“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.”

Shortly after Ashima and Ashoke move to America and Ashima gives birth to Gogol, she struggles to find her place in this new country. Ashima likens being in a foreign country to being pregnant, and when she eventually befriends other Bengali people in her community, they share the sentiment. Being a foreigner means perpetually waiting for the next uncomfortable interaction with an American, or the next misunderstanding. Ashima’s Indian background feels like a burden to her here, as she struggles to communicate with her American neighbors, a burden which she is concerned will fall upon her children. Being in a new country also leaves Ashima feeling out of sorts, as evidenced by her continuing to make her unusual pregnancy craving meals long beyond her pregnancy. 

“She has the gift of accepting her life; as he comes to know her, he realizes that she has never wished she were anyone other than herself, raised in any other place, in any other way.”

In Chapter 6, as Gogol observes Maxine at home with her parents, he experiences a moment of jealousy for the ease with which Maxine moves through her life. Maxine, as a white American, has never had to struggle to assimilate or be taken seriously. Gogol believes that most foreign individuals, at some point, have felt out of place, have wished to be someone else. For himself, this is especially true, as he went to great lengths to change his name in order to forge a new identity. Even his pursuit of Maxine can be seen as an act of identity-seeking, as Gogol wants to separate himself from his Indian background, and dating a white woman, in his view, is a step in that direction. 

“And yet he can’t really blame her. They had both acted on the same impulse, that was their mistake. They had both sought comfort in each other, and in their shared world, perhaps for the sake of novelty, or out of the fear that the world is slowly dying.”

In the final moments of the book, after Gogol learns of Moushumi’s affair, he contemplates their relationship and their mutual identities and needs. To the reader and their friends and family, Gogol and Moushumi were never quite right for each other. Soon before this moment, Gogol’s mother observes how Gogol and Moushumi never achieved that outward ease of being in love. Gogol recognizes that the two were in need of a companionship that would make them both feel understood. As two Bengali people living in America, both Gogol and Moushumi shared similar experiences. Being with someone who understood the experience of living in America while their heritage lay elsewhere was a comforting act of self-preservation. This quote suggests that the universality of being a foreigner in a new country can draw people together.