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Desai - One of Contemporary Indian Novelists

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Desai has brilliantly portrayed the dilemma of uprooted individuals in this novel. Desai is one of elegant contemporary Indian novelists in English. She represents the welcome creative release of the feminine sensibility which began to emerge after the World War II. Desai’s preoccupation as a novelist has been the exile alienation of characters. Alienation and displacement are the process whereby people become foreign to the world they are living in. Bye-Bye, Blackbird is an authentic study of human relationships and one is the most intimated related to Desai’s own experiences. Author has dealt with the complex problems of alienation and displacement in Bye-Bye Blackbird.

The novel is mainly woven round two groups of characters, Adit Sen, his English wife Sarah, the Indian friend Dev; and Jasbir-Mala, Sammar-Bella. Bye-Bye Blackbird appears to be an authentic study of man woman relationships abused by cultural conflicts. Anita Desai is concerned with her own experience in this novel. Displacement leads to a sense of rootlessness and a sense of not-belonging. This becomes an important factor in human life, because it leads an individual towards frustration and alienation. It also causes doubt, fear, anguish and frustration. Each of her novels presents one or two memorable characters. The theme of conflict between east and west and the resultant feeling of rootlessness and sense of not-belonging leading to an individual’s alienation has been dealt with even by many Indian novelists in English. Anita Desai’s Bye-Bye Blackbird belongs to the same category.

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Novel is a story mainly concerned with the varied human relationships. Dev and Adit are the two major characters who represent the two streams of life. Adit is Anglophile and his newly arrived Indian friend Dev from Calcutta is critical of everything English, despite being brought up in English literature, and having known Britain right in India through: the pages of Dickens and lamb, Addison and Boswell, Dryden and Jerome; not in colour and in three dimensions as he now encountered them, but in black and white yet how exact the recognized the originals, around him, within reach at last. Adit develops attachment to the western way of life especially of England, but Dev while living in England shows his repulsion towards the ways of the European life and particularly of England. Dev’s alienation and spiritual agony are objected in his hellish experiences in the London tube: Dev ventures into the city. He descends, deeper and deeper, into the white-tiled bowels of Clapham tube station.

The meaning slither of escalators strikes panic into a speechless Dev as he is swept down with an awful sensation of being taken where he does not want to go. Down, down and farther down—like Alice falling, falling down the rabbit hole, like a Kafka stranger wandering through the dark labyrinth of a prison.28 Dev, new immigrant, goes to England to stay with Adit Sen in their Clapham house. Dev feels disgusted there at the insolent treatment meted out to the Indians by the English. On the contrary Adit is generally satisfied with his life in London. According to the development of the story Dev is gradually cured of his Anglophobia, while Adit develops an intense nostalgia. But the nostalgia grows with such ferocity that it becomes an illness, an ache. This enhanced susceptibility to illness occurs not as a by-product but as a direct outcome of social disorientation. Consequently, Dev decides to stay in London and adit resolves to leave for India alongwith his pregnant wife. When he returns to his house in Clapham, he is a changed man. He shrinks into isolation and is dumb with despair. He has the painful look of one who suffers “a look of disbelief that invalids.when the disease is still new, their pains still unaccustomed.”

As the novel splits up into three parts reflects Dev’s psychic states as he wanders in London in quest of his new identify. In part I, Dev is stimulated to explore that even the English school children dare call the Indians wogs and Macaulay’s bastards and that “the London docks have three kinds of lavatories, Ladies, Gents and Asiatics.”30 It is practically intolerable to him that a pedlar should refuse to tell him the price of a Russian icon. Now he is suffocated that he won’t live in country where he is insulted and unwanted. In part II, Dev starts to give way to the many attraction and allurements of the town. In spite of schizophrenia to which all Indians are inclined, he wavers between staying on in London and returning to his motherland.

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