Gogol celebrates his fourteenth birthday with a party with his friends on one day, and a party with his family and his parents' friends on the Saturday after his birthday. Two whole parties. We wish we were that lucky.
At the party his parents throw, he's the oldest kid. The only other kid who is even close to him in age is a girl named Moushumi, but she prefers to sit alone and read. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Later that night, his father hands him a birthday present: a copy of The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol. Uh, gee, thanks, dad. What is he supposed to do with a book by a dead white guy? Needless to say, Gogol doesn't bother reading his namesake's stories.
The next year, Ashoke is on sabbatical, so the whole family ships off to Calcutta for eight whole months. They stay with one family member after another.
Toward the end of their stay in India, they go on a trip to visit the Taj Mahal, and Gogol is totally impressed by the gorgeous architecture. Hmm. Do we spy a passion brewing?
On the way back from their trip to the Taj, Sonia has an allergic reaction to some jackfruit, and, in the middle of the night, another passenger gets robbed and murdered. This family should really learn to stay off of trains.
In August, they return to Massachusetts, and in September, Gogol begins his junior year in high school.
His English teacher, Mr. Lawson, is inspired by Gogol's name and assigns a short story called "The Overcoat" as homework. Then, in class, he goes into graphic detail about Nikolai Gogol's life and grisly death. Ugh. Gogol Ganguli is not amused.
One Saturday, his family goes on a trip to Connecticut, leaving him alone in the house. And you know what happens when teenagers are left alone in the house. Nothing good, that's what. Invited by some friends, Gogol goes to a party in a dorm at the university where his father teaches. Gogol pretends to be a freshman at Amherst so he can blend in.
At the party, Gogol introduces himself as "Nikhil" to a girl named Kim. This new name gives him a little dose of bravery, and he musters up the courage to kiss her. It's his first kiss.