On the surface, Mukherjee’s Jasmine appears to be a tale about a young girl on a nomadic journey for an authentic sense of home, but it offered me a much more personal revelation. Throughout Jyoti’s story I was constantly intrigued by the fact that her interactions with other people shaped her identity. Her strict Punjabi parents provided her with a cultural base, Prakash made her a modern woman, her treacherous migration to America and the people she met along the way calloused her, Lillian Gordon inspired her, Bud gave her stability, and, most importantly, Taylor helped her reach a point of self-realization. Of all of her relationships, encounters, and conversations I believe her relationship with Taylor was the most influential. Prior to their meeting, she had tamed the fearless ‘spunk’ showcased in her initial encounter with the astrologer in order to appease her parents’ traditions and nurture Prakash’s ego. And even after Prakash’s death she settles for the role of ‘care-giver,’ placing her needs and aspirations secondary to the needs of others. Taylor saves her from this self-repressive mindset, and the disillusioned belief that her unfulfilling relationship with Bud is all she deserves when he shows up on her doorstep in Baden, Iowa. The organic chemistry and sense of understanding between them facilitates a love that helps both ‘Jase,’ and myself, realize that our relationships with others help us establish a true, and somewhat transcendental, perception of ourselves as individuals. She explains,
I fell in love with his world, its ease, its careless confidence and graceful self-absorption. I wanted to become the person they thought they saw: humorous, intelligent, refined, affectionate. Not illegal, not murderer, not widowed, raped, destitute, fearful (Mukherjee 171).
Taylor helps her rediscover who she is, and who she aspires to be. As she leaves the porch to leave for California with Taylor and Duff she reaffirms her spirited nature when she addresses the “astrologer who floats cross-legged above [her] kitchen stove” saying, “watch me reposition the stars” (Mukherjee 240). She has finally come to peace with her personal identity. Her rediscovered individuality provides her with a newfound clarity with which she finally recognizes that in her dysfunctional and untraditional family, she has found the home she has been looking for her entire life. The realization that through other people we can redefine both ourselves and our ideas of home was momentous for not only Jase, but also myself. Additionally, it allowed me to reflect on the aspect of this class that I have found in most interesting.
At the start of the semester we were faced with the seemingly difficult task of establishing an accurate definition of a “home.’ It is merely where we come from, is it something we create, something we discover, or is it more complex than that? We’ve quickly learned that it is far more complex then previously imagined, and there may not even be a definitive answer. For some characters, like the Maori family we encountered in Patricia Grace’s Potiki, a physical homeland is essential to an authentic understanding of home, while for others, like Jasmine, home is a frame of mind in which the individual is most at peace. Regardless of which belief we subscribe to, one thing is for sure: each of our perceptions of home is unique and is influenced by those around us. We live in an extremely interconnected world in which we come into contact with many different types of people, and all of these encounters teach us something about ourselves that we had not previously noticed. These critical life experiences then force us to redefine and reinterpret what we see as a ‘home.’ For example, the beauty of relationships such as Jase and Taylor’s is that they force us to become the people we aspire to be, and to recognize the positive characteristics within us. The self-realization that these relationships foster make us feel ‘at home’ in that moment, and we take away from them a new understanding of what we desire in a home. Thus, a true sense of ‘home’ can potentially be uncovered through our interactions with others; and the self-discovery, memories, and happiness that come along with them.