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At 5:05 in the morning, Ashima and Ashoke welcome their son into the world, and while they're still in the hospital, three Bengali friends visit them.
Having allowed Ashima's grandmother to name their child, Ashima and Ashoke have to wait for the grandmother's letter, since neither family has a telephone in India. But over a month has gone by, and there's still no letter. So what in the world are they supposed to call the baby? Baby? Kiddo? Him?
Ashima spends three days in the hospital. Still no letter. Finally, since the hospital won't discharge the baby without a name, Ashoke decides to name him Gogol. Boom. It's forever entered into the birth certificate bureaucracy.
When they return home, their landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery, come downstairs from their apartment to see Gogol. The Montgomerys bring their two young daughters along.
At first depressed and overwhelmed by the burden of caring for a new one, Ashima soon begins to develop some independence and goes out into the world. She shops, she takes her son out on walks. Typical new mom stuff.
In November, Ashima and Ashoke receive a letter from Ashima's father dated three weeks before, which tells them the sad news that Ashima's grandmother had a stroke. The chances of ever getting that letter from grandma with Gogol's name in it are looking pretty slim.
In February, Ashima and Ashoke celebrate Gogol's annaprasan, or rice ceremony, at which a baby is fed rice for the first time. While Gogol totally digs the rice pudding, he does not enjoy the end of the ceremony, in which some dirt, a ballpoint pen, and a dollar bill are set before him. What's this all about? Well, according to tradition, his choice will determine his future career.
Unfortunately, little Gogol doesn't pick anything – he just wails. Does that mean he will spend the rest of his life whining? Gosh, we hope not.
Now it's August, and Gogol is one year old. Ashima and Ashoke are eagerly planning a family visit to Calcutta in December.
After a trip into Boston with Gogol to buy gifts for her family, Ashima accidentally leaves all her bags on the subway. When Ashoke calls up the lost and found the next day, they find that some ridiculously nice person has saved the bags and turned them in. Practice random acts of kindness, people.
One night, Ashoke and Ashima are awoken by a phone call from Rana, Ashima's brother in India. Ashoke speaks to Rana first, and then he hands the phone over to his wife.
After they get off the phone, Ashoke realizes that Rana hasn't told Ashima the bad news, so now he's the one to deliver the blow: her father has died of a heart attack.
Six days later, Ashoke, Ashima, and Gogol head for Calcutta, feeling pretty blue.