Gogol wakes up late one morning alone in bed—Moushumi is away at a conference for the weekend, and the heat has malfunctioned, leaving their apartment freezing cold. He tries to work from home, but decides to go in to the office, leaving her a note. Alone at work, he glances at his desk, where the calendar reminds him that this Friday will be the fourth anniversary of his father’s death. Alongside it are photos of his family and of Moushumi.
This chapter switches back to following Gogol’s path, but now the reader knows what he doesn’t – that his wife is having an affair. This creates a sense of suspense, as we foresee the pain of that discovery and contrast it with the normalcy of his current actions. The fact that Gogol measures time relative to his father’s death shows us just how impactful it was.
As he works, he thinks of Thanksgiving 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 Sonia and Ben, happy and in love, amplifies questions he has been asking himself recently about Moushumi’s happiness with their marriage. Gogol is dreading Christmas, a fact that he thinks make him finally an adult. He doesn’t know what to buy for his wife.
The suspense continues – we learn that Gogol has begun to question Moushumi’s happiness, but doesn’t suspect her affair. Their Thanksgiving in New York is particularly heartbreaking, since it shows that Gogol believes he has managed to form what he thinks is a stable home, a place that fuses his family and Indian heritage with the American lifestyle he grew up with. On a basic level, however, there is a disconnect between him and Moushumi, as illustrated by his puzzling over her Christmas present.
Inspired by the idea of planning a trip to Italy, Gogol buys Moushumi a guidebook and begins to walk home, frightened momentarily by a flock of pigeons that seem strangely out of place in the trees of a park. He buys some of her favorite food and walks home. The doorman tells him with a smile that his wife has just returned, and Gogol’s heart swells at the thought of her. He hides the book in the pocket of his jacket and calls the elevator.
The guidebook, a promise of a brighter future, cheers Gogol’s spirits – although the uncanny sight of pigeons in a tree (instead of on the ground or a roof) is disconcerting to him: especially his realization that seeing birds in a tree is disconcerting in the first place. This is an image of identity confusion that resonates with Gogol’s long struggle to find where he belongs. Again, Lahiri builds suspense for when the affair will become known.