Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Namesake

I'm watching Mira Nair's The Namesake on cable right now. It's an Indian film about a man and woman who get married and come to America. They have two children (one is Kal Penn) who are completely Americanized and separate from their parents. It's mostly from the perspective of the parents, particularly the woman, Ashima.

The woman, Ashima, longs to go back to India. She says "I don't want to raise our son in such a lonely country." But the husband is a scholar, and his position and status is in New York, not India. So they stay, her family remains back in India, and she sees them only once or twice in the rest of her life. Her parents die, and she is unable to be there. For the entire movie, I feel there is a sense of sadness about Ashima, but a resignation to go through life with strength and elegance, to be the best wife and mother she can be, despite her inability to truly assimilate into American life.
I felt for Ashima. I related to it, although my circumstances are certainly not as drastic as Ashima's, and I don't see it as such. I do see my family a few times a year, far more than she was. And I wasn't thrust into a completely foreign environment like she was.

Both my sister and I moved to different parts of North America with our husbands, with the belief that it wouldn't be permanent, that we would stay for a few years, and then go back closer to our families. But in both cases, our husbands have jobs that are either very specialized, or rely on tenure. So, we both ended up in a place that we weren't expecting to be, and we will stay there for years and years, separated from our families.

And that's hard to deal with. It's particularly difficult when you start thinking about children, and how your family won't get to see them on a regular basis. That you can only hope that when you go into labor, your mother is already in the area, or on the way, because otherwise you'll be terrified in the delivery room. How if you're panicking, you can't drive to see your mother to help. Or you can't make a playdate with your sister and her children. Particularly when you have an awesome family like I do, that I wish and wish that my children could know them so well, because they are so fun and adventurous and joyful and kind.

But it is what it is. And it's something women have been doing forever. You marry, you have a husband who works, and may be the breadwinner, so you go where he goes. My grandmother did it - she moved from Prince Edward Island, where all her family was and still is, and went to Burlington, in Southern Ontario, because my grandfather chose to go. She's still there, and goes back to PEI once a year, for part of the summer.

I am not complaining, or not meaning to. And I'm not blaming M for "dragging" me here or anything. I chose to come, to stay. M says it all the time, how much he appreciates that I choose to leave at the end of our vacations back home, though it still, after nine years, breaks me up inside. It's just something I've thought about recently, and the thought was triggered by this movie.

But there are a lot of alternatives today, which make the distance a hell of a lot easier. Blogs, email, we're looking to get Skype to have video chats.

I also recently got the news that I will be an auntie. And with that announcement, came the instant decision that I must get a better car, because I'm going to be involved in that kid's life. I will learn to drive hours by myself, so my niece or nephew knows me, and knows I love them.

It is what it is. Make the most of it. And one day, I'll be back.

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