Acculturation: to hybridity marking different stages of acculturation”

Acculturation means cultural modification of an individual group, or people by
adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture. In other words it means
simply adjusting and adapting oneself to the conditions prevailing. “The
process of acculturation is a slow one – sided (the minority seeking
integration with the majority) one and is not without a sense of loss and
exile. It is not a clear transformation, it gives rise to hybridity marking
different stages of acculturation” – Malik 156. Most characters tend to always
struggle for acculturation in Indian novels. The protagonists of the novel are
lead to alienation, frustration, sequestration, segregation and quest for
identity. In Indian novels there are abundant characters. A cross – cultural
condition erupts when the people of two or more cultural groups come in closer
contacts. What they bring nearer, along with some other notions is their
willingness in parting with their much sustained totality of heritage, habits,
customs. Even if these groups predispose, they cannot merge the divergent
cultural identities. This chiefly occurs due to the individual’s strong
indigenous psycho – cultural background, which puts them at the social cross

Jhumpa Lahiri is an
Indian – American author who was born as Nilanjana Sudeshna Lahiri in London on
July 11, 1967, of Bengali Indian descent. Lahiri was born in London, the
daughter of Indian immigrants.  With the
family nickname, “Jhumpa,” coming to be used by school teachers,
Lahiri went on to attend Barnard College in New York, focusing on English
literature. She read at Boston University and obtained three master’s degrees
in Literature. Jhumpa Lahiri also completed a Doctorate in Renaissance. Jhumpa
Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for works of fiction like
Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland. Lahiri’s
first book “Interpreter of Maldives” published in 1999 received plenty of
accolades immediately. In 2000, she was awarded the prestigious Pultizer Prize
for this fiction. “The Namesake” was her first novel published in 2003.  It was in the year 2008 Lahiri came up with
her second collection of stories “The Unaccustomed Earth” and it bagged the
prestigious Frank O’ Connor Short Story Award for 2008. 

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“The Lowland” published
in 2013 is Lahiri’s second novel after “The Namesake” and is considered to be
her fourth book. It is a multi–generational tale that stretches almost
five decades between Tollygunge and Rhode Island. Jhumpa Lahiri in this novel
deals with migration, dislocation and relocation, the consequences of
displacements and cross cultural encounters. The Pultizer award winner
novelist, has brought out Post-Colonial concerns of identity and culture in”The
Lowland” and the novel was shortlisted for the National Book Award in 2013, the
Man Booker Prize 2013and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction 2014. The Lowland, was partially inspired
by real-world political events

Lahiri writes in
American English with Indian flavour. The American literary world celebrates
her as an American author. She has been appointed by the US President, Barack
Obama, as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Jhumpa Lahiri in her works,

Interpreter of
Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland, travels through her
antagonized experiences of an Indian woman across the world. She finds out the
complex cultural encounter and shifts along with emotional imbalance and
relationship between parents and children, lovers, siblings, husband and wife
and determination of identity in general. Jhumpa Lahiri intends to foreground
this newness of women?s identity caught in the dichotomies of acculturation and
dissociation. Partially inspired by a true story Lahiri had heard growing up;
the work initially looks at two brothers, one involved in India’s Naxalite
movement of the 1960s and the other choosing a researcher’s life in the States.
The death of one sibling causes reverberations through the ensuing years.

The story revolves
around the lives of brother Subash Mitra and Udayan Mitra, their choices and
their fate. Born just a little more than a year apart, they were often mistaken
for each other. But they are opposites, with gravely different futures ahead.
Udayan went to study physics and he became friends with some members of the
Marxist students. Soon Udayan in attraction to the movement started cutting classes,
visiting slums and even went organizing a strike in his college. Udayan falls
in love with a young girl Gauri and marries her without the consent of his

On the other hand
Subhash was very cautious from his childhood. He was very close and loved his
parents and often spent most of his time with them. Subhash always accompanied
his mother while she cooked or embroidered saris and blouse pieces also helped
his father plant the dahlias that he grew in pots in the courtyard. Subhash was
sent to study Chemical Engineering to Jadavpur. Subhash leaves home to pursue
his scientific research in America.

When Subhash migrated
to the U.S, he encountered many new things which influenced his lifestyle. The
over – populous India was clearly contrasted with that of sparsely populated
India. It was in the Rhode Island Subhash met Holly, the pretty American women
who was older than him. Subash was surprised to see Holly living separately
from her husband for many years. Holly was ten years older than Subhash and she
had a son named Joshua. Subhash and Holly started meeting regularly and one day
she invited him home. Subhash is only aware of the joint family system in
India, and is shocked when he comes to know that, there is no one to help
Holly, apart from the babysitter who looked after her son Joshua while she
worked. Though her parents were alive, though they live nearby in another part
of Rhode Island, they had not come to take care of her. He knew how his brother
Udayan and his wife Gauri lived along with his parents in India.

His shock was further
extended when he visited Holly on a Friday, where Joshua was not there and he
will join on every Friday with his father. After knowing this he was terrified.
Subhash was a little bit hesitant to share bed with Holly, she did not care for
any scruples in sexual matters. Subhah had a thought to marry her but gave up
the idea because of her age, her child and Holly being the wife of another

When Subhash heard the
news of his brother Udayan’s sad demise in a police encounter, he went to India
to take part in the final rites of his brother. Subhash thought seriously about
re – setting of Udayan’s wife Gauri. Much against the wishes of his parents, he
married Gauri and took her to the US to usher her into a new life. In India it
is not acceptable to marry a widow, In American scenario it is acceptable. Only
in India people use to poke their nose in others affairs, But in America the
concept of privacy is a sacrosanct. No one questioned that Gauri was his wife,
or that he was soon to be the father of her child. Gauri after going to America
transforms herself to an American. She presents herself as the best example of
acculturation of an immigrant.

Gauri totally forgets
her ethnic identity and tries to immense herself into the American culture. She
starts admiring the American way of dressing and develops a vigorous
fascination for it. She in fact starts hating sari, her traditional dress. The yard
of silk sari is indeed difficult to hold as she is in her advanced stage of
pregnancy. She liked the way American girls dressing. She felt uncomfortable
with Indian dresses. Finally she expurgated her saris, petticoats, blouses and
switches to American attire. She is not even bothered about her perturbed
hairstyle. She typically changed into an American and she did not disclose
everything to Subhash as normally an Indian wife will do. Gauri is ably
adjusting and adapting to the new circumstances and becomes acculturated. To
bring out the best example of acculturation in Gauri is when she gives birth to
Bela (Udayan’s child), she demanded a baby – sitter for Bela like the
Americans. On the other hand Subhash is experiencing a sort of culture shock
and struggles to cope with the new environment. Subhash was against her wish
and didn’t approve Gauri’s baby – sitter idea as he wanted to bring up the
child in the Indian way – under the care of the parents. Gauri was not
compromised because she imbibed herself into American craze for individuality
whereas Subhash wanted to follow his culture and tradition.

Gauri wants to lead a
luxury life with all comforts. She is fully Americanized and she didn’t want to
manage or carry her role as an ideal mother with responsibilities like
daughter, husband and household works. She begins to think that her life will
be more thrilling and enjoyable without her daughter Bela and husband Subhash.
Gauri fells that her sexual life with Subhash is unsatisfied and Subhash too
feels the same. She is also frustrated to see Subhash as an outstanding father
to Bela which causes her discomfort as she knows that, he is not her biological
father. Subhash is ready to lead a happy life with Gauri and he insists her to
have another child for Bela’s sake, but Gauri disapproves it. When Bela is
five, Gauri starts attending her graduate school, leaving all the
responsibility of taking care of Bela. It was Subhash who comes to the rescue
of Bela and manages his time to watch Bela. Gauri never had a feel of
commitment towards her family and begins to pursue a doctorate. In addition to
this she thinks Bela as a burden and always exempts her responsibility several
times in taking care of Bela. Gauri also keeps on nagging Subhash to reveal
Bela about Udayan and he agrees to tell her one day.

Subhash and Bela goes
to Calcutta to meet his mother as he misses his father’s last journey. When
they return from Calcutta they were terrified to find out that Gauri had fled
away. Gauri leaves a note to Subhash in which she praises him as a perfect
father and can take care of Bela all by himself, and she is going to
California. Gauri, after bouncing around all of California settles in a stable
job in Claremont College. Subhash takes care of Bela who comes to adolescent
age, due to stress and despair she gets physically disturbed and she was in
need of medical attention. She recovers, and becomes very active in her high school
club activities and finishes her high school and graduation lives a aimless
life and spends her time researching conservation of the environment. Time runs
as Bela steps into her thirties, when Subhash finds that she is expecting a
child whose father is unknown. Subhash gets fury and at last reveals
unwillingly, Udayan is her father and he is his step dad. Bela upset and
disgraced walks out of him. But soon she forgives him and they start to live
together in Rhode Island where Bela gives birth to Meghna, her daughter. Subhash
sends a letter asking Gauri to give him a formal divorce which she readily
accepts. In order to give him the divorce papers Gauri visits his house and
finds Bela and Meghna. Bela introduces her as her great aunt to Meghna and she
was full of enemity against Gauri and treats her as an unwanted guest.

In the final chapters
we come to know that the American individuality propelled Gauri to walk out of
her husband after twelve years of marriage life to enjoy sexual liberty. Gauri
often rattled lovers and sometimes she had no one. In addition to this she even
cultivates a lesbian relationship with Lorna, a graduate student who seeks
Gauri’s help for her dissertation. In short she acculturates herself and opens
the gate for Lesbian Literature. Gauri after her separation goes to Calcutta,
where deserted and in a complete anguish and depression thinks of committing
suicide. Subhash marries Elise, Bela’s teacher. Even in his last days he thinks
fondly of Gauri.

In our analysis we
learn Lahiri introduces Gauri as a catalyst for exploring familial
relationships. Gauri tend to be a strong contender amongst the other several
characters. Lahiri sketches her flaws as both a wife and mother, but it is her
suppleness and deep love for Udayan that make her compelling. Lahiri gives an
honest, insightful look at the difficulties of arranged and loveless marriages,
the isolation of Indian immigrants on American soil. Lahiri masterfully limns
region and mood and gives a perfect picturisation of the Calcutta marshy land
and the Rhode Island. Lahiri takes us into Indian life and custom and makes us
feel the clash of cultures which Subhash and Gauri experience. These characters
adjust and adapt to the society in which they live. The research concludes with
the theme of immigration and cultural identity among Indian –Americans, and a
detailed analysis of a true immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the
conflicts of assimilation and most poignantly the chaotic ties between generations.