Thursday, February 3, 2011

Homeland Connections

Upon reading the multiple stories in Chandra’s Love and Longing in Bombay I found myself confused as to how they all related. Not all of them connect, yet many of them seem to center around a theme of longing, as appropriately put in the title. In Shakti Sanjeev longs for Roxanne and Sheila longs to be accepted socially by Dolly. In Shanti she is longing to have her husband back safe and sound and in Dharma Jago is longing for peace from his past. When I finished the book I found that each character from each story had a very relatable sense of longing. This led me to think of how everyone could connect with each character by trying to see the similarities in their situations.

While carefully reading through each story, I found that I was reminded of the time I spent a week in Mississippi doing humanities work. I was away from my “homeland” and was brought to a new one where I would be sharing an open living space with sixty strangers. Most of the groups there were people my own age, so I found no difficulty adjusting. It was only when we went out to build houses and run soup kitchens did I meet the people that I had a hard time connecting to. Here I am a seventeen year old white girl wearing my brand new work boots and pink hat staring at the sullen faces of Katrina survivors. How was I supposed to relate to these people? We were from completely different areas and I had never experienced a hardship as great as theirs. After hearing their amazing stories and getting to know their backgrounds I keep feeling an ache inside. I was longing to be a part of their society. Much like Sheila wished to be accepted by Dolly, I wished to be accepted by these survivors. I think everyone can relate to that feeling of wanting to belong somewhere.

I remember talking to one man who had lost everything. His house was destroyed, his family had been split up and he had no exact place to say where he belonged. When asked how he coped with his hardships he replied that he kept on living. He believed that if he kept moving forward in his life that it would help him move on to a greater future. This moment I think relates somewhat to Jago’s longing in the story Dharma. Jago longs for peace from his past, as represented by the ghost. Once he is able to rid himself of this he is able to move on with his life. Though Jago’s and the Katrina survivor’s stories are very different, they both show that it is not beneficial to dwell on the past, you must face it and move on.

I feel as though home can be wherever you feel connected to something. In Mississippi I learned a lot about all of these survivors and by the end of my trip I felt connected to each and every one of them. After finishing Chandra’s novel I felt that same connection with each character, especially Jago. In the end of Dharma Jago finds that he has always been home he just never really saw it. He explains that the ghost that was haunting him was “Someone I didn’t know before.” When asked why the ghost was here Jago replied “He was lost.”(31) My trip to Mississippi showed me a whole other side to my true self. I recognized that when I had first arrived to this new place that I felt lost as well, and I was desperate to find something to connect to. After realizing this I came to the conclusion that you can make your own home if you allow yourself to branch out and make connections with those people around you.

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