by Jhumpa Lahiri
Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the home wrecker. We jest, we jest. In the end, it's Moushumi who chooses to have an affair with Dimitri, and we'll never know just how complicit he is in her betrayal.
Moushumi meets Dimitri when she's a teenager and he's already at the ripe old age of twenty-seven. Moushumi and her friends have joined some Princeton undergraduates on the way down to a protest in Washington, D.C., when Moushumi ends up sitting next to Dimitri. They hit it off, and make out a little. On their first date, Moushumi makes the mistake of inviting Dimitri to her prom – he hadn't yet realized that she was a high school student. Awkward. Nevertheless, they keep in touch sporadically over the years. As a grad student at NYU (and, of course, married) she comes across his phone number and calls him up. They begin an affair. Yep, an affair.
Of course we don't know all of this when he first enters the story. All we know is that, "The name alone, when [Moushumi had] first learned it, had been enough to seduce her. Dimitri Desjardins." (10.48) Seeing that name again must have been enough to reignite the old flame.
But Dimitri is not exactly a catch. He's a bit chubby, he's unemployed, his apartment is an absolutely mess, and he's middle-aged. Even Moushumi does not fully understand why she's with Dimitri. But in many ways, Dimitri is Gogol's opposite, and that's what makes him so undeniably attractive. While Moushumi doesn't like Gogol's name, she's instantly attracted to Dimitri's name, which is a cosmopolitan blend of Russian and French. Moushumi associates Gogol with home and her family, but she associates the globetrotting Dimitri with the same wanderlust that drove her to live in Paris.
Ah, there it is: the real reason she is with him. As our narrator tells us, "It reminds [Moushumi] of living in Paris – for a few hours at Dimitri's she is inaccessible, anonymous." (10.65) At Dimitri's, Moushumi can get away from the boring, domestic life that everyone has been telling her to live. She can get in touch with her old, anonymous globetrotting self, and that's something her Bengali husband can never give her.