Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jhumpa Lahiri

Courtsey-Google images

Interpreters of maladies was the first one I read, borrowing it from a friend long ago, when I  myself was learning to accommodate in a new country which I and my husband had chosen to finish final parts of our studies.  Not all the stories but scenes from some of them were very delicately and intensely drawn by Jhumpa Lahiri typical of  "Indian Bengali" (A term which itself is very complicated and has been tackled very well by others) household  in any part of the world and I being one of those uprooted Indian Bengalis fall in love with her way of writing instantaneously.

For a long time since then because of unavailability of English books in the country I was living and several other distractions I could not read her, actually for a long time I was not also able to finish a full-fledged novel if started because of may be the need to keep the basics running as a new mother and last phase PhD student. I read some of the Harry Potters but otherwise  for years I limitedly dwelled on short stories, columns, travelogue, journal papers and more importantly on parenting articles. Reading the former from the several internet sites I follow regularly and the later from specific magazines (mostly German). There were sometimes luxurious access to some Bengali literature but otherwise at one point I desperately started believing that I am suffering from ADHD and can never read a full length novel anymore.

A move to an english speaking country, brought me the chance to find and buy Unaccustomed Earth, again a collection of short stories, this book of Jhumpa Lahiri boldly demanded my time and concentration to read it from cover to cover without getting distracted to something more important just like a novel, demanded me to cry reading the first story about a father-daughter duo, which in its own way reminded me of all sharing moments with my father etched subconsciously in my mind, also pointed to me finally the fact that in-spite of his strong "wanderlust" I failed to show him this part of the world where I am living for almost a decade now, again because of all sundry reasons I feel,  but he says it is not written in his destiny.  All other stories where equally intense, and the three continuous story of Hema and Kaushik in the second section were a new way of writing for me, independent and intertwined at a same time.

Yesterday I finished her The Namesake, unlike others this one was not an unknown plot to me, I have seen the movie made by Mira Nair and I always feel once you see a movie it is very difficult to get absorb into the printed version of the same story. But reading Unaccustomed Earth was persuading me to change my mind and that day when I saw The Namesake, at the bottom most shelf of the one of the two book shop this city has, I had to buy it. Although the movie tries to be very close of the book, but all those magic created by the small details of a world seen by an immigrants child could not be put into the celluloid that vividly as in words. The juggle between nickname and good name is constantly faced by my daughter too, she sometimes is proud of having two names but mostly hates to spell, write or pronounce her good/official name. The book is a chronological story of  first generation Indian-Bengali immigrants seen through their children's eye, who try to get away from it in the beginning but then draw into it automatically with time and age. Reader can very soon understand that the loneliness, conflicts, confusions, indecisions,  decisions, versatility, diversity faced and felt by the characters of the novel is also an imprint of the authors own mind. Reader after finishing the book also feels that out of all these dual existence life always finds a path to flow continuously creating impressions of its own.


  1. Good blog...for a change I liked the explanation why you liked Jhumpa Lahiri so much. There are some minor points:
    Don't expect everybody to know German ..I just happened to remember the word wanderlust from the film Agantuk..
    A good writer appeals to everybody.. if only uprooted, Indian Benagli people can identify with Lahiri's story or charecters then I pity her...
    not you..

  2. As I am talking about Jhumpa Lahiri aka Bengali immigrants, and expected that all of them has seen 'Agantuk' so the word 'wanderlust'!
    You might be true I don't know any Non-bengali/Non Indian's view on these books but as she has got pulitzer prize so I presume she can appeal broader mass. I personally feel along with her observation on small daily rituals of Indian immigrant families she has also very well portrayed the mental dillemma (of living in two countries at a time) of those characters and that is universal in nature.

  3. exactly what I was trying to say....It is good that you identify yourself with her stories and like to read problem at all. What I told before that we have a hell lot of writers who are miles ahead of her , only they wrote in bengali..
    And Pulitzer prize means broader reader base???you must be joking..It is like saying Barak Obama winning Nobel peace prize means he is bent on making the world peacefull in spite of continuing two wars...