Comparative Cultural Studies: Forming, Deforming and Reforming of Identity in the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

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In the age of globalisation, the issues of diaspora, transnationalism, cultural mongrelization, hybridity, identity crisis continuously enrich the diasporic literatures of the twenty first century. Topographical shifting, cultural transaction, multiculturalism, fluid identity forms a complex framework in the field of global migration. Apart from these, the concept of root, home, nostalgia, memory, alienation, hybrid identity are interlinked with the diasporic phenomenon. According to the various critics, scholars and academicians like Safran, Bhabha, Brah, Clifford Geertz and Appadurai, multifaceted factors are interwoven with the diasporic phenomenon. And recently diasporic elements are recurrent theme in the writings of Salman Rushdie, Agha Shahid Ali, Amitav Ghosh, V.S. Naipaul, Bharati Mukherjee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai and many others.(Dutta,online) The present paper will highlight the issue of identity crisis: forming, deforming and reforming in the light of The Namesake by Jumpha lahiri. Having born of educated middle class Bengali parents in London and grown up in Rhodes Island (USA) Jhumpa Lahiri beautifully and authentically portrays the diaspora experiences in her first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (which won her the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2000) as well as her first novel The Namesake (which spent several weeks on New York Times bestseller list).(Wikipedia)

The idea of 'home' as it evokes the sense of self, its displacement, intimacy, exclusion and inclusion. It is also connected with the human emotion, feelings, sentiments, bondage and intimacy which hardly make anyone to be totally estranged from the root. No longer the notion of home, is restricted to a bounded space and territoriality; the intersection among the different countries fractures the contours of geographical boundaries. The term 'root' implies an original homeland from which the people are dispersed and to which people aspire to return. In the present age of international migration, the idea of 'home' is such a key factor to be associated with 'original root'. Rootedness connotes temporal, cultural and psychological meanings. The core meaning of rootedness lies in belonging somewhere. It is also said that the element of nostalgia is also entwined with the notion of home and memory. As a part of the diasporic community, immigrants sometimes feel nostalgic, isolated and alienated because of the absence of the native culture and the language in the overseas countries. Alienation creates a state of mental misbalance, a situation of estrangement where a person feels his\her inability to adapt with the external alien environment and feels uneasy and isolated as well. In the foreign countries, lack of adaptability, lack of acculturation, multiple identities of the immigrants make them feel lonely and solitary. Its difficulty for the immigrants to feel oneness with the alien environment and the sense of solitariness binds the immigrants with the soil of indigenous land.(immigrants’ emotions, online) Before analyzing the experiences and maladies of the diasporas presented in Lahiri’s novel, an attempt is being made here to define the term diaspora, the related crisis of dual identity and various hazards experienced by them in the process of settlement in the new country-- their cultural dilemmas and displacement; the generational differences; transformation in their identities with the new demands; and the new possibilities and new ways of thinking. The word ‘diaspora’ has been taken from the Greek, meaning “to disperse.” (Wikipedia) Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin define ‘diaspora’ as “the voluntary or forcible movement of peoples from their homelands into new regions……”.(immigrants’ emotions, online) Diasporas thus live in one country as community but look across time and space to another. The migrant diasporas and their descendents experience displacement, fragmentation, marginalization and...
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