Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Changing Emotions with Changing Homelands

Leaving one’s homeland may evoke emotions of fear, anger, loneliness, longing, or excitement. In Love and Longing in Bombay, Chandra focuses on these emotions, especially that of loneliness when learning to adapt to a homeland/surrounding when it is new and unfamiliar or when a loved one is lost. This loneliness is a universal emotion that all feel during different moments in one’s life, especially when one must leave his or her homeland behind or if foreigners invade his or her homeland looking to change it. Along with this feeling of loneliness, at times one may have a fear of change. However, once one accepts the change, he or she may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

When immigrants came to America, they may have been faced with hardships, but they left their former countries behind in order to make better lives for themselves, and in turn America became a melting pot of different cultures. There is much good that can come from change for one is taken out of his or her comfort zone and given the opportunity to explore the world. Although, one may be lonely from leaving behind what is familiar, one is able to form new relationships with the people and surroundings of their new country. By moving to or visiting another country, one is in contact with a different culture while that country is learning something from the new arrivals. With the moving of culture in both directions (transculturation), one is able to learn from others and hopefully turn the feeling of loneliness into gratitude when having moved to a new homeland.

In Love and Longing in Bombay, Sartaj’s loneliness is based on his divorce from his wife. He lives in the memories of their passionate times together, when loneliness was not an emotion consuming him. His divorce changes his life, but he later explains, “Life never does what it should” (227), in which he tries to move on by accepting this change.

When an older man fell in love with Ganga’s daughter, Asha, Asha is sent from her homeland to a village to live with her grandfather. Chandra writes, “She [Asha] was silent, caught somewhere between heartbreak and relief” (47). Her loneliness came when she was on the train leaving behind the “the mountains and the zigzagging ascent of the tracks and the birds floating in the valley” (47) to arrive at the village. However, with this change came a better life for Asha who finished nurse training and married a schoolteacher.

Jago Antia explains his loneliness in Bombay to his friend Ramani. Like Sartaj, he faces ghosts of his past in which he slowly learns to overcome. He realizes that although there may have been a change in his homeland, “nothing had changed [and] he knew he was still and forever Jago Antia” (31). One may take aspects from certain cultures and live by them, but one’s former culture is able to remain if one does not forget it, but teaches it to others showing that there is always movement across cultures.

Shiv’s loneliness and despair after the death of his twin is shown through his silence, and goes to live with his sister and her husband. Chandra writes, “She [Shiv’s sister] found happiness and generosity enough in the safety of her home to comfort him” (231). Shiv’s sister feels that this change of Shiv’s home will have a positive effect on him. However, it is only when he goes to “the edge of his world and back” (232), embracing a change when discovering for himself what is around him and deep within his memories, that he is able to leave his current state, meet Shanti, and eventually marry her. Both Shanti and Shiv have felt the loneliness brought on by missing family members in their lives, namely Shanti’s husband and Shiv’s brother, but they find fulfillment in each other. As they exchange photographs, Chandra writes, “You [Shanti] are changed, Shiv thought, and I am, and we are something new now. And then he looked up, and saw the red sun on a ridge, and he was filled with excitement and foreboding” (266). With Shanti, Shiv has a new appreciation for change and sees the excitement that comes along with the blending of new cultures, experiences, and homelands.

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