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.


richunderconstruction 9:15 AM  

im sure u ve put in ur best...
n beyond a point, thr r so many influences na...

i ve read interpreter of maladies by khumpa lahiri, very interestin short stories thr too... will try namesake too nw :)

starry nights 9:31 AM  

Rich..Thanks I think you will like "Namesake" it is a little intense but good.The movie will be coming out soon.

chandni 10:08 AM  

nicely written...

i do understand this ned for parentd too, to give thier child a slice of their roots....

but as I discuss with my cousin and broither in law..who are all set to return to india after 12 yrs as they want to bring up the children in india....once a permanent move has been made...its important for the childrent o feel comfortable in a new country because as much as they parents like, the old country is not home to the children. It is more imp for them to feel connected to the new country rather than the old....like another immigrant was telling mew this story of her son, who repeatedly told her he didnt want to carry Indian food for lunch to school, and just wanted a snadwhich. But she kept insistng, and later found out that for a whole year, her son just didnt eat any lunch...he felt really out of place.

I know its an extreme example...but just that once people have moved, they must remember that their children born in a new country, say America, are american first.

Sarah 10:19 AM  

I am a lost. I am a Malaysian first, Indian next, Malayalee afterwards. I remember watching the commonwealth Hockey match between India and Malaysia and I cheered for Malaysia, my country..much to my own amusement.( years ago I cheered for India, during the reliance cup cricket match!).. In a way I don't know what I am.. Malaysian? Indian? or confused Malaysian Indian?

starry nights 10:52 AM  

You are so right about the child being american first, we always tried to make them fit in with the others outside of the house and that is why we incorporated both.We tried to teach them both and not just one so they wont forget who they are.like for school lunch we made sandwhiches and let them eat at school on the cafeteria but at home we introduced them to indian food.

starry nights 10:53 AM  

So true Sarah..I understand what you mean.sometimes i am also torn between the two.

chet 1:19 PM  

I have to agree with knowing your heritage (knowing who your are) is important. I have always tried to get my kids and grandkids to realize that and be proud of their heritage. I remember having an Native American Lady come in and teach me about the food and help me learn to cook it. My kids are half Native American and my grandkids also have a great deal of Native American. If they know what their roots are I feel that they will not be so confused. Lately my kids have taken pride in who they are. They are not confused by one or the other.

starry nights 2:27 PM  

Sound advice Chet and I think kids should know where they are from

Ganesh Ranganathan 3:00 PM  

The poor ABCD's....the comedy starts when they come back to India...from then on, it's like a crossover movie

starry nights 3:06 PM  

Thats true, we are hoping to prevent a comedy of errors.

Maya Cassis 4:46 PM  

hmm I have read her previous collection.
I am waiting to read this one especially after your recommendation.

Keshi 7:30 PM  

we must always remember our roots, indeed!

sounds like a must-watch for me...cos I like movies like this. I myself having lived in both Sri Lanka and SL during my younger days, would be able to relate to many aspects of this movie.

Thanks for the review...I will rent it some time.


starry nights 7:49 PM  

Maya..I think you will like this book.

starry nights 7:50 PM  

Keshi..The movie is going to be released soon and I am sure you can watch it on the Big screen.

Keshi 8:58 PM  

big screen wud be betta, thanks Staaaarrrrry :)


Marthyan 9:02 PM  

Have not read it, I will soon

Srijith Unni 9:34 PM  

The efforts you have taken to make your to-be-ABCD children aware of Indian Culture and traditions, I dont think even people in India would do that much.

Hats off to you!!


Alexis Leon 10:31 PM  

Nice post. I read with facination the effort you took to give your children a balanced view of the best of both worlds. Keeping them rooted in their culture while allowing them to explore and imbibe new cultures.

I know it was not as easy as it sounds. And I salute for your vision and wisdom. Your kids were lucky to have you as parents.

I have seen parents spoiling children by taking the extreme positions--total freedom or total control.

I am sure that you are not disappointed and your kids (they are adults now, right) make you proud.

adi 11:05 PM  

as long as this world lasts, people will continue to have their identity crisis... u talk about indians in america, i went to tamilnadu for a month a few years back. there was an agricultural course i'd got myself into at the annamalai university. i'd my own identity crisi there. right in the middle of india.
for the first three days i cudn't find a single person speaking hindi, never longed for my mother tongue so much again... then there was food, culture, the way people treat you differently... it was like another part of the world.
the moment i landed new delhi railway station, i got down on my knees and touched the floor with my head ;)
i don't know how the children handle this all. parents like you are not much to find.
and hey, that means u r an indian, u didn't tell me that. and i was asking u whether u understand hindi. i surely am a bigger fool than i thought i am.
and who's pic is this. urs?

phatichar 2:11 AM  

Am waiting for the movie to release here... :)

btw, cool blog u have here, ma'am..

Has to be me 2:55 AM  

I am so much with u on this lovely n beautiful post. I feel the same way for my kids & thats the main reason I feel that we shd return to India for my kids to grow there before its too late. The younger they are the better cos they can easily flex themselves & adapt to such situations faster than us.

And it is some important to know their roots & get the right identity else they will be ghar ka na ghat ka.

U've done ur best for the children & I'm sure they wld realise it in due course.

God bless.

Known Stranger 4:45 AM  

will check this book soon and if possible the movie

neihal 6:12 AM  

Irrespective of the situations 'identity crisis' has become a part of modern society...we are constanly moving...every step takes us further away from our roots...and we are constantly struggling to strike the right balance between the old and the new.

starry nights 7:39 AM  

Marthyan...I think you will like this book, I dont know if the movie will be as good.

starry nights 7:41 AM  

Alexis..Thank you. We try as much as possible to do what we can and what we know best. The kids are teens and so far have turned out good.

starry nights 7:42 AM  

Adi..I think I can relate to how you feel. The picture on the profile is of me when I was young.

starry nights 7:44 AM  

Srijith Unni thank you for your compliment.

starry nights 7:47 AM  

Phatichar...Welcome to my blog and please do come again,Thank you.

starry nights 7:49 AM  

Has to be me..You are right but you can still instill in them these thing while they are growing up so it will be part of them.

starry nights 7:50 AM  

Known stranger..I think you will like the book, and welcome to my blog and do come again.

starry nights 7:55 AM  

Neihal..True we are all going through an identity crisis and are in a constant need to fit in .

starry nights 7:57 AM  

Neihal..True we are all going through an identity crisis and are in a constant need to fit in .


This is wonderful. I have see nhow hard it is for parents to bring their children value their culture and even follow it...In places like Atl n maybe where you live too it is possible...I know kids here who learn to read n write their native tongue n they have so many events etc etc which always keeps them culturally identified and they dont look like ABCD's. However, on the other end I have cousins who grew up in Mississipi n who r totally Amrican kids...They have hardly been to India a couple of times...it really matters how much effort you want to put in..Some parents feel tht they wants their kids to be American but I dont feel so...Imbibing the best of both n not forgetting our culture is so important. You have shown tht you guys are amazing parents! I wish to go to Little India too!! :) :)

starry nights 8:54 AM  

Scribblez...Thank you. we just do the best we know how. Little india is a small place In Anaheim California, There is a whole strret full of indian grocery stores, restaurants jewellery and sarees.You really feel at home there, even if it is to just walk the street, I am sure a lot of people feel like I do or maybe its just me because I am a bit sentimental. But next time you visit southern California. stop by a town called ARTESIA and the street is officially called Pioneer Blvd, but everyone else calls it "Little India,"

jac 9:00 AM  

I think that I will have to take a look at that book..if I have the time that is.

starry nights 10:01 AM  

Jac, If you do get time , you should read it. I thought it was good. Just waiting to see the movie.

Shankari 2:36 PM  

Good post. I see some close friends of mine who never speak in their native tongue to their children and I hear their kids say I dont like indian food and the likes. On the other hand there are people who only speak the native tongue and are persistent with the kids. Families that have a good balance are few, but their children seem to be more undertstanding and well raised

Shankari 2:37 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Id it is 3:11 PM  

Lahiri's earlier work, her collection of short stories, somehow, made more of an impact on me than this novel did. The ardous and often tragic struggle of acculturation is rather a hackneyed
theme, wouldn't you agree?

starry nights 4:47 PM  

Shankari..I think as you said Balance is the key.

priya 5:27 PM  

You have done a neat job starry..
Its always the 1st and second generation who have mixed feelings and insecure feeling towards their family and traditions. Its just the same as someone from south gets moved to north and the viceversa.

starry nights 6:24 PM  

Priya..Thank you. you are so right.

passerby55 8:28 PM  


This post is so straight from the heart...

A topic with lot of depth, only understood by those who fear this feeling of belonging!!

hey i can talk loads on this, wished you were here and we got an opportunity to chat on this topic on a warm cup of coffee ...

I suddenly find loss of words to express this

loved this post!

Known Stranger 8:59 PM  

hey.. thanks.. your visit to my page pleased me. You mentioned i write well. fine i would say in this way

" well, i write" :D

starry nights 9:49 PM  

Passerby..thank you and I wish I could have a cup of coffee with you, maybe a starbucks?

starry nights 9:50 PM  

known stranger..thanks for visiting my blog and do come again.

Dawn....सेहर 9:51 PM  

Just awesome post I must say...and yes I have read this book when I was in Toronto...! Its true...we mix where we grew more and hence we like to feel the belongingness to one place...we might have pride for the country where our parents belong...but then its all about what we are feeling being in one place where we spent most of our time...I never felt that I am missing...anything but yes...I miss my country Canada...thats what I feel..!
Amazing analysis study you brought...a very thought provoking one


starry nights 9:53 PM  

Thank you dawn, yes we all miss our home and have that longing to return.

nishu 10:49 PM  

name sak is really g88 good choice

Neers 1:59 AM  

heyy, first lemme begin by saying.. you do put across your thoughts pretty well... and the post here is quite sound! now for all our (indian) english authors... i have a question for all of them? why the mania to always write about:
1. either cross culture stuff
2. philosophise everything
3. or write about new indian society, full with female liberation and used-till-its-gone-sour subjects

i mean, i still have to come across a good english story teller from our soils...right from rushdie to shobha de.... all of us are stuck with handful of subject. i did enjoy roy's god of small things... dunno what happened after that!

why do our gurinder chadha and mira nair still make this asian subjects and why cant we either be global or very generic in story telling?? i am very proud of shyamlan when it comes to this...

Strictly for my friends 6:02 AM  

Your post really touched a chord. I will have to settle abroad after I am married and I always wondered what would happen then. Now I think I know a little.

My friend played Ashima's husband in the movie. :)

starry nights 7:49 AM  

Neers..I think Jhumpa Lahiri wrote about this stuff because she came from an immigrant household and went through these things.I like Shmalens movies, but I think he is more into the supernatural and science stuff actually the only movie I liked was "sixth sense." Thanks for your comment.

starry nights 7:51 AM  

Srictly for my friends. Thanks and I am sure when you go abroad you will find a balance in your life and family and do well.Its nice to know that your friends is in the movie. I really am waiting to see if it is as good as the book.

Madhu 1:15 AM  

very true. we all need to remember and respect our roots.

btw good review. i will go hunting for the book now. its been a while since i read a book....like 2 months, :)

hillgrandmom 1:40 AM  

I have three brothers, all of whom are in the US. I think they've brought up their children more or less like you have. Generally my nieces & nephews enjoy coming to visit India & don't have too much problem with the food. They can only barely understan Malayalm. But that's ok. They are able to communicate when they come here anyway.
thanks for stopping by my blog starry nights:)

Prash 6:44 PM  

I bought this book a year and half ago. I didn't read it. I should do it one of these days. I shall read your post about this movie soon.

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