A Post-Colonial Approach to The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The term post-colonial refers to all characteristics of culture that is influenced by the process of colonial occupation. According to Loomba, (2003) “Post-colonial studies is a resistance to the domination and legacies of colonialism.” The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid, 2007) is a Pakistani novel of Mohsin Hamid which got published in the year 2007. The novel is in the form of dramatic monologue and thus during their discussion, a degree of doubtfulness rules the conversation as Changez mediates and understands the tensions that at times spins between these two characters from different country and changed culture. The story takes place during the course of single evening in an outdoor café of Lahore, where the bearded character named Changez narrates to a troubled American about his once entranced life as a real colonist of United States of America. Mohsin Hamid’s national and ethnic identity and its anxiety in the global perspective are well echoed in this novel. Though apparently seems to be a thriller, the novel incorporates the larger subjects imbedded in the colonial oration. Changez in the novel symbolizes as post-colonial subject and the state of the Muslims, colonized by Europeans. After the incident of World Trade Centre, he wants to be back but his family disregards his request. Moreover, his beloved Erica, his ideal job and luxurious life prevent him to be back but later America’s changing attitude of attack on Afghanistan and Indo – Pakistan tense relation force him to be back to Pakistan. He was satisfied with his life back at America. He has also adopted American culture. The term ‘hybridity’ is associated to Changez as he has adopted the culture of other country leaving behind his own culture. Moreover, American’s changing attitude made him ‘diaspora’ and the protagonist in the novel does have the features of nativism. The elements such as hybridity, diaspora, nativism and others are much relevant and important to discuss under the theory post-colonial theory.
Hybridity is an alluring notion in recent post-colonial studies. In its dominant form, it is claimed that it can offer a way out of dualistic thinking. Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin (2006) asserts that “hybridity arises in post-colonial societies as a result of economic and political enlargement control when the colonizer diluted native peoples’ practices and integrate them to a new social frame.” The process can be completely seen through the painful memories of Changez. The term hybridity can be defined as any character who leaves his own native culture and adopts another’s culture. Hybridity has repeatedly used in post-colonial discourse to mean basically cross culture exchange. The characteristics of hybridism is found in the character of Changez in the novel. Originally, he is Pakistani and loves his country to the great extent. On scholarship, he comes to America and does his graduation from Princeton College. After completion, he gets job in Underwood Samson company, a small yet dignified in reputation. Changez has got his ideal place, he is enjoying his contented life with peace and satisfaction. He has embraced and embedded with American culture and made America as his home land. He confidently proclaims in the starting of the novel that, “I am a lover of America” (Hamid, p.1). The culture of America is adopted completely by Changez without much hesitation. Moreover, he is also reserved by the beauty of Erica. He says that, “we made love with a carnal closeness that Erica and I had never relished. Her physique denied mine no longer; I watched her shut eyes, and her shut eyes observed him.” (Hamid, p 105).
Meena Alexander explains “diaspora” as “writing in quest of a homeland”. According to Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary, “diaspora” means “the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland.’ In post-colonial theory, the term is used to deliberate the sentiment of people unglued from their original homeland. Though isolated, people are well settled in the place but they reminisce their native habitation. People leave their place for different reasons such as employment to provide efficient sustenance to their family. The reality out here is in the course of supporting their family, they too become the slave of that particular country. They are not in the position to come back to their country as they have to earn to support their family. According to Tyson, “enforced migration, either as quest for employment, including indentured vassalage, or as the result of enslavement dispersed large numbers of people around the world of their children have remained in the dispersion, or separated from their original home”. Changez elucidates his dual belonging and multiple identity to his American listener by presenting himself as a native in Lahore and a speaker of English language. He explained that, “ I am a native of this city and a declaimer of your language.” (Hamid, p. 1).
In the novel, Mohsin Hamid depicts Changez as diaspora. Changez is doing job in America and his family is in Lahore. His family is financially weak and has lots of domestic complications and Changez is the only one to support his family. After the incident of World Trade Centre, Changez realizes that he was actually a diaspora, separated from his homeland. Before the incident of 9/11 attack, Changez was living peacefully. He was enjoying his life with Erica and his colleagues. He always focused on his work, his busy life schedule never let him remember his family and country. He assumed that America was his country and its people were his countryman. He never thought that he would suddenly be stranger in the country with which he loved a lot and where he wanted to live forever. He adds:
“…but as I reacclimatized and my surroundings once again became familiar, it occurred to me that the house had not changed in my absence. I had changed; and not just any foreigner, but that particular type of entitled an unsympathetic American who so annoyed me when I encountered him in the classroom and workplace of your country’s elite. This realization angered me; staring at my reflection in the speckled glass of my bathroom mirror I resolved to exorcize the unwelcome sensibility by which I had become possessed”. (Hamid, p.124).
He was a lover of America but his love had twisted into hatred when he witnessed that the country which he loved a lot had become antagonist of Muslim world. The people whom he had been seeing as his brothers and friends had become haters. Afghanistan being closest neighboring country of Pakistan and having connected the border area with Pakistan makes the protagonist to think over. The America’s cruel attack on Afghanistan and killing of thousand people have broken the heart of protagonist into uncountable pieces. When he sees wrecked areas and speckled cadavers of innocent Afghans, he is traumatized and cannot not tolerate the pain of his Muslim associate. ‘Pakistan can be the next number in line’ is what comes in his thought process. The protagonist proclaims that, “Afghanistan was Pakistan’s neighbor, our friend, and a fellow Muslim nation besides, and the vision of what I took to be the beginning of its invasion by our country man caused me to tremor with fury.” (Hamid, p.100).
He has seen lots of destruction made to Afghanistan which makes him to hate America completely. He too knows that he is not really an American citizen. When Changez comes to Pakistan on vacation, he is pressurized on not leaving back to America. He requests his parents that, “…what sort of man abandons his people in such circumstances? And what was I abandoning them for? A well-paying job and a woman whom I yearned for but who refused even to see me? I handled with these questions again and again. When the stage came for me to return to New York, I told my parents I wanted to halt lengthier.” (Hamid, p.145).
He has come to understand that Pakistan is his real native country and doesn’t want to lose it. America’s cruel act of aggressive attacking Afghanistan discourages his love towards America and makes him undervalue the image of America in his mind. America is no more appropriate and comforting place for him. He hates going back to America after his vacation. He wants to stay longer in his own homeland so he requested his family: “when the time came for me to return to New York I told my parents I wanted to stay longer” (Hamid, p.145) but his family doesn’t accept his request and can no longer bear with it.
According to Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (2005) nativism is a “term for ambition to return to original and culture practice as they happened in pre-colonial society.” It defines, the protest of native people against the colonizers’ culture and of their native people. Native people show their hatred with colonizers by denying and cursing the bad authority and culture after colonization. Natives in post-colonial theory show everything to join them with colonizers. They don’t want to live under western influence, that’s why they even leave the job offered by Europeans as Changez too left the job. To leave the desired profession and his favourite country substantiate Changez that he doesn’t want to stay there anymore under the influence of America where Muslims have no respect and that heartlessly killed innocents Afghans with massive weapons. Changez in remonstration has beard, leaves the job and bids farewell to America forever. Changez recognizes that he is indirectly involved in all corruptions committed by America. Changez comes to know that he is meanderingly supporting America in attacking Afghanistan. Changez is surprised to think that he is killing his Muslim comrades. His money is involved in destructive weapons. He curses himself that he is killing his brothers and destroying his Muslim country.
The people who ever work in America, they indirectly support in different areas. Through the discussion with Juan Baustista, he knows himself as modern Janissaries where he is used to fight against his own Muslim country, but he is not aware of his participation in corruption done by America. Whoever is working in America, they are directly or indirectly supports American in its corruptions. In the same manner, Changez came to America, worked for it and obliquely helped in attacking friable countries: “Have you heard of Janissaries?’ ‘No, I said. ‘They were Christian boys,’ he elucidated, ‚captured by the Ottomans and educated to be soldiers in Muslim army, at the time the paramount army in the world. They were bellicose and extremely loyal; they had fought to erase their own civilizations, so they had nothing else to turn to.”(Hamid, p 151).
The incident of 9/11 made Changez to realize in other way round. He analyzes that he was working for the wrong country, his service was benefiting the wrong person because everything became different right after the incident of 9/11. The kind of attitude shown towards Changez wasn’t like that of before. For instance, when he arrived at airport of New York, he was thoroughly and strictly tested even to the extent of asking his purpose to be in America. He was further questioned after repeatedly saying he works in America. When his checking was under progression his associates leaving him at the port left for Manhatan. It was the first interval when he had to travel alone after 9/11 incident. He has not experience such kind of treatment before the attack of World Trade Centre. Even his colleagues started to leave him. He remembers that, “My team did not wait for me; by the time I entered the custom hall they had collected their suitcases and left. As a consequence, I rode to Manhatan that evening very much alone.” (Hamid, 75). The denial even came from his own friends. Every American considered him as their foe and agent of Al- Qaida. People disrespectfully stared at him and called his names. He was annoyed with different ways, “once I was walking to my rental car in the parking lot of the cable company when I was approached by a man I did not know. He made a series of unintelligible noises- ‚akhala-makhala,‛ perhaps or ‚khalapal-khalapala‛- and pressed his face alarmingly close to mine”. (Hamid, 117). The protagonist in the novel was forced to leave America. Changez ranked the university and got a job in impressive firm fulfilling his true dream. Unfortunately he has to leave his dream land America with ruined heart and weeping eyes. He lamented,
“I realized how deep was the suspicion I had engendered in my colleagues over these past few –beaded and resentful-weeks; only Wainwright came over to shake my hand and say farewell; the others, if they bothered to look at me at all. The guards did not consent me until I was outside the structure, and it was only then that I allowed myself to rub my eyes with the back of my hand, for they had been watering.” (Hamid, P. 181))
Changez has become joke in the eyes of America right after the incident of 9/11. Beard has become antagonist of his life. People called him “fucking Arabs” (Hamid, 133). His stay in America becomes difficult over the time and he was the topic for discussion anywhere. His state is like a colonized people. He even feels that American were staring at him as if he has demolished the World Trade Centre. The sense of master mind behind this problem is also hinted to him as he observes himself. The life has been miserable for him as he could not sleep calmly nor awake coolly. Americans had snatched his sleep of night and peace of day. He came to the state of predicament when he overheard people talking about his association in 9/11 incident. He was abused verbally, “I was subjected to verbal abuse by complete strangers, and Underwood Samson I seemed to become overnight a subject of whispers and stares.” (Hamid, 148). Finally he has to bid America farewell forever in his life.
The protagonist in the novel, Changez is depicted as a post-colonial subject represents the state of Muslims which is the colony of Europeans. The way he lived in America for working number of years represents him the hybrid who left his own native culture and adopted the culture of other country. He even knew that he was not really a human for Americans after the attack of World Trade Center. The American’s change of attitude and sudden attack on Muslim country made him diaspora. To protest against America has shown through his beard as a nativist who comes back to his own home land.
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