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Gogol wakes up in bed alone. Moushumi is attending an academic conference in Palm Beach, and Gogol notices that she hasn’t taken her bathing suit with her. The apartment is freezing cold, since the heating is out, and Gogol rises, finally, putting on coffee and sitting down to work on an architectural project. Although he seems to recognize that his marriage has grown increasingly strained, he nevertheless finds solace in his work, which occupies his mind. He eventually goes into the office, chased away from his apartment because of the terrible chill, and, among his work papers, he sees an old passport photo of Moushumi. It reminds him of the intensity of their love when they first met.
Gogol remembers Thanksgiving, the weekend before, when Ashima, Sonia and her boyfriend Ben came to Gogol and Moushumi’s apartment in New York, along with Moushumi’s family. It was, Gogol realizes, the first time they, as a couple, had hosted a holiday. Gogol feels it is strange, now, to be in charge of family gatherings. Gogol has an enjoyable time during the Thanksgiving festivities, but begins to wonder, then, if Moushumi still loves him. She has seemed unhappy around him for some time.
Back in the office, Gogol decides he wishes to go outside for lunch. He buys and eats a falafel, and walks around the city, despite the cold, trying to shop for Moushumi for Christmas. It dawns on him that he does not know what she wants this year, because she hasn’t left him any hints regarding her desires. He continues walking and winds up at a Barnes and Noble, where he buys a guidebook to Italy. He realizes what his present will be: a trip to Italy for the two of them, where they can see the sights together in a place that is foreign to each.
Gogol then walks back to the apartment, feeling better about his Christmas purchase, but still gloomy from the darkness and cold of the day. When he reaches their building, the doorman tells Gogol that Moushumi has returned, and Gogol imagines her in the apartment, bathing and drinking wine.
This chapter returns to narration from Gogol’s perspective. Moushumi is away, and Gogol suspects nothing—although he does notice that her swimsuit isn’t with her, despite her trip to a warm climate. It is perhaps more correct to say that Gogol knows something is up in their relationship. But he is either unwilling or unable to think about it. Instead, as he typically does, he throws himself into his work.
The cold of the apartment is emblematic of the coldness that has fallen over Gogol’s and Moushumi’s marriage. In the office, Gogol sees, in his wife’s old passport photo, the woman he fell in love with, the woman who charmed him so thoroughly with her stories of life abroad. Indeed, Gogol fell in love with Moushumi in part because he respected her willingness to set out on her own, to find her own path in Europe, against her parents’ wishes. Gogol realizes that he has never tried anything like this. He has spent much of his life within a few hours’ train ride from his parents. He is not so adventurous as Moushumi, nor as his own parents, who traveled halfway around the world to build a life for themselves.
Read more about how the train represents the proximity between Gogol’s mature life and the Bengali-American context in which he was raised.
This chapter, perhaps more than anything, makes clear Gogol’s similarities and differences with his father. Both men are solitary. They spend a great deal of time within themselves, immersed in work or study. But whereas Ashoke seems committed to the path he has chosen in life, and content with that life, Gogol is an unsatisfied dreamer. He yearns for something beyond what he has, but he doesn’t know where that yearning leads. He knows that he loves his wife, and he respects his wife’s desires for intellectual freedom. Gogol is also satisfied by the creative outlet his work provides. But he cannot find the same comfort that his father appears to enjoy. For Gogol, his marriage to Moushumi is an almost, but not quite, perfect fit. And what is missing, of course, becomes apparent soon after this chapter, when Moushumi’s affair with Dimitri is revealed. On rereading the novel, this chapter becomes especially poignant. Gogol, after all, plans a trip to Italy that he and his wife will never take.
Read more about how Gogol has trouble predicting his partner’s emotional responses.