Allwin K Joy – Indian Diaspora: Metaphor and Reality (Indian Literature)

Rayaprol, Aparna. Negotiating Identities: Women in the Indian Diaspora. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1997. 01-34. Print.

Chapter one titled, “Indian Diaspora: Metaphor and Reality” offers some interesting insights on the Indian diasporas and the negotiation of immigrant identity within host countries around the world. Rayaprol begins with the argument that when it comes to the identity of immigrants in the host country, there is no longer a mere homogenization of cultures or the melting pot thesis, but instead the Third World now occupies a space within the First.

However, Rayaprol states that even though the immigrant culture occupies a separate space within the host culture, they tend to reconstruct their idea of ‘homelands’ into fictive communities, that are part real and part imagined, according to the multiple cultures and experiences they encounter. She cites a passage from Salman Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands which states that when we move to a new country, we tend to fill up our memories of the land we left behind by creating fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible and imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind. She describes how remembered places remain symbolic anchors of community for the dispersed people, which inspires them to reconstruct their home culture imaginatively in their new lived world.

She then reserves an entire section on “The Indian Diaspora”, debunking certain assumed terminologies and revealing cultural and social variations in the Indian Diasporas in different host countries around the world. She points out that for decades overseas Indians had no contact with each other, causing a wide range of variations in their character and achievements. After investing separate sections for Indian immigrants and their history in different parts of the globe, she converges on the Asian Indians in the United States, the gender differences in their religious behaviour, and subsequently how Indian women played a crucial role in the reconstruction of tradition and religion in the United States, the different aspects of which comprises the rest of the book.

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