AN for the India Plaza Golden Quill Award and



V. Krishnaveni M.A., M.Phil.,

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Research Scholar,

Department of English,

Appa College,

Nagar, Tirunelveli.


Kapur is the most prominent contemporary novelist of Indian English Literature.
She teaches English literature at Miranda House, Delhi University. She has five
novels and an anthology to her credit till date. Her first novel Difficult
Daughters was published in 1998 and awarded the prestigious commonwealth Award
for best first novel, Eurasia region. Her second novel, A Married Woman was
published in 2002 and shortlisted for the Encore Award, her third novel, Home
in 2006 was shortlisted for Hutch-Crossword Prize and the fourth novel, The
Immigrant 2008 was shortlisted for the India Plaza Golden Quill Award and the
DSC Prize of South Asian Literature in 2010. Her fifth novel Custody published
in 2011. Manju Kapur deals with various themes such as Feminism, Diaspora,
Social and Economic Forces, Gender relationships, and lesbianism.

term “Diaspora” suggests one’s own room of language, culture, tradition in the
host country. The adjective “Diasporic” from Diaspora stands for every immigrant
who has migrated to different countries across the globe seeking better
fortunes. While commenting on Diasporic situation Julian Wolfreys makes it more
explicit by saying:

Setting of various
peoples away from his homeland often apporgated with the nation of the Jewish
Diaspora in modern Israel, but extended in Cultural studies, Post-colonial
studies and Race theory to consider the displacement of people by means of
force such as slavery – (Wolfreys 2005).

immigrants always face a close cultural conflict which has always been followed
by their attempts to adjust or engross, either to be known by a separate
identity as a racial group or be assimilated. So they shift their focus between
their social and cultural identities which are in a way unstable and fluid.
Despite living in a foreign land for a considerable amount of time, their
identities are connected directly or indirectly with their old homelands. G.S.
Sharat Chandra expresses this sense of alienation in his writings as:

I leaped from one life
to another, and in between lay nothing but vacuum… we remain at large distant
and clothed by our separate worlds. We know that the bonds we shared while
growing up do not unite us anymore… In these new worlds, immigrants readjust
and reinvent themselves, struggling to find their place in an alien landscape,
netting some gains but also incurring deep emotional losses… (7)

            Manju Kapur’s fourth novel The Immigrant (2008) is a story of two
immigrants, Nina and Ananda. Manju Kapur chose Canada as the background for her
novel The Immigrant and discusses the
Indian diaspora in Canada. The novel explores the issues of cultural conflict,
alienation, dislocation of Indian culture, diaspora and quest for identity. It
reflects the loneliness and the search of self being experienced by the
immigrants. The beginning of the novel poses the identity issues of the
immigrants by the narrator such as, ‘Should
the immigrant attempt to integrate and be more like the people in his or her
adopted country or keep at preserving his/her cultures and traditions in a
threat of the surroundings that smothers it?'(1) It is related to the
questions of the alienated immigrants and their quest for the identity. In the
beginning of the novel, Nina’s mother wants her daughter to settle in abroad by
saying, “If you are married an NRI or
someone in the foreign services, you could live abroad nicely.”(11) This is
the common dream of all Indians to be. But that is not that much easy. People
go abroad with the thought of settlement but reality is very harsh to accept.

Indian immigrants in alien land come across with the identity problems and
alienation by different languages, customs, cultures, traditions, values and
attitudes. The amalgamation of East and West values make the people alienated
when they suffer from the inner conflicts like Ananda and Nina faced in Canada.
The clash between Indian culture and Western influence results in the
psychological dilemma for the people. As a result, the acute psychological
study of the quest for identity and alienation becomes significant in the
context of the issues of the immigrants. Though the novel takes up the
seventies as its background, the feelings of isolation and dislocation that
Manju Kapur portrays would surely strike a chord with the present-day Indian
immigrants. The novel also presents how the immigrants try to adjust to life in
the West on the one hand and life of the West on the other hand. The couple
plays out a simultaneous existence in two cultures and face varied problems at
different stages on the road to their assimilation of a new culture.

paper tries to analyze the cultural conflict faced by the immigrants in the
novel The Immigrant. In this novel,
Ananda experiences cross cultural problems as an immigrant in Canada.  He is a dentist in Dehradun and he never
thought that he will leave India. Although his uncle was practicing in Canada
but he had no clue about his future. Because

“From the moment of his birth Ananda had been
surrounded by the ritual of his caste. Before he left home, his parents did
their best to reinforce the practices of a lifetime. He was a Brahmin; his body
must never be polluted by dead flesh. Low caste boys in the college hostel
might try and tempt him towards non–veg, cigarettes and alcohol. Should he
deviate from the pure habits they had instilled in him, his mother’s heart
would break” (14)

Ananda’s parents died in road accident and after that his mother’s brother
forced him to come to Canada because he has settled in Halifax for past twenty
years. Ananda landed in Halifax on the15th of August. His uncle received him
and asked from him, “Why do you think
that there is such a brain drain in India? he demanded. India does not value
its minds – unlike here. Otherwise you think we are not patriots? But there even
the simple task of daily life can bleed you dry.”(18) As Ananda walked
in Canada, he find empty spaces and he started thinking and comparing this with
India. Ananda was used to the hustle bustle and crowd of India but there he was
finding no crowd in Canada so he was feeling strange. During the breakfast his
uncle and his wife Nancy taught him the manners prevalent there. Ananda again
started feeling the home sickness. He was served Indian food but he pretended
to like the western. In the house of his uncle he has to make the bed. He
explained to his cousin Lenny, ‘In India
we had a maid who did all this, I mainly studied’. (21) Every time his
uncle Dr. Sharma encouraged him to relish there in Canada but this immigrant
psyche couldn’t be left behind.

faces awful loneliness of a recent immigrant when he arrived in Halifax for the
first time. In his uncle’s home he missed the intimacies of Indian life, the
communal meals, rich spices and vegetarian diet he was used to. But soon his
feeling of rejection faded away and he assimilated the western culture. In
Canada as an immigrant Ananda couldn’t feel the fervor and frenzy during
festivals like Holi and Diwali. ‘Ananda
would have preferred not to know when Diwali and Holi fell. With his parents he
had eaten special foods on fast days, prayed with them before the gods on
Janamashtami, Dussehra, Diwali, Ram Navami, Holi and hundred other smaller
occasions. There was no way he could replicate any ceremony on his own, he
preferred complete rejection”. (27) On seeing his Uncle participating in
Diwali celebration with his children, Ananda was questioning whether it is
possible for such celebration in an immigrant country. For that Dr. Sharma
explained to him all about this, “Twenty
years ago there was no India club. Iam one of the founding members. I realized
that if I forgot everything of mine, then who was I? When the children came, it
became even more important to keep in touch.” (28) Gradually Ananda started
to incorporate into the life style of Canada. He slowly enters in the new world
after getting his dental degree in Halifax. He becomes Andy and starts taking
non-vegetarian meal fairly soon after moving to Canada. He has new jobs, new
appointments and new duties. Though he becomes a reputed dentist and tries hard
to establish the fact that he is more a Canadian than an Indian by nature, his
sense of alienation remains.

explores the special challenges that the young immigrant wives face in their
life in her novel through her character Nina. They are already so pressured in
professional and reproductive terms, and life to them becomes an even more
impossible balancing act inside a foreign culture. The immigrant who comes as a
wife has a more difficult time. After
her marriage with Ananda, Nina goes alone to Halifax and her first experience
at the Toronto airport has been very unpleasant. Various questions by the
immigration women which she thought were all irrelevant. To Nina, her first
experience to this new world was unpleasant. She being a teacher was used to
respect but here a different yardstick is used to judge her. She feels
humiliated in the airport. Kapur vividly describes her mental state as        

“Rag fills her, why were people to
silent about the humiliations the faced in the west? She was a teacher at a
university yet this woman, probably school pass, can imprison her in a cell
like room, scare her and condemn her. Though she was addressed as ma?am, no
respect is conveyed.”(106)

 Nina’s initial failure to strike a balance
between her American and Indian identity brings in an identity crisis in her
life. This results in cultural isolation that leads to personal isolation as well.
Life in Canada is complete contrast to Indian ways to Nina. It began with a
sense of freedom, freedom from the probing eyes of the family members, neighbors
“No servant, landlord, landlady, neighbor
or mother was there to see (113). In the beginning, the privacy is pleasing
but soon it turns to loneliness with no one to talk to, no one to share with
the common everyday pleasures. It is difficult for an Indian wife more to adopt
those situations. Homesickness sets in, and she feels lost without any one to
share her feelings. A Mechanical life with western food could not attract her.
She had no other activity other than reading books or watching television and
later she realized that it is not her aide “books
are powerless to distract, when house and its conveniences can no longer
completely charm or compensate. Then she realizes she is an immigrant for life”
(122). She was not used to non-vegetarian. Ananda doesn’t say it to his
friends or uncle when they invited her to dinner. They say she needs to adjust
to the new culture. But naturally it takes some time for her to taste a new food
which she was not at all used to for many years. Ananda could become a Canadian
soon as it was easy for him to adjust to the western ways. But for Nina it is
very hard to accept and adjust.

bird Nina faces multiple problems in the new environment. Her old Indian sarees
and dresses made her look different from others in the new country. To get
acquainted with people and to become familiar in her surroundings Nina starts
to wear jeans and t-shirt. Even though, she is not comfortable in her western
outfit, she does not give up the new trend and arrival. Just to make friends
and for her survival she mislay her identity and most valued culture. One
weekend Ananda is delighted when she accepts both fish and beef in her diet.
While he is happy that life will be much easier now, Nina lets out the hidden
truth – her taking of fish and beef was the result of fragmentation and
distress, not a desire for convenience. For an immigrant, it is very difficult
to balance between two cultures and he or she keeps swinging like a pendulum
from one culture to another from home country to immigrant country throughout
their life. Manju Kapur completes this novel with this Nina’s statement that,

“Perhaps that was the ultimate immigrant
experience .Not that any one thing was steady enough to attach yourself to the
rest of your life, but that you found different ways to belong, ways not
necessarily lasting, but ones that made your journey less lonely for a while.
When something failed it was a signal to move on. For an immigrant there was no
going back. … When one was reinventing oneself, anywhere could be home.”(334)

it is evident from the afore-mentioned discussion that Manju kapur has brought
forth the issues of cultural conflict in her novel The Immigrant . She has also interwoven the theme of Diaspora
throughout the novel. Life of immigrants and their problems in adopting is
clearly pictured in this work. It
is true that individual gets in trouble after immigration but gradually they
adopt to mingle with the new culture. It also opens up new routes and new ways
of thinking which assist in development and advancement of their life. Ultimately
it depends upon the attitude of the person how to tackle with the obstacles
that come in between from migration to settlement.


Chandra, Sharat.G.S. “Immigrants of Loss”
Hippopotamus Press, 1991.

Kapur, Manju. The Immigrant. New
Delhi: Random House India, 2008. Print.

S.L. “Perspectives on Indians Abroad.”
The Indian Diaspora. Ed. N. Jayaram. New    Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004. Print.

Saharan, Asha. “Female Body: Site of
Culture- A Study of Manju Kapur’s The Immigrant”. Labyrinth: Volume-3, No.4
October-2012, ISSN 0976-0814. Print.

Wolfreys, Julian. “The J. Hillis Miller
Reader by Julian Wolfreys” (2005-02-03) Paperback –     stanford University Press, 1856.