The Namesake

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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...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
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
For Ashima the move is even more drastic than the one from Calcutta to Cambridge. In the... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
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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)