CROSS CULTURAL CONFLICT IN BHARATI MUKHERJEE’S“THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER”


Dr. G. RAMAN 1* ([email protected])

Department of English at Sambhram University, Jizaxx, Uzbekistan

MR. G. LAKSHMANAN 2 * ([email protected])

Department of English at Sri Malolan College of arts and science, Madurantakam, Chennai

THE TIGER'S DAUGHTER
THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER

ABSTRACT

The main concern of Indian women’s literature is the depiction of women struggling for liberation and facing mental states. Conflict is an inevitable part of human life, and human values ​​make a difference in nature. These variations usually make a violent turn. The composition of violence is complex, elusive and multifaceted. Bharati Mukherjee has endeavored to track conflicts and, as a result, the consequences of mental changes in Indian women, especially migrant women, that occurred during the conflict. Her fiction and short stories explore the conflicts women face while fulfilling their ancient roles as women’s descendants, wives, and mothers. Bharati Mukherjee is a Diaspora writer, she deals with the typical indigenous scene, shows in her fictional book The Tiger’s Daughter the image of a woman struggling to remain unharmed in a foreign land. In this post, we’ll explore how Mukherjee deals with her psychological tensions and realistically portrays the reaction and consequences of tensions in her life with her protagonist Tara. She reveals the problem of expatriate female Tara and offers them a completely new approach in her novel. The purpose of this article is to examine Bharati Mukherjee’s portrayal of the psychology of immigrant women and a deep understanding of their problems in her protagonist Tara.

keywords: acculturation, cross-culture issues, cultural conflict, homeland, host land, immigrant woman

Bharati Mukherjee is a proponent in expatriate writing.  She is an Indian settled in America. The Tiger’s Daughter is the narrative of a rich industrialist’s pampered daughter Tara who returns to Calcutta in search of (lie Indian dream after seven years of stay in the U.S. And is unable to fit into the culture of Calcutta, where she grew up and she finds that she is as much of an alien at home as she was abroad. Though the desire to become a part of her new milieu is strong, Tara’s attempts appear very superficial. Tara is not yet accustomed to American culture and finally remembers her fairy-like childhood days in Calcutta. She feels homesick and plans a visit to her native land. On her arrival in India, Tara finds herself in a strange situation. She confronts a world totally different from the one she had left behind [Nithyanandam 67].

The Tiger's Daughter

The First stepping on the land of India at Bombay fills her with disappointment. Bombay is the same but her outlook has changed. To her, Bombay railway station “was more like a hospital, there were so many sick and deformed men sitting listlessly on bundles and trucks’”. [TD 19] Her sickness and the situation in India make her think about her husband, David. The thought of her husband symbolically suggests the second self-developed in her.  It seems that an alien land has become more of a home to her.  She repents having come to India without her husband and she is unable to keep him off her mind. The mood of repentance in Tara is evident: “Perhaps I was stupid to come without him, she thought, even with him rewriting his novel during the vacation.    Perhaps I was too impulsive confusing my scare of New York with homesickness. Or perhaps I was going mad”. [TD 21]        

Tara’s voyage from Bombay to Calcutta brings an equally disgusting experience to her. In Calcutta too, she encountered everything changed and deteriorated. Now, she finds Calcutta is under the grip of violence due to riots, caused by the confrontation between different classes of society. This shatter I dream of Calcutta and make her react in a negative manner.  She fails to bring her old sense of perception back and is appalled by the ugliness of the city of Calcutta with its poverty, squalor, disease, and Vanity.   She discovers strangeness in her friends and relatives and finds it difficult to cope up with a world which relents her.

Tara finds herself a misfit everywhere she goes. With her dangling personality, she tries to look Indian and adjust with her friends, but there is an invisible gap between them and she feels the breakdown. She is forced to look at her inner world consisting of two cultures and the two different ideologies, which are the two worlds wide apart. Realizing that harmonization is impossible, Tara senses to go back to David.  The novel ends with the heroine caught in a bloody riot of Calcutta wondering, whether ever she would be able to go back. Tara sits locked in a car watching helplessly as an old friend is beaten to death in a riot, she is in the middle of a street full of angry rioters, she sees her husband’s view of Calcutta as apocalyptic: “the collective future in which garbage, disease, and stagnation are man’s estate” (TD 190).

            Though Mukherjee has refused that the novel is “based on any real person” and has declared that “the novel wasn’t autobiographical” [1987 interview]. There are many autobiographical instances in it.  Bharati Mukherjee remained in graduate Tara’s voyage from Bombay to Calcutta, brings an equally disgusting experience to her. In Calcutta too, she encountered everything changed and deteriorated. Now, she finds Calcutta is under the grip of violence due to riots, caused by the confrontation between different classes of society. This shatter I dream of Calcutta and make her react in a negative manner.  She fails to bring her old sense of perception back and is appalled by the ugliness of the city of Calcutta with its poverty, squalor, disease, and Vanity.   She discovers strangeness in her friends and relatives and finds it difficult to cope up with a world which relents her.

            Tara finds herself a misfit everywhere she goes. With her dangling personality, she tries to look Indian and adjust with her friends, but there is an invisible gap between them and she feels the breakdown. She is forced to look at her inner world consisting of two cultures and the two different ideologies, which are the two worlds wide apart. Realizing that the harmonization is impossible, Tara senses to go back to David.  The novel ends with the heroine caught in a bloody riot of Calcutta wondering, whether ever she would be able to go back. Tara sits locked in a car watching helplessly as an old friend is beaten to death in a riot, she is in the middle of a street full of angry rioters, she sees her husband’s view of Calcutta as apocalyptic: “the collective future in which garbage, disease, and stagnation are man’s estate” (TD 190).              

Though Mukherjee has refused that the novel is “based on any real person” and has declared that “the novel wasn’t autobiographical” [1987 interview]. There are many autobiographical instances in it.  Bharati Mukherjee remained in graduate school to complete an M.F.A and she met and married Clark Blaise. Tara Banerjee, the protagonist of The Tiger’s Daughter, is modeled in her homesickness on Ranu’s experience at Vassar, but her might to endure that anguish, go to “Madison” for summertime school, meet and marry the young American David Cartwright, bear two sons, live at 124th street at Broadway, and go back after seven years, is drawn out of the stuff of Bharati Mukherjee herself (Nelson 5.8).

New York was certainly extra-ordinary and it had driven her to Despair. On days she had thought she could not possibly survive, she had shaken out all her silk scarves, ironed them and hung them to make the apartment more “Indian”.  She had curried hamburger desperately …… She had burned incense sent from home.

[TD 34]

However, all these attempts fail to make her feel at home. Yet, soon after her return to India, she finds that she does not fit into the old life of Calcutta which she had left seven years ago and for which she had yearned when she was at Poughkeepsie. Her group of friends now irritates her with their lack of seriousness and “she felt very distant from the passions that quickened and outraged her class in Calcutta” [TD 55]. Though Tara meets her friends regularly at the Catelli-Continental, she “was startled at their bounder tremendous capacity for surfaces” [TD 42]. Though her friends are curious about her life in New York, they only wanted to know the superficial, external details. Ironically, Tara accuses her friends of lacking depth which is clearly absent in her too. Tara thinks of her friends as bringing, “,,..sharing of her personality. She scared their tone, their omissions, and their aristocratic oneness. They had asked her about the things that she had brought back and had admired her velour’s jumpsuit and electric-shaver, but not once had they asked about her husband” [TD 43].

Seven years in the U.S. Has made it impossible for Tara to sense at ease with her close circle of playmates. The American experience has secluded her from Indian life and culture. Tara wonders: “How does the foreignness of the spirit begin?” (TD 37) for even the familiar David now appears unfamiliar to her. “He seemed like a figure standing in the shadows, or a foreigner with an accent on television…. She felt she was not married to a person, but a foreigner and this foreignness were a burden” [TD 621. On her arrival at Calcutta, she is met with great affection and excitement. The celebrations around her make it difficult for her to even “think of the 120th street, apartment as home”(TD 63). Distance makes everything abroad and unreal to her. Her walk along the ghat and her visit to Tollygunje prove that she is totally out of touch with the real Calcutta. All through her Childhood, Tara has been undetected to the reality of Calcutta, life. For her, Calcutta just meant living in a huge house on Camac Street, going to school at St. Blaise, seeing movies at the Metro and how whiling away her time at the Catelli-Continental, drinking endless cups of tea and listening to the armchair politics, industrial unrest and increasing crimes. Even when she is surrounded by friends and relatives, she feels totally isolated and completely alone. By not being able to fit back into Calcutta society, Tara realizes that she is a misfit at both places. She is always troubled by nostalgia for the life that she left behind and this leaves her in a Catch-22 situation.

The Tiger's Daughter
The Tiger’s Daughter

In Calcutta, people think of her as being too American: Reena’s mother calls her “Americawalli” (TD 151). Aunt Tharna’s quietly violent response to Tara’s innocuous suggestions can be seen as a paradigm of the response many Indian critics have had to this and other Mukherjee books on India and Indians. Aunt Tharna rebukes Tara thus: “you’ve come back to make fun of us, haven’t you? What gives you the right? Your American money? Your Meccha husband?” (TD 36). The Tiger’s Daughter upsets Indian critics greatly. They seem to share the reaction of Tara’s east while schoolmates who feel she has polluted herself beyond redemption by her foreign education and Meccha marriage (Nelson 9).

While Tara falls in love, at first sight, with a Youngman in an elevator and has a wedding “with no invitations, no priests, no fires, no blessings” (TD 125). Being married to a foreigner does not immediately broaden Tara’s horizon for she finds that she cannot explain or discuss many ideas with him. Even in her letters to David, she does not give her own feelings. David fails to understand many aspects of her life because, he expects everything to have some meaning or point and asks: “why three baths for a day for god’s sake?” (TD 48). In failing to understand her, David shows the distance that has still to be covered between the two cultures.  By reading books on India, he cannot comprehend her country and she is convinced that if “he had not understood her country through her ……… probably he had not understood her either” (TD 50).

Mukherjee’s protagonists differ in their perception of their roles in society or their expectations of Life. Tara considers her marriage to David as an emancipated gesture but realizes that emancipation presupposes a bondage which she is not willing to accept. From being a dutiful daughter or the Bengal Tiger, she wants to become a dutiful wife in the traditional mould. She wants to be appreciated by David and is most wary of his comments or criticism. Her correspondence with David does not follow “any pattern of confession, reproof or rebuttal” (TD 131), though he often, “accused her of stooped inanities and callousness…” (TD 131). Inspite of her seven -year stay in abroad, Tara has not matured into an individual with a mind or identity of her own. She does not possess the strength required to protect herself from people like Tuntunwala. Her experience with him emboldens her to a great extent and makes her decide to return to David, like a child running back into the protective arms of an adult. Tara is certainly not one of the emergent women of modern fiction. To her, father in childhood and a husband in later life are essential as protectors. She exemplifies Manu’s dictum: “pita rakshati kaumarye/ bharta rakshati yauvane” (Manusmriti qtd in Nithyanandam). She has not been able to develop an individuality of her own, different from the traditional roles of woman as daughter and wife. This immigrant does not adapt herself to suit the conditions of the land of her choice and continues to be rooted firmly in the traditional mould.

Tara goes home to assess herself to see whether she can rediscover herself in her birth tradition and to understand how much she belongs and in what manner she is different. Though the central character, Tara has married an American and settled in New York, the novel is set entirely in Calcutta and is concerned almost exclusively with Tara’s attempt to come to terms with the fact that she can no longer connect to the city of her birth or find it as her home. Besides the theme of migration in The Tiger’s Daughter, Tara has also realized that by settling in America and marrying there, she had cut herself adrift from Calcutta and the people she had grown up with.

Tara is an expatriate not only in space but also in mind and spirit. She exhibits the expatriate trait of being uncomfortable in both her own and foreign cultures. She represents the dilemma faced by the expatriates. The critic Sivaramakrishna says about Tara that the “retention of her identity as an Indian is in constant tension with the need for its renunciation, if she has to acquire a new identity as immigrants” (Nelson 60). According to Rustomjikerns, in the novel, Mukherjee presents, ” some of the more violent and grotesque aspects of cultural collisions” (Nelson 63) and according to Jain, “Mukherjee’s novels are representative of the expatriate sensibility” (Jain 42).

Despite having a decent life with an American husband, Tara does not assimilate in American cultural milieu. Estranged by the ‘half-remembered’ and ‘half-forgotten’ rules of her old world, she struggles hard to feel at home in India but fails miserably in her attempt. Her failure to tie a knot with her ‘patria’ is enough evidence of how far she has traveled from her roots. She has an ‘unstable’ self which does not allow her to settle at one place.

Expatriation is not only a key issue in this story, but it also serves as a metaphor for deeper kinds of alienation, such as existential alienation and self-estrangement. This is revealed in some significant images used in the novel. In this novel, Hotel Cattelli Continental, described as the “navel of the Universe” (TD 3) becomes the important symbol of a rootless existence, a symbol of Tara’s expatriate sensibility.

The Tiger’s Daughter is a film that depicts a woman who returns to her birthplace after a period of self-imposed exile. Home will never be home again for such a person, and life in exile, harsh as it may be, will be preferable to what home has become. The discovery that Tara makes at the end of the novel is that the greenery and the forests she had associated with the India of her childhood-her vision of pastoral-were no longer there, something or the other “killed” them (TD 207). In New York she had dreamed of coming back to Calcutta, but “the return had brought only wounds” (TD 25).

The greatest irony in Tara’s story is that she survives racial hardships while attempting to survive in a new country, but nothing bad occurs to her. She becomes a victim of her tragic end in her native soil in her home, which she had longed to see during her stay in New York, and where she comes to seek peace. Her desire to find a place to live and have security, which she missed in New York, ends ironically in frustration. We’re left with the irony that Tara, an Indian-born young woman, feels more love and comfort in the arms of her American husband.

Conclusion

The Tiger’s Daughter by Mukherjee examines the experiences of an Indian expatriate and an American immigrant. It provides a powerful new voice in diasporic literature, one that comes from an Indian lady who immigrates to the United States and redefines her ties to her motherland.

Having been uprooted from her native soil through an accidental affair with a man of different roots, Tara, like her creator, dangles between her rest while homeland and her newfound homeland. It is like choosing the better of the two eyes. Tara faces this predicament for a time, gets confused and finds herself on a no-man’s land. However, experience on both the soils helps her use the better part of her discretion and finally plumps for the newfound homeland for reasons known-duty, security and practicality.

References

  1. Alam, Fakrul. Bharati Mukherjee. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996.
  2. Baldev Vaid, Krishna. Rev. of Wife, by Bharati Mukherjee Fiction International. 1915: 4-5.
  3. Barrett H.Clark. “Time of Need”. Forms of Imagination in the 20th Century.  New York : Harper, 1994.
  4. Brennan, Timothy. Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation. London: Macmillan,
  5. Carb,Alison B. “An Interview with Bharati Mukherjee.” Massachusetts Review 29, 1988.
  6. Chowdhury, Enakshi. “Images of Woman in Bharati
  7. Mukherjee’a Novels.” Literary Voice* 2 Oct-1995.

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