Quest for Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth : Prof. AJ Sebastian sdb

Quest for Identity in   Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth : Prof. AJ Sebastian sdb
           Jhumpa Lahiri has  been acclaimed a  dominant diaspora  writer    depicting   the complexities   of  immigrant experience of people in diaspora    in her   Unaccustomed Earth (2008). Theis  collection of stories is a  well   thought-out     addition  to her  oeuvre of  fiction writing, including Pulitzer Prize winner Interpreter of Maladies (1999) and The Namesake (2003).    Unaccustomed Earth   won  the coveted Frank O’Connor award of  €35,000,  the richest short story prize in the world.  The stories have been acclaimed for depicting  different aspects of the Bengali migrant experience (Irvine).   The eight   stories in the collection revolve around  quest for identity in relationships.
         The  stories  examine   multiple identities and human predicaments in the lives of immigrants in diaspora.  The Diasporic experience of the central characters  in the stories  also focus on their   sense of  exile, alienation,  and uprootedness.  Being  essentially autobiographical in her writing, she includes details from her Bengali community  and personal experiences in her fiction. Portraying  life of the Indian migrants to America, Lahiri has been very poignant in capturing the diasporic spirit of her characters muddled in multiple emotional tangles. In Unaccustomed Earth, the novelist makes  her observations of the second generation Indian Americans absorbed into the Western milieu, yet experiencing deep sense of isolation and alienation. All the  stories deal with  the theme of uprooting and assimilation with efforts made to establish connectivity among the characters.
 Lahiri herself speaks of the eroding cultural links in diaspora creating problems of identity.
Some of the culture goes by the wayside, or the link is never made. I was aware of that myself when I had my  kids. I really felt a sense that I was the end of a line, and that it was a very short line.  I knew my parents had parents and so on, but to me, the universe was my parents and they were the far end and I was the near end. There were certain intensities to the experience of that first generation and their offspring that don’t carry over. I’m very aware of my parents’ experience, how I grew up, and now how my children are growing up. There is such a stark difference in those two generations   (Bookforum April/May 08).
       In all the stories   in Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri applies the metaphor based on the epigraph from   Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Custom-House” which reads: “Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birth places, and, so  far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall sterile their roots into unaccustomed earth”  (Lahiri ix). Hawthorne suggests that transplanting people into new soil of unaccustomed earth makes them flourish better as they become hardier.
          Lahiri deals with a multicultural society both  from ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, seeking to find her native identity as well as an new identity in the adopted country. This  brings in a clash of cultures  and dislocation and displacement  (Kadam 121-22). This is the lot of people in diaspora which Lahiri attempts to  prove through her  stories. She also  dwells on  ‘acculturation’ and ‘contra-acculturation’ which the  second generation Indian-Americans experience (Majumdar 24).  They are able to  get  accultured in the new country, embracing its  socio-cultural values, at the same time experience  a sense of nostalgia for the  Indian culture and sensibilities, experiencing alienation and uprootedness. Such  a feeling of in-betweeness  experienced, the fictionist portrays through her characters.
With regard to dual territoriality, diaspora may also be viewed from  following  viewpoints: (a) the diaspora is at different times for or against the hostland; b) the host land is at different times for or against the  diaspora (though usually the latter); (c) the diaspora is at  different times for or against the homeland (though usually the former); and (d) the homeland is at different times for or against the diaspora (Mishra 28).    Diasporic experience is one of exile, migration, dislocation and displacement that brings  in   identity  confusion and problems of identification in the backdrop of  alienation from old and new cultures (Singh 41).  Jhumpa Lahiri’s   stories focus on relationships and on   specific cultural experiences and the difficulties of human existence by which the character yearn backward and forward in time (41-2).
       Lahiri lets her characters   grow  on their own while   she  accompanies them. They all grow with their individual differences in the unaccustomed earth like plants  sprouting, blooming, maturing and decaying.
  1. Life Concerns in “Unaccustomed Earth”
In the title story, through the garden metaphor, Lahiri probes into the secrets of her protagonist Ruma and  her   father  after her mother’s death.   After his retirement from a pharmaceutical company, he began travelling  to Europe through package tours.  After one of his tours he comes to visit  Ruma  who lives with her white husband  Adam, and her three year old son Akash,  in their new home in Seattle. Though a lawyer by profession,  being pregnant,  she stays at home.
         Lahiri  employs  the garden metaphor to refer to the familial  relationship and identity of the characters in the  story.    The metaphor of  garden  is used as  a lens through which she crafts rich and varied reflections on the task-at-hand – creatively and intelligently. The seed is to be buried in the ground where it can germinate and grow into something productive as the  sacred saying  goes,  “… unless a grain of wheat falls  into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies. It bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
          She has been passionate in expressing the basic tenets of familial relationships.    “Some bits and pieces are taken from my own parents and other parents that I knew growing up.… The thing I took for granted when I was growing up is that I was living in a world within a world. … To me, they don’t represent immigrants or anyone specific. They just represent the human condition” (bookforum April-May 2008).
 Lahiri  herself felt strongly the sense of exile being in a constant state of  being displaced.   “I have somehow inherited a sense of exile from my parents, even though in many ways I am so much more American than they are…  I think that for immigrants, the challenges of exile, the loneliness, the constant sense of alienation, the knowledge of and longing for a lost world, are more explicit and distressing than for their children…. But it bothered me growing up, the feeling that there was no single place to which I fully belonged”   (Houghton Mifflin).
        The Diasporic experience of the central characters  in the story  is  multiple  as  the sense of  exile, alienation,  uprootedness,  continue  to  overwhelm them. The traditional familial relationship in the Rupa’s  Bengali household is  getting  diluted with her mother’s death, brother Roma’s  absence and  her father’s solitary  life.
It is the garden metaphor in the story that  brings Ruma and her father  deeply ponder over their intricate life-concerns and predicaments. Gardening is an excellent way to  bring families together  to build their emotional ties, giving an  opportunity   to share and learn together. The growth of a plant is like that of the  siblings in the family, a symbol of   nourishment and growth. The emotional bonding established removes loneliness and  frustrations.
          Ruma’s  father lived alone. She was not familiar with his surroundings and had   only a  peripheral knowledge of his life in Pennsylvania. It is a clear indication of  lack  of  intimacy in relationship, which is  a diasporic experience in transition. The selling of his old house thereby   wiping  out her mother’s memory had been painful to Ruma.
          Her dilemma  haunts her – her filial responsibility as per Indian tradition and the fear of added burden of having to look after her old father. Meanwhile  her father’s relationship with Mrs. Bagchi  had grown closer as they shared their lives to some extend, even planning to share a room on trips. But she was totally against their marriage.  He  began to dream of her often and did all he could to make her happy with full  attention than he ever  did to his wife. “He would soon see Mrs. Bagchi again, in Prague; this time they’d agreed, they would share a room, … She was adamant about not marrying, about never sharing her home with another man, conditions which made the prospect of her companionship all the more appealing” (Lahiri 9).
          On his moving in to Ruma’s home, her father  was reluctant as she was not raised  with a sense of duty. She was independent in living her own life after having been married to an American.  Similarly her  father had to leave behind his own parents in Calcutta. Therefore, he was happy to live  a life of his own. His days were filled with his volunteering for the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania with frequent  trips on tours.  His relationship with Mrs. Bagchi was  an added strength. It was more for the sake of companionship than for passionate fulfilment. Mrs. Bagchi was deeprooted in her love for her husband  for two years, who died several years ago. In contrast Ruma’s father took his wife’s death as a matter of fact. “…he seemed happier now; her mother’s death had lightened him, the opposite of what it had done to her” (33).
        His love for gardening is associated with his love for his wife for whom he cultivated  what she loved most. His struggling alone despite hardships was to produce from the land. The metaphor of  ‘nourishment’ becomes ever stronger for family bonding. Symbolically the bonding continues to be present through emotional ties even when  separated through death and distance. In the final analysis  Ruma’s predicament   takes her through a process of  assimilation and acceptance into American  society,  yet cherishing  family ties,   following the promptings of  her inner self.
3.     Emotional tangle in  “Hell-Heaven”
 As she depicts  diasporic characters,  Lahiri also exposes  their  distinctly individualized identity and writes not about ‘a specific cultural experience’ but about ‘human beings and the difficulties of existence,’ probing the  ‘mindscape of characters’ and ‘human predicament’  with  the  unique  play on memory (Das 14-15).
 The Diasporic predicament in relationships  are  well wrought out by the fictionist when she let her protagonists take different roads, quite opposite of those travelled by their immigrant parents. This is where the cultural and familial ties are broken in the unaccustomed earth. They all become strangers in their own worlds and have to fend for their own survival in diaspora, exploring their inner most sensibilities.
 Usha the narrator in  “Hell-Heaven” belonging to the second generation Bengali immigrants in America, takes stock of the emotional fulfillment of the various characters including herself in their intercultural relationships. Though  acculturation occurs  in most cases, some characters remain victims of contra-acculturation, longing  for  their own   Bengali culture.
      The  characters in search of   fulfilment in interpersonal relationship   can be analysed from the  backdrop of the triangular theory of love  propounded  by psychologist Robert Sternberg. The theory of love is characterised by  three different components.
  1. Intimacy – Which encompasses feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness.
  2. Passion – Which encompasses drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation.
  3. Commitment – Which encompasses, in the short term, the decision to remain with another, and in the long term, the shared achievements and plans made with that other (Sternberg).
         Pranab’s love for Deborah  is infatuated love with  pure passion. The relationship moves on to      romantic love as intimacy develops over time. However, without developing intimacy or commitment, he divorces her after many years of marriage.
         Usha’s father’s love for her mother  begins in  empty love as it is  characterized by commitment without intimacy or passion  due to an  arranged marriage.   He is not emotionally tied to his wife as his priority is his research and profession. However  after several years the  relationship  develops into  romantic love, manifested in intimacy and care.
        Pranab’s love for Usha’s mother begins as romantic love through emotional bonding and intimacy and perhaps leads physically through passionate arousal.
       Arpana’s and Deborah’s   love for Pranab   may be termed consummate love   representing an ideal relationship.  But in the case of Usha’s mother she couldn’t find fulfilment as Pranab married Deborah. Deborah loved her husband genuinely, but he  didn’t reciprocate, leading to breakdown and  divorce.
        Usha finally has access to the secret of her mother Arpana’s love affair. The narrative technique employed  with the child point of view is handled very skilfully by the  fictionist to delve deep into  immigrant  sensibilities. The child belonging to the second generation of  immigrants is in a better position to bridge the gap between the cultural differences of the two worlds – Indian and American.
  Lahiri gives a peep into thee family’s Diasporic existence.  After  an arranged married in India, Usha’s parents  migrated to the west seeking  better  opportunities. The meeting between Pranab and Usha’s mother establishes a unique love relationship between them. Usha’s father was glad Pranab  frequented the family and offered companionship to his wife who missed her life in India.
         Lahiri  goes forward in time fourteen years later to tell  how Pranab and Deborah divorced as had been predicted by Arpana. “It was he who had strayed, falling in love with a married Bengali woman, destroying two families in the process” (81). The moving story brings to focus    predicament of individuals  seeking to establish their identity in diaspora, seeking emotional fulfilment. A stranger  like Mrs. Holcomb, who is far removed from Usha’s mother becomes central to saving her life. Identity in relationship is established in different ways by the various characters.
         The title of the story “Hell-Heaven” aptly sums up the  central theme of  love relationships between the characters from infatuated love to empty love, to romantic love to consummate love.
4.    Seeking Identity in Interracial Marriage
  In  “A Choice of Accommodations”  Jhumpa Lahiri brings out a powerful depiction of    an interracial marriage, calling for  reconciliation of differences,  compromises and  adjustments between the  protagonists Amit and Megan. Hawthorne’s  epigram from  “The Custom House”   on  how children  “strike their roots into unaccustomed earth” (Lahiri ix) gets applied to  the story   where Amit’s   difficulty in  establishing  roots   in between two cultures is examined. His sense of inadequacy in  the interracial marriage and the subsequent  restlessness and insecurity leads to  lack of attachment in wedlock.
   Amit feels  totally lost in   the differences between the family he  has created and the one  in which he  had grown up.  He has to find meaning in his  relationship with his wife and children, getting  rooted in the newly established  dispensation.  The story set in Amit’s old prep  school Langford Academy  in Massachusetts,  where the couple  spends a week end,  becomes an opportunity for the duo to introspect on their  individual identities and  interpersonal     relationships  as spouses and   parents.  The accommodations they  need to make in their relationship  is indicative of Lahiri’s characters in search of identity in the unaccustomed earth.
 In the story Amit tries to make the occasion of   the wedding of Pam   a romantic  experience with his wife  Meghan. But the events  lead to more  frustration and suspicion among them.  As the title  indicates about choices in life, Amit has to introspect on his own life choices as a husband and father in search of fulfilment.  The weekend reveals how the couple will accommodate themselves in each other’s life. Lahiri’s  description of   sex  between the couple in a  high school dormitory, though shocking, romantically adds to prove the relevance of the title. Making choices in life  is   the focal point in  the marital relationship between Amit and Megan. In the process they have to accommodate with each other unlike the way they keep changing hotel rooms while away on trips.
        According to  psychologist John Lee,  styles of love can be compared to the colour wheel.   Just  as there          are three primary colors,   there are three primary styles of love. These    three   styles  of   love are:   “Eros,”   “Ludos,”  and   “Storge”. Like the way the primary colors     can be  combined  to  create  complementary colors, the  three  primary  styles of love could      also be combined to create  different secondary love styles     as shown below (qtd. in Wagner).
Lee’s 6 Styles of Loving applied to central characters in the story:
Three primary styles:
Love Relationships
1. Eros     –  Loving an ideal person
2. Ludos   – Love as a game
3. Storge  –  Love as friendship
Amit’s love for Pam
Three secondary styles:
1. Mania (Eros + Ludos)  – Obsessive love
Amit’s love for Megan
2. Pragma (Ludos + Storge) – Realistic and practical love
Pam’s love for Amit
3. Agape (Eros + Storge) – Selfless love
Megan’s love for Amit
          Miscommunications    between Amit and Megan  bring about broken relationships. They both build their suspicion  of each other about  non-existent  affairs. Their experience of a romantic physical intimacy in the school dormitory,  leases out a fresh beginning in relationship.
  The story centres on  unarticulated expectations of Amit and Megan which  build  barriers between them. The occasion of Pam’s wedding  brings to focus his past and Megan’s misunderstanding about his relationship with Pam.  His rootedness in his past has to cease to exist to strengthen his familial relationships.
 What disrupts their relationship is due to Amit’s lack of confidence and nervousness coupled with his bitter past of estrangement from his parents. Although  coming  from  a  rich background, he was left with nothing and had to fend for himself. On the other hand, Megan’s inferior  background made her a workaholic to earn and  assert herself. The dwindling relationship wrought about by misconceptions and suspicion among the couple is  reconciled in a final choice of accommodation in intimacy. Their failure in sharing their guarded secrets leads frustration in  genuine emotional and physical union.
  5.    Grooming  in  “Only Goodness”
          “Only Goodness”  considered one of the  best stories in the collection, is  focussed on relationships of siblings that get ruptured in course of time.  It is different from most of Lahiri’s stories that have the themes of death and alienation. However, the central theme of  rooting  and uprooting in unaccustomed earth runs in a different manner in the story. The elder  sister Sudha  attempts to  groom her brother  Rahul in a better atmosphere of   building intimacy, in the midst of  their parents living in a frigid marriage.
          Sudha introduces  her brother to  alcohol which eventually betrays their relationship.  Dropping out of school and estranged from family,  he  becomes a  victim of substance  abuse. Her attempt at reforming him boomerangs as the story  ends in final break in their relationships.
 As the story concludes Rahul  is packed off to Heathrow very unceremoniously.  Sudha had to take ultimately full responsibility for having created a monster out of her brother by her misdirecting  him and joining him in their drinking bouts.  At the end  the table is turned on her when  her son was nearly killed by  Rahul.  The message is clear, no relationship can be genuinely built up  by a protective and doting  attitude towards erring siblings. She had a  wrong   sense of responsibility towards  Rahul despite his drinking problem. She blundered in depositing her trust in him and hiding  the truth even from her husband. She risked  inviting him to London to reform him. But her plans backfired. The title “Only Goodness” remains very intriguing as the question arises – Where to strike the balance in familial relationships when   individuals live  irresponsibe lives? Can only goodness and kindness give stability to blood-ties going to the extent of keeping secrets of certain known facts?
 Relationships in “Nobody’s Business”
      Relationships in  “Nobody’s Business”  can be examined  from three aspects:  intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. These  may operate  in combination or separately from one another.   Accordingly there  are seven distinct kinds of love  that  can be classified as shown above.  The different kind of loves lets individuals to understand and communicate the types of emotional behaviours they express.  Consummate love is the ideal and complete love combining intimacy, passion and commitment (Sternberg).
         The story  surrounds Sangeeta, known as Sang, a  pretty and smart  single Bengali girl of  thirty   whom suitors desperately called  to propose.   She shared a house with  Paul and Heather as housemates.   It  was a great surprise for Heather and Paul  when  they came to know that she had a boyfriend,  Freddy Farouk.  It is in the background of his failure in love that Paul began to view the relationship between Sang and Farouk.
 The story reveals the different types of love relationships among the characters and the subsequent  emotional turmoil in their lives
          Sang  was deeply  in love with Farouk and remained a submissive women. But from their strained conversation it is evident the duo wanted to continue in relationship. Even when Deirdre comes in between, Sang refuses to believe.  Sang’s love for Farouk leads to  consummate  love. However, she never suspected that he was   exploiting  her with his  infatuation and romantic love. He cheats  other women in his life merely through  infatuation. Deirdre pinpoints his problem. He clings to   women for his self-satisfaction, depending on them for everything and convincing them of their indispensability in his life.  He is a perfect dissembler and sex maniac having no   friends but only lovers to satisfy his carnal desires.
         Paul is a jilted lover who withdraws into his own shell after he was insulted by the only girlfriend in his life with whom he had gone steady for three years. Though put to shame by Theresa while in her father’s house, he does not become a misogynist. On the contrary, he is  very sympathetic  towards jilted women like Sang. However, being a sensitive person, he is unable to cope up with his PhD programme. By and by his relationship with Sang becomes more and more protective. He does not have the courage to propose to her, knowing  about  her relationship with Farouk. But when he noticed she was being cheated by Farouk, he intervenes to convince her of  Farouk’s affair with Deirdre.   Paul believed in having a consummate love relationship with  Theresa, but her response was like that of an infatuated woman who breaks the relationship for a silly reason. Paul’s  eventual closing in for a  relationship with Sang from his side is that of  consummate love, but for her it was  a mere liking relationship with Paul.  Her focal point was Farouk with whom she was totally involved.
        The story is replete with different types of love relationships between the characters. Sternberg’s triangle of love  built on the  combination of  intimacy,  passion and  commitment generate various forms of relationships between couples namely:  liking, romantic love, companionate, infatuation, fatuous love, empty love or consummate love occurring  very vividly in the multiple relationships among the characters.
       Unarticulated Secrets between Hema and Kaushik
 In part two of Unaccustomed Earth,  Jhumpa Lahiri takes the readers through a tragic  love story of two young Indian Americans through a  trilogy of stories, viz.  “Once in a Lifetime,” “Year’s End,” and “Going Ashore.” Lahiri explores the unarticulated secrets of her protagonists bringing about tragic consequences.    In these stories, Lahiri has been remarkable in shifting the point of view from third person   to first person narration, rendering them very realistic and moving.
    7.1.    “Once in a Lifetime”
 The trilogy  begins with “Once in a Lifetime” with Hema’s  first person  narration    through  her ‘innocent eyes.’ As she addresses Kaushik, Hema leads the readers through her past memories of events in their lives. She recalls  Kaushik’s  presence in her life from 1974 when she was  six and Kaushik nine years old. His parents decided to leave Cambridge and return to India abandoning  their struggle in diaspora, unlike Hema’s parents  and other  Bengalis.
 A close and intimate relationship is established between the   families of Hema and Kaushik.   A strong affinity is   established between Hema and Kaushik, since they both had shared the same furniture and tools, like siblings in a family as they grew up.  She recollects how  Kaushik’s physical presence in the house began to fade in course of time as the families  didn’t keep up the contact. But on  the new year’s day in  1981 Kaushik’s father called Hema’s parents to inform that  they were returning to Massachusetts since he got a new job. He  requested if they could stay with Hema’s parents until they got a house.
 Kaushik then sixteen and would be  given Hema’s room while she would sleep on a folded cot in her parents’ bedroom.  When  Kaushik’s family arrived,  Hema minutely  observed: “You were pale like your father…. I had not expected you to be handsome. I had not expected to find you appealing in the least” (Lahiri 232).  Hema took Kaushik to show her room where he would be housed, indulging in   thoughts of their intimacy grow. “After dreading it all this time, now I was  secretly thrilled that  that you would be  sleeping here. You would absorb  my presence, I thought. Without my having to do a thing, you would come to know me and like me” (234). She began to fall in love with him and reminisced   some romantic moments with him.
 Meanwhile Kaushik’s family shifted to a new home. He shared with her the  secret that his mother was dying of cancer which her  parents came to know only when Kaushik’s mother was dying  in the hospital.
The story is  a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ experience for the two young people, trying to establish  a relationship with each other and sharing certain innermost secrets.
7.2.  “Year’s End”
The second story   “Year’s End,”  surrounds Kaushik struggling to cope up with his father’s remarriage after his mother’ death. His frustrations in  his relationship with his  step-mother and her daughters, expose his sense of loss and identity. He remains mysterious by not exposing the secret  of his wounded self.
Kaushik takes up the narration and tells his  plight to Hema. He was woken up at school one Sunday morning by his father’s phone call  to tell him of his safe  return to Massachusetts from Calcutta with a new stepmother and  two stepsisters. He was told that Chitra,  his stepmother, lost her husband  two years ago. A school teacher by profession, she was thirty five, with two young daughters of seven and ten.
Reaching home to meet his family, Kaushik found the shy young girls who were told by their mother to address him Kaushik Dada.  Rupa and the younger Piu spoke in their broken English and introduced themselves. He  began to be friendly with them and took them out when he went out for a ride. Kaushik began to be more kind towards the girls as they established some kind of an affinity with each other with their losses in life of a mother and a father respectively.
 When the family was invited for a party before the New Year, the girls wanted to remain home since Kaushik was not going. The children preferred their own party with Kaushik. The trio once again affirmed their unity in division. The three went out together for their pizza at the restaurant.
 The  breaking point came when he noticed the two girls look at his mother’s photograph in a shoe box. He fumed with anger, “You have no right to be looking at those… They don’t  belong to you….Well, you’ve seen it for yourselves, how beautiful my mother was…. Your mother is nothing in comparison. Just a servant  to wash my father’s clothes and cook his meals. That’s the only reason she’s here, the only reason both of you are here” (286-7).  In his fury he took  all his things and drove off  in the night and landed up in a motel. Next morning, he felt sick of   what happened the   night before.
 The story  concludes with Kaushik’s graduation ceremony where  all meet for a final time. He was glad to know  from the reaction of the girls that they had not revealed his mean behaviour when he threatened and walked out of home. The  bitter episode  remained only between the three of them as the girls   guarded the secret in their hearts.
  7.3.  “Going Ashore”
In the final story, Lahiri becomes an omniscient narrator   bringing  together Kaushik and Hema in Rome after many years of separation. She, very artfully brings self realization in both the protagonists as they get very intimate with each other. But the break in narration comes with  Hema taking over in  the last portion like a coda.
           Hema has come to Rome as a Latin professor at Wellesley, taking  advantage of a colleague’s apartment in the Ghetto. Neither her parents, nor her would-be husband Navin, knew  what  she was doing in Rome.  The plot thickens as Lahiri introduces Kaushik coming to Rome as a photojournalist who had wandered for about twenty years, mostly in Latin America.    He had little connection with his family  except through occasional e-mails.  In Rome Kaushik  chanced to meet Hema who remembered  their living together  when she was thirteen and how she nurtured her longing for him. He took her to his apartment. “It was unquestioned that they would not part yet…something precious  had been stumbled upon, a new born connection that could not be left unattended, that demanded every particle of their care” (311).  That night   was one of intimacy between the two.
           After travelling together in Italy for some time, both Hema and Kaushik   would choose   different routes – she would go off to India and Kaushik to Hong Kong. After the last meal together, Kaushik  asked her to go with him to Hong Kong and refrain from marrying Navin. This came as a jolt  as she felt him telling her what  to do than to join her instead.  She was quick to  reply, “It’s too late, Kaushik” (322). Retorting in anger he called her a coward and she    knew he would never forgive her for refusing him. Hema argued that though he told  her not to marry Navin, he had not asked her hand in marriage. All she could do was  to cry her tears out.
Kaushik’s route takes him to Thailand. But he keeps yearning for her all the time. He wondered what went wrong in his  attempt to get connected to her, though she happened to be the  only one in his life, who knew his past, and the only   person to whom he wanted to remain connected to.
The story concludes with Hema taking up narration as if to put an end  to the story she began, recollecting from  her childhood memory. She couldn’t just forget the past. She searched for information on Kaushik, to get in touch with him. She surfed his web site and found  the last images he had posted with the background of the shore scene they had both seen from Volterra.   Hema returned back to her life in Massachusetts thirty years after Kaushik and his parents left for India. The cycle of life is complete:  sprouting – blooming – dying – and sprouting again.  In February she came to know from an obituary in the New York Times that  Kaushik was no more. It was a shocking piece  of news. “I felt it as plainly and implacably as    the cells that were gathering and shaping themselves in my body. Those cold, dark days I spent in bed, unable to speak, burning with new life but mourning your death” (333). Her mourning  became more  painful as Kaushik “had left nothing behind” (333) since  the child in her womb  was not his. Though the story is one of intense love and passion, it does not end in   wedding bells, rather in grief, isolation and death. Through the story,  Lahiri has captured the  agony of people trying to survive in a situation of having lost familial and cultural relationships due to circumstances in   migrant  existence.  Jhumpa Lahiri has very   metaphorically linked the trilogy of  stories centring  on the unpredictable secrets of human hearts.
  8. Conclusion
Quest for identity in relationships  are  well wrought out by the fictionist when she let her protagonists take different roads, quite opposite of those travelled by their immigrant parents. This is where the cultural and familial ties are broken in the unaccustomed earth. They all become strangers in their own worlds and have to fend for their own survival in diaspora.  They  have to escape their pasts and their parents’ way of life to begin to live in unaccustomed earth, striving to set up homes.
 The stories are intense studies of individuals caught in between  conflicts of interpersonal relationships   and cultural traditions. They try to establish their individual identities in a new milieu, experiencing at the same time the sense of displacement, alienation, and  isolation. These individuals,  caught up in the confusion of their migrant lives, attempt to get connected to family and friends for emotional fulfilment.  The  stories make a compendium of all Lahiri’s ideas and thoughts  about life and its intriguing  predicaments surrounding  one’s quest for identity.
Works Cited:
Bookforum. “Migration, Assimilation, and Inebriation”.Jhumpa Lahiri talks with Bookforum.
     April-May 2008. Downloaded on 26/03/09.
Das, Nigamananda.   Jhumpa Lahiri: Critical Perspectives.  New Delhi: Pencraft International, 2008.
 Houghton  Miffin. Jhumpa Lahiri on her Debut novel: An Interview with the author. Downloaded on 19 June 09.
Irvine, Lindesay. “Jhumpa Lahiri jumps the shortlist to world’s richest short story prize,.” 5 July 2008. Downloaded on 2 July 09.
Kadam, Mansing G. “The Namesake: A Mosaic of Marginality, Alienation, Nostalgia and Beyond.”
     Jhumpa   Lahiri: Critical Perspectives. Ed. Nigamananda, Das. New Delhi: Pencraft, 2008,
Lahiri, Jhumpa.   Unaccustomed Earth. New Delhi: Random House, 2008.
Majumdar, D.M. and T.N. Madan. An Introduction to Social  Anthropology. Noida: Mayur
      Paperbacks, 1995.
Mishra, Suresh. Diaspora Criticism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.
Singh, Manjit Inder. Contemporary Diasporic Literature: Writing History, Culture, Self. Delhi:
      Pencraft  International.  2007.
Sternberg, Robert. “Triangular theory of love” theory_of_love. Downloaded on 13 June 009.
The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. London: Catholic Trust Society. 1966.  (All Biblical
       references taken from  this edition).
Wagner, Kendra Van. Theories of Love. loveandattraction