asks to meet Gauri, his parents tell him that she is not well; when he insists upon calling a doctor, they reveal the truth that Gauri is pregnant. Subhash asks Gauri to reveal the truth about his brother’s death.

Subhash quarreled with his mother, Bijoli about the ill-treatment of Gauri. Subhash’s mother believes that she is not fit for motherhood, “she is too withdrawn, too aloof to be a mother”(TL,137), and suggests that once she has given birth to their grandchild, Gauri should leave that child to them. When Subhash asks his mother to accept Gauri and treat her with respect for Udayan’s sake, Bijoli loses her temper and shouts angrily “Don’t tell me how to honor my own son”(TL, 137).

Subhash was unable to console his mother, he wants to leave Calcutta. He is afraid of leaving Gauri in Calcutta in this cruel treatment, he realizes that he must take Gauri away- and to do so, he must marry her.

“ The only way to prevent it was to take Gauri away. It was all he could do to help her, the

only alternative he could provide. And the only way to take her away was to marry her.

To take his brother’s place, to raise his child, to come to love Gauri as Udayan had. To

follow him in a way that felt preserve, that felt ordained” (TL, 138).

Subhash and Gauri arrives at Boston Airport. Gauri is still adjusting to live without Udayan. Whenever she sees Subhash, She senses the presence of Udayan. Gauri’s journey to America is made more difficult by her pregnancy. They both know that the choice of marriage is a bad choice and it is an unhappy solution to a deep emotional problem. Even though, Subhash and Gauri are present in the house they share, they are emotionally absent from each other.

Gauri leaves her home to join her hands with Udayan against her parents’ wish and when Udayan is being killed , he left her second home, Tollygunge and moved with Subhash to Rhode Island. She loses her ‘self’ and ‘home’ and feels alienated from her home. Her past would always come to haunt her mind, she is unhappy in her life.

Lahiri’s characters in The Lowland are represented as people who apparently have their own reasons to live and die for. If Udayan has sacrificed his life for a socio-political cause, Subhash lives out a sacrifice to hold together a family before it is crushed to the point of annihilation. Udayan as a responsible elder brother, who had been studying in the foreign soils of America, returned hoping to pick up the pieces of shattered family and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind.

Lahiri’s second collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth explores the Indian American characters’ lives and a culturally mixed society. The eight short stories follow a Bengali-American family through several cities across the world, Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, defining the relationships at various levels. The title comes from a preface to Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne opining that change of home can be good for a person if only they “ Strike their roots in to Unaccustomed Earth”.

Through all the stories in Unaccustomed Earth, Lahiri explains about Bengali characters and their sense of exile, yet they are also about people moving to new places within America or characters going to London, Italy and other parts of the world. It is as if Lahiri thrives on pulling her characters in a new physical circumstance- if it’s not Bengalis coming to America, it is Bengalis going from America to various places.

In Lahiri’s works the characters were moving for new opportunities or a new job; here too there is a movement but the reasons are different. They are more personal than professional for instance they move due to family dynamics or death in the family and other reasons too. The characters too are different as they are not the immigrants themselves but the offsprings of immigrants. As she was herself the child of immigrant parents, Jhumpa Lahiri describes the experiences very feelingly as she knew what it meant to be unrooted, seeing her parents gone through.

The title story “Unaccustomed Earth” opens with a father visiting his daughter, Ruma a young mother in a new city. “ After her mother’s death, Ruma’s father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began travelling in Europe, a continent he’d never seen”(UE, 3). After one of his tours, he comes to visit Ruma who lives with her white husband, Adam and her three year old son, Akash, in their new home in Seattle. Though a Lawyer by profession, being pregnant, she stays at home.

Ruma’s father visits her for the first time after the death of her mother. Ruma feels it strange, because in the past her parents used to come together. Her mother stayed with her when Ruma’s son was born. She feels a sense of guilt to leave her widowed father live alone, and she felt it was her duty as a Bengali daughter to take care of her father after her mother’s death and in her brother’s absence. Ruma has shifted to a new home in Seattle from Brooklyn due to Adam’s new job. She doesn’t want Akash to grow up fully as an American kid. She is caught between the two worlds and experiences divided identity.