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Diaspora and Culture: Indian Immigration and Integumentary Anxiety

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Since time immemorial human beings aspire for comfort and keep searching better locations to live in throughout their lives. The factors which drive humans to move from one place to another principally include economic, safety, etc. They often struggle in order to be in clover. But this struggle outright comes to an end with the feeling ambivalence and hiraeth and subsequently people feel down in the dumps and are left grief-stricken. There may also be several other causes not listed above to leave one’s own homeland to settle on alien lands across the world, but somewhere or the other, this shift results in fretfulness and concurrently resuscitates the feelings of nostalgia and disillusionment. The present study aims at recording and highlighting such unregistered emotions, portrayed in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.

In this current age the people are not having any fixity of their homeland. They move from one place to another, convergence of the heterogeneous cultures, creolization of languages and hybridization of identities. Therefore, the concepts of homeland and fixed identity in this era of global migration form, is a complex framework. According to the critics like Homi K. Bhabha and Avtar Brah the floating nature of home and fluid identity both have replaced the age-old concepts of fixed ‘home’ and identity as well. The idea of ‘home’ evokes the spatial politics of home, the sense of self, its displacement, intimacy, exclusion and inclusion. The shift of the mass to different countries makes the concept of actual home, a wrong one. The idea of home provides the self sense which binds human emotion, feelings, sentiments, proximity and attachment all together in one. Apart from it actually home is made of emotional properties. And as it is accepted by all that culture shows the identity and belongingness of humans. After leaving the homeland the people leave their identity behind and they suffer and miss their originality or identity.

The mixed identity that the immigrants hold creates a multiple situations in regard of their belongingness. In the opinion of Bhabha, hybridity is the ‘third space’ which makes the other positions to rise. The identity as suggested by Bhabha, indicates the impure and imperfect identity rather than stable identity. Mixed or hybrid identity creates an identity crisis in one’s construction of home of familiarity in the foreign countries. The next generation immigrants hate to the identity of the original or parental land, the national identity of the first generation may be changed by political reasons, but they are attached to their original homeland culturally, linguistically and ethnically. In the contemporary era, immigration, exile and expatriation are related to the actual home, identity, memory and seclusion. These are the current themes in the diasporic writings of the post-colonial writers like Salman Rushdie, Bharti Mukkerjee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai and other writers.

The present paper focuses on the first and second-generation immigrants’ who are showing their hate to the old and new lands as it can be found in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003). In this novel, Lahiri has tried to find out the psychology of the first generation immigrants, Ashima and Ashok and the second generation immigrants, Gogol, Sonia and Moushumi. The present novel is critically indicating the concept of own homeland which generates an atmosphere to construct home as well as identity of proximity. The current era of transmigration, ‘home’ is signifying its temporariness. There are several critics, who had indicated that the immigrants hold dual identities, out of them even one is not fixed. In the novel, Ashima is pinning for her homeland for she feels loneliness and misses her near and dear in her odd days in foreign land while Gogol, Sonis and Moushumi are closely attached to the USA, where they took birth. They don’t give importance to their original land i.e. India. They think that USA is the place where they are more comfortable and happy.

The research targets at recognizing the integumentary anxiety among the immigrates as well as the problems rising because of the cultural differences. The immigrates who are living away from their home land, whatever the problems they encounter there and their anguish and anxiety for their original land. All these aspects are focused and an attempt is made to mirror the pain of the immigrates through this research. From the cultural points of view it is reflected that the second generation has forgotten their own values and culture and they try to involve in the culture of foreign land. Actually it is the way to evaluate and analyze the pain, sufferings, problems and Integumentary anxiety of the immigrates specially the women and the new generation and the differences and clashes between their views and perspectives.

Lahiri focuses on the condition of the immigrates, she is also making an effort to improve the conditions of diasporic immigrants. The characters, she has portrayed, are not showing any contrast. They all are living a normal life in the foreign land, from Brown” (Waldman, 2008). It can’t be said that it is not only their parents’ culture but the era is equally responsible for their concerns of literary works. The background of Lahiri’s foreign family is another prior factor and aspect of her fame and name in the field of literature in a short period of time. It was her first book of Lahiri which brought a status of a literary personality to her. Jhumpa Lahiri was quite unfamiliar and unrecognized personality in the literary field just before her first literary work. However the present paper is focusing on Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake. This novel gives the picture of the lives of the Ganguli family. But the main focus is concentrated on the life of Gogol Ganguli. The novel begins with the prominent character’s mother, Ashima, who is admitted in the hospital of America, at the time of her delivery.

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The story of the present novel describes the life of Ashok, his accident by the train as well as his arranged marriage to Ashima. The novelist tried to characterize the lives of the immigrant parents and made an effort to “preserve the ‘home culture ; while on its contrary they (parents) are also making an effort to groom the children in the American culture and style”. (Mishra, 2006). There is an immense quality in Lahiri, i.e. to understand the immigrant experience may be extracted in this manner that Lahiri depicts the feeling of seclusion and otherness. It is the ability of Lahiri to understand the experience of immigrants, may stem from the fact that she describes the general experience of seclusion and abandonment. In the very first chapter of the novel, when Ashima is all lone she feels like an alien on the alien land.

The Namesake is a story of two generations of the immigrants. It portrays cultural struggle of two generation for the original land. It explores various problems in the identity building for the first and the second generations of the immigrants. It’s a story of Ashima Ganguli who arrives in Boston as a young bride after her arranged marriage and realizes how isolated she has become while preparing to deliver her first child in a hospital at Massachusetts. In fact, an Indian woman wishes the emotional support at least at the time of her first delivery. In America she feels nothing normal.

However, Ashoke gives name to his son as ‘Gogol’, actually it is the name of his favorite famous Russian author .The author is the same whose book he was reading during the rail accident and his life is saved.

Several people lost their lives in that accident so he thinks that the author’s book is very lucky to him. So by luck he is saved from a great danger. He faced only one problem during that accident that hir back is broken. As it is the Bengali culture to give two names to their children, one as pet or nick name, which is called at home while the other one is official name to use it outside the home. Even Gogol also has two names and his public name becomes ‘Nikhil’. Ashima stresses that the second name is also given after the same Russian author, i.e. Nikolai Gogol. But Gogol doesn’t like his name, so he decides to change his name.

Lahiri, therefore describes Indian culture and traditions, she throws light on those customs and rituals which she has already experienced and sensed in her personal life. The representation of Lahiri’s ethnic fevour is quite different from Bengali traditions of putting names of the babies, Indian ethnic dressing sense and food habits etc. The plot lines of the novel starts when Gogol’s expected pet name becomes his official name. Lahiri is lashed with gross experience of the Bengali customs, rituals and culture of providing two names to a child. Actually the official name of Lahiri was Nilanja Sudeshna, Lahiri but she didn’t like to be called with this name so she choses to be known as Jhump Lahiri, the present name which was once Lahiri’s pet name (Dhingra & Cheung, 2012). It is equally prominent and important that Asian Americans never depict or act as isolated individuals but on its contrary, they have often maintained contacts either with one another or with the same country from where the people or their families arrive. Therefore the term diaspora is important in this relation.

The Story of the novel starts in 1968, the novel clarifies that the arranged marriages are very ordinary and common even in this period. As per the culture of Bengalis, the arranged marriages are existing as the specimen not only in rural areas but also in urban sectors (Klass, 1966). In fact Lahiri has not focused deliberately on the peculiarity and speciality of Indian culture but rather she tries to show that the Indian Bengali communities are very less problematic. The overall narration of the story of the novel rotates around the arranged marriage and there are no problems and traces of contrast between the two Indian and American culture and custom. On the other hand the story takes its turn at the layers of the background. Ashima, the main character of the novel, is portrayed as the suppressed woman or an obedient daughter. Even the marriage of Ashima and Ashoke is not depicted as the forced one.

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Diaspora and Culture: Indian Immigration and Integumentary Anxiety. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
“Diaspora and Culture: Indian Immigration and Integumentary Anxiety.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Diaspora and Culture: Indian Immigration and Integumentary Anxiety. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2022].
Diaspora and Culture: Indian Immigration and Integumentary Anxiety [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from:
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