Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the namesake

One of my sisters recently sent me a surprise gift in the mail. It was the amazing book by Jhumpa Lahiri called the namesake. I flew through the book (woo hoo! Another step closer to achieving the '28 things I want to do before I turn 29') - it was a fantastic, easy read. Very briefly summed up: it is about the Ganguli family's transition between India and America and it explores themes of dislocation, heritage and escape from that heritage.

Although the story told in this novel is quite different to my own situation, I found the passage below particularly striking. I often found myself thinking about it and how Ashima's thoughts fitted in with my own experience.

Ashima has recently arrived at the hospital, soon to give birth to her first child.

Dr. Ashley pokes in his head from time to time. "No need to worry," he chirps, putting a stethoscope to Ashima's belly, patting her hand, admiring her various bracelets. "Everything is looking perfectly normal. We are expecting a perfectly normal delivery Mrs Ganguli."

But nothing feels normal to Ashima. For the past eighteen months, ever since she's arrived in Cambridge, nothing has felt normal at all. It's not so much the pain, which she knows, somehow, she will survive. It's a consequence: motherhood in a foreign land. For it was one thing to be pregnant, to suffer the queasy mornings in bed, the sleepless nights, the dull throbbing in her back, the countless visits to the bathroom. Throughout the experience, in spite of her growing discomfort, she'd been astonished by her body's ability to to make life, exactly as her mother and grandmother and all her great grandmothers had done. That it was happening so far from home, unmonitored and unobserved by those she loved, had made it more miraculous still. But she is terrified to raise a child in a country where she is related to no one, where she knows so little, where life seems so tentative and spare.


Anonymous said...

I loved this book and movie too. I found you through my sister. I'm in Melbourne, she is in Istanbul. Your photography is lovely!

Bevin said...

It really is a phenomenal book. Her latest, Unaccustomed Earth, is absolutely wonderful.