I am no stranger to Jhumpa Lahiri’s works. I had done a project on her Pulitzer Prize winning work – Interpreter of Maladies. But not being a stranger and being in love with her works are two different things. To say the truth, I was never a fan of plots thick with family drama or anything with even a slightest hint of it. But I am not writing about Interpreter of Maladies (to say the truth, I have forgotten most of it). I flicked this dusty copy of the Namesake off someone’s table, as I had nothing else to read. I don’t remember how I came about them, but most of my pre-conceived notions fell apart. The thing is that the story touches so many realistic issues and forces you to ponder over every decision one of the characters make.
The whole story revives mainly around three characters – Ashoke Ganguli, his wife Ashima Ganguli and their son, Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli. The story is about this Bengali family, starting their life in USA. Ashoke Ganguli is an MIT professor, has just moved to the US from India, with his bride Ashima. The Indian culture that they have been so acquainted with is so out of sync with the American culture, that Ashima has serious problems reconciling herself with the new way of life. They have a son, but they get into trouble, since unlike India, in America, the child’s official name must be declared when the mother is discharged. The boy is hence named Gogol, after Ashoke’s favourite Russian author. This is from where the story actually begins. I am of course not going to spoil it for you……….go read it, you lazy bastard! Jhumpa Lahiri has written a great story. Character development is obviously her strong point. The whole story deals with the issues (cultural shock for one) and the identity crisis faced by the young generations growing away from home, the ABCDs (American Born Confused Desi) as they are called.
As I said, character development has always been Lahiri’s forte. Every character in the story has been carefully explored first hand, and from the perspective of other characters too. We are made to feel sympathy for all her characters, even for the rebellious Gogol. It’s a tragic tale, with a sense of melancholy ever pervading the narration. The way Lahiri has explored the relationship between Ashoke and Ashima was the most beautiful part of the story (according to me, duh). You could describe it as Gogol puts it somewhere – ‘there is one love, but different ways in which one shows it.’
If there is one complaint about the book, it will be about Moushumi. Lahiri gets rid of an interesting character so suddenly, that I felt like she did it on an impulse. It was so darn abrupt, that I was like “……….what?”. That and the fact that the story drags in certain places.
I will give the book 3.75/5. It’s a must read book and Jhumpa Lahiri will be one of the most sought after Indian authors. Consider this, I don’t like to read the peculiar ‘Drama’ genre of books. This isn’t a peculiar book.