This occured to me the very first time I saw ‘The Namesake‘ but laziness and other such things kept me from blogging about it right then. I’ve just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s book. As an aside, it’s a lovely story, the book even better than the already excellent movie.
You know what was the most striking aspect of the story for me? The contrast between the relationships in the two generations.
Ashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan) meet each other under the scrutiny of their parents eyes. She decides in a few minutes that he is the one for her, because she likes his shoes. Which prompts her to speak confidently in the following conversation,
How will you manage all by yourself in America?
Will he (darted glance at …) not be there with me?
The couple takes off to foreign shores, in those heydays before the the internet, email and affordable ISD. They start a life together based on complete trust in each other, something that is never spoken about but expressed in their everyday actions.
Like any two human beings, they take time to adjust to each other. When Ashima shrinks Ashoke’s sweater in the dryer and he reprimands her for it, she doesn’t protest but goes away to weep by herself. He stops and soothes her by singing a silly song. There is a sweetness, a gentleness in both of them, encapsulated in that sequence, that touches the viewer.
Gogol (Kal Penn) and Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson) on the other hand, are a modern day couple. They date in the privacy of a restaurant and their own apartments. They talk, intellectualise and laugh together. We are taken to their bedroom on the night of their wedding. Right after making love, he asks her how many lovers she has had before.
Their relationship is one that a lot of us could probably relate to. The common backgrounds, the yuppie couple lifestyle they lead, the friends-as-well-as-lovers implications. And yet, for all their conversations, their marriage has started off on trust being questioned and ends with it being betrayed.
Do we really know how to relate to each other anymore? Or have we just had so much of freedom (too much of a good thing) that it makes us sick with paranoia now?
I see the gentleness of Ashima and Ashoke’s love in a lot of couples of that generation and the one before them – our parents and grandparents. People who’ve probably never said ‘I love you’ to each other but are completely happy in each other’s company. And I’ve said ‘I love you’ to a lot of people but at the end of a decade of dating, I don’t know a single person I could stand for more than a few days.
I don’t remember any man ever having treated me with as much trust and gentleness as Ashoke treats Ashima. And I also have never trusted any man so unquestioningly.
Maybe we’re just a generation of too many questions and not enough trust.
* I read this book on my flight back from the South trip. And on the cover was written, ‘The greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home.’ I stay hopeful.