"As their lives in New England swell with fellow Bengali friends, the members of that other, former life, those who know Ashima and Ashoke not by their good names but as Monu and Mithu, slowly dwindle. More deaths come, more letters arrive in the mailbox informing them of aunts and uncles no longer with them. The news of these deaths never gets lost in the mail as other letters do. Somehow, bad news, however ridden with static, however filled with echoes, always manages to be conveyed. Within a decade abroad, they are both orphaned; Ashoke's parents both dead from cancer, Ashima's mother from kidney disease. Gogol and Sonia are woken by these deaths in the early mornings, their parents screaming on the other side of thin bedroom walls. They stumble into their parents' room, uncomprehending, embarassed at the sight of their parents' tears, feeling only slightly sad. In some senses Ashoke and Ashima live the lives of the extremely aged, those for whom everyone they once knew and loved is lost, those who survive and are consoled by memory alone. Even those family members who continue to live seem dead somehow, always invisible, impossible to touch. Voices on the phone, occasionally bearing news of births and weddings, send chills down their spines. How could it be, still alive, still talking? The sight of them when they visit Calcutta every few years feels stranger still, six or eight weeks passing like a dream. Once back on Pemberton Road, in the modest house that is suddenly mammoth, there is nothing to remind them; in spite of the hundred or so relatives they've just seen, they feel they are the only Gangulis in the world. The people they have grown up with will never see this life, of this they are certain. They will never breathe the air of a damp New England morning, see smoke rising from a neighbour's chimney, shiver in a car waiting for the glass to defrost and the engine to warm."
- Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake