The Diasporic Life

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines diaspora as: “the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland.” In the sections of “Interpreter of Maladies” given, Jhumpa Lahiri tells the reader two stories. One of a couple returning to the land their parents came from, and another of a man who left the land he grew up in. Both tell stories about traveling to or from India, and the acclimation to differences there. In my opinion, his portrayal is realistic. The diasporic life only means the life of someone who has left their home, and since everyone’s journey is quite different there is no one meaning of the diasporic life.

In the first story, Mr. Kapasi, a chauffeur of sorts, is assigned to drive the Das family for the day. He takes them around Konarak, stopping at the Sun Temple for a tourist visit. As the day goes on, Mr. Kapasi realizes he is falling in love with Ms. Das, a blunt, slightly bitter woman who doesn’t seem to care for her husband or kids too much. It is clear that the Das family wouldn’t be in India if their parents didn’t move to Assanol to retire. This is the reality for many people who immigrate, they must know it is likely their children will have no attachment to the place they spent their own childhood. While some people have deep connections to their parent’s, grandparent’s, and so on’s roots, others could care less. It is clear that Ms. Das is one of the latter. She brushes off her children, pays little attention to her husband, and even confides in Kapasi, a total stranger, about how she has fallen out of love with him.

The second story is also very realistic, it is the stereotypical story of the American dream. Man travels to America for job. Man saves money up until family joins him. Family slowly integrates to American lifestyle as their own culture slowly slips away. The smallest details are what show the changes that the unnamed protagonist goes through. He accustoms himself to a breakfast of cereal instead of last nights meat and rice leftovers. He learns the way of the Americans. It seems as if he takes more time getting used to living with his wife than he does to America in general. Lahiri chose to leave this character unnamed to represent the thouosands of immigrants that lived through this story, maybe not down to the exact details, but very close. This story can be related to by many.

While the story of Kapasi and Mrs. Das is more specific, the story of the unnamed immigrant represents the reality of a diasporic life better. The Das’s were not themselves immigrants, where the unnamed man’s story is about him adjusting to a strange new life in a foreign world. Both are very realistic interpretations, but the second story does the idea of a realistic diasporic life more justice.