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Immigration in Lahiri’s The Namesake
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Immigration has been a controversial issue in the contemporary society over the past decade. The number of immigrants across the globe has increased due to terrorist attacks and search for a greener pasture. The most common scenario that facilitates immigration in the society is drought and famine. However, immigrants have not enjoyed the services and reception in the new territory. They are subjected to harsh conditions, including rules and regulations mitigating the free movement and access to facilities. In order to have a clear perspective on the misfortunes faced by immigrants and the whole concept of immigration, Jhumpa Lahiri takes us into a vivid account of immigration in his book—The Namesake (Lahiri 28).
Identity has been a difficult issue in most of the governments, especially when it concerns culturally displaced persons, such as the immigrants, or individuals who have been brought up in two different geographical regions. As I was the victim of immigration, I experienced the indecency associated with immigration. The older an individual gets, the more one becomes aware of the inheritance that he/she has acquired from his parents (Heffelfinger and Wright 25). Being from Iran, I was subjected to solitude or exile in America. Indeed, it is quite complicated to declare myself as an American as I was raised in Iran. In the novel The Namesake, immigration of the Ganguli family is highlighted. The family life is transformed after they moved from their traditional territory, Calcutta, to America. After Ashoke and Ashima’s arranged wedding, the two decide to settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Life is unbearable for Ashima in the foreign environment. However, her husband, Ashoke, adapts to the American life with ease.
The continuous sense of alienation is depicted from the perception and the way of life that Ashima undertakes in the foreign land. She does not want to accept the changes imminent in the region. Indeed she feels isolated, lonely, and is longing for the lost world. Though the locals may perceive that individuals in the diaspora enjoy their stay, the sense of loneliness that flows through their lives is immense. Immigrants have no freedom of speech or movement in most parts of the new region. They end up being discriminated, hence fuel their loneliness and need fo belonging. According to Lahiri, the worst part of immigrants is when it comes to naming the newly-born child. When Ashima and Ashoke had a son, they were confused on whether to name the child basing on their ancestral origin or new habitation. They ended up naming him after the renowned Russian writer—Gogol Ganguli. As such, Gogol knows that he suffers from the burden of different heritages, despite having a clear understanding that he is an American (Dhingra and Cheung 32).
Ideally, the case of identity as an immigrant has affected my psychological well-being. In most of the government buildings and registration departments in USA, it is difficult to answer the question of place of residence. People are usually dissatisfied, as they want to know the exact location of birth, name, and appearance. For instance, when I declare to the authorities that I am from Iran, a place where it is only known to me as an ancestral region, I would be committing a felony. Lahiri showcase empathy to Ashima’s son, Gogol, due to his lack of identity. Under normal consideration, Gogol would have been named as an American due to his citizenship acquired by birth; however, his parents are left in confusion between ancestral origin and current residence. Lahiri purports that the family is speckled with the conflicting of loyalties and first-generation path (Lahiri 72).
Over the past decades, immigration had been rooted into allegiance in making a choice. Individuals, especially children, are usually cocooned in a scenario where parents’ happiness is their vital priority. In my case, as an Iranian, I did not want to disappoint my parents’ expectations, but rather focus on fitting into the society where I am currently residing. Indeed, this demonstrates the classic scenario of divided identity. However, divided identity depends on the willingness of the immigrant to assimilate to the new culture and tradition. Understanding that the new residence is one’s future place of residence and not his/her ancestral region will ease the turmoil of divided identity (Lahiri 81). From my experience, I realized that my parents were fearful and suspicious of the American culture and tradition, and they perceived that I would forget my ‘rightful’ tradition and become assimilated to the new culture. As such, observing the IIranian culture meant a lot to my parents, as they were convinced that their ancestral roots had not been washed away by this new American culture.
Although racism may be common among the immigrants, I was happy because we were of the same race with the Americans. In the current society, racism plays a key role in immigrants’ life. People are discriminated by the color of their skin. Socializing and accessing basic amenities is a problem, especially to individuals from a different race. Indeed, the government should educate individuals to end racism, as the immigrants are facing severe oppression in the country of migration. Currently, though I am taken to be a part of the American family, it comes a time when they treat an immigrant as a terrorist. The case only applied to me when I was in High School. Some students were not associating with me arguing that I was an alien. However, as I have grown now, I sympathize with my parents’ situation and how they were discriminated when they first arrived in the country (Mani 42).
Finally, The Namesake novel enlightens individuals on the need of equity when it comes to the treatment of immigrants. Individuals should be treated equally in order to enhance peaceful coexistence in the society. Research has shown that a majority of the immigrants are oppressed, either by the society or family members, on the need to date, having a close relationship with the Americans, and being discriminated from listening music composed by Americans. People are fighting to maintain and embrace their cultural endowment of their ancestral region. Understanding and embracing the culture of the new environment enhances an individual to positively perceive the new culture of the new region.
In conclusion, though immigration has been rampant over the past few years, the immigrants should learn to adapt to the new environment and culture that they are facing. Discrimination and oppression may be the key factors that characterize the lives in the diaspora, but there is a need to positively articulate and accept the new tradition. As evident from the novel, government should enact strategies that safeguard immigrants in order to make their lives bearable. Stringent laws on racism, oppression, and discrimination should be enacted to safeguard the immigrants.