By Jhumpa Lahiri

Friday - - Leisure -

does not. It’s the 1980s. Biju, an In­dian liv­ing il­le­gally in the US, spends his days work­ing in grimy kitchens of non­de­script New York restau­rants, dodg­ing the Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice and liv­ing in squalid ac­com­mo­da­tion. Mean­while, in a north-east­ern In­dia shad­owed by po­lit­i­cal un­rest, Cam­bridge-ed­u­cated re­tired judge Je­mub­hai Pa­tel (whose cook is Biju’s fa­ther) lives with his teenage grand­daugh­ter Sai and his nos­tal­gic An­glophilia re­sults in a deep aver­sion to his own cul­ture.

Span­ning two con­ti­nents, the dy­namic nar­ra­tive il­lus­trates how each char­ac­ter’s deal­ings with the West have both scarred and al­tered their per­son­al­i­ties, rob­bing them of their iden­ti­ties – a loss that in­ten­si­fies with time and is in­her­ited through the gen­er­a­tions. Streaked with black hu­mour and abound­ing in lyri­cism, the book de­con­structs post-mod­ern is­sues, from glob­al­i­sa­tion to in­sur­gency, while com­ing to terms with a colo­nial past. The In­dian-Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence has turned out to be a pri­mary theme through­out all of Pulitzer-prizewin­ning Lahiri’s work and nowhere does she cap­ture it bet­ter than in her de­but novel, 2003’s The Name­sake.

Cap­tur­ing the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence in all its awk­ward­ness and won­der, she poignantly por­trays the sense of dis­place­ment, awe and over­whelm­ing nos­tal­gia that af­fects all those try­ing to form a life out­side of ev­ery­thing they are ac­cus­tomed to.

The nar­ra­tive traces In­dian cou­ple Ashima and Ashoke Gan­guly’s jour­ney to the US in search of a bet­ter life as they ad­just to a new cul­ture and raise their first-gen­er­a­tion-Amer­i­can chil­dren. Their son, Go­gol, is torn be­tween his par­ents’ her­itage and the life­style he was born into, his un­usual name (he was named af­ter the 19th-cen­tury Rus­sian writer Niko­lai Go­gol) ag­gra­vat­ing his iden­tity cri­sis. Lahiri’s fluid nar­ra­tive and rich char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion make this a mem­o­rable read.

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