Saturday, July 01, 2006

Self-Inflicting my Namesake

As I started reading through Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, I had this strange feeling come over me time and again. All that I had in mind about the American dream was clearly defined in the book and weighed by its pros and cons. It is a stirring write-up on chasing the American dream that can wake you from your slumber. Life throws us a lot of challenges, both simple and complicated, and it is upto us to rise and perform, take decisions that can be sometimes satisfying, and sometimes disturbing, and walk through it as if you were never affected by it. It is not an easy thing to do. It is never easy to answer your heart as the questions surface and resurfaces time and again.

The Namesake is a deeply moving, touching and stirring (though I feel like using another hundred adjectives to describe it) novel about an Indian couple who are staying in the United States. It deals with their lifestyle, their urge to be with their family members that gets suppressed, their endurance and tolerance to the new identity that is created there, and at the same time to retain the Indianness within them is deftly handled in the book. They have to live with mails and phone calls to connect back home. All the good news and bad news pours through the phone. They beget a son Gogol alias Nikhil, and his tryst with the Indo-American image leaves him thoroughly confused. He is not attached to his Indian roots and he loves anything and everything that is American. Even during his annual visits to Calcutta, he compares the diverse lifestyle in India with a clearly defined one in America.

This story is not about which culture is better, nor about highlighting the pros and cons of each of them. It is a story of what an Indian family undergoes in a foreign land. It is about their emotional surges, their inability to do anything when it comes to a problem back home and all other issues that really makes us cringe in fear. It is difficult to maintain a tough composure while reading this book and it is easy to put yourself in their shoes if you are staying abroad.

The book really makes you think what you want in the long run, and whether anything is worth sacrificing at the cost of your country. It is not easy to embrace something that you are not comfortable with, and The Namesake explores the dark interiors of this unimaginable reality. This book takes you to your roots and it is upto to hold on to it tightly! To sum it up, The Namesake delivers.


  1. A lovely, thoughtful review. I felt much the same way as I read the book and when I saw the movie, I felt their struggle with the clash of cultures even more moved me to tears!

    This is a most unusual book cover - I have never seen it before.

    Thanks for a wonderful review.

  2. Hi LR,

    One of the best books I've read in recent times. Though my reading habits have died considerably, it feels good to read something good out of the blue. I was totally moved!!! I still haven't seen the movie! How is the movie? I could not sleep for many nights after reading that book. I was searching for the unknown!!!

  3. The movie is just wonderful, Praveen, with memorable performances by Tabu and Irfaan. You will be incredibly moved I am sure. I saw it at the Toronto International Festival, but I believe the commercial release is slated for March.