The Namesake: A novel By Jhumpa Lahiri

Friday 19 May 2017 1 month ago 50   Hyderabad   Print

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Report  Kaleem Butt : From last two decades the world has seen some great writers from the Indian sub-continent, names like Arunditi Roy, Anita Desai, Khushwant Singh, Kamila Shamsie and many more have given new voice to problems of sub-continent in literary circles. Now it is commonly believed that Indian sub-continent is contributing hugely in English literature. One bright name in English literature is of Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri is a Bengali by origin and was born in 1967, she lives in America, and she got Pulitzer Prize for fiction on her debut book “Interpreter of Maladies” (a collection of short stories). In year 2003, her first novel “The Namesake” came out, this novel is published by Houghton Muffin and is spread over approximately 300 pages. In this novel Lahiri has tried to put light on the hardships faced by Ashoke and Ashima, a Bengali couple living in America, where Ashoke is doing his Ph.D from MIT, his wife Ashima is a traditional Bengali housewife who sticks to her traditions and is unable to adjust in materialistic American society, Lahiri masterfully portrays the cultural differences of American and Indian society simultaneously. As, she becomes pregnant, Ashima starts to write a series of letters to her grandmother back in Calcutta, with whom she is attached, all she is worried about, is a good Bengali name for her child as Bengali society gives high value to tradition of giving proper name to the newborn. At regular intervals throughout the story the author uses different appeals of argument to display to her readers that family should always be valued. The delivery is successful and the parents are ready to take their son home, when they come to know that the pair could not leave the hospital because they have to give name to newborn in the hospital for legal documentation, this news upsets Ashima because she is waiting for her grandmother reply to name the newborn, the traditional name process in their families is to have an elder give the baby name, but the letter never arrives and soon after the grandmother dies. In Bengali culture a child has two names real and pet name, so Ashoke suggests giving child pet name Gogol in honor of famous Russian author Nikolai Gogol, and this name is used on the birth certificate. Though the pet name has deep significance for the baby parents, it is never intended to be used by anyone other than family. Entering kindergarten, the Gangulis inform their son that he will be known as Nikhil at school. The five-year-old objects, and school administrators intervene on his behalf, sending him home with a note pinned to his shirt stating that he would be called Gogol at school, as was his preference. By the time he turns 14, he starts to hate the name. His father tries once to explain the significance of it, but he senses that Gogol is not old enough to understand. As Gogol progresses through high school, he resents his name more and more for its oddness and the strange genius for whom he was named. When he informs his parents that he wishes to change his name, his father objects to the idea but reluctantly agrees. Shortly before leaving for college, Gogol legally changes his name to Nikhil Gogol Ganguli. This change in name and Gogol going to Yale, rather than following his father footsteps to MIT, sets up the barriers between Gogol and his family. The distance, both geographically and emotionally, between Gogol and his parents continues to increase. He wants to be American, not Bengali. He goes home less frequently, dates American girls, and becomes angry when anyone calls him Gogol. During his college years, he smokes cigarettes and marijuana, goes to many parties, and loses his virginity to a girl he cannot remember. As he is going home for the summer, Gogol train is suddenly stopped and temporarily loses electricity. A man had jumped in front of the train and committed suicide, and the wait for the authorities causes a long delay. Ashoke, who is waiting at the train station for Gogol, becomes very concerned when he calls the train company and hears of this incident. When they pull into the Ganguli driveway, Ashoke turns off the car and finally explains the true significance of Gogol name. Gogol is deeply troubled by this news, asking his father why he did not tell him this earlier. He starts to regret changing his name and his identity. After graduating from Columbia, Gogol obtains a very small apartment in New York City, where he lands a job in an established architectural office. He is rather stiff personality-wise, perpetually angry or else always on the lookout for someone to make a stereotypical comment about his background. At a party, Gogol meets a very attractive and outgoing girl named Maxine, with whom he begins a relationship. Maxine parents are financially well off and live in a four-story house in New York City, with one floor occupied entirely by Maxine. Gogol moves in with her, and becomes an accepted member of her family. When Maxine parents visit her grandparents in the mountains of New Hampshire for the summer, they invite Maxine and Gogol to join them for a couple of weeks. Gogol introduces Maxine to his parents. Ashima dismisses Maxine as something that Gogol will eventually get over. Shortly after this meeting, Ashoke dies of a heart attack while teaching in Ohio. Gogol travels to Ohio to gather his father belongings and his father ashes, and in attempting to sort out his emotions, Gogol gradually withdraws from Maxine, eventually breaking up with her. He begins to spend more time with his mother and sister, Sonia. Later, Ashima suggests that Gogol contact Moushumi, the daughter of one of her friends, whom Gogol knew when they were children, and whose intended groom, Graham, broke up with her shortly before their wedding. Gogol is reluctant to meet with Moushumi because she is Bengali, but does so anyway, to please his mother. Moushumi and Gogol are attracted to one another and eventually are married. However, by the end of their first year of marriage, Moushumi becomes restless. She feels tied down by marriage and begins to regret it. He also feels like a poor substitute for Graham. Eventually, Moushumi has an affair with Dimitri, an old acquaintance, the revelation of which leads to the end of their marriage. With Sonia preparing to marry her fiance, an American named Ben, Gogol is once again alone. He is nonetheless comforted by the fact that Ashoke, prior to his death, finally told his son why he had chosen that name for him. Gogol comes to accept his name and picks up a collection of the Russian author stories that his father had given him as a birthday present many years ago. The theme of novel is identity crisis, it is story about immigrants in foreign culture, how they take the foreign culture and how they are taken in foreign culture, and the novel is so masterfully written that the reader at one point starts thinking that the novel is telling the reader story. In 2006, the novel was adopted into movie by Motion Pictures; it is directed by Mira Nair, while Irfan Khan and Tabu were in the main cast. 02