Summary and Analysis Chapter 10



One year after Gogol and Moushumi marry, Moushumi finishes her graduate school exams and is awarded a fellowship in France to work on her dissertation. Moushumi turns down the fellowship without telling Gogol about it. To celebrate their wedding anniversary and Moushumi’s exams, they eat out at a restaurant that Astrid and Donald have recommended. The restaurant is expensive and fancy but very stiff and unfriendly. Moushumi hates the evening, wishing aloud that they hadn’t come.

A few days later, Moushumi sees an ambulance on campus taking away the body of Alice, her department’s administrative assistant, who died suddenly. Moushumi goes into Alice’s office and ends up doing all of Alice’s work, taking comfort in the rhythm of the monotonous office tasks. While she is sorting through department mail, she discovers an envelope sent to a professor in her department by an old love interest of hers named Dmitri. He had flirted with her for years, calling her “Mouse.”

Moushumi writes down Dmitri’s phone number and calls him the following week. They begin meeting at Dmitri’s apartment twice a week and soon start having sex. Moushumi is racked with guilt, often lying awake for hours at night. Gogol is oblivious to his wife’s affair.


Although Moushumi did not initially view her marriage to Gogol as an obligation, it now feels like one. Her dream of returning to Paris, which had made perfect sense when she was single, is now impossible because of her obligations as a married woman. Rather than tell Gogol about this disappointment, she allows it to fester inside her, and it becomes the root of many of her later frustrations. What begins as sadness for a lost opportunity slowly transforms into bitterness toward the marriage that keeps her tethered to New York.

The immediate product of Moushumi’s bitterness is her terrible anniversary date with Gogol. She is conflicted about where to direct her frustration, and as a result, small displeasures feel enormous to her. When she and Gogol are window-shopping on the walk to dinner and Gogol checks for a price tag on a pair of shoes, Moushumi feels both fond of and irritated by him. She remembers how glad she was to have found him after her breakup with Graham, but now she can’t help but feel stifled by him.

Moushumi originally felt drawn to Gogol for many of the same reasons Gogol was drawn to her after losing Maxine: The predictability and the familiarity of a fellow Bengali were assets. But now, Moushumi realizes that her marriage to Gogol condemns her to the life she tried for so long to avoid. She wants to be free and cosmopolitan, but Gogol seems to be turning her into a New York–bound Bengali housewife, someone too much like her mother. She doesn’t blame Gogol for this, but she sees it as an inescapable part of their relationship.

Dmitri’s great appeal to Moushumi is that he is everything Gogol is not. Dmitri makes Moushumi think of her rebellion against Bengali culture, her days in France, a life of cosmopolitan freedom. Moushumi does not begin an affair with Dmitri because she loves him more than Gogol; if anything, her continuing love for Gogol is what causes her to be so emotionally distraught during the affair. In many ways, Dmitri is an unattractive figure, both physically and socially, but he represents the kind of life that she is irresistibly drawn to: He is Paris; he is Astrid and Donald; he is Graham. Gogol, on the other hand, is a stand-in for her parents, for the kind of life she occasionally craves but mostly longs to escape.

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