The Namesake

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Ashima Ganguli (Monu) Character Analysis

mother to Gogol and Sonia, and wife to Ashoke. Ashima is the family member most attached to the traditions of India, and who is most homesick for her family. After her arranged marriage to Ashoke, she moves with him to Cambridge. Although she has difficulty adapting to life in America, her children become a source of comfort and purpose as they make their home there – even if their American ways sometimes mystify and frustrate her. Ashima becomes a locus of Bengali immigrant activities, organizing gatherings at traditional holidays and sharing recipes that approximate Indian dishes with the American ingredients available. Her pet name, by which she is known at home in India, is Monu.

Ashima Ganguli (Monu) Quotes in The Namesake

The The Namesake quotes below are all either spoken by Ashima Ganguli (Monu) or refer to Ashima Ganguli (Monu). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of The Namesake published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Ashima has been consuming this concoction throughout her pregnancy, a humble approximation of the snack sold for pennies on Calcutta sidewalks and on railway platforms throughout India, spilling from newspaper cones. Even now that there is barely space inside her, it is the one thing she craves. Tasting from a cupped palm, she frowns; as usual there’s something missing.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Ashima is preparing a rough approximation of a traditional Indian street food using ingredients she can cobble together in her Cambridge apartment. This snack is partly a pregnant craving, a symbol of motherhood, and partly a symbol of a deeper, all-consuming craving for the homeland that she has only recently left behind to join her husband, Ashoke, in America. The snack represents much more than just nourishment—a life left behind—and so it leaves her feeling lonelier than before, even as it also gives her a brief reminder of what life in the wildly different world that she grew up in was like. In India the snack is superabundant, "spilling" from newspaper cones on every corner; America, by contrast, is a wasteland for Ashima, not the land of plenty that Ashoke sees. She has a persistent sense that something is missing, not just from this culinary experiment, but from her life as a whole in this new land. 

By beginning the novel with Ashima's perspective, Lahiri grounds her tale in the solid foundation provided by this traditionally-minded, stubborn matriarch. Her discomfort and struggle to find a home in the United States help humanize her, creating sympathy for Ashima, who will remain the solid heart of the Ganguli family, even as it grows apart. 

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When she calls out to Ashoke, she doesn’t say his name. Ashima never thinks of her husband’s name when she thinks of her husband, even though she knows perfectly well what it is. She has adopted his surname but refuses, for propriety’s sake, to utter his first. It’s not the type of thing Bengali wives do. Like a kiss or caress in a Hindi movie, a husband’s name is something intimate and therefore unspoken, cleverly patched over. And so … she utters the interrogative that has come to replace it, which translates roughly as “Are you listening to me?”

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu) (speaker), Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Ashima and Ashoke are still awaiting the arrival of their firstborn son, and the reader is given a glimpse into their relationship when Ashima calls to her husband without using his name. This is a product of tradition, since the name is considered an intimate aspect of a romantic relationship—the novel's first hint of the importance of naming in Indian culture. Ashima is devoted to tradition, and to "propriety," wary of the customs of the country that she has entered into, where first names are used indiscriminately. There is a gentle, humble quality to the phrase she uses in place of Ashoke's name, but it is still a strikingly formal phrase, from an American standpoint.

Ashima and Ashoke had an arranged marriage, and at this point they are still growing comfortable with one another, so much of what holds them together is a shared culture and a devotion to tradition, rather than a specific affection—although that love will come, and is already growing. Ashima, especially, has a reverence for this formal, respectful relationship, which might be considered unromantic from a modern American perspective. Later in the novel, she will be scandalized by the open affection that her children show for their own romantic partners. 

Ashima had never heard of Boston, or of fiber optics. She was asked whether she was willing to fly on a plane and then if she was capable of living in a city characterized by severe, snowy winters, alone. “Won’t he be there?” she’d asked, pointing to the man whose shoes she’d briefly occupied, but who had yet to say a word to her.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu) (speaker), Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrative perspective flashes back to the first time that Ashima met Ashoke, when he visited her house as a potential suitor for a marriage arranged by their parents. Asked to undertake a massive journey across the world, Ashima's courageous response shows a deep trust, and also a naivete regarding relationships and the world at large. The two have never met before, never spoken, but will soon embark on a lifetime together, in sometimes difficult, lonely circumstances. From her question, which does not even address Ashoke, it is clear that Ashima does not even know her future husband's name—and yet she is willing to stake her future on their pending marriage. This vision of love, in which individual choice is not an important factor, will seem impossible to understand to the pair's future children, who grow up in America with Western ideas of love and romance. 

A moment before this meeting, Ashima put her feet in Ashoke's shoes, seemingly entranced by their foreignness, their connection to this man who might become her husband. This moment of girlish excitement is a glimpse of the sentimental, young Ashima who will become a stern matriarch later in the novel. 

Chapter 2 Quotes

“Lucky boy,” Ashoke remarks, turning the beautifully sewn pages. “Only a few hours old and already the owner of books.” What a difference, he thinks, from the childhood he has known. Ashima thinks the same, though for different reasons. For as grateful as she feels for the company… these acquaintances are only substitutes for the people who really ought to be surrounding them. Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby’s birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true. As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can’t help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) (speaker), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, we see the major divide between Ashoke and Ashima in their attitude toward America, their new home as a young family. Family friends of the Gangulis have just presented the youngest member of this family, their firstborn son—who is still without a name—with a beautifully illustrated children's book. Ashoke, who has always loved literature, sees this as proof that his new son has been born into a land of prosperity and happiness, where anything can happen. He marvels at how different his son's first moments are from his own past, growing up without access to such luxuries.

While Ashoke celebrates this difference, Ashima is struck by a deep sadness to see everything that her son lacks in this new country. For Ashima, family is the most important thing in life, and to be born alone, without one's extended family, is a great tragedy. Without her family, Ashima is left floundering in the world, unable to function outside of the traditional family structures she knows so well. She has a sense of foreboding and worry for her son, who will grow up without any access to these structures. 

This is the house Ashoke had brought Ashima to eighteen months ago, late one February night after her arrival at Logan Airport. In the dark, through the windows of the taxi, wide awake from jet lag, she could barely make out a thing, apart from heaps of broken snow glowing like shattered, bluish white bricks on the ground. It wasn’t until morning, stepping briefly outside wearing a pair of Ashoke’s socks under her thin-soled slippers, the frigid New England chill piercing her inner ears and jaw, that she’d had her first real glimpse of America: Leafless trees with ice-covered branches. Dog urine and excrement embedded in the snow banks. Not a soul on the street.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote offers a flashback to Ashima's first impression of her new home with Ashoke in America. It is clear that this a completely alien landscape for the bewildered Ashima, who is fresh off the plane from India. While there is a general stereotype that for those who immigrate here, America is seen as a golden land of opportunity—and Ashoke takes this view—for Ashima, the frozen New England suburb is a dismal, ugly, and unwelcoming place, a violent shock to her system echoed by the frigid chill that pierces her body when she ventures outside. 

Her thin-soled slippers, traditional Indian footwear, show that she is completely unready for this new climate. The fact that she wraps her feet in her new husband's socks is also an echo of the moment before their first encounter, when she tried on his shoes in secret—and a hint at the growing intimacy between the couple. This is a small comfort, though, when Ashima is faced with what from her perspective are the desolate, empty, excrement-filled streets of Cambridge, so different from the warm, bustling streets she knows in India.

Chapter 3 Quotes

For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu)
Page Number: 49-50
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Ashima is continuing to adjust to her life as an immigrant in America, moving into a new stage now after the birth of Gogol. In this rich metaphor, she compares life as an outsider to a “lifelong pregnancy,” a sort of perpetual state of limbo when she feels suspended, apart from the world. She expects her normal life to resume once this period is over, but the pregnancy of immigrant life has no set term—and so she is in a constant state of discomfort, of unrest, and of intense responsibility without the option to rest and feel "normal." There is something productive and fertile about this waiting, since it brings new opportunities into the world for her children, but for Ashima herself the opportunities of this new life pale in comparison to the perpetual discomfort of being an outsider, feeling forever in between two worlds.  

The reaction of those around her to Ashima's status as an immigrant also contributes to her sense that this is a "sort of lifelong pregnancy"—she is made to feel remarkable or odd, like she needs to be taken care of by those who view her always as an outsider. 

But Gogol is attached to them. For reasons he cannot explain or necessarily understand, these ancient Puritan spirits, these very first immigrants to America, these bearers of unthinkable, obsolete names, have spoken to him, so much so that in spite of his mother’s disgust he refuses to throw them away.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli (speaker), Ashima Ganguli (Monu)
Related Symbols: Graves and Graveyards
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

Gogol has just returned from a class field trip to a Puritan graveyard, which was full of the odd names of early immigrants to America. Gogol took rubbings of these graves, much to the dismay of his mother, Ashima, who sees this act as disrespectful and has told him to throw them away. However, in an act of rebellion—one of his first—Gogol decides to keep the grave rubbings spite of his mother's wishes. 

Gogol identifies with the dead Puritans on two levels: first, as immigrants to America, a reminder that almost everyone here arrived from somewhere else, and second as the bearers of strange, now-unheard-of names like his own. Already Gogol is looking for a "namesake," and he finds an odd sense of kinship with these dead Puritans and their ancient names.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Ashima, now Monu, weeps with relief, and Ashoke, now Mithu, kisses his brothers on both cheeks, holds their heads in his hands. Gogol and Sonia know these people, but they do not feel close to them as their parents do. Within minutes, before their eyes Ashoke and Ashima slip into bolder, less complicated versions of themselves, their voices louder, their smiles wider, revealing a confidence that Gogol and Sonia never see on Pemberton Road. “I’m scared, Goggles,” Sonia whispers to her brother in English, seeking his hand and refusing to let go.

Related Characters: Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli (speaker), Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 81-82
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote describes the scene as the Ganguli family arrives in India for an extended visit. Here, the divide between the two immigrant generations within the family is clearly illustrated. For Ashima and Ashoke, who grew up in India, this is an intensely emotional, joyous homecoming that signals a return to the identity with which they feel most comfortable. The parents are transformed, shedding the worry and insecurity that comes with life as an immigrant in the United States, and embracing their extended family. This transformation is signaled in part by the recovery of their old pet names, Monu and Mithu, traditional Indian pet names that signal their close relationship to these family members, from whom they have been separated for so long, divorced from their former identities.

Gogol and Sonia, on the other hand, who were born in America, are frightened by what to them is a strange and foreign land, populated with strange people whose customs are not their own. They too share pet names that signal their closeness to one another—not the traditional Indian ones of their parents, but Americanized nicknames like “Goggles.” Already, within one generation, the children have become foreigners in the land of their parents.

Chapter 6 Quotes

At times… he is conscious of the fact that his immersion in Maxine’s family is a betrayal of his own. It isn’t simply the fact that his parents don’t know about Maxine… it is his knowledge that apart from their affluence, Gerald and Lydia are secure in a way his parents will never be. He cannot imagine his parents sitting at Lydia and Gerald’s table, enjoying Lydia’s cooking, appreciating Gerald’s selection of wine. He cannot imagine them contributing to one of their dinner party conversations. And yet here he is, night after night, a welcome addition to the Ratliff’s universe, doing just that.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Maxine Ratliff, Lydia Ratliff, Gerald Ratliff
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote describes Gogol’s moments of inner conflict about the new home he has found for himself in New York, in his girlfriend’s townhouse with the sophisticated and elegant Ratliff family. Maxine’s parents, Gerald and Lydia, who are at the head of this new home, are opposite in every way from Gogol’s own parents—they are embedded in the American upper class, secure in their wealth and whiteness, openly affectionate with one another, and luxurious in their taste. Feeling so at home here, Gogol is aware of the immense distance that separates this lifestyle from the one he grew up with. He is fundamentally different from his parents, has had radically different life experiences than them, and can now enter a world that will never be theirs. This power is at once intoxicating and disorienting for Gogol, who has worked hard to distance himself from his roots, rebelling against his parents’ lifestyle and isolating himself in New York with Maxine. Yet now that he is successful in his rebellion, Gogol finds himself feeling guilty about his success.

Gogol's relationship with Maxine has also been linked from the start with his struggle to form an identity. Gogol—or Nikhil, now—has transformed himself since meeting her, changing his lifestyle to match hers and reveling in the new sense of home and belonging that she is able to give him, for a time. 

The family seems to possess every piece of the landscape, not only the house itself but every tree and blade of grass. Nothing is locked, not the main house, or the cabin that he and Maxine sleep in. Anyone could walk in. He thinks of the alarm system that now is installed in his parents’ house, wonders why they cannot relax about their physical surroundings in the same way. The Ratliffs own the moon that floats over the lake, and the sun and the clouds. It is a place that has been good to them, as much a part of them as a member of the family. The idea of returning year after year to a single place appeals to Gogol deeply.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Maxine Ratliff, Lydia Ratliff, Gerald Ratliff
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Gogol describes the Ratliff’s summer home, which strikes him as a sort of paradise on earth. What attracts Gogol so intensely to this place is its sense of permanence and security, the all-pervading certainty that comes, in his mind, with an ancestral home like this one and the wealth and class of the family that inhabits it. Gogol has never felt so entirely at home, since he has always been torn between two identities—the Indian heritage of his parents and the American culture he has grown up in. The Ratliff family’s identity is monolithic, by contrast, linked to this place by an ancient family burying ground that anchors them physically to the American landscape, within which they have thrived. It is the startling sense of ownership that comes with this security, so in contrast to his parents’ own petty worrying, that gives Gogol the impression that the entire forest belongs to the Ratliffs: they are at home here. Never having had a home like this, Gogol is entranced by what he sees, and the identity that this place represents is a major part of what motivates his romantic interest in Maxine. His choice to be here is a rebellion against his parents, and everything they represent.

He returns to bed, squeezing in beside Maxine’s warm, sleeping body, and drapes his arm around her narrow waist, fits his knees behind hers. Through the window he sees that dawn is creeping into the sky, only a handful of stars still visible, the shapes of the surrounding pines and cabins growing distinct. A bird begins to call. And then he remembers that his parents can’t possibly reach him: he has not given them the number, and the Ratliffs are unlisted. That here at Maxine’s side, in this cloistered wilderness, he is free.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Maxine Ratliff
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, we see Gogol at the peak of his sense of security with Maxine—a sense that will not last long, since a fateful phone call announcing his father’s death is on its way, despite Gogol's belief that here, at last, he is unreachable. The image of Gogol pressing his body into Maxine’s for comfort is a useful illustration of the way that he uses romantic love as a means of chasing security and a stable identity. The idyllic, peaceful imagery of nature gives a sense of serene beauty, in strict contrast to the angst and insecurity that Gogol has felt for much of his life. His coming here, and creating for himself a new life and a new home with Maxine, is a rebellion against the home that he grew up in. Here, at last, there is no way that that old life can reach him—or so he thinks—and no one who can remind him of his former identity as "Gogol"; to everyone in this "cloistered wilderness" he is finally only Nikhil. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

She passes over two pages filled only with the addresses of her daughter, and then her son. She has given birth to vagabonds. She is the keeper of all these names and numbers now, numbers she once knew by heart, numbers and addresses her children no longer remember.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the novel returns to following Ashima’s perspective, as she writes out Christmas cards on behalf of the scattered members of her family, scanning through her address book and reflecting on her children’s nomadic lifestyles. Ashima is living alone for the first time in her life, separated from Ashoke, who received a fellowship to teach in Cleveland. Lonely at home, she is amazed at how comfortable her children have become—from her perspectiv— with their lack of any permanent home. There is a sense that Ashima feels that her children are strangers to her, insofar as this strange nation they grew up in gave them habits, sensibilities, and customs that she finds entirely foreign.

Nonetheless, Ashima has remained the reliable center point for her wandering children, serving as a beacon of tradition and family life, endeavoring to keep the family connected to its heritage and to one another. Her children take this service for granted at this point in their lives, but that won't remain the case forever. In a few moments Ashima will receive the fateful call, telling her that Ashoke has died, and then she will truly be the only keeper of the memories of her children, who will feel a new need to rediscover their first home as they mourn their father. 

Now, sitting together at the kitchen table at six-thirty every evening, the hour feeling more like midnight through the window, his father’s chair empty, this meatless meal is the only thing that makes sense. There is no question of skipping this meal; on the contrary, for ten evenings the three of them are strangely hungry, eager to taste the blandness on their plates.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, we see the Ganguli family learning to live together without Ashoke, who has recently died. The remaining family members are eating their nightly meal, a traditional meatless and bland dish consumed after the death of a loved one. Gogol’s perspective leads the narrative again here, as the mourning protagonist notices a significant shift in his own attitude toward the Indian traditions he has scorned and discarded for so long. He now welcomes the comfort that this ritual provides, the connection that it gives him to his family, and to his father’s heritage. 

The family's mourning for Ashoke is intense, leading to days that feel immensely long (so that six-thirty is more like midnight) and empty. Their ritualized togetherness is a comfortable relief, an automatic exercise that links them together, when they have recently been scattered.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Ashima feels lonely suddenly, horribly, permanently alone, and briefly, turned away from the mirror, she sobs for her husband. She feels overwhelmed by the thought of the move she is about to make, to the city that was once home and is now in its own way foreign. She feels both impatience and indifference for all the days she still must live, for something tells her she will not go quickly as her husband did.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu)
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

Lahiri returns to Ashima's perspective, and describes her experience of life alone in the house now that Ashoke has passed away. Ashima has decided to move back to India to be with what remains of her extended family, and is also mourning the loss of this home she has built with such dogged perseverance in America. For her whole life, Ashima has lived with either her family in India or her husband Ashoke, and now she is entering a new period of her life, in which she will need to find other forms of companionship. In this moment she is afraid of that new period, but resigned to it at the same time, sensing that she still has many years left to live.

The depth of Ashima’s emotion is an indication of just how deeply she loved her husband, and the extent to which their lives were intimately intertwined. This is the best example of true love in the novel, and it blossomed from a traditional arranged marriage, founded in family and custom.

And then the house will be occupied by strangers, and there will be no trace that they were ever there, no house to enter, no name in the telephone directory. Nothing to signify the years his family has lived here, no evidence of the effort, the achievement it had been. It’s hard to believe that his mother is really going, that for months she will be so far. He wonders how his parents had done it, leaving their respective families behind, seeing them so seldom, dwelling unconnected, in a perpetual state of expectation, of longing.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Gogol imagines the house he grew up in being passed along to a new family, now that his mother has made the decision to move back to India for six months of each year. The anchor that his father’s photograph had been in this place will be removed, and the house—such a major part of his past and present identity—will be transferred away as if it had never belonged to the Gangulis, with no remnant of their name to mark its history. Gogol now has a new appreciation for his parents’ struggle, as immigrants, to turn this house into a home, and a different kind of respect for them accompanies it. Now that he is losing his childhood home, he can finally understand how difficult it must have been for them to leave theirs and come here to America, sacrificing stability and comfort to live in the isolation of this new country. Gogol finally sees how important family and a family home are in life, forming the roots of a stable identity—and, ironically, it is in this moment that his roots are being removed. Still, his greater self-awareness about the importance of his roots and increasing reconciliation with his heritage suggests hope for his continued search for a meaningful identity.  

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Ashima Ganguli (Monu) Character Timeline in The Namesake

The timeline below shows where the character Ashima Ganguli (Monu) appears in The Namesake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
The year is 1968. Ashima Ganguli, nearly nine months pregnant, is preparing a makeshift version of a popular Indian snack,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Together they take a taxi to the hospital, where the nurses replace Ashima’s traditional sari with a hospital gown that she feels is too short. Her doctor informs... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
The watch on Ashima’s wrist, a wedding gift from her family, fills her with thoughts of home as she... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Throughout the day in the hospital, Ashima is reassured by Dr. Ashley and her nurse, Patty, that everything is expected to be... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Drifting back, again, to her memories of Calcutta, Ashima recalls the first time she met her husband Ashoke. The meeting had been arranged by... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Ashima continues to reminisce, recalling her elaborate wedding preparations with joy and describing her new life... (full context)
Chapter 2
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
The baby is born! After Ashima recovers from the intensity of childbirth, Ashoke enters to find her and the baby, whose... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Three others visit the new family in the hospital, all Bengali friends whom Ashima and Ashoke have met in Cambridge. Dr. Gupta, a post-doc at M.I.T., gives the baby... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...telephone, so they send a telegram with the news. In accordance with the Indian tradition, Ashima’s grandmother is entrusted with the naming of their child, and she has sent a letter... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...these potential pet names—Buro, meaning old man—and asks if this is their name for him. Ashima—whom the nurses have now nicknamed “Jell-O-and-Ice-Cream Lady,” since she doesn’t eat the chicken in its... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
On the fourth day, Ashima and the baby are to be discharged, but the hospital’s compiler of birth certificates, Mr.... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...slightly run-down, salmon-colored house near Harvard. This is the house to which Ashoke first brought Ashima, on a street of similarly pastel homes, although it was not until morning that she... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...Gangulis. They leave their children at home unsupervised, and the one glimpse of their apartment Ashima has had horrified her with its clutter of books, bottles, and dirty plates. (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...gives them a ride home, and as they enter their apartment with its unmade bed, Ashima is struck by its dreariness. She misses the hospital, but most of all she misses... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...have brought some of their old baby supplies and champagne to celebrate, though Ashoke and Ashima only pretend to drink it. A box of disposable diapers takes the place of Ashima’s... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Three days later, everyone has returned to work as usual, and Ashima is alone with Gogol for first time. She cries all day, feeling desperately alone. When... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Ashima eagerly awaits the mail each day, bringing letters from her family in India, written in... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...Gogol has his first ear infection and they see his pet name on the prescription, Ashima and Ashoke are reminded that the letter from Ashima’s grandmother has not yet arrived. The... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...Ashoke fly back to Calcutta and return with wives to start their families in America. Ashima welcomes these bewildered young brides, sharing recipes to approximate Indian dishes and discussing Indian politics,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...dishes are arranged in front of him, including a warm rice pudding called “payesh” that Ashima will prepare for him at each birthday alongside a slice of bakery cake. The guests... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...good name to use on his passport, having given up hope of receiving the letter. Ashima knits identical sweater vests for all of her male relatives, with one special cardigan for... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
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One night a call from India wakes them, and before Ashoke tells her the news Ashima feels instinctively that her grandmother has died. She begins to comfort Gogol, who has been... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...good name, they get an express passport with the name Gogol Ganguli. Before they leave, Ashima takes the stroller and a bag with the paintbrushes and cardigan for her father on... (full context)
Chapter 3
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For Ashima the move is even more drastic than the one from Calcutta to Cambridge. In the... (full context)
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When Ashima does leave the house, it is to wander around the university campus with Gogol, or... (full context)
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They hang a painting by Ashima’s father in the living room. Gogol has his own room, filled with American toys bought... (full context)
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The August that Gogol turns five, Ashima becomes pregnant again. Bedridden and nauseated once more, she spends much of her days watching... (full context)
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...good name, which they have finally chosen: Nikhil, meaning “he who is entire, encompassing all.” Ashima consented when Ashoke suggested it, still secretly heartbroken by the disappearance of her grandmother’s letter.... (full context)
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...life that they have left behind dwindles, as family members—those who still call Ashoke and Ashima by their pet names “Monu” and “Mithu”—pass away. They are left parentless within a decade... (full context)
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Ashoke and Ashima give in to America in other ways as well. Although Ashima sticks to her traditional... (full context)
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Ashima is horrified at the nature of this field trip—for her, death is not something trivial... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...Gogol’s fourteenth birthday party. As usual the family is hosting a group of Bengali friends. Ashima has cooked for days—a prospect she finds easier than when she had hosted a few... (full context)
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...a gift, which is unusual—he has never bought Gogol a present other than the ones Ashima gives him. (full context)
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The next year, Ashoke is up for a sabbatical, and so he and Ashima decide that the family will spend eight months in Calcutta. Gogol is dismayed—he doesn’t want... (full context)
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...their relatives, whose special names Gogol and Sonia must take care to remember. Ashoke and Ashima feel emotional at the reunion, but their children are unmoved. While their parents become more... (full context)
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...leave. Presents are bought, goodbyes are said, and the family departs before dawn. Gogol sees Ashima’s sadness as the plane leaves, but he mostly feels relieved, eagerly eating his in-flight breakfast... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...Sonia dies her jeans black, and sees her becoming a true American teenager, arguing with Ashima over her hairstyle choices. Sometimes the two are dragged along to a gathering of Bengalis.... (full context)
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...written in English, since one of the panel members, Amit, is a distant cousin, and Ashima insists he go. The discussion centers on “ABCDs,” or “American-born confused deshis” (meaning Indians), and... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Finally Ashima calls him at work late one evening, asking him to come home and say goodbye... (full context)
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...or kiss in front of his parents, and that there will be no wine with lunch—Ashima and Ashoke do not even own a corkscrew. Maxine is amused by the rules, and... (full context)
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...disaster and by the too-formal lunch they have prepared, but Maxine is charming as ever. Ashima is pleasantly surprised to hear she lives with her parents, a custom she misses. When... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Ashima sits at her kitchen table, addressing Christmas cards to her Bengali friends, the names spread... (full context)
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Ashima feels lonely in the dark house, and is frightened by small sounds. She has started... (full context)
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One afternoon, Ashoke calls earlier than usual, from a hospital in Ohio. Ashima is frightened, but he reassures her it is just a stomach pain, probably from food... (full context)
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Ashima’s thoughts are interrupted by a call from what she thinks is a telemarketer, mispronouncing her... (full context)
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Sonia flies back from San Francisco to be with Ashima, while Gogol flies to Cleveland. Maxine had offered to accompany him, but he refused. He... (full context)
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...of the complex. The apartment is sparse and simple, with a single picture of Gogol, Ashima, and Sonia on the refrigerator. He begins to dispose of the few items that are... (full context)
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Gogol calls home, but Sonia and Ashima are already asleep. He calls Maxine, who regrets not having come with him. Gogol remembers... (full context)
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...when he must face his mother and sister. He remembers the grief of Ashoke and Ashima when they lost their own parents. He remembers his father shaving his head in the... (full context)
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...Bengali friends. In January, Gogol returns to New York while Sonia stays in Massachusetts with Ashima. The two women come to see Gogol off at the train station. It feels strange... (full context)
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...and walking with his father all the way to the tip of a breakwater, despite Ashima’s worried calls. He recalls every detail, like the way his father’s footprints in the sand... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...photograph of his father on the wall, the closest thing Ashoke has to a grave. Ashima’s mourning has caused her to age quickly, and Sonia now lives with and takes care... (full context)
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Ashima has begun to ask questions about Gogol’s romantic situation, even suggesting that he patch things... (full context)
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...a young age. He is secretly pleased that she has seen his house and tasted Ashima’s cooking. He remembers a Christmas spent in her home, arranging an anonymous gift exchange, and... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...into their families for the last time. Gogol wears an old Punjabi of Ashoke’s, and Ashima is dressed up for the first time since her husband’s death. Sonia gives Gogol a... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...dinner the week before. Gogol and Moushumi had cooked in their apartment, and her parents, Ashima, Sonia, and Sonia’s boyfriend Ben joined them, all speaking in English for Ben’s sake. Seeing... (full context)
Chapter 12
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It is Christmas eve in the year 2000, and Ashima is sitting at the kitchen table, preparing her signature croquettes for an upcoming party—the first... (full context)
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...marriage of Sonia to Ben, which is scheduled to take place in Calcutta next year. Ashima looks kindly on this marriage—Ben makes Sonia happy in a way that Moushumi never did... (full context)
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Now, for these last few hours, Ashima is alone in her home, a state of existence she has grown used to. She... (full context)
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Upstairs in the bathroom before showering, imagining life as a grandmother, Ashima suddenly starts sobbing in memory of her husband and fear for what is to come,... (full context)
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...For the first time, Gogol feels he understands what it must have been like for Ashima and Ashoke to leave their past life in India, and he wonders if he has... (full context)
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...as children. They put up the stockings and drink champagne from Styrofoam cups. That night Ashima will fill their stockings, according to the rules of Christmas her children have taught her—rules... (full context)
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The guests begin to arrive, chattering in Bengali and expressing their regret at Ashima’s departure. Gogol realizes that Ashima has been the force that gathers them all together for... (full context)
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...of his father—but it is these things that endure, that have brought them here today. Ashima interrupts Gogol’s thoughts to ask him to fetch the camera, and he goes upstairs to... (full context)
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...how much is the same here, as he has yet to clean out the room. Ashima has warned him that all of his books will be donated to the library where... (full context)
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Gogol opens to the first story in the book, “The Overcoat.” Soon Ashima will come to find him, wondering where he has been, scolding him, urging him to... (full context)