‘There’s no such thing as a perfect name. I think that human beings should be allowed to name themselves when they turn eighteen,’ he adds. ‘Until then, pronouns.’

In Chapter 9, Gogol, says this to Moushumi and her friends, after she reveals that he has changed his name from Gogol. Gogol is, first, embarrassed that his wife has done this without consulting with him. He feels that Moushumi is making fun of him in front of her friends, perhaps making it seem that she is more like “them” than like her own Bengali-American husband. Gogol is particularly sensitive of these feelings, since he already believes he is somewhat excluded from the intellectual life Moushumi shares with Donald, Astrid, and the others in the Brooklyn brownstone where this scene takes place.

But Gogol’s comments, though motivated by anger, nonetheless represent his attitudes truthfully. He does feel that his own name, Gogol, is not a reflection of his personality. He believes that he changed his name to Gogol in order to make it a better indicator of the way he views himself. He does not understand why Moushumi’s Brooklyn friends place so much emphasis on names in the first place, on strange or “uncommon” names. And Gogol doesn’t understand, too, why his own name was a matter of such concern for his parents. After all, Ashima and Ashoke waited for months for the letter to arrive from Calcutta, with the special name chosen by his great-grandmother inside.

Thus, this quotation encapsulates Gogol’s frustrations with the cultural norms of some of Moushumi’s friends. He realizes that there are parts of his personality that are, quite simply, from Moushumi’s. They do not necessarily view the world in the same way, despite the fact that Gogol and Moushumi are from very similar circumstances. They each wish to escape their Bengali-American identities. But Moushumi wants to exchange her for the identity of an urban sophisticate, which she would share with this group of artistically-inclined friends. Gogol, on the other hand, is not so sure of what identity best suits him—of the cultural mix where he most belongs.