He is aware that his parents, and their friends, and the children of their friends, and all his own friends from high school, will never call him anything but Gogol.

These lines occur in Chapter 5, after Gogol officially changes his name in court. Even as Gogol begins the process of changing his name to Gogol, he has no illusions about what this name-change will and will not accomplish. Gogol remains Gogol to those around him. Names, Gogol realizes, are much more than indicators of one’s self. They are, perhaps more than anything, indicators of how one is perceived by other people, in school or the home. For his parents and sister, Gogol is a name of family intimacy and love. For friends at school, Gogol is fun to say, an amusing change from some of the more “common” names people encounter in Boston-area high schools.

But, for Gogol, his own name is confusing. At the time of his name-change, Gogol does not understand the story of his name, nor its relation to his father’s life. He sees it only as an embarrassment. It is a tie, he thinks, not even to Indian culture, but to that of Russia, where his father has never even lived. “Gogol” makes Gogol feel like a child. Thus Gogol changes his name, officially, not to change how the world sees him, but to help change how he sees himself. He changes his name as part of a larger process of personal transformation and growth. This process will continue in college, as Gogol pursues his intellectual interests, meets new people, and begins dating Ruth. By the time Gogol is older, and living in New York, very few people will know him as Gogol. And those who do will seem to be relics of his past. Thus Moushumi is a “hinge” between Gogol’s past and present, for she befriends him as Gogol but falls in love with him as Nikhil.