Lowland is undoubtedly the most shocking offering by Jhumpa Lahiri. It is greatly different than all other diasporic works. In this book, the connection with India is not of a nostalgia and things left behind but a rather painful and confusing past that refuses to allow any sort of a haven to its people. All the lead characters suffer profusely. Gauri, a Philosophy scholar attempts to understand the unpredictability of life as she grows up from being an enthusiastic college student to being a widow and a bride again.
Gauri meets Udayan through her brother and feels a strong connection with him. However, she always has her doubts about fully knowing Udayan as a person. She often feels aloof, with a recurring fateful musing that always haunts her. Witnessing Udayan’s death changes her as well as the entire family’s lives forever. Udayan and Subhash’s parents lives take an unusually abysmal turn from which they can never fully recover; even the presence of Subhash irks them. The union of Subhash and Gauri only gives them further reason to drift away into their own world and thereby leave an isolated life, as if only waiting for death.
The book is an emotional study of the Naxalbari movement of India and how the movement at its peak enveloped the youth of the country.
Lahiri is an expert storyteller as she efficiently manages to document the passing of time and how our past never lets us go even when we wish to let it go. Even as Subhash, Gauri and Bela, Gauri and Udayan’s unplanned child begin their lives afresh in Rhode Island, miles away from Kolkata, the recesses of the past haunt them still. It is can be called their fate as much as their own doing. Gauri’s impulsive decision to get married to Subhash in order to escape the drudgery of widowhood at her in-laws’ home has its repercussions. The arrangement, quite contrary to their expectations, is burdensome. They attempt to move on with their lives, together, but it is all too good to be true. Gauri, unable to find love in Subhash or even Bela, flees away from Rhode Island to cut the cord from Udayan. She accepts what Subhash couldn’t, that Udayan’s shadow would always haunt them.
Gauri’s decision leaves an indelible imprint on Bela’s life as it eschewed stability in her life. Bela, too, leaves Rhode Island never to belong anywhere or to anyone. In a way, she inherits Udayan’s revolting attitude towards the oppressive conventions.
The book is an emotional study of the Naxalbari movement of India and how the movement at its peak enveloped the youth of the country. It is indeed an ambitious narrative and a refreshing offering from Lahiri.