History in the Attic: Search for Roots in Ramabai Espinet’s The Swinging Bridge
Keywords:Diaspora, History, Memory, Oppression, Voice.
In most of diaspora literature there is an attempt to retrieve the past. This makes one measure time in many ways, different calendars, change of seasons, past encounters narrated through wars, defeats, encounters and disasters. It is remembered through family history, ancestral heritage, nostalgia, memory and even through national disasters. This interaction portrays the immigrants caught in flight of memories, relationships and images. The relocation has its disgust for one thing or the other. The author has to live in the reminiscences, a collective memory representing a symbolic relationship between past and present. The Swinging Bridge by Ramabai Espinet chronicles the multiple exiles that are part of the Indian experience in the Caribbean and Canada through two figures one from the past- great grandmother Gainder and the other from the present - Mona, the protagonist. The novel commemorates the maternal roots and routes of Indo-Caribbean history by establishing the subjectivity of widows and young girls from India who crossed the Kala Pani (Black waters of the Atlantic) in search of new beginnings in Trinidad and the great-grand-daughter who engages in an existential quest for selfhood in Canada. Grief motivates a flood of personal memories as Mona begins to remember intimate details of family life that had been repressed under the cover of migration. Bits and pieces of the past, fragments scattered in various places, childhood memories, overheard conversations, prayer songs, all come together in the attic. She explores the secret songs, photographs and letters giving her a powerful voice for her culture, her family, her fellow women and for herself. Mona’s drive to document history enables her to reveal the family’s carefully guarded secrets- domestic violence, drunken rampages, sexual abuse, illegitimate children, and even AIDS. This paper seeks to analyse the novel’s diasporic contents and find out whether this attempt at retrieval of the past brings about a change in the perception of today’s generation. The author brings to light the problems of a plural society calling for need for relationships and need for mutual respect- all to avoid conflict situations through this effective tracing of history in the novel.
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