Self-discovery (A Personal Response to Jhumpa Lahiri's the Namesake)
There is a conversation between Ashoke and Ghosh that took place on a train. It was a few hours before the accident that ended Ghosh’s life and made Ashoke had to lay in bed for almost a year for recovery. In the conversation, Ghosh told the twenty-year-old Ashoke:
“You are still free.” He said, spreading his hands apart for emphasis.“Do yourself a favor. Before it is too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.” (Page 16)
Ashoke used to believe that he could see the world only by reading books as what his grandfather told him. He believed that books were the simplest way to travel all around the world without moving even an inch. However on that day, for the first time in his life, he was told to pack his clothes (and books) to see the real world. Ghosh literally told him to experience living in a country that has a different culture, meet strangers and make friends with them, and achieve opportunities as soon as possible before he got older. Then, Ashoke did it. After graduating from B.E. College, he got a scholarship to study in Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America. He embraced his worries about his family and left them in order to explore his bigger abilities. If he stayed in India, got a job, then got married and lived in his parents’ house, he would not get any improvements. His life would be flat and ordinary. Therefore, he decided to see the world as what Ghosh told him to.
Seeing the world is not only about going abroad to visit tourists’ destinations or to migrate to seek a job, but it is also about running after passions. In the journey of achieving passions abroad, one will learn so many things he cannot learn in his hometown. Meeting new people, eating new kinds of food,living surrounded by new culture, and not seeing family very often anymore.These things will not be easy. One has to adapt and change himself toward the environment, which is theoretically called autoplastic adaptation, instead of complaining about how different the culture of his hometown and the country he now lives in. He is forced to accept his environment and override egoism. In this process of adaptation, the discovery of oneself will occur. He will find out his abilities, talents, and passions that he thought he did not have, in which independence is one of them. Once he succeeds in adapting, it signs that he has already discovered his true personality.
This self-discovery also occurred to Ashoke. He decided to continue his engineering study in America. There, he found out that he had something bigger inside him which later on made him successful in his career. If he did not take the chance to go to America, his life-story would be so much different and he would be smaller than how he was now. However, his bright life could not be separated from his success in adapting to American culture. It is different with what happened to his wife, Ashima, who could not stand living there. He tried his best to calm her wife down. Although he silently felt guilty for putting her in that situation, which can be seen from what Jhumpa Lahiri, as the writer, narrated:
Early mornings, when he senses that she is quietly crying, he puts an arm around her but can think of nothing to say, feeling that it is his fault, for marrying her, for bringing her here. (Page 33)
Whilst reading this part of The Namesake that talks about seeing the world, I feel so much related with the novel. It is not that I have already traveled abroad and experienced living in a different culture, but it is that I feel what the young Ashoke felt. I always thought that I could see the world only by googling on the internet or making friends with native people on Facebook. Yet, I soon realized that the world was not as small as that. When I thought I was seeing the world through my computer, actually I was not seeing the world but just playing with my computer. The one and only way to see the world is to step my feet out of the door and get involved in the real pluralist society. My desire to travel around the world becomes stronger each day. Not only about traveling,this desire is also about discovering my true personality and finding a bigger talent that I have inside me. I want to drive a car on the right side of the road. I want to get lost in a city that I have never been before. I want to eat strange-tasted food as much as I can. I want to share a flat with a stranger. I want to write (because I love writing very much) about new things around me and post it on my blog. I want to embrace my fears by living alone without boundaries and limitations. I want to experiment myself: what will I do if I live in a country whose culture is different with mine. By living abroad,I want to explore my talents in order to evolve myself even more. One day, I believe that I will do these things.