Novel: The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Source: OC Public Library
Ashoke and Ashima Ganguly move to America after their marriage. Soon, they have a son. According to their traditions, one of their elders must name their child. But the letter containing that name from India never arrives. For the time being, they give their son a nickname, “Gogol”, after a favorite Russian Writer of Ashoke. They think to decide on the formal name later. In his innocence, Gogol, asks to keep his nickname as a formal name at the time of admission into a school. So now, the nickname sticks. With each passing year, Gogol starts to hate his name. So he changes it before he attends college. The story continues to highlight the increasing gap between Gogol and his parents, his romantic relationships, his marriage, etc.
This is the second novel after “Interpreter of Maladies” from Jhumpa Lahiri that I read. I like her writing style, simple and straightforward. But I wasn’t impressed by this novel. Maybe because this isn’t the type of novel I like to read. No mystery or suspense in this one.
It is simply a story of Ganguly family. They move to America. They struggle to adapt to American culture while holding on to their Indian roots. Their children get confused while growing up. They don’t know what to follow, their American friends or their Indian parents.
Gogol specifically struggles the most. Not just because of his Indian roots but also because of his unique name. The novel shows how our name makes a huge impact on us throughout our lives. Well, our identity is linked to our name. We always introduce ourselves like, “Hi, I am #name.” And Gogol hated his name. He felt ashamed in introducing himself as Gogol. So, he changes it.
Ganguly family’s story also takes us through the changing relationship between parents and children. At first Ganguly family is close. But as the years pass, and children grow up. A gap comes between them. The children begin to hate the rules and regulations imposed on them by their parents. They feel suffocated when their parents show them excessive care or worry. They become ashamed of their parent’s Indian accent, clothing style, etc. They drift away from their parents and start their own life. Ashima and Ashoke continue their efforts to connect to their grown-up children. But in the end, they are left behind. Ashima begins working at a local library and Ashoke takes up a new job to keep themselves busy.
There are a lot of parts of the story to which I could connect. Feelings which I have experienced at some point in my life till now which makes it enjoyable to read. “The Namesake” is worth reading once. So, I recommend it.
Have you read this one? What are your thoughts about this novel?