The Inheritance of Loss is a novel that discusses postmodern themes like globalization, economic and social inequality, and the subjugation of women in Indian society. Kiran Desai took more than seven years to complete this work. She received a man booker prize for this fiction.
Even though the writer settled in America she made some trips to India to set the background for her story. She had her roots in India yet settled in America. Her life seems to be a journey between east and west, India and America. This novel also narrates the characters who once left their home country and decided to return to India.
This fiction turns around five main characters: Sai an orphaned teen girl, her grandfather retired judge Jemubhai Patel, the cook, his son Biju and Gyan. Jemubhai Patel is a retired judge. During his school life, he read many English books about western history. As a result, he loved western culture more than Indian.
His father suggested opting for some western universities for higher studies. He intended to create better career options for his son in a foreign country. His father was partial to his son Jemubhai. He gave all options to his son and intentionally forgot about his daughter. It represents the Indian culture where women are generally stereotyped as images of suffering. The backward villages still treat women as ‘other.’
The author points out another instance to validate this theme. When Jemubhai decided to select England as his destination for higher studies. He didn’t have enough money to meet expenses for his studies. So he decided to marry a girl with a huge dowry. He was not impressed by the physical beauty of Lady. He was just stuck with the monetary rewards.
The author intends to point out how patriarchal Indian society is. Even a sacred bond like marriage is backed with fiscal terms. Sylvia Plath’s Mirror also discusses women’s search for their inner selves. Kiran Desai suggests how bad is the poverty-stricken post-colonial situation of India is. Thus Jemubhai Patel reaches England to complete his ICS course.
It was a time when racism was very prevalent in people’s minds. When Jemubhai was on his way to Cambridge, the white porter showed no interest in carrying the ‘ brown’ man’s bag. No one offered him a room. Twenty-two landlords declined his application for a room. Finally, he found a place in an old building under Mrs. Rice.
He felt like the English people mistreated him. His secluded feelings left him to get friendly with no man but with Mutt, his dog. He cursed himself for not being born in England. Even when he came back to India, he still tried to follow the western culture in his dressing and food.
He felt his wife was a disgrace to him. She still used to follow the native culture. Jemubhai was arrogant when he found that his wife still used European closet in Indian style. He even took her head into the toilet bowl. This incident underlines the patriarchal dominance which was common in Indian society.
Sai is the granddaughter of Jemubhai Patel. Sai lost her parents when she was only six. Her parents were killed in a road accident in Moscow. Noni took tuition for her till 14. She couldn’t help her with Physics, so Sai looked for another tutor. Gyan, a student tutor helped her with lessons. Eventually, they fell in love with each other. Sai was brought under the western shadow by Jemubhai Patel. He sent her to the convent schools to get western education with a proper accent.
Gyan later finds that she is from an upper-class family. He decided to stop the relationship because he is from a low class of society. When Sai finds that Gyan is leaving her, she visits Gyan’s house to find out why he behaves like this. When she had found him, she realized how poor he was. She understood how overwhelmed he was with all his responsibilities. Thus cultural disparity between the two breaks the relationship.
The story then brings Biju, the son of Jemubhai Patel’s Cook. The cook decided to send his son to the United States for higher studies. The cook hoped that his son also could become wealthy and socially recognized like Jemubhai Patel. Biju used illegal documents during his stay in the United States. From his initial days, he understood how hard it was for a middle-class Indian to survive there. Since he doesn’t have any valid documents, he could not apply for a green card. He had to accept the job offers which paid the bare minimum.
Even though he tried various workplaces, he decided to go back to India. Dramatically, when he reached his village, Gorkhaland movement boys robbed him. They removed his clothes except for white undergarments. Then he was chased by dogs. When he reached home, he only had a large gown. The writer uses this scene to indicate a man who lost his identity. The title seems to be very relevant because we can find the characters who lost their real Inheritance.
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