An odd name makes for a miserable kid.
Gogol is born with a name he despises, and he grows up wanting to distance himself from the Indian culture and customs of his parents that produced his strange name. Right off the bat, he has got identity issues galore, and they mean he might never be comfortable with the person he is.
Gogol changes his name to Nikhil. Problem solved?
Hardly. Though at first, changing his name seems to allow Gogol-turned-Nikhil to fit more seamlessly into mainstream American life, it also distances himself from his family. He dates white women and lives a white lifestyle. All the while he grows away from his Bengali roots. When he discovers just how much he has abandoned his family, Gogol is miserable all over again.
Gogol gets married.
Okay, okay, we know that sounds harsh. Not all marriages are the same as prison. But in this case, Gogol has trapped himself in a marriage that was doomed to fail from the start because both he and his wife have some serious identity troubles to come to terms with. He gets married to try to connect with his Bengali roots, but in the end, that's something only he can do.
Moushumi cheats and the couple divorces.
Gogol's fears are realized when Moushumi confesses that she is having an affair. They get divorced, and Gogol is back at square one: miserable, alone, and struggling now, more than ever, to come to terms with his past.
Gogol goes home.
When Gogol helps his mother prepare to move out of the family home, he realizes that eventually, there will be a time when no one will be around who knew him as Gogol. It saddens him to think that such an important part of his life is on the verge of disappearing forever, and so he begins to read the stories of his namesake, the Russian writer Gogol. We get the sense that a new Gogol is about to emerge – one who feels comfortable with his Bengali roots and his American surroundings.