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Exploring 'Indianess'

Mala Pandurang

By Krishna Sarbadhikary
Creative Books, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 300, Rs. 600.00

By Manil Suri
Bloomsbury, London, 2008, pp. 453, Rs. 495.00

By V.S. Naipaul
Picador, New Delhi, 2007, pp.194, Rs. 395.00


Surviving the Fracture. Writers of the Indo-Caribbean Diaspora is a full-length study of seven Indo-Caribbean writers, taking into account a wide range of novels, short stories, poems and critical essays produced by this collective of writers. The first three chapters of the book discuss in detail the works of writers from Guyana (Cyril Dabydeen, Arnold Harrichand Itwaru and Sasenarine Persaud). Next, there are chapters on two writers from Trindidad (Neil Bissoondath and Rabindranath Maharaj). The final section of the book focuses on three women writers who offer alternate perspectives on issues of race, class and gender (Ramabai Espinet, Shani Mootoo and Madeline Coopsammy).   Today, the trope of ‘Diaspora’ is recurrent across disciplines. In the context of literary studies and Indian academics, there is a growing body of criticism on narratives of the ‘New Indian Diaspora’, i.e. the literary texts by writers located in first world countries such as the United States of America, Canada and the UK. There are however still very few qualitative studies available on the distinctive features and experiences of the ‘Old’ Indian diaspora that took place as a consequence of British colonial policies from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Krishna Sarbadhikary’s book addresses this gap by offering a detailed study on how East-Indian writers re-imagine their ancestral past in the Caribbean. Sarbadhikary competently describes how the immigrant experiences of each of these writers is ‘marked by individual distinctiveness of artistic vision and specification of gender, class, socio-historical context, religious affiliation and cultural negotiations’ (pp. xx).   The ‘diaspora’ is commonly used to signify a sense of collective rupture from the original homeland, and the ensuing anxiety of displacement and loss felt by the dislocated community. Any discussion of diasporic subjectivity will therefore inevitably examine the problematic relationships of territory, identity and citizenship. As the title suggests, this book is concerned with two aspects of the East-Indian diasporic subjectivity. First, the dilemma of rupture and fracture with the original ‘mother’ culture, and then the process of surviving, healing and coming to terms with their present migrant status outside the Caribbean.   Sarbadhikary begins by offering a comprehensive background on the system of indentured labour from India to Guyana and Trinidad from 1833 onwards, until the abolition of the system in 1917, particularly pointing out how the uneven social and cultural landscapes of the Caribbean were shaped by British colonial policies, and which subsequently led to an ...

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