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August 31, 2012 / subramanyam

My take on The Namesake


          Opportunities and a promise of a better life attract people to the lands far away, people leave their beloved ones ,sacrifice many a joy and go to a land in search of a job/ livelihood. While Job and a better living standards are definitely achieved adjusting to the nitty-gritty’s of the new lands is indeed  a little tough. Tougher would be the case if you want to follow the customs and traditions of your native in the new place. Probably that’s why they say that each and every immigrant would have a story  intricately woven with feelings and emotions and is definitely worth telling.         

The NameSake — Jhumpa Lahiri

         If each and every immigrant has a story worth telling, think about his/her children.  The life of these children at times is wrought with identity crisis and cultural conflict.  One , the identity  and culture their parents have and practice at home are alien to this land and two their parents themselves are alien to the way kids are brought up in these new lands.  What’s worse is the fact that Where do I belong? What do I represent and how I live? are some fundamental questions that impact these second generation immigrants.

          I have never been an immigrant(at least till date), hence I do not know the pains of staying in a foreign land far away from the country I was born and raised, hence I might not be the best one to reflect or comment on these issues? However if I could write the above lines it’s only because I read the books of Jhumpa Lahiri.  The Pulitzer prize winning author has a remarkable flair in weaving stories out of the feelings and emotions of ordinary people in their day to day lives.

         I have read two of her books, The Interpreter of Maladies, the collection of short stories that gave her the Pulitzer and The Namesake , the novel that later became a film. All the lines I wrote in the first two paragraphs were about the book “The Namesake”. The Namesake is about an Indian family that settles down in the US. The father moves to the US to eke out a life, once settled he marries a traditional girl from his own state in India. Their son, who now becomes a second generation immigrant, is the protagonist of this novel.

          If the cross cultural confusion and Identity crisis are enough for him, he has this issue with his name. He is accidentally given a pet name and that starts creating some issues for him.  The book in a way is a study of him, his issues, his problems, the challenges he keeps facing because of his cultural difference, how he handles the relationships etc are beautifully depicted.

          Coming to the characters and the characterization, the best thing I liked about the book is the fact that it speaks about someone like us, the protagonist is a not a super human or man with all the sage like or hero like qualities. He resembles our next door young man with his own plusses and minuses.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why some people would have felt the book to be boring, but I like this sort of stuff.  The other character that impressed me the most is our hero’s mother.  The way she sees the world and derives her own inferences made me remember a lot of elderly women I know, they too used to speak that way.

          All in all I simply loved this book, perhaps a second generation immigrant would identify himself more with the book. I would definitely recommend it.

Happy Reading

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