At the start of the film, Ashoke and Ashima leave India for America and their life together begins. The move from the big city of Calcutta to the big city of New York is much lonelier because they have no family nearby and the land is unfamiliar.
The climate is also different, it is winter time and the weather is cold. Ashima is learning very quickly that the living conditions are different. Ashoke explains to her that they have gas twenty-four hours a day, and the difference between hot and cold water symbols.Also there was no need for her to boil the water for drinking; she could just drink straight from the tap. Life in America is different and at times lonely, however Ashoke believes it’s the land of opportunity. When Ashima accepted her arranged marriage the cost was to leave her family of orientation behind, and all that she had ever known. The benefits were a companionship and the opportunity to build life in the U.
S. Ashoke also shared the same benefits, but the costs seemed less because he had already traveled abroad. Ashoke was more familiar with U. S. culture, and had a job in New York City.He seemed to gain more immediately from the arranged marriage than Ashima because now along with his job he had a life companion. As the story evolves, Ashoke and Ashima don’t show a lot of physical affection, but it seems apparent that they care for one another as people of the same culture, learning to be together. Ashoke dreams about being physically intimate with Ashima, and that tells the viewer that he desires her.
In the U. S. , relationships that are just beginning have a higher desire for physical affection and intimacy than relationships in older stages.However this could be true because in the U. S. , people are allowed to choose their partner, rather than the selection being arranged. Also a high amount of affection or display of affection is accepted by American standards, and it seemed less accepted by Indian culture. Their marriage begins as a companionate marriage, and as time progresses there is definitely a love for one another.
When Ashima’s father dies, Ashoke holds her and comforts her while she cries. He is helpful with the children in the airport on the way to India, and convinces her to go to her father’s ceremony.On the family vacation to the Taj Mahal when their children are teenagers, Ashima says she always wanted to go there with him.
She talks about the Taj Mahal being built out of love, and Ashoke says “all husbands love their wives they just can’t afford to build the Taj Mahal” as he holds her hand. Ashoke loves his wife, so when he is preparing to leave for Ohio he has an alarm system installed in the house to protect Ashima. He asks her to come with him, and she is concerned how he will manage by himself. Their concern for one another’s well being shows how the companionship turned into a relationship filled with love.When Ashima and Ashoke have their first child, they don’t want to name him before leaving the hospital because they were waiting for Ashima’s 85 year old grandmother to choose his name.
In the U. S. , parents are required to name a child before leaving the hopsital for the birth certificate. They choose Gogol as a pet name, and wait to choose a “good name”. In Indian culture a person has two names, a pet name and a good name.
When Gogol starts school, he chooses at an early age that he wants to remain being called Gogol after his parents pick the good name of Nikhil.Ashima tells Ashoke “in this country the children decide, not the parents”. This is an obvious clash of cultures, individualism prevails. As Gogol matures and is in high school he is irritated with his parents name choice of Gogol because it was his father’s favorite author not his own. He wants to change his name back to the good name of Nikhil when he goes off to college. Gogol’s view is very individualistic; he wants his own name and is about himself. His parents’ views are about the family, and the respect for the family.
When the family is at the table eating, Gogol calls his parents “guys”, and Ashima says “don’t call us guys” because she wants to be respected as his mother. The clashes are both cultural and generation based. Teenagers in any culture choose not to listen to their parents, and play loud music as Gogol did in the movie.
The Ganguli home is often filled with Bengali family and friends, and that provides a support system for Ashoke and Ashima. It makes the Ganguli’s feel like they did when they were in India, surrounded by family. Gogol receives some advice from his aunt before leaving for college.She tells him to have fun, but come home and marry a Bengali woman. After Gogol leaves home, he meets Maxine who is American in every sense of the word. She is in the upper social class, and Gogol is attracted to her family because they are American. They call Gogol, Nick short for Nikhil.
He distances himself from his parents by not returning phones calls, and upsets Ashima when he would rather visit Maxine’s parents than his own. Gogol does decide to stop at his parents on the way to visit Maxine’s, out of possible guilt for not keeping in touch.Gogol introduces Maxine, and she calls Ashima by her first name.
It’s apparent that is not the respectful introduction Ashima would have preferred. Again, a clash in cultures, and what’s considered appropriate. Gogol and Maxine leave, and Maxine states she would’ve never guessed those were his parents. Gogol celebrates his birthday with Maxine’s family and his mother cannot get in contact with him.
The distance he creates with his parents deeply saddens Ashima, and will later cause a great amount of regret for Gogol.When Ashoke passes away, Ashima cannot reach Gogol so finally his sister calls to give the news of their father’s death. Gogol goes to identify his dad, and gather his father’s belongings from the apartment he was staying at in Ohio. When he sees his father and is at the apartment he is remorseful for his behavior, and decides to embrace his family along with the Indian culture.
At the ceremony for Ashoke, Maxine arrives to be supportive. Gogol rejects her, and is unfair to her. She was trying to be there for him, and work out the relationship.Gogol’s intent was not to take advantage of her during the relationship, but after his father dies it seems like he only wanted to be with her at the time because she was American. His parents wanted him to marry a Bengali. Gogol went from one extreme to another.
He wanted to be American and shed Indian influence, but after his father died he had regrets. So, he decided to embrace his family and cut all ties with Maxine. Gogol goes on to marry a Bengali, and the marriage doesn’t survive because his wife chooses to be with another man.Gogol feels free and sets out to travel. Ashima is told by the librarian to “follow her bliss”, and she decides to share her time in India and the U. S. I really enjoyed this movie because it shed light on arranged marriages. The hardship of coming to a strange country with a stranger, and making a beautiful family was touching.
I grew fond of Ashima; she was a strong respectable woman. The movie made me think about the way the relationship grew for Ashoke and Ashima. From strangers to parents to people that really cared for one another.There are American relationships that don’t turn out near as well, and they aren’t arranged. I hadn’t given as much thought to the struggle for children whose parents aren’t born in the U.
S… Those children have to balance more than one culture, and fit in with their peers.
Children have difficultly as it is growing up and learning about being an individual. The movie also gave an example about marrying within your culture doesn’t guarantee a lasting relationship. My own family shares some of the same values as the Ganguli’s, and that was something that helped me connect to the film.