Skip to main content

Namesake


I watched Namesake, Mira Nair's film based on India born American Jhumpa Lahiri's novel. The movie is about a Bengali family caught between two worlds. Everything about the film fell right including actors Irfan Khan and Tabu. With their impeccable Bengali accent, they were right on, portraying the quintessential middle class Bangla couple with their values, simplicity and patritiotism intact. Raising two kids born and brought up in the land of freedom, the US, they manage to instill some of those values, eventually, to their otherwise wayward children. That, in essence, is the film's story.

I came out of the multiplex a little nostalgic. Nostalgia, someone said, is best shared from the outside. I share a strong sense of familiarity with everything Bengali. Most members of my family speak, read and write the language. We love their food from Ilish maach to muri ghonto, chorchori, et al, and we enjoy the Durga Puja too. This stems from the fact that my paternal family is from Silchar in Assam, where 40 per cent of the population are Sylheti Bengalis (from nearby Bangladesh). The dialect, a little different from the refined Bengali of West Bengal, is funny and mishty.

That apart, schooling in Shillong meant a lot of Bengali companions, apart from the local Khasis, Jaintias, Mizos, Nagas, Tankhuls, Aos, Punjabi, Marwari and of course, the anglo-Indians. For some reason, as a kid, I always sensed the resentment to Bengalis by the local populace. As an adult talking to my local friends, I perceived that since the Bongs are generally a hardworking, studious lot, all the government and coveted jobs went to the literate Bengali. So the locals felt swarmed and outdone in their own home state. Bad logic, but in a larger sense, it is like the great outsourcing story of today when the West feels robbed by the Indians off their jobs.The other reason people hated Bengalis was they thought them too crafty. "Sly" is the word my Khasi friends would say of them. Given the background, a Bengali-Khasi friendship was rare. Those that blossomed, blossomed forever.The friendship of my neighbour Chandra and her friend Caroline comes to mind. One was a Hindu, the other a Christian, one ate beef, the other ate fish, one was fair, the other was brown...the differences didn't matter.

Coming back to Namesake, Ashoke and Ashima's story is not far fetched. The arranged marriage, the fidelity, the unspoken understanding and uncomplaining compromises... that's the story of my parents, and I am sure it is of most belonging to my generation. In a world of extra marital affairs, divorces and flings, they come like a breath of fresh air. My mother was my father's constant companion in good times and in bad times. In Ashoke's death, I felt Ashima's immense loneliness. I don't want to imagine how the pangs of loneliness must be visiting and revisiting my father...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Mad Man Or A Boor

What does one do when one encounters a mad dog? Or what does one do when one encounters a man with pre-fixed notions about everything in life, most specifically of women who live alone and give him some importance? The two are equivalent to me and basic intelligence says avoid the paths they tread like plague. But I chose to tackle them head on. I almost got rabbies.

The mad man said [sic] "You sound like a very desperate person. A single and frustrated woman who is looking for anyone to leave a comment on your blog so much so that you wouldn't even spare a spammer." Spammer being, the first comment on the previous post is apparently a spam, an advert for T-shirts. Bummer! I thought it was a handsome Spaniard or Latino, so I had replied "Hi Rodrigo", hoping to take the conversation forward offline. Anyway! All this the mad man found out. I didnt. Sure, I dig comments because I love the spontaneity and intelligence of my friends. And I didn't invite the mad m…

Them Versus Us

Taking off from the Shilpa 'Shitty' issue (I love the surname and that comes from my ever so humorous and intellectual friend Latha or Lotty with love and Angel No. 1 to some :)), here are some reflections on being a north easterner in the capital of the world's largest democracy. Also, Lotty, on a serious note, says I should have a NE angle to what I write. She has a point. I have enough material there, enough to give vent to.

I begin with 'oye Chinky'. When I came to Delhi in the mid 1990s to do a professional course, I wasn't sure what the word meant. Maybe I was too busy paying heed to my new found independence and the certain sense of security -- the fact that I could go to the market even at 10 pm without the peering eyes of the army or the CRPF personnel patrolling the streets and stiffling our existence. It wasn't until my course was over and I got myself a break as a sub editor with the country's premier news agency, that I had my first hand exp…

Glam Gurumaa

Have you ever met a so called godwoman or godman in person? Well I did and I have to talk about this one. On Tuesday night, I got a call asking if I would like to come and meet Anandmurti Gurumaa. My knowledge about ‘spiritual people’ as they would like to call themselves is zero because I have never taken interest in their ilk and India being full of conmen in the garb of spiritualists you tend to look at them with suspicion. I had a friend who stayed for weeks at a house cramped with people in a shady lane in Delhi and they were all fighting and scrambling for the baba’s attention. The baba would perform pujas during the evenings, make them drink and wash with ashes and they would pour heaps of money buying the essentials. The people went to him for all reasons – to sort marital discords, business failures, illnesses, and even vengeance on enemies! It was frightful. I had gone to meet the friend but after a few hours scooted away more scared I would pick a bug from the unhygienic su…