[RGC 200.] The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

[read: the book that made me cry 3 times in the first 30 pages]


I’ve been waiting to read this ever since I got it for my mom to read. Jhumpa Lahiri is known for this book, it was in fact turned into a movie with Kal Penn (notably Kumar in the Harold & Kumar movies) as one of my sisters mentioned yesterday. I definitely expected to be able to relate to The Namesake, with its insight on the Indian-American experience, but I didn’t realize how accurate it was. She mentions Gogol’s mother counting on her fingers, with her thumb touching the separations of each finger, to check the time in India. My goodness, if I haven’t seen my parents do that every day.

It’s the little things like that. She really just hit the nail on the head. Growing up with the name Sneha, which is related to the word “love” in Sanskrit, I always had a hard time living with it in everyday life. The scene when Gogol says he’s present to any substitute teacher before they even reach his name? Every damn time. Something so light as a name can have such deep significance in its uses, misinterpretations, and overbearing embarrassment. Of course, this is in no way caused by the name inherently. It’s a result of growing up in a dominant society that at first glance will not want to pronounce my name without some sense of ‘difference’ or ‘lack of belonging’ in the space it is mentioned.

It’s out of place. No matter how much of your time, as Gogol’s, is spent in this society, the name betrays your experience to everyone around you. At least for a second. Gogol is the first-generation Indian-American in so many ways, yet so unique in others. It gave me chills.

10 out of 10 would recommend.

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