Diaspora and Expatriation in Indian English Literature | Indian Diaspora Writers

Diaspora and Expatriation in Indian English Literature | Indian Diaspora Writers

Diaspora and Expatriation in Indian English Literature


During the last two decades or so, diasporic discourses have emerged in the context of multicultural world. Racialized national identity in multi-ethnic countries like Canada, the USA and UK has undergone a radical change. Conflicts and tensions occur at times but the solution lies in acceptance of diversity and multiethnicity and multiculturism. Purity, rootlessness are challenged in literary narratives. The diasporic discourses are challenging the notions of belonging to mere race and territory. Before we discuss the treatment of the theme of expatriation in Indian English fiction, it is necessary to understand the terms expatriate, immigrant and diaspora.

Expatriation Definition

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary gives the following meanings of the word ‘expatriate’ 1. To drive into exile. Banish 2. To withdraw oneself from residence in or allegiance to one’s native country. It also means ‘a person living in a foreign country.’ Expatriate is one who has renounced his native country and lives in a foreign country.

Immigrant Definition

The word ‘immigrant’ means “a person who has come to a country to take up a permanent residence.”

Diaspora Definition

The word ‘diaspora‘ originally means “to scatter or sow across.” The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) traces its origin to a reference in the Old Testament to the dispersal of people of Israel across the world. The classic definition of diaspora thus refers to the forced exile of the Jews from their homeland and their dispersal elsewhere. Recent usage of diaspora refers to the migration of an ethnic community voluntarily or forced. William Safran has suggested that diasporas are characterized by the relationship between the dispersed people and their original homeland to which they crave to desert. Safran does not make any distinction between the forced or voluntary migration from one’s homeland.

The foremost characteristic features of diaspora writings involve the quest for identity, nostalgia, familial and marital relationships apart from re-rooting, uprooting, multi-cultural milieu etc.

Diaspora Meaning

Colonialism is one of the major causes of migration of both types forced as well as voluntary. Robin Cohen proposes typographies of diasporas. African diaspora is related to the history of slavery and colonialism. South Asian diasporas are the results of indentured servitude and colonial rule. Thus there are multi-layered formation of diaspora and diasporic sensibility. Recently Toloyan has reinvented the meaning of ‘return to homeland not physically but a repeated turning to the concept of a homeland and other diasporic kin. The important paradox of diaspora is that dwelling ‘here’ assumes a connection ‘there.’ ‘There’ does not mean a single place or an exclusive nation. Clifford suggests that diasporas are a fertile site of creative cultural and intellectual output. Gilroy argues that diaspora like Indians and people of some other countries divorced themselves from their conservative background to accept and adopt new way of life and thinking. Diaspora produces diasporic identity in more focused on social dynamics of remembrance of their place of origin.

Critics have posited diaspora as an oppositional concept relation to nation as it involves the diversity of people, nations, religions, tongues and cultures. Here the idea of the natural connection between a place and a people is challenged. These narrative assert connections between purity and belonging, between blood and soil. Hall remarks that

“Diasporic identities are those which are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference. Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialized past, they are subject to the conscious play of history, culture and power.”

Indian Diaspora Writers

Diaspora and expatriation are the theme that has been dealt with by numerous Indian and Asian writers like Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Faroukh Dhondy, Anita Desai, Ruth Prawer Jhabwala, Anjana Appachana, Kiran Desai, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Kamala Markandaya, Allen Sealy, Bapsi Sidhwa Bapsi, Michael Ondaatje, Ardashir Vakil, Meena Alexander, Anjana Appachana, Shauna Singh Baldwin, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Meera Sayal, Amit Chaudari, Manjula Padmanabhan and so on.

Salman Rushdie as a Diasporic Writer

Rushdie has remained one of the most controversial writers. He is primarily known as a novelist but his works include essays, films, short stories, drama and editing. He got international recognition when his novel Midnight’s Children won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981. His fourth novel Satanic Verses became the target of massive Muslim protests and prompted Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini to issue fatwa sentencing him to death. He had to go underground for years. The British Government provided him security. He still figures in news creating one or the other kind of controversy. However, it can be said that he stands for freedom of expression so vital to healthy democracy and creativity. He is certainly a post-colonial icon and his artistic mixture of facts, history, fiction and fantasy is truly marvellous.

Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay on June 19, 1947 two months before Indian Independence and partition. He was born in a wealthy Muslim family and at the age of 13, he left for England to attend Rugby. In 1964, he gained third homeland in Karachi, Pakistan. He left Pakistan after one year as he found that in Pakistan, there was censorship everywhere and no freedom of expression at all. He felt suffocated there and returned to England working as an actor and ad writer. His first novel Grimus appeared in 1975. It was not successful as it lacked realism and firm foundation.

Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981) won not only the Booker Prize but the Booker of Bookers in 1993 for the best novel of the Booker Prize’s quarter of a century. The novel spans the period from 15th August, 1947 to 26th June, 1975, that is, from the Day of Indian Independence to the declaration of Emergency by Indira Gandhi. The protagonist of the novel Saleem Sinai was born on 15th August, 1947 art midnight when India’s tryst with destiny began. He is blessed with magical power to read minds. He is also cursed with constant connection with his own life and the history of the subcontinent. Saleem was 30 years old and worked in a pickle factory. He wrote his autobiography in the evening. Saleem’s narrative explores the lives of the individuals and nations. Rushdie mingles history and fiction using Saleem’s family story to describe the most defining moments of Indian history. For example, Saleem’s grandfather was a witness to Tallianwalan Massacre in 1919. In 1942, he joins an anti-partition alternative to Muslim League whose leader was assassinated during the Ouit India Movement. In 1947, Amina Sinai gives birth to Saleem and receives a letter from the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1948, Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated. In 1962, Indo-China war breaks out and Ahmed Sinai suffers a heart attack. In 1965, Indo-Pak war takes place and in 1971, Bangladesh is created. In 1975, Indira Gandhi declares emergency. In 1977, magicians ghettoe in which Saleem lives is razed by bull-dozers and Saleem along with other midnight’s children are forcefully sterilized which robs them of magical power’s continuation. Morarji Desai becomes the Prime Minister in the same year and Saleem returns to Bombay and writes his life story.

The Midnight’s Children represent “a vision of the country India wants to be.” For Rushdie, undivided India still persists as both an idea and ideal. Rushdie uses magic realism that gives his works artistic height. It shows his signature style featuring hyper activity of the language and historical imagination. Midnight’s Children can be called an allegorical representation of post-Independent India. His another novel Shame (1983) focuses on the regimes of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul-Hug. It is the reconstruction of the history of the sub-continent critiquing brutal military regime and forced Islamization. Rushdie’s treatment is allegorical and satirical. He looks at the theme of expatriation as an outsider.

The Satanic Verses (1988) represents a further step towards the theme of migration through this parallel lives of Gabriel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha. Islam references and characters angered Muslims but in fact, it is not the theme of the novel. It is in fact, concerned with strong critique of Thatcher’s England, the outrage of black Britain revolving round Bombay and London. Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sign (1995) employs the narrative techniques of post-modernism. It deals with the issue of hybridity and pluralism. It critiques fundamentalism as a threat to multicultural society of the modern times. It also deals with the theme of visual arts.

The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) and Fury (2001) deal with music and creativity. In Rushdie’s works, we find emotional turmoil in globalized world. Migrancy is an accepted fact and dispassionate witnessing of the events is described rather than reclaiming of past history and hankering for the homeland. Rushdie deals with the theme of migration and expatriation like a commentator. He criticizes narrow minded bigotry, fundamentalism, repression and curtailment of freedom of all kinds. His outspoken views have made him an enemy of those who do not believe in freedom of speech and opinion. Rushdie’s claim to fame remains unchallenged as he stands for acceptance of hybridity, heterogenicity and diversity of caste, culture, religion and beliefs. That is what globalization stands for and in a fast moving, migrating world of our times, tolerance towards others is the only hope of survival, progress and peace.

V. S. Naipaul as a Diasporic Writer

V.S. Naipaul was born in 1932 on August 27, in Trinidad He was the grandson of a Hindu Brahmin who had migrated to Port of Spain as indentured labourer in the latter half of the 19th century. V.S. Naipaul’s father Seepersad Naipaul sowed seeds of inferiority. Naipaul’s fifth novel Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion (1963) is about man’s search for identity. His journey to India in 1962 confirmed the fact that he was neither English nor Indian. He was denied the victories of both.

An Area of Darkness (1964) is an attack on poverty and squalor in India that he witnessed while he was in India. He described beggers and people defecating in public. He criticises the collective blindness of the people towards filth and lack of sanitation and hygiene. He condemns the caste system, narrow mindedness and superstitions. He also criticises Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru for their idealistic but impractical views.

There had been widespread criticism and protest against Naipaul’s treatment of India. In 1967, Naipaul published The Mimic Men that focuses on the mimicry of the colonialism by the newly emerging independent countries. Naipaul portrays the horrible effects of the colonialism upon the third world. He believes that the post-colonial people are in the state of limbo abandoned by the colonized in a powerless world. They have got political freedom but no guts to manage their country or themselves. They have a tendency to mimick that produces only hypocrites and fake, hollow people. These mimic men inhabit ‘an island of Isabella‘ a metaphor Naipaul uses for their insulated existence. Ralph Singh, the protagonist is a dislocated, dangling man. He is a cabinet minister in a newly independent multiracial island of Isabella. He has left his country and lives in a hotel in London. He writes the story of his life. The novel has three parts that narrate Ralph Singh’s shipwrecked life. Ralph’s name is anglicized and his marriage to Sandra, a white woman are his efforts to seek refuge in the colonized setup. He cannot feel at home on the island of Isabella and he also feels a sense of exile in England. His isolation becomes a kind of acute sickness.

Naipaul continues to write extensively and his other works include : The Loss of Eldorado (1969), In a Free State, (1971) Guerillas (1975), A Bend in the River (1979), A Wounded Civilization (1977), India: A Million Mutinis Now (1996), The Enigma of Arrival (1987), A Way in the World (1994) and Half a Life (2001). Naipaul himself said that all his work is really one, one big book. This means that he returns to the same theme again and again and all his works can be interlinked.

V.S. Naipaul’s works have autobiographical strain and he himself declares that he is the sum of his books. Half a Life is a story of Willie Chandran who tries to seek his authentic identity He lives a partial life in three different countries. Right from birth, Willie felt that he lived half a life, incomplete and fractured. He moves from one country to another to define and reinvent himself. Here also Naipaul focuses on his familiar theme of exile and alienation.

Kamala Markandaya as a Diasporic Writer

Kamala Markandaya has dealt with the theme of expatriation in her novels very effectively. Karmala Markandaya is the pseudonym of Kamala Puraniya. She was born in 1924 in Mysore in South India. She was born in the family of the dewan of Tipu Sultan. She hailed from orthodox Hindu family. Her father had cast aside his illustrious ancestral background and joined Indian Railway under the control of the British in those days. Kamala travelled a lot and vacationed in various beautiful places. They later served as setting of her novels. Her father’s frequent transfered also made her change a number of schools. She studied on Coimbatore where her family spent eight years at a stretch. She joined the University of Madras in 1940.

It was the period of political upheaval and freedom struggle. She lived in a South Indian village to experience rural life. Her novel Nectar in a Sieve (1954) is truly her masterpiece. Rukmani and Nathan are true picture of Indian peasantry. They exemplify boundless patience, and sense of resignation and tolerance. In 1948, she had lived in England where she tried to support herself as a journalist. She married an Englishman named Taylor and chose to live as an expatriate. She lived like a native alien in England rarely speaking about her personal life. She called herself anti-colonist and anti-imperialist.

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Kamala Markandaya is a prolific writer and has written ten novels. Her notable works are as follows :

  1. Nectar in a Sieve (1954)
  2. Some Inner Fury (1955)
  3. A Silence of Desire (1960)
  4. Possession (1963)
  5. A Handful of Rice (1966)
  6. The Coffer Danas (1969)
  7. The Nowhere Man (1972)
  8. Two Virgins (1973)
  9. The Golden Honeycomb (1977)
  10. Pleasure city (1982) (Known as Shalimar in American edition)

As we noted earlier, Nectar in a Sieve is a novel about rural Indian life. It documents the life of Indian peasantry, family bonding in India, impact of unpredictable monsoon on farming, poverty and sufferings of the sons and daughters of soil. Some Inner Fury focuses on cultural differences involved in interracial relationship. A Silence of Desire deals with the clash between tradition and modernity. Possession presents the confrontation between traditional and material values, and also Eastern way of life and Western material pursuit. A Handful of Rice focuses on the lives of the urban poor. It depicts the effect of rapid urbanization in India. The Nowhere Man is a novel about expatriate life in England and racial discrimination faced by the Indians in England. The Indian protagonist Srinivas finds himself a misfit belonging nowhere. The novel deals with diasporic angst, psychological alienation, hyphenated identity and displacement. Two Virgins leads with the theme so far untouched in Indian English writing, sex education. The Golden Honeycomb deals with history and monarchy. It has exotic background juxtaposing with the British rule. The Pleasure City is a novel concerning East-West encounter and affinity toward the East experienced by many Westerners in India. Kamala Markandaya’s study of history and cultures make her works highly interesting and stimulating. She advocates tolerance and goodwill as the solution to the problems of racial discrimination and tension that arises out of expatriation and migration.

Ruth Prawer Jhabwala as a Diasporic Writer

Ruth Prawer Jhabwala was born in 1927. Her parents were Polish/Jewish. Ruth migrated to England from Germany as a refugee in 1939. She got a Master’s Degree in English from the London University. In 1951, she married Cyrus S.H. Jhabwala, a Parsi archietect from India and moved to New Delhi. Her three daughters were born in India. After 24 years in India, she moved to New York. She has written screen plays, television programs and novels. From her childhood days, she wrote about the loss of home and displacement due to migration. Her relationship with India had been that of love and hate. In an essay, “Myself in India”, she tells us about an inescapable cycle of puzzling relationship of a European or a Western with India. Her detached portrayal of India makes her an inside-outsider and outside insider. She is included in anthologies of Indian writing in English owing to her daughter-in-law status.

Jhabwala famous novel Heat and Dust (1975) which won the Booker Prize for her in 1976 was adapted as a film in which Shashi Kapoor had acted. Her novels, To Whom She Will (1955), The Nature of Passion (1956), Esmond in India (1957) and The House Holder (1960) were published in quick succession. They have ironic humour and comic treatment of urban life of India. In Esmond in India, Jhabwala ridicules pseudo-sophistication and snobbery of upper class Indians and Westerners. Get Ready for the Battle (1962) focuses on the exploitation of the poor by the rich. A Backard Place (1965) contrasts Indian and the Western attitudes. A New Dominion (1972) depicts Westerners’ craving for spiritual enlightenment that often pull them to India where they are disillusioned in no time. The novel depicts carnality and spirituality that entrap them in sexual permissiveness.

Heat and Dust is Jhabwala’s masterpiece. The novel deals with the experiences of two different generations of the Westeners in India. The young unnamed narrator comes to India to solve the puzzle of her step grandmother Olivia Rivers, the wife of the sub-collector of Satiapur, Donglas Rivers. Her boring life in India drives her to illicit liaison with the Nawab. She becomes pregnant and had to elope with him. The novel discusses India and her impact of the Westeners in the day of the Raj. Heat of the Indian climate and sexual heat are juxtaposed. Jhabwala betrays a certain amount of anxiety that India might seduce Westerners unwittingly. She is not outright critical of India but asserts the fact that the gap between the East and the West is not easy to bridge.

Ruth Prawer Jhabwala published four novels after she left India. In Search of Love and Beauty (1983) deals with the life of German Austrian Jewish immigrants in New York. Three Continents (1987) is dedicated to James Ivory and Ismail Merchant who helped Jhabwala settle in the USA and the film world. It is a story of the twins Harriet Wishwell and Michael Wishwell who are in search of spiritual experience. They meet three Indians who attract them toward their spiritual movement called Transcendental Internationalism. The twins surrender all their wealth to them and follow them to England and India. In India, they come to face with the fake gurus and their fraudulent tricks. The novel reverses here the role of the colonizer and the colonized. Crishi colonizes the mind of the white American Harriet’s body mind. Poet and Dancer (1993) explores the life of immigrant communities in Manhattan. Shards of Memory (1995) again de with charismatic spiritual leader and how he influences the American youth.

Ruth Prawar Jhabwala dwells on the theme of rudderless Western youth in post-colonial society. She is critical of the Indian people’s hankering for wealth and material. They cheat gullible Westerners who hanker for spiritual experience. Jhabwala believes that one must be rooted in one’s own culture otherwise the person drifts nowhere. One must learn the best of the other culture but to desert one’s own ideology and culture for another’s would create nothing but despair and void. Jhabwala died recently on 3rd April, 2013.

Anita Desai as a Diasporic Writer

Anita Desai was born in Mussourie in India in 1937 to a Bengali father and German mother. She studied at Miranda House in Delhi and got B.A. in English literature. She married Ashwin Desai a businessman and lived in various Indian cities like Delhi, Bombay, Kolkatta, etc. Anita has four children and one of them Kiran Desai is also a reputed Indian English writer. Anita’s major works are as follows:

  1. Cry the Peacock (1963)
  2. Voices in the City (1965)
  3. Where shall We Go This Summer (1975)
  4. Fire on the Mountain (1977)
  5. Clear Light of Day (1980)
  6. In Custody (1984)
  7. Baumgartner’s Bombay (1988)
  8. Journey to Ithaca (1995)
  9. Fasting, Feasting (1999)

Anita has won several awards for her writing including Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978. She has taught creative writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA. She has shuttled between India, USA and England. As a writer she has pinpointed her attention on feminist perspective. She claims that women writers are more concerned with thought, emotion and sensibility. She dwelt on inner rather than outer experience, Cry the Peacock her first novel describes the story of Maya, a childless woman who murders her husband who is quite aloof and insensitive. Finally, Maya also commits suicide. Voices in the City depicts a circumscribed life of an orthodox Bengali family where Monisha suffers from stifling existence. Fire on the Mountain examines the lives of two generations of women : Nanda Kaul and Ila Das.

In Custody was filmed by Ismail Merchant. It is about the relationship of Deven a lecturer of Hindi and Nur, an Urdu poet. It deals with the experience of rootlessness when one’s ideology is shattered. Baumgartner’s Bombay tells the story of a displaced Jewish businessman who had escaped the Nazis in Germany but meets an end when a German Hippie murders him. Journey to Ithaca questions gender stereotype. It deals with the lives of three Europeans: Mateo, the romantic Italian dreamer, his German wife and the Egyptian-French Laila known as mother. Desai’s Fasting, Feasing tells the story of Uma who lives with her parents. She has a desire to live an independent life but she has to abandon her desire for career and independent life. Here Desai deals with the theme of orthodoxy, domestic and social oppression in India. The two cultures of the West and the East have also been contrasted. Anita Desai’s concerns are more on gender biases rather than expatriation.

Kiran Desai as a Diasporic Writer

Kiran Desai in Anita Desai’s daughter born in 1971. At the age of 14, she immigrated to the USA. She got a degree in creative writing at Columbia University. She lives now in the USA but spends some time in India and the UK. Her work Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1999) made her quite famous. It is a real story of a hermit who lived on a tree. Desai focuses on the life of a boy Sampath who escapes the complication of a home life to live on a tree. Hers is an independent voice that differentiates her from other contemporary writers. She feels that her relationship with India is quite natural. She feels that she can reach into the past and write about the heritage of India in a natural manner. Kiran has still to prove herself a writer of reputation. One expects more walks with depth from her.

Bapsi Sidhwa as a Diasporic Writer

Bapsi Sidhwa hails from Pakistan. She was born in 1938 in Karachi. She belonged to a Parsi minority group. She lived in Lahore where she saw human devastation during the Partition. She lived a life of upper-class Pakistani wife with three children during her adult life. She moved to the USA in 1983 and became a citizen there in 1992. Sidhwa has published four novels that include The Crowe Eaters (1980-81), The Bride (1983) Ice Candy Man (1988-89) and An American Brat (1993). She has won numerous literary awards. Deepa Mehta made a film on her novel Cracking India (Ice Candy Man titled Cracking India in the USA). Deepa Mehta’s film has been entitled Earth. Bapsi Sidhwa deals with the issues of gender, ethnicity and ideology. She examines the theme of injustice to women, religious intolerance particularly toward Parsi community. Her works are marked by irony, satire and humour. Her first language is Gujarati, her second Urdu and third English. She has chosen to write in English which she finds quite flexible and fertile.

Her novel The Crow Eaters is an insider depiction of Parsi life, a marginalized community in India, Pakistan and elsewhere. The Bride portrays the issues of marriage of women. Her recurrent motif is dislocation both geographical and psychological. The novel exposes religious atrocities and ethnic conflicts associated with partition, it depicts border feminism of Parsee women who as border women seek to heal the wounds of the partitioned India. The American Brat is set in the United States and explores the issues of intercultural conflicts. It is an immigrant’s encounter with American culture. Geoffrey Kain calls it a tale of community that explores the archetypal America of independence, individualism, open vistas, and energetic improvisation’ (245). It also, deals with rupture that is caused by devouring of one’s native culture by the huge giant called America.

Jhumpa Lahiri as a Diasporic Writer

Jhumpa Lahiri was born to Indian parents from London, who settled in the USA after her birth. Lahiri’s debut collection of short stories ‘Interpreter of Maladies (1999) brought laurels to her by clenching Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In her first novel ‘The Namesakeand her short story collections, she is successful in presenting discontentment at the core in the families she portrays. Her ‘The Lowland’ is the story of blood relationship that was brutally spoiled by politics, which got shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Farrukh Dhondy as a Diasporic Writer

Farrukh Dhondy is a filmmaker, columnist, cartoonist, and children’s writer. He was born in Pune in 1944. He moved to England at the age of 20. He wanted to study science but shifted to literature. He taught English in London. His first book Come in Mecca (1978) is a children’s book focusing on black British that include not just Africans but Asians and Middle Easterners. East End at Your Feet (1976) and Trip Traps (1982) has been labelled as cockney Asian literature as it focuses only on Indians and Bangladeshis. Dhondy highlights the cultural conflicts in British and American schools. Farrukh Dhondy is a Parsi writer and in his Bombay Duck he writes about Parsis. He has worked with channel 4 TV UK and made several award winning films like ‘Saalaam Bombay’, ‘Mississippi Masala’, ‘Bandit Queen‘ with Mira Nair and Shekhar Kapoor. He is known as ‘pukka sahib’ and ‘a good Parsi.’

Anjana Appachana as a Diasporic Writer

Anjana Appachana is a novelist of Indian origin who lives in the United States. She has written a book of short stories titled ‘Incantations’ and a novel titled Listening Now is a novelist of Indian origin who lives in the United States. Her debut work Incantations and Other Stories was first published in England, in United States and was translated into German language. Anjana Appachana is the recipient of O.Henry Festival Prize and National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship. Her first novel Listening Now based on the themes of female bonding, female sexuality and mother-child relations relationships spans three generations in a narrative that is not sequential, elliptical. The novel is written in English, but we find nativity in the rhythms of the language and the metaphors.

Amitav Ghosh as a Diasporic Writer

Amitav Ghosh was born in 1956 in Bangladesh. He grew up in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran and India. He studied at St. Stephen’s college, New Delhi. He pursued his doctorate in anthropology and his study of anthropology and sociology have provided background to many of his novels. He taught at several Universities in the United States of America. His major works include The Circle of Reason, In An Antique Land, The Shadow Lines, The Glass Palace, The Calcutta Chromosome etc. characters in Ghosh’s novels are wanderers and migration is an important theme of his novel.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni as a Diasporic Writer

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is poet, essayist, author, fiction and short story writer, book reviewer. She is an Indo American poet. Her short story collection Arranged Marriage and other Stories brought her the credit of winning the American Book Award in 1995. Her works are largely set in the United States as well as in India. Her focus sometimes is on the experiences of South Asian migrants.

Her works include : Black Candle (1991). The Mistress of Spices (1997), Sister of My Heart (1999), The Vine of Desire (2002), Arranged Marriage (1995) etc. There is a fine fusion of lyricism, realism, myth and emotions in her work. She has dealt with the sufferings of women in India and the world at large.

Allen Sealy as a Diasporic Writer

Allen Sealy was born in 1951 in a Christian family. He studied at Western Michigan University and got his doctorate at the British Columbia University. He lived in Australia and New Zealand before he moved back to India. He is often labelled as Anglo-Indian writer. His first novel is The Trotter Mama. His major themes are alienation and search for identity. His another novel The Everest Hotel is symbolised by their identification with grassroot movements.

Meena Alexander as a Diasporic Writer

Meena Alexander is an internationally acclaimed poet, writer and scholar. Born in Allahabad, India and brought up in India and Sudan. At present she lives in New York City. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, essays, and works of fiction, literary memoirs and literary criticism. Her novel ‘Nampally Road’ published in the year 1999 is haunting and lyrical. The novel Nampally Road brightly portrays contemporary India a woman’s struggle to cut together her past. In the middle of the novel she becomes the victim of the gang rape by the police. The people in that place rise up and burn the police station. The incidents in the novel resemble the recent tragic events in Delhi.

Shauna Singh Baldwin as a Diasporic Writer

Shauna Singh Baldwin is the Indo-Canadian Diasporic writer. She is the author of two short story collections ‘we are not in Pakistan’ and ‘English Lessons and other stories’. Her stories in the short story collections have been published in various literary magazines.

The setting of the novel What the Body reminds the partition theme and revolves mainly around three characters Roop, second wife of Sardarji, infertile first wife and Sardarji who always struggle for his identity. This book bagged Commonwealth Writers Prize for the best book from the region of Caribbean and also long listed for the Orange Prize in fiction.

Vikram Sheth as a Diasporic Writer

Vikram Sheth is a versatile genius. He was born in Calcutta in 1952. He studied at Oxford and got Ph.D in economics from Stanford University California. He is a poet, novelist and travelogue writer. His works include: Mappings, From Heaven Gate, A Suitable Boy, An Equal Music etc. The Golden Gate is a novel in verse. Sheth has dealt with Indian as well as foreign background, particularly American.

Meera Sayal as a Diasporic Writer

Meera Sayal was born and brought up in an immigrant Punjabi family in England. Meera Sayal MBEis a British Indian comedian, writer, playwright, singer, journalist and actress. Her Punjabi-born parents came to Britain from New Delhi and she has risen to prominence as one of the most UK’s best-known Indian personalities. She was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List of 1997.

In ‘The House of Hidden Mothers’, Meera Sayal, asanaccomplished novelist, takes on the timely but underexplored issue of India’s booming surrogacy industry. Western couple pays a young woman to have their child and then fly home with a baby, an easy narrative that ignores the complex emotions involved in carrying a child, Shyama, a forty-eight-year-old London divorcée, already has an unruly teenage daughter, but that doesn’t stop her and her younger lover, Toby, from begetting a child together. Their relationship may look like a cliché. But despite the news from her doctor that she no longer has any viable eggs, Shyama’s unfair pair is not ready to give up their dream of having a baby. So they decide to find an Indian surrogate to carry their child, which is how they meet Mala, a young woman trapped in an oppressive marriage in a small Indian town from which she’s desperate to escape. But as the pregnancy progresses, they discover that their simple arrangement may be far more complicated than it seemed.

Ardishar Vakil as a Diasporic Writer

Ardishar Vakil was born in 1962 in a Parsi family. He is permanently based in England. His novel Beach Boy is a story of Cyrus Ready Money’s coming of age. His novel One Day depicts the day in an Indian-English couple’s life in London. The novel shows the cultural conflict in domestic and marital life.

Manjula Padmanabhan as a Diasporic Writer

Manjula Padmanabhan is a playwright, journalist, comic strip artist, an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She was born in India and grew up in Sweden, Pakistan and Trinidad. Her play Harvest was selected for the Onassis Prize in 1997 out of 1470 and bagged the prize. Marginalization and separation are the themes of her writings. Her semi-autobiographical work Getting There’ depicts the plight of young woman illustrator in Bombay.

Anita Rao Badami as a Diasporic Writer

Anita Rao Badami is a writer of South Asia who settled in Canada. Her novels handle with intricacies of Indian family life, cultural gap that is encountered by the immigrants who settle in the west. The Hero’s Walk was placed on the top five finalists for CBC Canada Reads Competition. The book, ‘The Hero’s Walk’ describes the problems in the family life and at last how peace evolved in the family.

Amit Chaudari as a Diasporic Writer

Amit Chaudari belongs to a new group of writers whose roots trace back to the post emergency period in India. Setting in his works is in India and in England. His themes are not revolutionary and turbulent but deals with city life servants, Indian culture and family life. Themes are close to diasporic experiences. His major works are ‘A Strange and sublime Address’ (1991), ‘Afternoon Raag’ (1993) ‘Freedom Song’ (1998), ‘A New World and Real Time’ (2002)

Sunetra Gupta as a Diasporic Writer

Sunetra Gupta Bengali born settled in London, who spent her childhood in Ethiopia, Zambia and Liberia. Her debut novel ‘Memories of Rain’ published in 1992 won her Sahitya Academy Award in 1996. Her works mainly present stream of consciousness style entering on the interior monologues of the characters. Her writings reflect cultures, histories and human understanding and considerations. Her fiction moves the central preoccupation of diasporic writings from the crisis of uniqueness to the mapping of a process of experience and feeling.


There are many other diasporic writers who have dealt with the theme of diaspora, expatriation, alienation and displacement event today.

3 thoughts on “Diaspora and Expatriation in Indian English Literature | Indian Diaspora Writers”

  1. Sir, your contents are amazing and helpful. Can you please upload some MA Entrance paper samples with solution? Thank you sir

  2. This blog is highly useful for students of English Literature who have taken for project works on Diasporic writers extensively. It’s a good beginning for them to go head in search of further references. I congratulate you, being a government servant on establishing a website without expecting any financial benefit from viewers.


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