Based on an actual event—the Sikh terrorist bombing of an Air India plane on June 23, 1985, which killed all 329 passengers and crew—“The Management of Grief” is Bharati Mukherjee’s “tribute to all who forget enough of their roots to start over enthusiastically in a new land, but who also remember enough of their roots to survive fate’s knockout punches.” Mukherjee’s story focuses on Shaila Bhave in the hours, days, and months following the deaths of her husband and two young sons. The story focuses on her forms of grief and guilt, which are specific to her culture. As an Indian wife, she never spoke her husband’s name or told him she loved him—simple acts that Westerners take for granted. Her grief reveals who Shaila is, was, and will be. As do many of the characters in Mukherjee’s stories and novels, she finds herself caught between cultures, countries, and existences. “At thirty-six,” she considers, “I am too old to start over and too young to give up. Like my husband’s spirit, I flutter between two worlds.”
One of the worlds is Indian, including the highly supportive Hindu community in Toronto, from which she feels strangely detached. The Hindu community in Toronto is itself part of a larger Indian immigrant community that includes Muslims, Parsis, atheists, and even the Sikhs, tied by religion if not necessarily by politics to those responsible for the bombing, which is part of a struggle for autonomy being waged by...
(The entire section is 537 words.)