Summary and Analysis
Moushumi has told Gogol that she is away at a conference in Palm Beach, but really she is vacationing there with Dmitri. On the day she is scheduled to return, Gogol remembers feeling strangely panicky when he saw her packing her bathing suit for the trip even though he still doesn’t suspect her of infidelity.
While she is away, Gogol waits eagerly for her to return, thinking about their relationship. He recalls recently being with Sonia and her new boyfriend, Ben, and feeling jealous of their obvious affection for each other. He wonders whether Moushumi is no longer happy she married him: Despite behaving like everything is fine, she feels distant from him. He decides to reinvigorate their romance by planning a vacation for the two of them to Italy.
The pace of this chapter suggests a sense of impending doom. Several pages elongate a single moment, just as Ashima’s afternoon before Ashoke’s death lengthens in Chapter 7. Gogol’s discovery of Moushumi’s affair is clearly foreshadowed, not only by the pace of the narrative but also by Moushumi’s suspicious choice to pack a bathing suit along with her other supplies for the “conference” she is attending. Gogol’s decision to plan a trip to Italy for the two of them is another clue of their impending breakup, an ironic suggestion that Gogol is making plans that will never be realized.
Gogol is aware that his relationship with Moushumi no longer has the same passion it once had. He feels her emotionally withdrawing from him, and he wonders if her distance is his fault. Yet it never occurs to him at this point to suspect her of having an affair. (Later, once he learns of the affair, he discovers that he suspected it more than he realized.) Even though Gogol senses some of the challenges in their relationship, he no longer feels the same angst of being caught between identities that Moushumi continues to feel. Being with Moushumi feels like a kind of resolution to his identity question, a logical union of his Bengali and American selves. For Moushumi, however, being with Gogol only increases her angst. Because Moushumi feels a tension that Gogol is blind to, she is able to disguise her affair easily.
The similarities between Moushumi’s affair with Dmitri and Gogol’s affair with Bridget in Chapter 8 are striking. Dmitri is a single man completely disinterested in the identity of his lover’s husband, just like Gogol was single and disinterested in learning more about Bridget’s husband. In each case, the husband remained faithful to the wife, far more committed to her than she was to him. Bridget’s husband kept mementos of her in his apartment; Gogol brainstorms ways to rejuvenate his marriage, assuming that if he simply does the right things he can save their marriage. In a sense, this turn of events seems like karma, with Gogol’s earlier misdeeds being revisited on him. More importantly, these similarities provide the story with a sense of circularity and continuity: Both Gogol and Moushumi grapple with similar questions of identity, and in the process, both of them wreak similar kinds of havoc on the people around them.