Immigration is a new identity in Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Amulya Malladi’s Serving Crazy with Curry both portray the rising identity changes that occur with the first and second generation immigrants. Both novels reveal that when it comes to immigration, due to a difference in their surroundings and exposure to different cultures the second generation experiences a different setting which contributes to their developing identity. However, their developing identities becomes a contrast to the identities of the elder generation; thus creating a “culture clash”. “Culture Clash” is the act when one or more cultures are incorporated into one environment and as a result, traditions are challenged causing a disruption. First generation characters share the traits of being indignant of changing cultural values during immigration while the second generation are keen on conforming and leave their roots in exchange for freedom of being accepted into society. Through the characters and use of language, both Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Amulya Malladi’s Serving Crazy with Curry demonstrates how immigration creates a difference in identity that exists between the first and second generation.

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Coming to a completely different country, not knowing anyone at all, the first generation characters tend to be indignant. In both these novels the first generation immigrants express bitterness when adapting to different surrounding. Saroj Venturi from Serving Crazy with Curry, expresses her resentment towards the new culture, when she says “It was coming here, to this white pit that changed things between Avi and her. If they stayed in India, if only he’d wanted to stay, they would’ve been happy” (Malladi, 15). By comparing her new place of residence to a hole, Saroj feels trapped or exiled within this alien land, proving to be the motive for her resentment. Saroj displays her regret when she wishes to have stayed in India by saying that she would have been happier there thus providing a reason for her refusal to find happiness in her new environment. Similarly in Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane, Chanu Ahmed was asked for permission by his wife, Nazeen, to attend English lessons and here he demonstrate the characteristic of resentment: Your going to be a mother…Will that not keep you busy enough? And you can’t take a baby to college. Babies have to be fed; they have to have their bottoms cleaned. It’s not so simple as that. Just to go to college, like that.

(Ali, 57)

In this passage, Chanu rejects his wife’s idea of attending English classes and uses the excuse of his wife’s pregnancy and awaiting motherhood as a way of discouraging her. On top of that he also asks questions upon questions which may suggest bitterness towards her idea of going to school and attempting to fit in with society. Not only does Chanu discourage conform into society, he also discourages his daughters from becoming too westernized because he wanted to keep their Bengali culture rooted within themselves. Both Saroj from Serving Crazy with Curry and Chanu from Brick Lane being first generation immigrants demonstrate a common trait of resentment.

Growing up in a place that is nothing like your place of origin, second generation immigrants convey acceptance while being raised in a different environment than their parents. The second generation immigrants identify themselves according to where they were born instead of their place of origin. Both Devi from Serving Crazy with Curry and Shahana Ahmed from Brick Lane, were both raised in a western environment and identify themselves as either “American” or “British”. Shahana presents her determination to fit into society when she states that “She wanted to have her lip pierced. This was latest thing. Last week she wanted to get a tattoo.” (Ali, 240). The act of getting piercings and tattoo’s are activities that are classified under western culture and when Shahana wishes to get them, it shows that she is eager to get involved and fit in with the society she is from. Getting a tattoo on her body, will represent the permanent residence of western culture within her life. Both Malladi and Ali portray the difference between resent and acceptance along with the idea of opposite traits enhancing the thought of conflict between generations.

In both novels, Monica Ali and Amulya Malladi portray the fact that first generation immigrants tend to retain their cultural values while the second generation are willing to exchange their roots for greater freedom. In Serving Crazy with Curry, Saroj Venturi wishes to instil Indian values within her children when she says, “Why couldn’t she learn to cook like all good Indian girls?” (Malladi, 19). She feels that her children do not know enough about their country of origin, and wishes to incorporate some Indian traditions into her daughters’ western lives so that they do not stray away from their Indian culture. Chanu from Brick Lane, faces a similar situation to Saroj as he also tries to incorporate Bengali culture into his daughters. Chanu uses language to discourage his daughters from becoming too westernized: “[…]that I am going to tie her up and cut her tongue. Tell the Memsahib that when I have skinned her [Shahana] alive she will not be looking so pleased with herself” (Ali, 162).

Chanu refers to his daughter as a Memsahib which is a title used in colonial India as a form of respectful address for a prestigious woman. Chanu addresses his daughter, Shahana as a memsahib due to her behaviour such as acting snobbish and stubborn like a prestigious woman; qualities that he finds to be developed as a result of westernization. Chanu uses words such as “cut” and “skinned” to threaten his daughter so that she would behave. In contrast to the first generation, the second generation exchanges their cultural values for more freedom. In Serving Crazy with Curry, Devi Venturi gets a taste of her own freedoms in the area of dating: “And each time she [Saroj] snooped, she expected to find an unsuitable man lying naked in Devi’s bedroom, or worse, naked women” (Malladi, 19). The fact that Devi’s mother has to snoop around to find a naked man or women in Devi’s room shows her limits when it comes to controlling her daughters life and dating lifestyle. As well as the word “naked” represents Devi’s growing freedoms that she later uncover after certain stages she comes across within this western culture. From Brick Lane, Shahana has the newfound freedom of wearing what she wants.

Having the freedom of choice in clothing Shahana chose to wear a skirt, which is an article of clothing that exposes the legs. When Shahana walks past a group of boys they turn around “She looked at them and cocked her head. Nazeen wished that Shahana had her trousers on” (Ali, 217). Choosing an article that exposes body parts strongly goes against the typical Bengali culture which proves that her choice in clothing is affected by the western society that she lives in. Both authors use characters to inform that the first generation attempts to protect their cultural values while the second generation lets go of it, demonstrating their clashing ways of adjusting to changes due to immigration.

Many people make the decision to leave their country of origin and immigrate to a foreign land due to the idea of finding success and living a better life. First generation immigrants have an eagerness to acquire success and the second generation has a lack of commitment. In Brick Lane, Chanu graduated with a degree in English literature and moves to London because he finds it to be the key to success. Chanu’s determination is shown when he says “Now I have to get the promotion” (Ali,36). The term promotion means to move to a higher, more important position than previously and Chanu’s desire to move onto the next level symbolizes his desire to be successful. Avi Venturi from Serving Crazy with Curry, deals with a similar situation as he learns that the military was not the right path for him when he says “This is all I am left with.

The army gave me this and what else? No medal, no nothing.” (Malladi, 85). Avi feels he must obtain achievement, therefore he travels to San Francisco, when he was offered a job there, which leads him to be where he is now, a successful business man. Avi had the determination to be successful and fulfill his ambitions, unlike the second generation who lack this trait. The beginning of Serving Crazy with curry demonstrates Devi Venturi’s character as a failure: After Devi was laid off (yet again) a week ago, it started to dawn on her that she was not going to be able to change her life. Everything she ever wanted had become elusive and the decision to end her life, she realized, was not only a good decision, but her only option.

(Malladi, 1)

This quote in particular shows Devi’s lack of determination and commitment in achieving her goals to complete tasks and achieve what they want. In the first sentence, Malladi describes Devi’s failure being quite continuous when she states “yet again”. When she states that “she was not going to be able to change her life” (Malladi, 1) this displays Devi’s lack of commitment and determination in accomplishing her goals because once she fails, she no longer has hope and decides that her fate will never change thus cancelling out any possibilities for improvement. The idea of not improving and changing what she thinks could be her fate leads Devi to think that the only choice she has is to end her life, which shows her lack of enthusiasm and determination to fulfill her ambitions and desires.

Both novels portray the effect that immigration has on the identities of first and second generations immigrants. Authors, Monica Ali and Amulya Malladi use language to highlight the contrasting traits of characters and focus on the non-parallel connections between the first and second generation immigrants. When it comes to immigration diversity in the external environment contributes to the complex relationship between the two generations.

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