ISSN 2454-8537

International Journal of Humanities in Technical Education Vol: 3, Issue 2 – February - 2019 – ISSN 2454-8537

The Gender of Diaspora in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

Ms Priti Santosh Mishra, PhD Scholar, Department of Diaspora Studies, Gujarat University, Ahmedabad

Abstract

“Who is a man, and who is a woman? Are we not one?”

The term “Diaspora” is a Greek word which comes from the word “Dias”+ “Pora” which means scattering of seeds (Dias=scatter, Pora=seeds) but today we use the term to describe a community of people who lives outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain active connections with it. A Diaspora includes both emigrants and their descendants. While some people lose their attachment with their ancestral homeland, others maintain a strong connection to a place which their ancestors may have left generations ago. Diaspora not only in the field of literature but also art, music, theatre etc is achieving great impact and importance all over the world. Thus we can perceive that the field of Diaspora is not just restricted to boundaries or the description of homeland but it is moving beyond and achieving great heights. We can see how the network of Diaspora is expanding and interlining, linking the world together. Gender plays an important role in Diaspora literature. The research paper highlights intersection of gender and Diaspora studies in reference to “In Other rooms, Other Wonders” by Daniyal Mueenuddin, exploring the multiple ways in which gender is expressed, explored, interpreted, written about, and performed in the literature of the Pakistani Diaspora. Each story focuses on one character or relationship, building a richness and depth to the whole collection. When one refers to gender here it does not only mean where gender is described in the form of masculinity or feminity but it also highlights the rediscovery and relocation of identities, this identities also referred as cultural identities here refer in term of class, gender and society. Moreover we see the contradictions of man v/s women, oppressor v/s oppressed, rural v/s urban, elite v/s poor and binaries in gender dichotomy.

Key words: Diaspora, relocation, interlining, Gender

The Gender of Diaspora in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

The term “Diaspora” is a Greek word which comes from the word “Dias”+ “Pora” which means scattering of seeds (Dias=scatter, Pora=seeds) but today we use the term to describe a community of people who lives outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain active connections with it. A Diaspora includes both emigrants and their descendants. While some people lose their attachment with their ancestral homeland, others maintain a strong connection to a place which their ancestors may have left generations ago. The term Diaspora has connotations with a) homeland b) immigration and c) exile. Over the last 45 years, the number of people living outside their country of origin has almost tripled from 76 million to more than 232 million. More than 3 percent of the world’s population now lives outside of the country that they were born in; if migrants made up a single nation, they would be the 5th largest in the world.

Diaspora not only in the field of literature but also art, music, theatre etc is achieving great impact and importance all over the world. Thus we can perceive that the field of Diaspora is not just restricted to boundaries or the description of homeland but it is moving beyond and achieving great heights. We can see how the network of Diaspora is expanding and interlining, linking the world together.

Gender plays an important role in Diaspora literature. The Research paper highlights intersection of gender and Diaspora studies in reference to In Other rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, exploring the multiple ways in which gender is expressed, explored, interpreted, written about, and performed in the literature of the Pakistani Diaspora. Theoretically underpinned by various studies on Diaspora privileging hybridity and transnationalism framed within the discourse of feminist and queer theories, the research paper brings together a number of ways in which heteronormative experience within the Diaspora is resisted, challenged and questioned.

“The notion that men’s and women’s mode of operation in society is governed by their biology is known as ‘biological essentialism’ and has been hotly contested by many feminist theorists. The arrival of the concept of gender enabled the social components of our sexual make-up to be formulated.”

Daniyal Mueenuddin is a Pakistani-American author who writes in English. His short story collection “In Other rooms, Other Wonders” has been translated into sixteen languages and won the story prize and other honors and critical acclaim. Published in 2009 by W. W. Norton and Company, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is Daniyal Mueenuddin’s debut work of fiction. Mueenuddin was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and his familiarity with the inner workings of the Punjab region in Pakistan colors the stories in the collection. Daniyal Mueenuddin in his short story collection “In Other rooms, Other Wonders” represents the Pakistan’s feudal system and patriarchy. It also highlights distinction between upper and lower class people, the victimized people, the colonizer and colonized both and feudalist and aristocrats.

The eight interconnected short stories in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” are set in the Punjab region of Pakistan and explore the state of feudalism and its influence on modern life. Critics argue that Mueenuddin’s work is likely to be the first widely read book [in the United States] by a Pakistani writer. However, Mueenuddin has said that his book is not a statement about the nature of Pakistan and that he is in no way a political writer. Instead, he says he writes from a human perspective without judgments.

Pakistan is not just on the brink of the precipice, it’s probably fallen off the precipice, and is accelerating on its way down. — Daniyal Mueenuddin, in interview

In interview the author says:

“I am not a political writer, therefore my purpose is to write the finest stories that I am able to write, given my abilities. I don’t enjoy reading political literature, fiction or poetry. I think political writing is a limiting factor because when you have a political bias; it endears you to those who support you and alienates you from those who don’t. Life is much more nuanced than a cruel landowner beating his manager for sport. I don’t have a political agenda and I am not trying to eliminate or support feudalism. But I believe that one has to enter the sensibility of the character and have empathy with it.” — Newsline Magazine

When one refers to gender, it does not only mean that gender is described in the form of masculinity or feminity but it also highlights the rediscovery and relocation of identities, this identities also referred as cultural identities here refer in term of class, gender and society. Moreover we see the contradictions of man v/s women, oppressor v/s oppressed, rural v/s urban, elite v/s poor and binaries in gender dichotomy.

When we look at the title “In Other rooms, Other Wonders” here the word “Rooms” refer to i) Gender and inequality ii) class disparity (upper class and lower class) and iii) rural v/s urban and it is also significant to note that under the roof/umbrella of K. K. Harouni ( the central character of all eight story) there are several rooms i) patriarchal hierarchy of Pakistan society ii) men women dichotomy iii)upper and lower class clash iv)sinner v/s innocent v)hero and antihero vi)oppressed and oppressor

The research paper is divided into three sections. Section one concentrates on women in urban and rural contexts. It discusses how patriarchy affects women's lives and how they are the victims of injustice who are deprived of respect. He captures truthfully the reality that women from rural areas are greater victims of patriarchy and get fewer chances to receive education and public awareness than women in urban areas. Section Two revolves around women's oppression in family systems. Mueenuddin describes the deep roots of patriarchy in Pakistani society and illuminates how women hold the lowest positions in the family and in society. His writings help the reader to understand that women are considered as property and are not considered worthy of the respect that their male counterparts receive. Section Three analyzes the tangled knots of gender and class. Mueenuddin successfully describes how economic differences shape the behavior of men towards the female gender. Through representing different characters, his stories show how poor women are the most deprived members of the population. Elite women have some liberties, but all classes of women are disenfranchised compared to male members of society. Mueenuddin showcases the double standards for men and women. In religion, education, tradition, customs and everyday reality, men are considered to be "bread winners" and women are perceived as a "burden" on the family. Thus “materialist feminists postulate a Marxist class-like relationship, with patriarchal domination causing a social division rather than following from pre-existing sex differences. Patriarchal society is said to take certain features of male and female biology and turn them into a set of gendered characteristics that serve to empower men and disempower women, and which are then presented as natural attributes of males and females. Hence a (power-based) hierarchy is said to precede division. Men and women exist as socially significant categories because of the exploitative relationship that binds them together and sets them apart” (Delphy and Leonard 1992).

Section one concentrates on women in urban and rural contexts. It discusses how patriarchy affects women's lives and how they are the victims of injustice who are dispossessed of respect. He also articulates that women from rural areas are greater victims of patriarchy and get fewer chances to receive education and public awareness than women in urban areas. The central character of all the eight short stories is K. K. Harouni, the estate owner around whom the entire short story collection revolves. He is a powerful figure of the past stuck in the ever-changing sweep of the present. K. K. Harouni is the true representation of Pakistan feudal system. He owns many estates in different regions of Pakistan, a rich land owner or can be referred as colonizer having colonies all over Pakistan. Though he has a family he has kept mistress and female servants. In the story ‘Saleema’ we can see the treatment of women in village. Saleema is the protagonist in the story and we can see her as the loose character represented in a story, she has been victimized. She was an object. She eventually falls in love with Rafik, a long time valet to the master of the house K. K. Harouni. They had a loving relationship and a baby follow, but the inevitable happens. Rafik returns to his family, and Saleema is left to fend for herself. Thus we can see the male patriarchy and how women were treated as an object/commodity for physical things or gratification. The important reason behind this is the literacy which is lacking in the woman of rural areas. It is well said by James beard that “food is our common ground, a universal experience” here food refers with ‘survival’ thus for having special treats women need to objectify her and place herself as a commodity to man for survival. Whereas there are characters like Helen from the story ‘Our lady of Paris’ who is represented as ambiguous women of urban society. In this story we can see the shift of rural to urban, a picture described away from the city. There is a character Rafiya, K. K. Harouni’s wife who is depicted as a shrool kind of lady, women with lavish aristocracy. The diaspora element ambiguity is the beauty of the story as it questions identity; it also articulates location and dislocation. Helen is the character who is regarded as ‘our lady of paris’ she is the child of single mother. In order to achieve ambition of her life she sacrifices her love. She chooses her mother over love which is again significant as it highlights the idea of home-coming. Secondly the religion also play the binaries between Helen and Sohail as both represents Christianity and Islam respectively which is again challenging as we connote diaspora as exile, we highlight alienation as key element of diaspora Thus we can see different shades of women. Another example could be the character of nawab’s wife from the story ‘Nawabdin Electrician’

“Nawab is a tireless worker who takes on many odd jobs to feed the thirteen children whom he has with his wife”

She is represented as minor character in the story but her presence can be felt from the above line and one can identify her role in the story. The lady represented in this story is only a tool of reproducing children, the true image of rural area where lack of literacy, lack of respect. Women like nawab’s wife are victimized. It also highlights the shift between countries and culture, the bicultural pool which ultimately leads to emergence of new culture. Moira Gatens writes that,

“The anatomical body is itself a theoretical object, for the discourse of anatomy is produced by human beings in culture” (Gatens 1996: 70).Moniza Alvi in her collections of poems articulates that women in rural as well as women in urban are suffering. She is alienated everywhere what so ever might be the place in one of her poems ‘Fish’ she is trying to articulate freedom of expression and also something that is drifted away from realism.

“Until we could only see the one dream

Moving between us, or feel stirring”

Does she want to say that Identity is manifested? K. Satchidanandan in “That Third Space: Interrogating the Diasporic paradigm” discusses the general assumption that Diaspora writers occupy kind of second space, of exile and of cultural solitude, may be this is the reason that she thinks that her identity is manifested.

Section Two revolves around women's oppression in family systems. Mueenuddin describes the deep roots of patriarchy in Pakistani society and illuminates how women hold the lowest positions in the family and in society. His writings help the reader to understand that women are considered as property and are not considered worthy of the respect that their male counterparts receive. In the story ‘about a burning girl’ we can see the representation of feudal system of Pakistan, shift from urban to rural. The proverb “Three things for which we kill-Land, Women and gold” matches the story. In this story we can see the male dominance over women and lust for money and power which results into women victimization. Secondly it also represents the judiciary of Pakistan, a satire-mockery of ruling system. "About a Burning Girl" tells the case brought to a sessions judge in the Lahore High Court when the judge, with encouragement from his wife and his servant Khadim's brother, tries to free Khadim from charges brought against him for murdering his brother's wife. It seems as if narrator does not believe in justice. A woman is murdered in this story but nothing turns up to her as women is represented as victimized, a sufferer who sacrifices her life and she gains nothing but a loose judgment. "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders," gives the reader a more intimate portrait of K. K. Harouni himself through a look at Husna, a woman who applies for a job on the estate with a letter of introduction from his first wife. The central character of all the eight stories K. K. Harouni is represented in his old age, he had heart attack and seems to be death. We can see gender biasness in this story and secondly how wealth is regarded as power for upliftment in the society. Husna is the female protagonist and is the care taker of K. K. Harouni, along with care taking, she also satisfied K. K. Harouni physically. The only person who was there with K. K. Harouni in his last moments were Husna but the entry of K. K. Harouni’s family members, his estranged wife and three daughters, all of them have settled in abroad takes place and Husna is being fired from the house neither she was kept for the job. The distinctive thing in one of the poems by Moniza Alvi is ‘Houdini’ where she articulates that how magic is used in Diaspora. It is very beautiful how beautifully she nourishes this poem. We can perceive the relationship of inside and outside.

“It is not clear how he entered me”

We can notice the class disparity between upper class and lower class, how lower class is discriminated and negotiated and again how women is being objectified for personal use and after her use she is being thrown out.

Section Three analyzes the scrambled knots of gender and class. Mueenuddin successfully describes how economic differences shape the behavior of men towards the female gender. Through representing different characters, his stories show how poor women are the most deprived members of the population. Elite women have some liberties, but all classes of women are disenfranchised compared to male members of society. In "Provide, Provide," Jaglani, manager of K.K. Harouni’s firm rises in power and influence as he sells off K.K. Harouni's feudal estate in blocs. Daniyal Mueenuddin gives readers a heart-wrenching look into the consequences Jaglani's life has on those around him and the interconnectedness of human relationships. In the story the character of Zainab is represented who has left her husband in the city. She is Mustafa (K.K. Harouni’s driver) sister and as per Mustafa’s request Jaglani agrees and keeps Zainab as staff because she is a good cook. Overtime, he finds affection for Zainab, who attends to his every need. Jaglani insist that Zainab should divorce her husband and move to his house as his second wife when Zainab refuses, Jaglani makes the arrangements anyway. After the two are married, Jaglani falls in love with Zainab, but he knows that she does not feel the same about him. A year passes, and Zainab realizes that she is infertile. She asks Jaglani to give her the youngest daughter of his son Shabir. Jaglani submits. Eventually, Jaglani falls ill with bone cancer, and his doctor gives him only six months to live. Mustafa relays the news to Zainab, and she knows that her husband will not provide for her after his death. Jaglani only cares that his son be given his political power, and the politicians in town promise to see that Shabir be voted into Jaglani’s position. Jaglani dies, cursing Zainab for never having loved him. Shabir is eager to step into his father’s influential position but is ousted by the others in the government. Thus we can see how Zainab turns up as an object of physical love. In Jaglani's own words, spoken to Zainab's illiterate, doleful husband:

"I have so much because I took what I wanted."

Here Jaglani evokes the book's epigraph, a Punjabi proverb that reads, "Three things for which we kill - / Land, women and gold."

In these stories, love such as that felt by Jaglani is not a vice, but it can be dangerous. It can ruin a powerful man's position in society or create in someone such an inner torment that the love affair is drained of all of its initial passion and excitement - usually after that love has been officially consummated by a marriage, locking the participants into their self-made prison. In Mueeenuddin's frequently haunting tales, love can also be a tool to aid the rise of inveterate manipulators - as most are, must be even, if they are to survive in this unforgiving world. But to Mueenuddin's credit, he does not attempt to communicate a moral in depicting these dangers, only outlining the perils inherent in giving one's self over to an emotion that could run afoul of a society that depends on decorum, reputation, and discretion. It also articulates how poor women are the most deprived members of the population. Elite women have some liberties, but all classes of women are disenfranchised compared to male members of society. The feudal archetype in Pakistan consists of landlords with large joint families possessing hundreds or even thousands of acres of land although things are changing. These short stories revolve primarily around the Harouni family, their employees and their employees’ families. The only non-feudal characters are the ones in ‘Our Lady of Paris’ and ‘A Spoiled Man’- these stories revolve around industrialists. We get a good cross-section from the richest and most influential to the poorest. And we see what happens when someone tries to move beyond their class. I say ‘class’ and not ‘caste’ because Mueenuddin doesn’t mention caste. He doesn’t actually mention class. You simply understand from the subtext that certain things are not done in proper society.

A good example can be found in the title story, which focuses on the head of the family, K K Harouni based loosely on the author’s own father:

“He was from a generation of elderly, dignified but harmless gentlemen. By birth with a lot of power, but not particularly significant. Good breeding, good manners. Representative of the fading Lahoriland- owning class. — Beyond the Margins”

We see him take a lover from among his servants, a girl called Husna that his estranged wife sends to him seeking a favour. Harouni is attracted to her because she reminds him of the servant girls with whom he had his earliest sexual experiences. When the old man dies — a spoiler, yes, but no surprise — his daughters make it clear that this pretender has no claim to the throne; the old man has not made provision for her in his will. The eldest, Kamila, tells her:

‘My father allowed you to live in this house. However, he would not have wanted you to stay in here. Tomorrow afternoon the car will be available to take you wherever you wish to be taken. I suppose you’ll go to your father’s house.’ She settled back, finished with the problem.

Husna, who had taken a seat halfway through this monologue, though she had not been invited to do so, looked down at the floor. Tears welled up in her eyes.

‘Did Uncle say anything about me before . . . before . . . ?’

Sarwat [one of the other sisters] broke in. ‘No,’ she replied with finality. ‘There was and is nothing for you.’

‘That isn’t what I meant,’ said Husna.

Kamila softened. ‘Look, whatever you had with my father is gone now. If you took care of him in these past months you were rewarded. You’re young, you’ll find other things. You think that you’ll never heal, but you will, sooner than you think.’

Now Husna stood. She had reached the bottom, and her pride arose, her sense of wanting to be dignified, to accept the inevitable.

Just as she approached the door, Rehana [the third sister] called to her. ‘There’s one other thing. They tell us you have a number of trunks in your room. We will not ask what you have in them. You may take those with you. But nothing else ’

This short section exemplifies everything that is in the book. Husna wants to tell the sisters to shove the trunks, in which she has been secreting away goodies anticipating this very event, but she’s a practical girl and takes them with her.

We see a similar situation in the last story in the book, ‘A Spoiled Man’, only at the bottom end of the social spectrum. The person who gets spoiled in this case is Rezak, a “funny little man” who the wife of Sohail Harouni, an American called Sonya, takes a shine to. She’s taken to living in Pakistan and for the most part she loves it but when in a bad mood she’s not beyond airing her reservations ether:

I hate it, everyone’s a crook, nothing works here!

Mueenuddin successfully describes how economic differences shape the behavior of men towards the female gender.

Summarization

The research paper deals with intersection of gender and Diaspora studies in reference to In Other rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, exploring the multiple ways in which gender is expressed, explored, interpreted, written about, and performed in the literature of the Pakistani Diaspora. Collection of stories is an impressionistic portrait of life in a country that has been under-represented in English-language fiction to date. Criticism of the feudal order through which these stories wander. His gaze is curious but uncritical; he sees the world as his characters, who mostly accept the rules of the game, see it; it is as if the world can only be this way. His interest, in fact, is in those individuals who are secretly ambitious in a world where everybody is expected to know their place; his gaze halts upon those who want to rise, and those who can raise. It is worth thinking about the impact of phrases which effect small, rueful inversions like “how little it had all been, his life and his ambitions” and then, immediately after, the similar, “All of it he had thrown away, his manliness and strength”. And also the sentence: “Her body became rounded like a hoop, not fat but fleshed uniformly all over, a body thrown away, throwing itself away, the old woman sitting all day in bed, dreaming, muttering perhaps when left alone.” I want to conclude the research paper by quoting Malala Yousafzai:

“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… we cannot succeed when half of us are held back”

Biblography

• Mueenuddin, Daniyal (2009). In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393337204.

• Bilal, Kausar. “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.” KausarBilal.com, 8 Oct. 2012, kausarbilal.com/in-other-rooms-other-wonders/. Accessed 23 Jan. 2017 Cline, Lajla.

• “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders" by Daniyal Mueenuddin.” poetry.arizona.edu/blog/other-rooms-other-wonders-daniyalmueenuddin.

• Dirda, Michael. “Michael Dirda on 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders' by Daniyal Mueenuddin.” Smith, James. “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders Daniyal Mueenuddin.” The short review: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders www.theshortreview.com/reviews/DaniyalMueenuddinInOtherRooms.html.

• Sofer , Dalia. “Sex and other Social Devices”. www.nytimes.com.

• www.washingtonpost.com.

• “Introduction” Makarand Paranjape In Diaspora: Theories; Histories, Texts, Makarand Paranjape (ed.) New Delhi: Indialog, 2001

• “That Third Space: Interrogating the Diaspora Paradigm” K.Satchidanandan, In Diaspora: Theories; Histories, Texts, Makarand Paranjape (ed.) New Delhi: Indialog, 2001

• Feminist Gender Theory Summary – Margaret Simmonds – Summer 2012

• Journals on Daniyal Mueenuddin

• Diaspora studies blog

• Wikipedia

• E-notes