Return to India- Shoba Narayan

Picked up this autobiographical book hoping to get some solace by reading up on an immigrants dilemma and coping with settling in a  familiar place which is not home. Autobiographies are a common feature in my reading listsImage. I pick them up hoping to understand a different perspective and to connect with a factual character rather than a fictional one. I like to listen to people narrating their stories and generally search for hidden life lessons learnt through phases of struggle and adversity.

Well, half way through the book I realized that the author and I do not have much in common except good writing skills ( I hear you, modesty is not my virtue these days)

The story – The book is all about Shoba who runs away from a very protective Tam Brahm family to pursue the concept of elusive freedom or The great American dream. The book begins with a young Shoba trying to get admission into American universities along with her friends .The first few chapters are  about how she perceives America and the influences that help her firm her decision to move there. It gives her the strength to turn a blind eye to her parent’s reservations of letting her venture into an unknown world. After her tryst with destiny, she manages to get admitted into a university and for most part settles in well in the American world. She follows her friends lives closely and watches them from a distance as to how they cope with living in America either by abandoning their social values( Indian)or finding a middle path which suits their conscience. Her dilemma begins when she is married and is the mother of two daughters and literally  when she gets her green card,.She finds herself torn between being Indian American or being an Indian  especially when it comes to the values that she would like to pass on to her children. The last chapters take us through Shobha’s dilemma and the circumstances which influence her to return to India,

What I thought about the book –I was able to empathize with Shoba in many aspects especially the part when she is an young adult and feels the need to spread her wings In a freer environment . I could also empathize with her issues of settling in, watching her friends choose their identity. She choose to keep her Indian identity but  chooses her moments when it comes to displaying or living it ,leaving the choice to the demands of the situation or the company. I totally get it when she says she chose her attire as per the place or  she was in or the company she was with. What I did not like or relate to were the last chapters of the book , where I was not able to empathize with her situation. As a reader and a very judgmental one at that , I think Shoba was a little lost herself while trying to justify her need to come back to India. I do not think it was purely with an intention to end the  immigrants dilemma or pass on good values to her children. I think her  move was circumstantial and depended on a lot of practical issues which plague people in their forties like the dynamic economic situation, monetary gains, the need to put cross border experience under their belt and the moral obligation of living closer to aged parents.

I liked her spirit as a young adult of wanting to carve her own identity trying to challenge all stereotypes that were fed into her as a child. But I could not relate to the theory that was presented later  in the book . I do not relate to her decision of wearing  the protective mother hat and denying her children the opportunity to carve their identity in a world that they  grew up in. But then its me, I am quite judgmental when people narrate their stories and when I sniff bits of hypocrisy in autobiographic narratives, I lose interest in what the author really wants to convey. I like her narration and her expertise at the written word  which is not very evident in the current lot of Indian writers. I would think twice to pick up a sequel if there is one planned.


About Thumbelina81
A dreamer lost in this world. Part time Writer, Part time Gardener, A full time wife.

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