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Psychological Perspective of the Protagonists in select novels of Amulya Malladi

 


Psychological Perspective of the Protagonists in select novels of Amulya Malladi

M. Kavitha

Assistant Professorof English

Dr. N.G.P Arts and Science College,

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Abstract:

Amulya Malladi is a diasporic writer of ‘Indian English’ who is notable for her outstanding unique style in her writings. Malladi is a graduate of Electronics Engineering, and received her bachelor’s degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India, and master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Memphis, Tennessee, United States. After her master’s degree, she resided in Silicon Valley. However, her interest in writing shaped her to be a good creative writer and her novels have been translated into many languages like Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She is very famous for her seven novels namely A Breath of Fresh Air (2002), The Mango Season (2003), Serving Crazy with Curry (2004), Song of the Cuckoo Bird (2005), The Sound of Language (2007), A House for Happy Mothers (2016) and The Copenhagen Affair (2017).

 

The novels chosen here for the study are Amulya Malladi’s The Mango Season (2003), and Serving Crazy with Curry (2004). Though her subject of the discourse is Cultural Identity, she also focuses on other social issues with a special emphasis on women. The character introduced by her in the novels came from her connection with the people from Hyderabad. The portrayal of women characters namely Priya and Devi in her novels represents challenges in the context of a contemporary global society. Her works deal with the insider-outsider tensions that prevail in the interpersonal dynamics of the native-immigrant co-existence. The author focuses on the factors that shape the immigrant identities of Indian women in the context of family and their roles in it. She is well aware of the multiple identities that these women are expected to tackle during their initial years of immigrant life until they acculturate into the new cultural environment.

 

Keywords: Diaspora; tradition; psychology; empowerment; love; resilience; interpersonal dynamics; immigration

 

“Fiction and drama present men and women reacting to each other in the way that is closer to real-life

- Robert. R. Henkle

Literature is a mirror of life. By its virtue, it is one of the finest fine arts. It is valued chiefly for the lessons it teaches and the enlightenment it brings. Its delight is open to all who can understand and appreciate literature. Through its many genres, literature expresses and communicates thoughts, feelings, and attitudes towards life. Of these genres, fiction presents life in a more realistic and elaborate manner. Literature that is termed Diaspora literature is a broad term that covers all writing about a country by people who live outside the country. It is rather used in a general sense. This genre is of recent development, yet it has received phenomenal growth. As well as wide acclaim.

People are fascinated to read life stories, and when these stories are realistic, the readers tend to identify themselves with the characters in the work. Such realistic presentations, like real human lives, are punctuated by various aspects viz. sociological, ideological, psychological, and cultural aspects. In dealing with these aspects, the writer, consciously or subconsciously, delineates characters and narrates events that are not only realistic but also representative. The study of a literary work can be the study of the society, their belief, culture, and tradition of the society.

A society emerges out of individuals who come to follow common ideals and beliefs. As one talks of these ideals, women have been treated differently by these ideals compared to men. Centuries have passed before women realized that they are not some strange treasures to be kept indoors but to be let outdoors as well like their counterparts to cherish their life the way they want. In the wake of this new ideal, we have many female writers who have written not only about the changes happening in and around them but also about the changes they want to happen.

Novels are read not only for pleasure but also for enlightenment. If there is a radical change in the temperament of the readers after reading the novel, it is a real success. Another way to approach writing for enlightenment is to highlight an aspect of society by celebrating it with examples of success stories. Such novels are not only enjoyable to read, but they imbibe positive energy into the readers. The novel has always occupied the place of being the most popular literary form read by a majority of the public. As there is popularity, so there is demand: demand for novelty and variety. Novelists have never failed to meet the demands and expectations of their readers. As a result, there are a variety of novels and subgenres that fill the annals of world literature.

The common themes that diasporic literature focuses on are, all that are related to living in a foreign country – alienation, social, regional, and cultural displacement, the sense of otherness, experiencing uprootedness, the longing for the homeland, and the search for the self. This diasporic literature also deals with the subject of adapting, adjusting, accommodating, and accepting the new culture, community, and environment.

Cultural conflict is another primary focus in diaspora writing an individual who migrates to a new country cannot escape cross-cultural encounters.  Different individuals react differently to this experience some individuals readily accept the challenge adapt to the new culture and in turn get accepted into the new community. Especially in countries like America which is always been a melting pot of cultures. Some individuals are shocked by the experience, from which some gradually overcome their shock and succeed in the process of adapting themselves to the new culture, but some individuals are unable out of the shock and end up as failures. Accepting the new culture is only the first part of the scenario, and it gets completed only when acceptance comes from the new community. Hitherto some individuals do not consider the non-acceptance as a concern but others consider it paramount. Thus the cross-cultural encounter and the process of immigration is a complex human interaction with so many nuances and as many outcomes.

While writers like Bhabani Bhattacharya, Kamala Das, Nayantara Sahgal, Rama Mehta, Ruth Prawar Jhabvala, Shobha De, Shashi Deshpande, Manju Kapur, Arundhati Roy, Jaishree Mishra, Neelum Saran Gaur, Indira Goswamy, Anita Nair,  Eunice De Souza, Githa Hariharan, Anjali Banerjee, Manjula Padmanabham, etc., have made noteworthy contributions Homeland writers to Indian writing in English, women writers like Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, Anjana Appachana, Abha Dawesar, Gita Mehta, Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and Amulya Malladihave made an equal amount of significant contribution to Indian diaspora writing especially in the genre of fiction. Their writings receive special significance in the sense that the reader is able to perceive a given situation or an experience from the female perspective.

 

Indian writing in English in general and Indian diaspora writing, in particular, has received an equal amount of contributions from both men writers and women writers. In recent years women writers of the Indian diaspora have made significant contributions not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality which is evident from the awards and accolades that they have received worldwide.  Literature is an artistic creation, especially in a written form with high and lasting merits. Although there are various kinds of literature globally, Indian writing in English has its unique taste among the readers. It is an amalgam of multilingual, multicultural, and socio-historical themes. They are exquisite creations by Indian writers in the English language.

 

            Priya Rao is delineated as a strong Indian professional woman by Malladi in the novel, The Mango Season whereas Devi is a strange woman character who expresses her struggles in life through her silence and through her culinary skills in the novel, Serving Crazy with Curry by Malladi. The study discusses how the ethnic essence and its exotic interpretation by the west makes an impact on the personalities of the woman characters without India, and how they impose upon them within India in the chosen novels. It also examines the author’s depiction of Indian woman’s renegotiated individual identity. Woman characters in the chosen novels could be identified as heterogeneous in that they differentiate themselves from the homogeneous immigrant group of women.

 

The Mango Season demonstrates all the common places of cultural conflict, cultural identity by exploring the depression and struggle of Priya and other characters when dealing with culture shock in her own country. Here Malladi uses the mango as a mark of difference between two traditions and marks a vivid depiction of a modem woman's suffering due to her helplessness in mixing two worlds. As mango is very popular in the summer season, Malladi has added guidelines for recipes on the South Indian delicacies throughout her chapters for delicacies like Avakai, Mango Pappu, Rava Ladoo, and Aloo Bajji, especially the mango pickle. This book also acts as a recipe book and is dedicated to the custom of the women in the family making mango pickles. The story is told with stunning word pictures. Malladi's imagery creates a desire for a juicy topping of contentment to finish the story, which is a rich ripe mango.

 

The novel deals with the custom of marriage which is not just like passing clouds or compromise but plays a major role in every human’s life involving lots of adjustments and promises with the loss of self-identity and freedom. This novel deals with the character Priya who is 27 years old girl belonging to the orthodox Tamil Brahmin community who travels to America and lives there a multi-cultural life, which sets out against the principles of her extended family.

 

The novel talks about how Priya conceals her engagement to an American man Nick Collins from her conventional Brahmin family unit. Malladi cleverly places Priya in a state of affairs between two different worlds. Priya went to do her master’s degree in the US which resulted in her conveniently finding a job in Silicon Valley. As she is not interested in marriage, she invents several excuses to not go to India. But after seven years, she returns to her home city, Hyderabad, during the mango season which is symbolically understood as the summer season. Priya who has a strong consent of love for Nick had a hope in her mind to confess her love affair to her parents and get their concern for marriage. But to her surprise, everything was vice-versa. Since it was summer vacation, all her relatives have come to her home for spending their vacation with their children. Priya’s parents decided to get her married to an Indian suitor, Adarsh Sarma.

 

In the beginning, Priya hesitated to tell her father but later made up her mind and confessed to him her love. It was shocking news to her father who insisted to forget that American man and get married to Adarsh. But Priya who is very stubborn in her way did not accept her father. All her family members were very angry with her and opposed the same. When Priya declares her decision to marry her American friend Nick, her grandmother, Ammamma opposes her decision and says to her "In our family, we don't let our daughters chase and marry men from other castes" (Malladi 52).

 

Priya stays firm on her choice of marrying Nick, So Thatha also reacts in the same way. He says to Priya: "I will not accept it, Priya. If you marry this man, then you are not my family" (Malladi 222). This shows how elder generations severely treat a love marriage. At last, Priya became very aggressive and said that if they are accepting of their marriage, she will run away. This made them think over and as they don’t want to lose Priya, finally they accepted her marriage proposal to Nick Collins. The novel ends with a twist whereby Priya declares to her parents that Nick isn’t white, but an African American man. Here Malladi has focused on marriage through various incidences where cross-cultural values play a role as an obstacle in the marriage.

The next novel Serving Crazy with Curry also depicts the picture of marriage and portrays the issues related to the same. This novel focuses on the moral values of culture and when it gets violated results in lots of depression and suffering. In the opening of the novel, Devi, an unmarried girl who is the protagonist found lying in her bathtub in a pool of blood. It symbolically tells the reader that she attempted suicide because her life is full of problems and tensions. Devi who has an elder sister named Shobha gets married to a person named Girish. But Girish was admired by the beauty of Devi and had a likeness towards her. This slowly made them develop their relationship in close contact resulting in Devi’s pregnancy but ended in miscarriage. This also resulted in the misunderstanding of her relationship with her sister.

            Devi being tied up with the struggles and inner tensions in her mind like pressures to marry and become a traditional wife and the humiliation of losing her baby and job in the Silicon Valley, she was left with no other options in her life except to commit suicide. But even that was unsuccessful and resulted in her depression. After being found by her mother, she moves back in with her parents to recover but refuses to speak, instead choosing to communicate by serving food.

Devi, no beta no,’ she said as tears streamed down her face and she reached for her purse where it had slid down he arm by the bathtub. Even as she moved she held on to Devi, hugged her to her bosom. She could feel Devi’s heart beat against hers…. I am not leaving my daughter and going anywhere….I stay with her….Not going anywhere she repeated nowhere without my daughter…. Wiped her tears with her hands, then with clear eyes watched over her daughter (Serving Crazy with Curry: 2004: 21-22).

 

Her "crazy" preparations for cooking bring the family together, but secrets still lurk in the background. Devi’s preparation of blueberry curry chicken or Cajun prawn biryani is diversified with delicious recipes and made her get free from her depression. Malladi has used inventive ways of recipes to tell a story which lay as a success behind the novel. The character which is a rich stew of a novel reveals a woman’s struggle for acceptance from her family and herself.  As there is a saying “The way to a man's heart is through his stomach”, Devi wins the heart of everyone in the family through her skill of cooking and comes out of depression when her family members steps closer to happiness.

Malladihad created her women characters, Priya Rao and Devi as two Indian women who understand the reality of Indian social tradition. While these women reference their actions within the framework of myth and folklore that has defined Indian womanhood, they are equally strong enough to withstand the pressures exerted by them. Priya and Devi are experts in their culinary prowess. All the women characters are delineated with an intimate connection with their culture. They are also sensitive to the cultures of their immigrant land.

            The novel extends the emphasis on the heterogeneity of the woman characters depicted by the chosen authors through examining the cultural baggage of the woman characters and their treatment. Cultural demarcations such as food and dress as perceived and expressed by the woman characters are analyzed. The novel also highlight and shows the cultural packaging of food, especially within the context of Indian food in mainstream media and the growing popularity of the cookbook culture, which has been appropriated by the author. The study conducts a deeper exploration of hybrid identities and individual identities that are usually submerged within the homogeneous popularity and acceptance of Indian culture by American mainstream cultures.

            Cultural markups delineate the woman characters in the novels both within and without India. The authors bring out the subtle social behavior exhibited by both men and women in their intricate social interaction to perpetuate the status quo of social establishment and its nature. These woman characters become unique in their outlook towards life and as a result such attitude allows them to stand apart from the rest. The study highlights the unique cultural identity projected by these women in terms of food dressing and social conduct. Their positive approach to life is reflected in their cultural identity which in turn builds their personality as assertive and not aggressive.

The woman characters delineated in the chosen novels form a psychological perspective. The woman characters possess strong psyche and inner strength born out of intelligence and upbringing. Malladi allows her woman characters to negotiate the challenge of survival beyond all boundaries successfully. Psychological experiences turn out to be positive in creating the personalities of the woman characters. Thus the inner strength of Priya and Devi allows them to withstand the onslaught of subjugation and marginalization with a determined conscience.

Works Cited

Malladi, Amulya. The Mango Season. USA: A Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing group. 2004. Print.

---. Serving Crazy with Curry, UK: Piatkus Books, Random House Publishing group. 2004. Print.

Ramraj, V. Diaspora and Multiculturalism in National and Postcolonial Literature. USA: Oxford Clarendon Press, 1998. Print