Study Guide

The Namesake Chapter 5

By Jhumpa Lahiri

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Chapter 5

  • In the summer of 1986, before he leaves for college, Gogol goes to the Middlesex Probate and Family Court in Boston and officially changes his first name to Nikhil. Gogol's gone for good.
  • At Yale, everyone knows him as Nikhil, and he makes sure that all the official paperwork at the university reflects his new name. As Nikhil, he gets a fake ID to go drinking, and loses his virginity to a random girl in a bar. Way to stay classy, Gogol.
  • In college, he develops a love of architecture in his drawing class, which reminds us of his experience at the Taj Mahal.
  • Despite his new identity, he often goes home to Massachusetts on the weekends, where his family still calls him Gogol. His sister Sonia is now in high school, and she's totally popular, unlike Gogol.
  • In the fall of his sophomore year, Gogol boards the train in New Haven to head home, and on the train he strikes up a conversation with the girl sitting next to him. She's a fellow Yale student named Ruth. They fall in love and begin to date. Hey, maybe trains aren't so bad.
  • They are still dating the next year, when Ruth departs for a spring semester abroad at Oxford, which leaves Gogol alone and lonely.
  • At one point, he attends a panel discussion about Indian novels written in English, where the panel members talk about ABCD's (American-born confused deshis). Hmm. That sounds pretty familiar to Gogol. Maybe he's an ABCD, too. After all, he was born in America and is confused about his Indian roots.
  • When Ruth returns in the fall, she and Gogol stop getting along, so they break up.
  • Now a senior, Gogol goes home for Thanksgiving. His dad will be the only one around, because his mother and Sonia have gone to India.
  • On his way home, Gogol's train gets delayed due to a suicide on the tracks. Seriously, Gangulis, just take the bus.
  • When the train finally arrives, Gogol notices that his dad seems worried. But why?
  • After pulling the car into the garage, Ashoke turns to Gogol and tells him about his own train accident, and Gogol finally learns the origin of his strange, frustrating name.

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