Working Paper No. 18
Struggle to Acculturate in the Namesake:
A Comment on Jhumpa Lahiri's Work
as Diaspora Literature!
Mahesh Bharatkumar Bhatt
GJ!jarat Arts &Science College, Ellisbridge, Ahmedabad
The aim of the paper is to bringforth the wqy in which Jhllmpa Lahiri, a Plllitzer prize winner novelist explores the dilemma of name and immigrant's sense of identity and belongingness in the novel The Namesake. The paper discllsses the term 'diaspora: and their role in the present dt!Y world, the mqjor isslles of mllltimltllralism, stmggle for name, identity and belongingness sJ(fJered0' the characters in the noveL Some light is also thrown on the movie 'Namesake' based on the novelprodJlced I!y Mira Nair. Keywords: Diasporic writlng, Indian poetlcs, Immigrants, Indian diaspora, Multiculturalism, Cultural dislocation.
1. The Term Diaspora and the Role of Indian Diaspora
Etymologically, the term Diaspora coined from Greek word Diaspeirein - "to scatter about, disperse", from Dia means "about, across" + Speirein means "to scatter". It was used by the ancient Greeks to refer to citizens of a dominant city-state who emigrated to a conquered land with the purpose of colonization, to assimilate the territory into the empire. During the ancient times a large number of Indians migrated to Far East and South East Asia to spread Buddhism. During the colonial period, the migration was a history of misery, deprivation and sorrow. The third wave of migration from the nineteenth century was mainly to the industrialized, developed economies. The Indian diaspora is a generic term to describe the people who migrated from territories of the republic of Jndia. The situation today is largely the "success story" of the Indian diasporas in the Silicon Valley and the other professionals mainly settled in the U.K., North America and Europe. In the Namesake, Gogol's parents Ashoke and Ashima belong to this wave of immigration to the United States whereas Gogol is a product of the contemporary success story of the Indian diaspora in the United States. The Diasporic Indian is like the banyan tree, the traditional symbol of the Indian way of life, he spreads out his roots in several soils, drawing nourishment from one when the rest dry up. Far from being homeless, he has several homes, and that is the only way he has increasingly come to feel at home in the world. With the globalization of national economies, the chutnification of cultures and Bollywood's increasing cultural appeal and reach, Indians became one of the forces to flatten the world. Indians in the USA are one of the largest I An earlier version of this paper was presented in the 20'h Conference of the International Association of Historians of Asia (IAHA), held in New Delhi on November 14-17,2008. The author owes his intellectual debt to Prof. Binod Khadria, JNU, New Delhi; Dr. Indira Nityanadam, M.C.Shah Arts College, Ahmedabad; Dr .. M.A.Said, formerly at Government Commerce College, Gandhinagar; his colleagues and scholars whose books/articles he has referred. IMDS Working Paper Series
among the groups of Indian diasporas, about 2.5 million. They are well represented in all walks of life particularly in academia, LT. and medicine.
2. Writers of the Indian Diaspora in English
Literature, as a product of culture becomes the source by which we would be awoken about the global scenario and multiculturalism. Good fiction embellishes facts and adds interesting layers to hold readers' attention and makes people aware about the contemporary society. About the diasporic writing Jasbir Jain says, "Language and cultures are transformed as they come into contact with other languages and cultures. Diasporic writing raises questions regarding the definitions of 'home' and 'nation'. Schizophrenia and/or nostalgia are often preoccupations of these writers as they seek to locate themselves in new cultures" Gain, 1998). The creation of literature gives the historical connections in...
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