Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai’s second novel, The Inheritance of Loss is about various issues of global world; like terrorism, multiculturalism, economic disparities and immigration. The book’s fine narration of intricacies of contemporary concerns gained it immense popularity and won it Man Booker Prize in 2006, and National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award. Not only Kiran Desai’s second work received appreciation, but also her first book ‘Hullabaloo in Guava Orchard’ won her accolades and awards. The issues recognized and elaborated by her in ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ explain her journey and opportunities to see and identify various backgrounds closely, as her early life demonstrates that she herself has been a part of multicultural society.


She lived in India until the age of 14, and then went to England for a year, and finally became a permanent resident of the US, and thus apparently got to discover the lifestyles and the associated tribulations of the three countries. I am not sure whether the opportunity of close interaction with three countries has been her inspiration for this novel, but the familiarity with the three distinguishing cultures might have played some role in the development of the script.


Desai has successfully attempted to portray two different parts of the world and have captured common vital concerns in the novel. For example; the depiction of the evils of terrorism in northeastern India, wide economic disparities in different sections of the society, orthodoxy in certain cultures and the aspirations of people to go to the US and earn fortunes, blends flawlessly with the concept of globalization and immigration issues in the US. The book not only superbly illustrates the insurgency in the foothills of Himalayas by Gorkhas combating for their own identity and its consequences on the daily lives of people in the region, but also an indifference of an adolescent girl who is in her own world of romanticism, towards the idea of rebellion. It focuses on three main characters, first is Jemubhai Popatlal Patel, a Cambridge educated Judge living in Kalimpong in foothills of Himalayas with his past snobbish behavior. Second character around whom the novel surrounds is Sai, judge’s orphan granddaughter, who is romantically involved with her maths tutor, Gyan, who eventually leaves her and joins Nepalese insurgents. The third is Biju, son of Patel’s cook, who lives in New York and while trying to make ends meet, is entwined in the clutches of US immigration issues. The pains and agonies of Biju working in one or the other restaurant in the US as an illegal migrant, like other illegal migrants, in the US have been really articulated well in the book. I think only an Indian author, who has had an opportunity to reside in the US, can well comprehend the complex US immigration issues and their relative effects on daily life.


The book beautifully expresses the three important aspects of life; love, family and loss. It raises necessary emotions, creates humor and develops imagination. It makes the readers laugh and cry at the same time. The amalgamation of diverse characters and their varied settings have been really employed well. Though at times I felt that the situation and contexts in the book wanders from the track, but it soon holds the grip too. I believe Desai has marvelously bound the intricacies of multiple areas covered in the book.

Deepti Vithal

[Image source:]