The Namesake

Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) Character Analysis

a caring father to Gogol and Sonia, and husband to Ashima. Ashoke grew up in Calcutta. An avid bookworm, he especially loves Russian novels. His life is changed forever when, during a train journey to visit his grandparents, a major accident strikes – he barely survives the train wreck, and is fished from the wreckage only after rescue crews see the pages of the book that he had been reading – by Nikolai Gogol – blowing in the wind. After a long and difficult recovery, he vows to travel abroad. He goes on to become a PhD student at M.I.T., and later a professor of engineering. His pet name, by which he is known at home in India, is Mithu.

Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) Quotes in The Namesake

The The Namesake quotes below are all either spoken by Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) or refer to Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu). 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

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 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 8 Quotes

It is the photograph more than anything that draws Gogol back to the house again and again, and one day, stepping out of the bathroom on his way to bed and glancing at his father’s smiling face, he realizes that this is the closest thing his father has to a grave.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Related Symbols: Graves and Graveyards
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

He’d confessed to her that he still felt guilty at times for changing his name, more so now that his father was dead. And she’d assured him that it was understandable, that anyone in his place would have done the same. But now it’s become a joke to her. Suddenly he regrets having ever told Moushumi; he wonders whether she’ll proclaim the story of his father’s accident to the table as well. By morning, half the people in the room will have forgotten. It will be a tiny, odd fact about him, an anecdote, perhaps, for a future dinner party. This is what upsets him most.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Moushumi Mazoomdar
Page Number: 244
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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Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) Character Timeline in The Namesake

The timeline below shows where the character Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) 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
...to go into the very early stages of labor, and calls out for her husband, Ashoke, although according to her custom she does not use his first name. (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...is too short. Her doctor informs them that the labor will take some time, and Ashoke leaves Ashima alone with the other women in the room. She hears one of the... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...again, to her memories of Calcutta, Ashima recalls the first time she met her husband Ashoke. The meeting had been arranged by their families, and as she stood outside the room... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
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...recalling her elaborate wedding preparations with joy and describing her new life in America with Ashoke. She has learned about his special fondness for potatoes, his careful approach to clothing, and... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Ashoke has returned to the hospital waiting room, having been warned that the baby could come... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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Ashoke continues to read the paper as he walks, limping slightly. This habit is carried on... (full context)
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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On the journey to his grandparents’ home in the North, Ashoke brings only one book—a collection of short stories by Nikolai Gogol that his grandfather had... (full context)
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
The other passengers in his cabin go to sleep, but Ashoke stays up late into the night, reading and taking in the sounds of the train.... (full context)
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
For the next year, Ashoke lay flat in bed, unable even to feed himself, listening to the sounds from the... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Although he has now left India, the memory of the train crash still haunts Ashoke at times. He feels lucky to have survived, and considers his life to be broken... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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The baby is born! After Ashima recovers from the intensity of childbirth, Ashoke enters to find her and the baby, whose name card reads only “Baby Boy Ganguli.”... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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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 an illustrated... (full context)
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...their son after someone of importance to them, and then he leaves the room. Suddenly, Ashoke has an idea, and reaches out to his son, calling him Gogol for the first... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...story of a 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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...Alan Montgomery, along with their two children. Alan is a sociology professor at Harvard, and Ashoke is confused by his flip-flops and threadbare trousers, since he himself often wears a jacket... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
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...would have had the responsibility of cleaning the house. “I can’t do this,” she tells Ashoke, and when he attempts to reassure her she makes her meaning clear: she tells him... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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Observing his wife, Ashoke sees that their time in America has already taken a toll. He knows she is... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...with Gogol for first time. She cries all day, feeling desperately alone. When she calls Ashoke to ask him to bring home rice—she has tried to borrow from Judy, but her... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...life. She responds with careful descriptions of her son’s development, telling them that she and Ashoke are planning a trip to India after Gogol turns one. She does not tell them... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...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 next day,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
The community of Bengali friends in Cambridge is ever growing, as young PhD students like Ashoke fly back to Calcutta and return with wives to start their families in America. Ashima... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
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...Some call for him to take the dollar, since an American must be rich, while Ashoke urges him to take the pen. Gogol frowns, taking nothing, and begins to cry. (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...exit the train she leaves all of her purchases behind. Humiliated, she is amazed when Ashoke’s call to the MBTA lost and found leads to the objects’ safe return. (full context)
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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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...Telling him that she no longer wants to go, Ashima turns to the window as Ashoke takes her hand and the plane takes off, Gogol screaming with the change in air... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...of Boston, where they are the only Bengalis in a small, typically Northeastern university town. Ashoke has been hired as an assistant professor of electrical engineering, with his own office and... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...bought at yard sales, a concept that had initially struck Ashima as shameful, but which Ashoke points out that even his chairman at the university embraces. The yard is still unfinished,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...Sesame Street as well, to keep up with his English lessons at nursery. At night Ashoke cooks, a strange sight for Gogol, and the two eat together while Ashima is in... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...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. Gogol is not... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...it differently than his parents have, but he does not respond. To spur his response, Ashoke resorts to speaking to his son in English for the first time, but forgets and... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...friends, the 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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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Ashoke and Ashima give in to America in other ways as well. Although Ashima sticks to... (full context)
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Ashoke puts their family name in gold letters on their mailbox, and one morning Gogol sees... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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...to listen to the Beatles, an album he received from one of his American friends. Ashoke then enters with a gift, which is unusual—he has never bought Gogol a present other... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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...Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol, a special copy ordered from a small press in England. Ashoke waits expectantly, but Gogol is unimpressed—he does not know the story of his father’s train... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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Ashoke notices the ways in which his son is growing up and beginning to resemble 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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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...see the tree when she comes downstairs, but there are only suitcases. At the airport, Ashoke hands in their two U.S. passports and two American ones, asking for two Hindu meals.... (full context)
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...embraces of 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... (full context)
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...another compartment of the train, a man is stabbed in his sleep and robbed, reminding Ashoke of the fateful accident from his past. (full context)
Chapter 5
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...his name should be Bengali, not Russian, and that no one takes him seriously. When Ashoke asks whom he is referring to, he offers a vague reply, secretly aware that it... (full context)
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...a suicide on the track. He arrives at the station in his hometown late, where Ashoke has been waiting nervously for three hours, thinking of his own accident. (full context)
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In the driveway before they enter the house, Ashoke decides to tell Gogol about that accident, and the true origins of his name. His... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...him at work late one evening, asking him to come home and say goodbye to Ashoke before he leaves for a prestigious nine-month teaching fellowship in Ohio. Gogol is annoyed that... (full context)
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...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 when they... (full context)
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Ashoke enters and insists that they move their rental car into the driveway so that it... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...that is copied from one of her father’s letters. Now that she is alone, with Ashoke teaching in Ohio, she has time for such crafts. (full context)
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...whom have grown children also and are divorced—they gossip about the perils of middle-age dating. Ashoke visits every three weekends, paying the bills, raking the leaves, and putting gas in the... (full context)
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One afternoon, Ashoke calls earlier than usual, from a hospital in Ohio. Ashima is frightened, but he reassures... (full context)
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...her last name as usual. She hangs up and returns to work. Later, worried about Ashoke, she tries to contact the hospital, spelling her name out letter by letter for the... (full context)
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...who regrets not having come with him. Gogol remembers that the last time he saw Ashoke had been with her, on their way to New Hampshire. Maxine is shocked to hear... (full context)
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...the moment 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... (full context)
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...turned outward because of his slight limp. When they reached the end, surrounded by sea, Ashoke realized he had forgotten the camera. “We will have to remember it, then,” he says,... (full context)
Chapter 8
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It has been a year since Ashoke’s death. Gogol and Maxine are no longer together—the argument that ended their unraveling relationship had... (full context)
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...down soon, but he tries to keep from being annoyed—as he might have been before Ashoke’s death. One day Ashima mentions a girl Gogol used to know, a Bengali named Moushumi... (full context)
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...a bit awkward. Moushumi remembers his house, and his family, and she apologizes for missing Ashoke’s funeral. She had been in Paris at the time, after graduating from Brown, and is... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...then separate 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... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...her husband, no doubt picked out by one of her children. She does not fault Ashoke for this fact, which could seem like a lack of care. She no longer wonders... (full context)
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...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 the same... (full context)
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Gogol reflects that their life has been formed by a series of accidents—first Ashoke’s train accident, inspiring him to move to America, then the disappearance of the letter containing... (full context)
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...the book, which has been saved as if by chance from being lost, just as Ashoke had been saved from the train accident years ago. Gogol reads the author’s bio—in ten... (full context)