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 ma

O-B-A-M-A

Two million people at the National Mall in Washington alone. The world watched too as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. So did I. I rudely cut roomie's soap operas and switched to CNN to witness history being created. Some day I may live to tell the tale of how Barack, the much touted Afro-American President of the United States, stumbled with his swearing-in oath. I was a bit disappointed as I watched the man who had run the most successful of election campaigns, the man who Americans were pinning their hopes on, take his oath. Clearly, he was under too much of a pressure to be the best. So before Chief Justice John Roberts could complete the first sentence, there was Obama abruptly breaking out into his first names... " I Barack Hussein Obama.." and then waited for the judge to complete the sentence.. The next line was even taxing. He stopped short after two words... " That I will excute ..." and then Justice Roberts cont

Good Girls Don't Drink?

I have been disturbed by the news coming out of my region – the northeast of India - where a teenage girl coming out of a bar at 9:30 pm was molested and beaten by a group of 20 men. The news has even found its way down under for the shocking nature of it. Tabloids and even TV have carried the news. I have always prided myself in belonging to a region that is known for its high tolerance and where women are generally safe and independent. But I have always felt a bit squidgy about Guwahati unlike the rest of the seven sisters. The place is so like the rest of India in many ways, dirty and claustrophobic. That explains why bars are looked upon as sleazy places and women going there beaten up as with the recent case. Just 150 km away is Shillong, the place where I grew up. Night clubs thrive there and till date there has been no case of attacks against women. Reading the news, I am appalled by some of the reactions. “But the girl was drinking,” or “only prostitutes visit that