Sumitra's Story

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In today’s multicultural environment, cultures are constantly fighting against each other, causing problems. In Rukshana Smith’s Sumitra’s Story and Generation Games written by a fifteen year old girl, Sangita, Asian heritage is critiqued. Immigrant children have difficultly resisting western temptation, and become more and more westernized. They forget about their own heritage, and it gets slowly swept away by the western society. For immigrant children, westernization is a pernicious, spreading evil. It seems like an increasingly difficult problem to solve, but it can be avoided if their home heritage is strong enough. In order to preserve their heritage, immigrant children such as Sumitra and Sangita should follow their own country’s traditions and rules, as they taught by their parents.


Hindu traditions and rules provide a better lifestyle than Western rules. Sumitra’s family religious rules have strong, moral values. Breaking them will also break the family apart. Leela, Sumitra’s aunt envies English women because they do not get married early and can live their own lives, oppose to female Hindus. She influences Sumitra and makes her think that Hindu arranged marriage and traditions are wrong. This leads Sumitra to seek English men in pub and to smoke cigarettes, which is not was she self likes to do, but an act against the Hindu rules, aided by Leela’s inverted ideas. Sumitra as the oldest sister in the family will unconsciously advise her younger sisters to escape from their own Hindu life. But Sumitra’s family realizes that Hindu life, the life in Uganda, is best for them. The lifestyle, the people, the culture and the traditions is best for Sumitra and her family. The sun stayed bright all day long, the people were friendly, and they had many friends in Uganda. The food was the kind they preferred and they had a big house with maids who cooked and cleaned for them. As one of Sumitra’s Hindu friends says on page 88: ”Life in Uganda was so good. Do you remember, Charulatah, how the sun always shone? Do you remember Diwali in Kampala?” Life in Uganda was good, it was not vulgar and dirty as the English society. Sumitra shows her thoughts on page 89 “There was no pretence that men and women had equal rights. There was no deception, there were no false laws.” This shows that she agrees that even there is no equal right in Uganda, it is accepted, because that is how their society works. Life in England is terrible, there are hundreds of alcoholics, criminals, divorcee and racists on the streets. Even English people find it terrible. On page 80 Maria says: “Look what I have done with my freedom! I’m twenty-six year old, with a two-year-old baby, and I’m living in a tiny, smelly room in Antonio’s guest house. Sometimes I envy Indian women. Their husbands have been chosen for them, they know what their lives will entail, they seem calm and happy.” Sumitra feels that life in England is hard and stressful, at school and at home, day and night. Her family has to suffer racism and poor helplessness, while Sumitra suffers for her family’s suffering and poverty.

Hindu customs are very straight forward, if Sumitra follows them it will provide her a safe and happy lifestyle. Even if Western lifestyle seems very free, it does not work alongside her Hindu background. Her Hindu beliefs are strong; Vishnu and Krishna are what she believes on, not the Western society. Sumitra is born a Hindu, and nothing can change that. She can not convert herself to a western woman. Western lifestyle does not fit her, and her family does not fit in either. It causes many problems for her, therefore it is essential for Sumitra to grips hard her Hindu customs.


Western lifestyle is very confusing, Sumitra and Sangita should not follow the rules of that alien place. Sumitra and Sangita both want to go back to their country, they regret that they came to England. On page 115 in Sumitra’s Story, Sumitra suffer anguish after she came: “That’s the trouble, isn’t it? We did come.” Also on page 212, in “Generation Games” Sangita clearly expresses her thoughts: “Sometimes I really want to go back to my own country, as I can learn how to live my life, so I can learn about my own people, our traditions and customs. I want to go back before I, to put my parents’ words ‘ruin myself’. Already I find that my thoughts are becoming too westernized.” Sangita finds it very confusing living in England, and she hates it. Nepalese and English girls are very different. Nepalese girls are not allowed to go out at night, while English girls can smoke, swear, drink and have boyfriend. She envies them and wants to do the same things, go out at night, go out with boys, but she also wants to be a good girl. Sangita wants to be a good daughter in her parents’ eyes, but at the same time she wants to do the things that her parents despise. The problem is that she wants to please both sides, but her own conscience will not allow her to. “I often feel guilty about my own thoughts, and also hate having to lead two different lives. I very much want to act and feel like a Nepalese girl, but how can I when I have no experience?” (213). Sangita feels so confused that she keeps on asking questions she will never get an answer on;  she wants to put the blame on somebody else, but this just makes her feel more angry and annoyed. It is too much distress for a fifteen year old young girl to bear. She should not feel so confused about the English and Nepalese cultural gap. She should focus to be a true Nepalese girl rather than mess up her mind. The English lifestyle is making her crazy: “So who then is to be blamed? Who is the main cause for the confusion? The parents? Or the children themselves?” (213).

Confusion is a serious problem for both Sumitra and Sangita. If they choose the wrong side, the western society over their own society, they will be very upset. For Sumitra she already become westernized and isolates her self from her family. She left her family, religion, country and childhood because she got too confused! To avoid facing such sacrificing again, Sumitra and Sangita must pursue their own heritage.


Sumitra and Sangita must follow their heritage, otherwise it is lost forever. Sumitra has already made a stupid decision. Her future will be an unpleasant and lonely journey, as shown on page 159: “She might, almost certainly would, be outcast, forbidden the help and love of family unit, alone in a world that was often a racist and prejudiced.” Her parents will be very worried and heartbroken about her. Another thing is, because she does not follow the religious rules, she has given up her family and makes herself a bad name in the Indian community:”She could expect no links with her family, and only ostracism from the more conservative elements of the Indian community.” page 157. She will become very lonely and empty because she has given up all the important values in life. Sumitra’s sisters, Sandya, Ela and Bimla are closely connected with each other. For them, Sumitra is their model. They are all young and too immature to understand the case. It is obvious that Sumitra will influence her younger sisters and they could follow her footsteps and run away from home when they reach the age of eighteen. Sumitra has also ruined her sisters chance to marry good husbands by breaking the rules on purpose: “You have brought shame on your family. We will never get you and your sisters good husbands now. See what you have done, see what you have caused!” page 120. Her actions have caused the Hindu society to put pressure on her family. They have lost their pride.

Sumitra is a good example on how immigrant children can embarrass their family if they do not follow their heritage. Therefore all immigrant children should keep their family traditions alive.


All these disadvantages prove that Sumitra and Sangita should uphold their family traditions and rules. The western lifestyle spoils immigrant children’s future. It is too distasteful for Sumitra and Sangita to get involved with. On the contrary, Hindu great values achieves way better life standard than white “freedom”. Their own culture’s traditions and values are most appropriate for them. After all, they are developed for their living and to encourage supreme life. Mixing up both cultures can throw off their minds and cause emotional upset. There’s no point to become westernized, but they have to find a way to bring their traditions to the western society. Sumitra’s family is thrown out of Uganda by President Amin, and Sangita can not go back to Nepalese. Now which they can not go home, they have to make it possible to live between both cultures. Also, they have to keep their attitude and do not give up their family oriented Eastern beliefs. Unless they want to let down their closest one, bring shame to themselves and their family, and frustrate their whole own community. Disappointing their parents is like burning a beautiful village. They will ruin their lives, and fail morally, economically and psychologically. It is in no doubt that Sumitra and Sangita have to preserve their heritage.

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