Raveen Sivashanker


Mentor: Bob Krut

Pilgrims is a novella about an Indian-American man, Chandran, who is born with a deformed tongue, that distorts the structure of his mouth as well as his speech. He seeks surgery as a solution, not just for his mouth but for the entire network of associated problems: his speech, his social isolation, and his lack of connection, linguistic or otherwise, with his immediate surroundings. His father convinces him to have the surgery done in India with a well-regarded surgeon, who possesses a foreign education and international customer base.

Pilgrims explores issues surrounding language, disability, and medical tourism. Chandran seeks some condition of belonging, and these complexities are significant to him as obstacles. He is extremely conscious of his social position as indistinguishable from the ethnic majority and yet ultimately an outsider; he is a member of a diaspora as well as one who returns from the position of Western medical tourists. Underneath these dilemmas there is his own personal question: is his surgery a form of healing or else of self-harm?