Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Relationships and Change

Jasmine is definitely a story that brings up important ideas about identity and a person’s ability to change, redefine herself, and move beyond her past. I, personally, sometimes find it difficult to relate to such a drastic story of moving away from home and completely redefining yourself, because I have really strong ties to my home and my family. Still, I think that everyone has parts of their past that they wish to leave behind; I just don’t know that it’s possible, or even best, to do so. I believe in finding a way to accept your past, because you can’t get rid of it. Heartbreak, loss, and other negative memories can never be completely erased, and it is important to remember that they have helped contribute to making you the person that you are today. If you can accept who you are now, you can accept your past, even if parts of it are painful.

What I especially found interesting about Jasmine’s story was that she seems to change (and change her names) according to the people who surround her and affect her life. I think that I have changed a lot because of the people around me and the people who have come into my life. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be in a good relationship from past ones that didn’t work out, and now I feel like I’ve grown to be a much better person because of my current relationship. My boyfriend is definitely my best friend, and I think that that is what I’ve come to realize is the most important thing in any relationship. I think that a healthy relationship definitely builds you up and makes you want to be a better person, so that a good relationship can help you grow as an individual. I’ve definitely also had many friends who helped me to grow and become more confident throughout the years. I was pretty shy in the beginning of high school and was sort of a band and choir geek (and I unfortunately have the pictures of myself in a red cumberbund and bowtie, saxophone in hand, to prove it). It never bothered me, but I remember how strange it was to come to college and know that no one really knew me and that there were no groups to confine me or define me yet. I think I actually reveled a bit in not joining any particular groups on campus during most of my freshman year because I loved not feeling like I was being defined in any way. I also remember how much less shy I was at the beginning of college, because I told myself that this was my chance to start fresh and had grown up enough to have a sense of self-confidence that allowed me to branch out and really meet new people. I remember that at the beginning of high school, I barely spoke to anyone and was so shy. But in college, I distinctly remember how exciting it was for me to roam around the halls of my dorm, completely on my own, and introduce myself to anyone and everyone with an open door. As I started to make friends in college who were so diverse in so many ways, I think it helped me to see that I didn’t have to define myself in any particular way or be friends with only certain people.

I definitely felt that, in the book, Taylor was the person who was most like a friend for Jasmine. I think that Bud and even Prakash (who I did still generally like) served more as protectors or providers for Jasmine, and helped her grow in many ways. However, I thought that Taylor was the one with whom Jasmine truly fell in love because of his personality, and not for external factors or the protection or safe haven he might represent. I was so happy when Jasmine left with Taylor and Duff in the end, and I felt like that was the moment when she was finally going to be most at home because she finally had a true family to call her own. I also think that Taylor was the only one who could accept both the East and West of Jasmine, so to speak. He wasn’t afraid to talk about her past and India, the way that Bud was, and he wasn’t trying to change her to be more Western (or Eastern) in the same way that Prakash pressured her to be more outspoken and Western. He seemed to completely accept the person that she was.

I loved Mukherjee’s writing on page 43: “But that pitcher is broken. It is the same air this side as that.” Mukherjee references this expression at least one other time in the novel. I like that it, first of all, seemed to echo Hindu and Buddhist notions of the “oneness” of each person with the rest of the universe. Though we try to separate ourselves out as individuals, it is really the same divinity within us as it is outside of us and throughout the entire universe. We try to separate ourselves, but if we break the pitcher of our ego, we will find that we are the one with the universe. I also think that this image works well with Jasmine’s story, because she changes identities so much throughout the book, but, ultimately, she is the same person. She retains her persistence and her bravery, I believe, throughout the entire novel, and although she does change, every name and part of her past is a part of her. It is all one, because together, these separate parts constitute who Jasmine is. Finally, I think that it can also be an image for the separation we try to make between the East and the West, when really, there are so many similarities between the two. If we “open the universe a little,” we can find that there is really one global homeland, even if we do try to separate the rest of the world into a different category. Break the pitcher, and you find that the air inside was the same as the air outside all along.

I think that one of the most surprising things I learned related to this class was just how central and important the concept of home is. I’d never thought about all the connotations of the word and all of the various types of homes, internal and external, there are. Being at home can really relate to pretty much any piece of literature and is important in every person’s life. I was surprised to realize this, since I hadn’t necessarily thought about it much before. Home is such a central idea that people really need to think about and explore. Home isn’t just where you come from; you create your own home.

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