Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The Movie "Namesake" revolves around the Ganguli family who moved from Kolkata to New York and their shifting from one land to the other brings to mind a lifelong balancing act to mend to an altogether a new and different world without forgetting the old. Although the parents Ashoke and Ashima yearn for the family and culture that enveloped them in India, they take pride in the opportunities their sacrifices have afforded their children. Paradoxically their son Gogol is torn between finding his own unique identity without losing his heritage. Even Gogol's name represents the family's journey into the unknown.
Director Mira Nair utters her views on the story of her film saying, "Namesake encompasses in a deep humane way the tale of millions of us who have left one home for another, who have known what it means to combine the old ways with the new world, who have left the shadow of our parents to find ourselves for the first time."
I had read this book some time ago and can relate to some of the feelings that the family had to go through. Children of Immigrant parents do have problems trying to retain the traditions and cultures taught to them at home and at the same time trying to assimilate with the outside world.
The children are often called ABCD ( American born confused Desi) .I think along with the children parents are also confused at times. Me being an immigrant knows how difficult it is to retain Indian values , culture and tradition and at the same time allowing the influx of American culture. This conflict of cultures start even before the child is born. First the parent had to be comfortable with who they were and how they were going to make a foreign land their home. There is always that yearning to go back to your roots and to the place you called home.
From the moment the child is born there is a conflict between being Indian and being American, is the child American because of the birth place or is the child Indian, being born to Indian parents.Starting with the name, I wanted my children to retain an Indian identity, hoping it would define who they are and who they would become. I wanted short but meaningful names, names others could pronounce and something they would be comfortable with and at the same time trying to incorporate middle names of grandparents keeping up with tradition.
Through the growing years trying to get them accustomed to eating indian food from mild to spicy not wanting them to miss out on all the different flavors and at the same time trying out American recipes so they would learn to appreciate both. Welcoming all their friends Indian and American , playing Indian music alongside American Pop so they will know both . When it came to clothes we had to teach what was appropriate and what was not, not following what everyone was doing , at the same time being able to fit in . Setting down rules and letting them know what was expected of them even though it did not look cool to their American friends. On our many trips to India we would bring back Indian outfits, making them feel comfortable in them and explaining that it was cool to be seen in them on special occasions. so much so that they feel good in them now. The Indian Jewellery that my daughter once thought was too yellow, now adorns her neck, she has learnt to appreciate the inticate work and the beautiful stones and asks for more.
Through watching Indian movies I tried to incorporate a sense of belonging, to know the other side of the world they live in and to like indian music. We made an effort to bridge the gap between the two countries by taking them to India whenever we could, to allow them to see a country they belong to and will always be tied to even though they dont live there .
I made them see India through my eyes by always telling them different stories about my childhood. Wearing western clothes when I am with them, or when I go to pick them up from school so that I am like the other moms, not wanting their friends to tease them.
We made frequent trips on the weekend to "Little India" a place in Orange county where the streets are lined with Indian Restaurants, Grocery stores and stores displaying a magnificent array of jewellery. Most of the people around you were from India and it somehow made you feel at home. The day usually ended with a nice hot Masala Dosa and the children enjoyed a nice cool glass of Lassi, and as always we left with bags of groceries and Indian food and the kids and me slept all the way back. In the beginning the children detested the long weekend trip but later on looked forward to it because it had become part of who they were.
Children do go through a hard time growing up , trying to mix both cultures , we hope we have taught them both and they will never forget who they really are. I think only when they are adults will they appreciate and understand what we were trying to do.It is not easy to start a new life in a foreign land, we all leave the country we love, out of necessity and to better ourselves but nothing can take away who we really are. No matter where life takes them and makes of them I hope they will always remember their roots and understand what we were trying to achieve.