‘How does the writer of Indian origin living abroad negotiate longing and belonging ?’ asks the editor in his highly readable and insightful Introduction to the anthology, and for a while I was persuaded that the thirty-three pieces that comprise the volume are meant to provide a range of answers to that question. And indeed they do, unless one begins to look closely at the contents page. Then the doubts begin . When did R.K. Narayan become an expatriate? What are Subhas Chandra Bose’s letter of resignation to the Indian Civil Service or Nissim Ezekiel’s ‘Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa’ doing in an anthology which is meant to focus on the diasporic experience? How do the letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and Rabindranath Tagore, all of whom were unquestionably rooted in India, contribute to the longing-and-belonging syndrome? Elsewhere in the Introduction Amitava Kumar proclaims, ‘In some measure, this anthology of essays pays homage to the ordinary experience of migration which can be at once modest and magnificent.’ Evidently, the intention and the contents do not always match.
February 2004, volume 28, No 2