Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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What are some examples/ instances of American assimilation in the children besides going by more Americanized names?

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Consider the way in which the children speak as a part of the assimilation process.  "But, Mom, she's in there. She's been there forever... " Mrinalini says, followed with, "But all our stuff is here," Pradeep says, and Mrinalini adds, "It's not fair. Why can't she go downstairs?"  This exchange reflects the assimilated nature of the children in American society.  Their reference point is a self- interested one, something reflective of the American adolescent as opposed to an Indian one.  At the same time, the fact that the children have the doors to their rooms closed is a stark difference for Mrs. Dutta, who remarks that such a thing would never happen in India.  The manner in which the children speak to their parents also reflects an assimilated notion of the good.  Mrs. Dutta "hopes that Shyamoli will not be too harsh with the girl. But a child who refers to elders in that disrespectful way ought to be punished."  The authoritative and self indulgent way in which the children speak is reflective of American culture and not one from India.  Mrs. Dutta notes that their different attitude to the one that she enforced with Sagar when he was a child.

The assimilated notion of cultural identity is best seen in how the grandchildren interact with Mrs. Dutta.  From placing " the vellum-bound Ramayana for Young Readers that she carried all the way from India in her hand luggage" to their cringing at her evening prayers, it becomes evident that the children are assimilated into American culture more than anything else.  While they are "flesh" and "blood," Mrs. Dutta realizes how assimilated they are: "...their American voices rising in excitement as they discuss a glittering, alien world of Power Rangers, Metallica, and Spirit Week at school, she almost cannot believe what she hears."  It is in this insight when it becomes clear how assimilated the grandchildren are in American culture.

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