What are some differences between Bengali and American customs, traditions or practices? From the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

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Jhumpa Lahiri shows cultural differences in the Ganguli family primarily between parents and children, as they were born in India and the Unites States respectively. A key difference of the Bengali tradition is that the parents were wed through an arranged marriage. Lahiri tells how the parents gradually set aside...

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Jhumpa Lahiri shows cultural differences in the Ganguli family primarily between parents and children, as they were born in India and the Unites States respectively. A key difference of the Bengali tradition is that the parents were wed through an arranged marriage. Lahiri tells how the parents gradually set aside many Bengali customs as they continue to live in the United States. One interesting aspect of the novel is Lahiri’s presentation of the most traditional family member, Ashimi, who takes on the responsibility of perpetuating Indian customs and ceremonies. She continues to wear Bengali style clothes and to cook the traditional foods to the extent she can persuade her children to eat them. She and the other women of her generation also perpetuate the celebration of religious holidays together, creating a substitute family for the relatives they had left back home. After her husband dies, however, Ashimi Americanizes much more, changing her style of dressing and working for wages outside the home.

For Gogol, saddled with a name that is wrong in his parents’ eyes, Bengali customs seem foreign. Even the idea that a child would have a “good” name is incomprehensible to him. During his father’s lifetime, Gogol had little experience with the death of those close to him, as most of their relatives were in India. Significantly, it is his adoption of Bengali mourning custom after Ashok’s death that sets him on a clearer path to embracing his Indian identity: he shaves his head.

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The novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri tells of a Bengali couple who move from Calcutta to the United States and struggle to raise a family while coping with the immense differences between their traditional and adopted cultures. In the course of the narrative, it juxtaposes numerous Bengali and American customs, traditions, and practices.

For instance, the practice of name giving is different. In Bengali culture, an elder should name the baby, and Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli want to wait until they hear from their newborn son's grandmother; but in the United States, the hospital insists that the parents name the baby right away on the birth certificate. Additionally, unlike Americans, Bengalis have pet names to be used at home and good names to use in public.

Another difference in tradition becomes evident when Nikhil, the son, goes to school. The parents want him to use his good name, and in India he would have obeyed without question, but the school authorities in America insist that the son's preference be respected, and so he is known as Gogol, his pet name, during his early years at school.

A further example of differences in culture involves the method of forming romantic relationships. Ashoke and Ashima, the parents, went through a marriage arranged by their parents, and they remain faithful to each other throughout their married life. Nikhil, on the other hand, follows the American custom of choosing his own romantic partners, and encounters confusion and difficulties as a result.

These are some of the main differences in culture and tradition presented in the novel, but there are many others integrated into the story having to do with cuisine, clothing, and the gathering and disposal of the ashes of a person after death.

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Several differences between Bengali and American traditions and customs are mentioned in The Namesake. One is that very often marriages may still be arranged. Like with Ashima's marriage to Ashoke, the Bengali woman may have little to say in the matter. A contemporary film that illustrates this is My Faraway Bride (2006), about an American writer who meets an Indian Bollywood film star.

Another difference traditions and customs is illustrated in the birth in Massachusetts of Ashima's first baby. At home in Bengal, Ashima would be surrounded by female family and friends who would encourage, help and instruct her as to what to expect. In Massachusetts, she had none of these things, nor do most American women who give birth.

In connection with this, Ashima and Ashoke were informed that they could not leave the hospital with their baby until they had named him. In Bengal, India, the naming process is a ritualized family tradition during which elders select the name.

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