The Namesake, is the story of the Ganguli family. Following an arranged marriage in Calcutta, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to the U.S. and settle in Cambridge and Massachusetts. Their story begins with the birth of Ashima and Ashokes first child in America. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the results of bringing old ways to the new world. They name him GOGOL after the Russian writer whose book has a lasting impact on their lives.
The story continues to follow the newborns life and the experiences of his mother, father, and sister as they are forced to adjust to American culture. the tension between adhering to Indian culture and imbibing American culture, between upholding family tradition and also wanting individual freedom and peace is evident.also to maintain the ties with India, and preserving the Indian tradition in America, meant a lot to them.
The theme of alienation, that is of being a stranger in a foreign land, is prominent throughout the novel. Firstly its AShima who suffers from this feeling. Immediately after her marriage she moves into a foreign land with her husband and has little perception about the lifestyle of America. Since both Ashima & Ashoke are both first generation immigrants to stay in America, they make an effort to accept the new way of life in the country. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family.
She suffers from nostalgia & and always feels a longing to go back to her motherland. As Ashima waits to give birth to the first baby, she yearns for her life back in Calcutta. She remarks that in India a mother giving birth would be surrounded by family and friends. The atmosphere in India then, is much more intimate than in Cambridge, where everything feels less personal and “colder” than back home. She feels deprived of the love and care that she is used to. With only Ashoke by her side, Ashimas feeling of isolation is obvious as she wonders whether she might be the only Indian woman in the hospital giving birth that day. It means that his birth, “like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true.”
Ashima struggles through language and cultural barriers as well as her own fears as she delivers her first child. To bring a child into a world that she doesnt quite know well, yet could be very dangerous and frightening for the child. When she arrives home from the hospital, Ashima says to Ashoke in a moment of angst, “I dont want to raise Gogol alone in this country. Its not right. I want to go back.”
Later on , she tires to bring up gogol in a typical Indian fashion and imbibes all the Indian values & principles and morals onto him. Ashima endeavors to transmit in Gogol the convention of the Bengal by introducing him with the Bengali rhyme, names of Gods and Goddesses and prevalent Bengali tradition of calling every child by two names.
Ashima and Ashoke are in denial at first, but gradually begin to accept their new culture. They put up a tree on Christmas, celebrate Thanksgiving, and settle into a new life in America. Meanwhile, they still incorporate Indian food, traditions, and people into their daily lives. Though Ashoke and Ashima have a large circle of Bengali migrants as their friends; the sense of alienation can be felt in them. The ganguli family later move to the suburbs. Here, after the change in the location, Ashima feels alienated in the suburbs; this alienation of being a foreigner is compared to “a sort of lifelong pregnancy,”