I am reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s bestseller The Namesake, sent to me by a friend about a year ago. I’ve picked it up a few times, but am only just getting into it properly now. If you want insight into what it is like to be a foreigner, especially from a woman’s perspective, you must read this! So many of the passages resonate for me. The balance of being grateful for differences in a land that’s not home with the deep longing for the familiarity of home again.
For Ashima, migrating to the suburbs feels more drastic, more distressing than the move from Calcutta to Cambridge had been. She wishes Ashoke had accepted the position at Northeastern so that they could have stayed in the city. She is stunned that in this town there are no sidewalks to speak of, no streetlights, no public transportation, no stores for miles at a time. She has no interest in learning how to drive the new Toyota Corolla it is now necessary for them to own. Though no longer pregnant, she continues, at times, to mix Rice Krispies and peanuts and onions in a bowl. For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of a lifelong pregnancy–a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to disover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiousity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.