Sunita Jain, "Fly the friendly skies"

"Fly the friendly Skies"- Sunita Jain
Short Short Stories Universal, Reclam
Pages 106- 111

Sunita Jain was born in Punjab 1941 in India and grew up in Delhi. She studied at the State University of New York and at the University of Nebraska. She teaches English at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. Her writings contain Hindi and English works. This works include the short stories "A Woman is dead", "Eunuch of Time" and "Fly the Friendly Skies". She has also written a novel called "A Girl of Her Age", a collection of poems and she did also a number of translations from Hindi to English.

The short story "Fly the friendly Skies" is about a young Indian man called Arjun. He has moved to New York to discover the big apple as his new world. Already in India, he always wanted to escape the small village where he was born, unlike his brother who prefers his life in safety with his family. Arjun had moved to bigger cities in India, to New Delhi and finally to "America, the beautiful" (p. 108, l. 10). In New York he wants to start a new life.
But this dream doesn't become true like Arjun had imagined it to. After three days in New York he realizes that the way of life there turns out to be not very dreamy. In fact, it's very boring when you have nobody to talk to. He is "extremely tired and alone" (p.106, l. 17). Arjun suddenly feels resigned about his decision to go into a foreign country (cf. p. 106, ll. 11-17).
In front of a carpet shop, where Indian carpets are shown, he meets an old lady who starts a conversation with him. She asks him, "Tell me, how long does it take to make one of those?" (p.109, ll. 12-13). They walk almost to her home while talking. The young man realizes "how little he knew about India" (p.109, ll. 17-18). Arjun is happy to have someone to speak to, but on the other side he remembers that a friend had once told him not to trust old people in America. They might want friendship and one remains hurting them with not giving back this friendly feeling (cf. p.110, ll. 6-8).
Suddenly Arjun sees another Indian. He gets excited about the possibility to have a word with a man from his country about his experiences and feelings in the foreign land. So he leaves the old lady and talks to this Indian.
But the conversation is not very successful, because the man tells Arjun that he had come to New York to meet new people and not to meet other people from India (cf. p.111, ll. 7-9).
Arjun is quite disappointed about this quotation and he realizes that his new life is not a candy mountain and that it's not easy to reach the friendly skies.

Stylistic Devices and Language:
The authoress uses a number of stylistic devices to make her text more effective.
For example, she emphasizes the meaning of America for the young inexperienced Arjun with the allusion "America, the beautiful" (p.108, l. 10). This quotation is from an old song which expresses a strong patriotic feeling in the United States. It shows what big, important and impressing effect this country has on Arjun. The allusion also tells that the young Indian sees America as his new home country, so Arjun is already familiar to one of the patriotic songs everybody knows there.
Another stylistic device is a personification. "The buildings belched out men and women" (p. 106, ll. 4-5) is a picture that shows how lively and moving New York enters the minds of its visitors. Especially Arjun experiences a great change from India to America. For him, the Big Apple seems to be even more impressive, because it's also a totally different culture he steps in. As a result this personification gives a good idea how the city looks for an "alien" (p. 106, l. 4), who comes to a new environment.
In general, Sunita Jain uses simple phrases, which are easy to understand. Furthermore, the reader is introduced to a few Indian terms to underline Arjuns' background. He longs for "the vague evenings near Regal or Janpath" (p.107, ll. 6-7) and for "the hypnotic scent of jasmine gajaras" (ll. 8). The usage of these words emphasizes Arjuns' homesickness in this moment, when he sees all the New Yorkers going home.

Narrator and Point of View:
"Fly the Friendly Skies" is told by a third-person narrator with a limited point of view. The narrator is not a character in the story, but looks at it from the outside. He sees everything what Arjun sees because he explains his point of view. He also knows Arjuns feelings e. g. when he gets homesick and remembers the "scent of jasmine gajaras" (p.107, l. 8). The narrator also knows what happened in the past when Arjun talked to his brother before he left India (p. 107, ll. 13-19). Because of the limited point of view of the narrator we don't know thoughts or feelings of the people Arjun is talking to (old woman, Indian man).


by Iris Lotter and Anna Reuschl

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