“He remembers the page crumpled tightly in his fingers, the sudden shock of the lantern’s glare in his eyes. But for the first time he thinks of that moment not with terror, but with gratitude.”

In the hospital during his son’s birth, Ashoke recalls his near-death train accident. The revelation that it is now a moment Ashoke views with gratitude rather than terror serves as proof of his new outlook on life and the ways in which the accident is responsible for this change. Before the accident, Ashoke was resigned to an ordinary life lacking any sort of adventure. Despite wanting to travel and explore new opportunities, pre-accident Ashoke was seemingly on track to only experience this sense of adventure through books. The accident, however, put into perspective the fleeting nature of life and the urgency with which he should be living it. From that point forward, Ashoke has become determined to seek out new experiences, leading him to America and the birth of his son. Ashoke now sees his accident as a positive experience because without it, he would not have his new life and new family. 

“Being rescued from that shattered train had been the first miracle of his life. But here, now, reposing in his arms, weighing next to nothing but changing everything, is the second.”

In Chapter 2, after the birth of Gogol, Ashoke reflects on the many second chances he’s been given. After the train accident which nearly killed him, Ashoke saw an opportunity to reexamine his approach to life. Now, after the birth of his son, he sees another opportunity to pass on the lessons his accident taught him. This moment establishes Ashoke’s primary desire throughout the novel, to instill in Gogol an appreciation for life and the many opportunities it offers. Ashoke recognizes the ease with which life can be taken away and the importance of living it fully. This moment is his statement of intent to pass along these ideas to his son. 

“‘Lucky boy,’ Ashoke remarks, turning the beautifully sewn pages. ‘Only hours old and already the owner of books.’ What a difference, he thinks, from the childhood he has known.”

Soon after Gogol’s birth, Ashoke contrasts his childhood in India with the childhood promised to Gogol as an Indian-American. Ashoke does not feel like his childhood was one of possibility, as the opportunities he received were ones he sought for himself after his accident. Ashoke wants Gogol to have a life of endless opportunities. Whereas Ashima sees the importance of staying connected to the family’s Indian background, Ashoke sees the offerings inherent in seeing and experiencing the world. Books serve as a primary way for Ashoke to try and nurture Gogol’s sense of adventure and ambition. Because books played such a large role in Ashoke’s life, he wants them to play an equally large role in Gogol’s.