And I could not resist such temptations ..while casually taking a stroll in ..a book shop like a bull in a chinashop(the analogy bears no relation with my physical appearance ofcourse)…. and that’s how I fumbled over …’The Namesake’
The namesake is an exhilarating first novel by Jhampa lahiri whose Indian roots and western upbringing blend seamlessly into a prose that is beautiful and readable and much more commendable is the fact that how she guards against ostentation and how she beautifully depicts the otherwise ordinary moments in the lives of characters that are almost bought alive by her incredible work.
This is a story of a Bengali couple who leave Calcutta for academic pursuits ..Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli..Ashima is emotionally inseparable from her Indian roots and her early days in america are almost tormenting.
Ashoke actually is an avid reader and is a fan of ‘GOGOL’ a Russian writer and is even miraculously saved in a Railway mishap by a book of this writer he was carrying with him and decides to come to America to start his second life..
The couple Christian there first born son after the writer (accidently)but as he grows ‘Gogol Ganguly’ absolutely detests his name as it means nothing either in hindi or Bengali and he is tired of explaining this to his mates And more so when he comes to know that how ill-fated and short lived the writers life originally was and so he decides to rechristen himself …But he later regrets the decision when he comes to know ..what great significance the name has in the life of his father .
And as he ventures out to seek a career for himself with his new name as an architect and has a sibling in due course of time….he struggles to synergize the indian roots with western atmosphere and education…..and ends up being ABCD(American born confused Desi). All the more confusing are the trips to Calcutta(for which they have to get properly vaccinated) as they find themselves ad mist a truck loads of uncles, aunts and cousins who see them amusingly because of their strange American accent.
So the novel revolves around the fact that how his identity continues to pursue him wherever he goes and though he has castoff his name and chosen a new one ..he can’t really do away with who he really is…
His love life is about what major portion of the novel revolves …he has a couple of relationships..that are shortlived and has to end up with the daughter of a fellow expatriate….though she herself had her share of ..wild exploits before settling down with him and….an Indian spouse was last thing on her mind but they decide to please their parents and give in to their wishes….
And just when everything seemed perfect…..Moushmi’s (gogol’s bride’s) past catches up to her as she gives into the temptation of being with her college crush…
And as the inevitable always happens ..gogol find out about her affair and is left with no one but himself ….as he turns the pages of the book (by nikolai gogol)….a gift from his father that he ones received as a kid but never cared to open in his life time.
So ultimately he seeks solace in something that he had originally abhorred.
The book basically brings home the point that as we are running away from the values that are truly our own and trying to put on and ape the glittering and glamorous superficialities …we’ll one day have no choice but to admire and appreciate the legacy that we fail to value…
And before I forget ..the book is a prize winner…pulitzer prize in 2000 and has already been turned into a major motion picture…as some of you might have seen ……
I prefer the book….