This was my third read by Jhumpa Lahiri. I had first read ‘The Lowland’ and then the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’. I had ‘The Namesake’ as a rather old copy with soft, auburn pages.
The Namesake is a story across generations revolving around different family characters. Ashoke and Ashima are Indian Bengalis who have moved to suburban America during the initial periods of their marriage. Ashoke moved here to sort of recreate his own life, become independent and build a career. Ashima, as a consequence, had to move with him, as for most Indian women of 1960s.
Both Ashoke and Ashima face adjustment issues in a different continent in their own ways, the difficulties may be more pronounced for Ashima. Through the story of Ashima and Ashoke, we discover how they restart their life in a place so new, totally unlike their native with its promises and opportunities, miles away from their community, their people, their heart etching for their one letter, one phone call. They are now yearly visitors for the people they once shared a roof with.
Gogol is their son, whose born in America, with his oblivious roots in India-held sacred by his parents. Quite naturally, he comes to despise the trips to their native land, to which his parents long for over months and years. Just like they feel like a misfitting corkscrew in the wheel of the new life they have created, Gogol feels uprooted and dislocated, in a place which is ‘home’ to his parents.
It is a heartwarming, beautiful story of a family, the differences that look like betrayals, the finding of one’s identity among conflicting values and traditions.
Writers like Jhumpa are magicians who swing the wands of their literary wisdom and a cascade of beautiful words is the outcome, that takes you through different lives, different times.
Publisher: HarperCollins India