Diaspora In South Asian Literature- As seen in Meera Syal’s “Anita and Me”
Submitted by : 08/EL/47 Urmimala Bhattacharjee
The mention of ‘home’ and ‘outside’ is not a specification of India at all, but rather the disappearance of India if defined as the habitation of Indians – Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
South Asian literature is literature that encompasses a vast and varied field; it talks about the political scenario, cultural and social norms, issues of identity and identity crisis that the people of all the south Asian countries go through. In short all the south Asian countries are tied by common links that make them share their conflicts, differences and nature of suffering. But apart from the problems that are faced within the country there is another very important factor which is a primary feature of South Asian literature. It is the issue of Diaspora which is seen very prominently. Diasporic writing raises several questions of identity and questions one’s position in their own country. It deals with the question of being an ‘outsider’ in your own country, the notion of homeland warped and misconstrued by external factors etc. Thus, diasporic writing has been seen emerging from all the south Asian countries be it India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. “Anita and Me” by British Indian Meera Syal is one such text that explores the life of nine year old Meena living with her parents in the mining village of Tollington, near Birmingham. Meena belongs to a Punjabi family and as is the case with most Indians abroad, Meena’s parents are zealously holding on to their Indian identities while living a life in England. Meera Syal’s novel is partly autobiographical reflecting Syal’s own childhood and upbringing in Essington, a mining village to the north in Staffordshire, England. The story deals with the problems that nine year old Meena is facing in her everyday life. As a young girl all she wants is independence and freedom to do things her way. Yet she is tied by her Indian customs and rituals which seem both intriguing and at the same time limiting to her. The story tells us of the relationship that Meena has with Anita Rutter, a white girl who Meena supposes to be her best friend initially. But on a more complex note, the story dives much deeper to bring out the deep conflict that Meena has within herself while juggling both worlds. One is that of a good, obedient Indian daughter that she must be according to her parents and other relatives and the other is that of the reckless, free spirited and tomboyish person that she feels she is when she is with Anita and her gang. The very beginning of the book establishes Meena as an intelligent, considerate and as someone with her own mind. But she is absolutely captivated by Anita Rutter and all she wants is to be friends with her for Anita is the most popular (even notoriously so!) girl in town and Meena is thrilled by the prospects that being friends with Anita might bring. Meena comes to almost idolize Anita. However Meena finds it more and more difficult to fit in because her Indian heritage keeps creeping in and she finds she cannot discard that. Also the later part of the book reveal how Sam Lowbridge, Anita’s boyfriend has been harboring racist attitudes towards the non-whites whom he refers to as “darkies’. These turn of events bring about a stark change in the ideas of Meena, her previously held notions of friendship and the realization of living as an Indian in England during the seventies. From the very beginning it is seen that Meena derives comfort from her Indian...