Strange Reactions of Connection

“He knows now the guilt that his parents carried inside, at being able to do nothing when their parents had died in India, of arriving weeks, sometimes months later, when there was nothing left to do” (179).

Gogol/Nikhil’s sudden ability to relate to the previous actions of his parents seems so strange because how different his character was before Ashoke’s death. The fact that his death is what was needed for Gogol/Nikhil to finally realize and appreciate everything that his parent’s had to go through is sad, yet gives a sense of, for lack of better terms, “about time”.

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“He remembers, back then, being bored by it, annoyed at having to observe a ritual no one else he knew followed, in honor of people he has seen only a few times in his life. He remember his father sitting unshaven on a chair, staring through them, speaking to no one. He remembers those meals eaten in complete silence, the television turned off. Now, sitting together at the kitchen table at six-thirty every evening, the hour feeling more like midnight through the window, his father’s chair empty, this meatless meal is the only thing that seems to make sense.” (180)

Gogol finally seems to be growing up.

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Some Emotion, Finally

After Ashoke ( Gogol/Nikhil’s father’s) death, Gogol/Nikhil goes to the hospital to identify the body, and then heads back to his father’s apartment. When Gogol/Nikhil first enters his father’s apartment, he comments on the size, the lack of items, and images what actions and routines his father had created for himself in this tiny apartment away from his family. Gogol/Nikhil’s compassion for his father all of a sudden seems surprising because of how much he had tried to distant himself from his family before. When one of his father’s neighbours mistakens Gogol/Nikhil for his father, he finds “the thought comforting” (174).

“Thinking of his father living here alone these past three months, he feels the first threat of tears, but he knows that his father did not mind, that he was not offended by such things.” (174). The only difference in Gogol/Nikhil and Ashoke’s relationship from the start of the novel until Ashoke’s death, would be when he tells Gogol/Nikhil about why he chose the name Gogol and about the train accident. Maybe Gogol/Nikhil felt closer to him after he was told about his father’s accident and caused him to see his father from a completely different perspective causing his sudden change of thoughts which come with his father.

Deprivation

“Having been deprived of the company of her own parents upon moving to America, her children’s independence, their need to keep their distance from her, is something she will never understand.” (166)

The majority of the first two chapters of this novel is Ashima explaining how much she misses her family back in Calcutta and how much she wishes she could be closer to them. In this quote, she compares her feelings about her family with how Gogol and Sonia keep trying to distant themselves from Ashima and Ashoke.

 

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This connects with the idea that the role of family does influence a character’s struggle/failure: in this case, Ashima’s failure ( a failure in her own eyes) of trying to keep their Bengali traditions and cultures within their children. She even mentions at one point that her children, when speaking their native tongue, sound more American than they do Bengali.  

 

Taking A Step Back

After discussing The Namesake in class, I was reminded of how during the first chapter, Gosh tells Ashoke to “pack a pillow and a blanket” and to go see the world because he is young. Ashoke replies to this with telling Gosh that his grandfather always says that this is why we read, ” too travel without moving an inch”. Ironically so, after being in a near death situation, Ashoke does end up traveling to America just as he had once seen no point in doing.

Not a major post, just something interesting that I noticed and was intreged by.

Hypocritical Karma

I find it quite interesting how when Gogol and Sonia visit Calcutta, Gogol is constantly commenting and complaining about the conditions of the houses in India, about how all of the walls are cracked, and the floors are tearing up, and the colours are grey and dull, yet (as described in the book), all of the apartments which he stays in after moving out of his parent’s house aren’t exactly the most overwhelming buildings either. At times Ashima even tells him that she finds it unacceptably for him to be living in an apartment in such condition. 

 

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Gogol makes even more hypocritical remarks about the living conditions in Calcutta when he complains about the bugs and having to sleep with a  mosquito net because, when him and Maxine have the entire house to themselves and they are sleeping with the windows open, Gogol wishes that he had one of those nets because of how many bites he keeps getting.   

Second Side to the Protagonist

Starting from the middle of Chapter 3, the Namesake is filled with the main character Gogol talking about how much he hates the idea that he has to take Bengali classes, that his mother always invites families over on Saturdays  that no one can pronounce his name, and that they have to travel back to Calcutta for 8 months. I personally find this too be very annoying and only see it as Gogol complaining and being completely arrogant. 

Gogol’s character does not understand that there are thousands of immigrants who WISH they had the opportunities to go back as often as he does to go and see their families and spend time with them. These families are stuck in a position where they do not have the money to take their entire family of four to go and show them their home country, their traditions, and their large families who miss them and are tired of only seeing pictures. Gogol constantly complains that he despises his name because no one can pronounce it and that he doesn’t even understand why he was given the name Gogol. Maybe, if he was to not be so distant from his parents and culture then there would be more opportunities for him to learn the story behind his name. And the entire idea that he finds it embarrassing that no one can pronounce ‘Gogol’ seems to be a great exaggeration to me because, it is a fairly simple name to pronounce compared to other Arabic and even other Indian names. 

They’re Only Substitutes

Starting a family in a new country is always scary for the parents. But there is also the side which no one seems to focus on that much; the side of the child’s. These children who are born into western countries with parents from different countries are also being deprived of almost the same as their parents. They have no family here. They have no one. They are coming into this world with only two people surrounding them (two people who are novices to the environment themselves) and are deprived of that sense of family and closeness which comes with being in their origin country.

“Ashima thinks the same, though for different reasons. For as grateful as she feels for the company of the Nandis and Dr. Gupta, these acquaintances are only substitutes for the people who really ought to be surrounding them. Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby’s birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true. As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can’t help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived.” (24-25)

That last sentence, of her son being so alone and so deprived is a reality for many children who’s parents have immigrated from other countries. They have to go through birthdays, celebrations, parties, dinners, and so much more without their loved ones surrounding them. The most connection that they get with them is a letter or at best a phone call of them telling them how much they miss each other and constant reminders of their distance. Often pity is brought upon the parents who have had to drop their lives to start new ones here, yet most look over the fact that the children are forced to grow up with only the stories of their family and never get the chance to fully experience how it feels to have all who care for you surround you and have them near.

Pulled in Two Directions

“The question of identity is always a difficult one, but especially for those
who are culturally displaced, as immigrants are . . . who grow up in two
worlds simultaneously.”

Growing up in two worlds simultaneously seems to be an odd reality to those who have been born and raised in the same country as their parents. Yet it is a difficult reality for the lives of immigrants who have to leave all that they care and love for to move somewhere far away and with little knowledge in hopes of creating a better future for their family members to come. This idea of two simultaneous worlds means to have one world of wear you live, and the interactions which you have to deal with and face each and every single day. The second world is that one world which you had just left. The world which you were reluctant to leave but decided to in hopes of something good coming out of it. Immigrants are constantly having to deal with the thought that they can not let go of their home land no matter how much they might want to because they are so attached to their family members there that they are constantly being reminded of what they had to leave behind. They also have to focus on where they currently are. What type of people they have to currently deal with, and what new problems will soon show up.

Jhumpa Lahiri  expresses this emotions felt by many new immigrants within her novel The Namesake by showing the fears, and the realizations of reality which come with having to live “in two worlds simultaneously”.