Fiction| Diaspora| Family| Culture
Sometimes I feel like the book chooses me rather me choosing it and The Namesake is one such book that precisely resonates with my current state of mind. A diasporic feeling of not belonging anywhere, a feeling of an identity crisis, and confused decisions. Jhumpa Lahiri in the Namesake perfectly captures the immigrant experiences and emotional turmoil of leaving behind your motherland, your families, and childhood friends to start a new life in a new country.
This big move is a process of experiencing happy times, difficult times, and questionable times, which often involve uncertainty and fear. And of course, there’s always hope of things getting better as time passes. But there is never a time when we stop wondering “Was this the right decision?”
Despite these numerous feelings, Ashima in the Namesake tries her best to adopt to the American lifestyle with her husband Ashoke. The Ganguli family makes new friends (Indian friends), spends weekends together and builds new bonds. They give birth to two kids, Gogol and Sonia. Ashima terribly misses her family when their son is born. She waits for years for her grandmother to send her a telegram naming the baby as it has been their age-old tradition. But when there’s no response, Gogol becomes the official name of their son.
The story progresses onto the lives of the kids and the vacations that they take – which is most of the time to India for festivals, for the loss of loved ones, for spending time with the family, or to stay connected to the familiarity of their culture and traditions. Gogol and Sonia find all of it hard to relate. But as they grow old, Gogol realizes the hardships that their parents had to face upon uprooting their life and leaving behind their family which he thinks is something that is impossible for him to do.
The Namesake is not story with a beginning or an end, it is an experience. A family that I got to know in a few pages of this book. I can see myself getting to know the Ganguli family if I ever lived on Pemberton Road, going through the same feelings of loneliness and trying to stay together and creating a mini India just to feel at home. Just to have that sense of familiarity and comfort. As I complete reading this book on my return flight from India to Pennsylvania, I fondly close the book and my eyes with a warm feeling, processing the emotions, and remembering all the times that I spent with my loved ones. I take these memories along to a new country that I now call my home.
PS: The Namesake is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It’s very well-written and has an intriguing story that immigrants as well as non-immigrants will certainly find interesting to read. A definite must-read, I highly recommend!