“Love has no culture, boundaries, race and religion. It is pure and beautiful like early morning sunrise falling in lake.” is a quote by Santosh Kalwar, who writes books about truth, love and relationships. What he expresses is that it doesn’t matter what skin color you have, as long it is real love. In the novel “Chameleon” by Ranbir Sahota we hear about a girl named Rita. Rita has problems balancing between who she wants to be, and who she is expected to be because of her race.
She is desperately trying hard to be fully integrated but is finding it difficult because her family is so old fashioned. When it comes to love she doesn’t know if she should make her parents happy or follow her own heart.
A first person narrator named Rita, where we have access to only her thoughts, tells the short story. Rita is the main protagonist in the novel and a daughter of an Indian Sikh.
Opposite to her family, being integrated means a lot to her, and in her everyday life in England, she is trying to fit in. Her father only moved to England because some of his friends did. Therefore they don’t want to integrate simply because they don’t have the love and passion for the country. She on the other hand has graduated from Sheffield University and went to teach English in Germany. Eating white food, listing to white music and bleaching her own skin is just part of her daily life for trying to be part of the English society.
The title is “Chameleon” and describes Rita and how she can blend in, even though she is dark. According to her, the Indian culture doesn’t allow women to have a voice. Her mother and father has set up an arranged marriage for her, where the men can have expectations for her, but she cant expect anything from them. Rita doesn’t have an interest towards Indian men because she sees them as brothers and boring. Therefore she is dating a white man named Mark behind her parent’s back. Even though it is against the Indian culture values and rules. Marks mom says that she doesn’t want to speak to Mark, if he is dating a girl, who isn’t Catholic. But Rita knows that his mother has a problem with her skin color: “ I was fine as the token dark friend but it was a different matter when it came to marriage” (page 99, lines 3-4). For Marks mother their relationship is fine on a friendly base but not as a love interest. His mother doesn’t want to be seen as a racists so she is covering up her real problem by saying it is because she isn’t Catholic. In that way Marks mother is actually just like a chameleon as well as Rita. Because of their families the main problem for the couple becomes the diverse between culture and religion. They can’t be together because their cultural backgrounds’ doesn’t allow them to. Mark and Rita then rents a little house together to get some private space. To them it is their escape from the judging and controlling world into a wonderful world where all people are the same.
At some point Rita is meeting with Sunjay, who is set to be her future husband according to her mom. They are laughing together and are having a good chemistry. They are talking together like equals, which you wouldn’t expect because of Rita’s description about the Indian culture where women doesn’t have a voice. They also have the same positive attitude when it comes to love between different races. Sunday’s mother and father think that he has too many white friends. Both Rita and Sunjay have integrated themselves very well and are struggling with their families putting pressure on them. Although she doesn’t wants to let her parents down she does small things to annoy them. She swears a lot and is provocative towards them in her comments some times, which is not ladylike in the Indian culture. Also on page 106 lines 7-14 where we are in her thoughts and she is imagining what would happen if she told her parents about Mark and her. She says that it is comical and it would turn into a bloodbath, which is an absurd thought to have about such an important and serious theme.
Over the last six weeks Rita had seen three other men but none of them where like Mark. She then spent the night with Mark at their house. Her mother and father show up unexpectedly and she starts to panic and puts Mark in the closet. “I surprised myself – I didn’t care too much about his pain. I just heard the knocking getting louder and more urgent” (page 104, line 30-31). What worries Rita the most is upsetting her parents and she knows that they doesn’t like for her to be white. Therefor she quickly hides Mark because it is her “white side” and she doesn’t wants to be a disappointment to her parents. She lets them in and they start to tell her about Mrs. Methi’s daughter, who has run away with a white man. But in reality they are using that story instead of telling her directly that they know about her and Mark.
At one point her father goes into the kitchen to talk to her because he has always been the one to get the truth out of her. One thing he is telling her is: “Girls like that are left with fatherless children without an identity” (page 108, lines 7-8). He says this to scare her and tries indirectly to affect her not to stay with Mark. Rita doesn’t get these hints until they leave and says that she would like to introduce them to Mark. The story ends with a cliffhanger but you are still let with a feeling of what is going to happen. She will tell her parents that she is with Mark and that they have to respect that. By the look of what they have been telling Rita in the house they are not going to be taken it lightly. Because they are so traditional she is now a shame to the family. But you can tell that Rita is a strong woman, so she is going to go against her parent’s judgment and stay with Mark.