A year after Ashoke's death, Gogol is studying for his registration exam that will allow him to be a licensed architect practicing in New York. He has broken up with Maxine a few months after Ashoke's death, and now she is engaged to someone else. Sonia is still living in the house on Pemberton Road with their mother, who spends her nights awake and lonely, watching TV in bed.
One night, Gogol agrees to go out with the other students in the class he is taking to prepare for his registration exam. He ends up having a good time with a woman named Bridget, who is his age and married. Her husband lives in Massachusetts, and she begins to have an affair with Gogol. They never exchange numbers and he never goes home with her; she always comes to his apartment, just to have sex, not a relationship. Gogol ends the affair when he begins to feel guilty about Bridget's betrayal of her husband.
Gogol's mother encourages him to call Moushumi Mazoomdar, the daughter of family friends whom Gogol has grown up around at family parties. He doesn't really remember much about her, but he calls her anyway and they meet at a bar. They reminisce about their childhoods, which overlapped but not in a way that is significant to either of them. She tells him that she moved to Paris to study French literature, and moved to New York to follow her ex-fiancé, an American named Graham. They go into a French restaurant for a bottle of wine and dessert and decide to see each other again.
A week later, Gogol goes out with Moushumi again, this time for lunch. After lunch, they go for a drink at a place Gogol frequents and the waiter mistakes Moushumi for Gogol's sister. They go into a hat shop so Gogol can buy a hat, since he is not dressed for the cold weather. Moushumi tries on an expensive, fancy hat and Gogol decides to return to the shop to buy it for her later. The next weekend, she invites him over for dinner. They have sex and the dinner she was cooking burns, so they order Chinese food.
Moushumi confides in Gogol that she never liked any of the Indian men who courted her; because she is a woman, the encouragement to get married had been more intense for her. She felt lonely, as if she would never meet anyone to marry. After college, when she went to Paris, she began to have a newfound confidence that allowed her to carry out romantic affairs with many men at once. She fell in love with Graham, an American living in Paris for a year, and returned with him to New York to become a PhD candidate at NYU.
She and Graham had lived together in Manhattan, hiding their romance from her parents. When she finally introduced him to her parents, they had done their best to accept him as a potential son-in-law. Moushumi had proposed to Graham in a taxi in traffic, impulsively. He had said yes and they had gone to Calcutta to meet her extended family. He had seemed at ease with them. They had begun to plan the wedding, which would be Bengali.
A few weeks before the wedding, Moushumi had overheard Graham talking about how unhappy he had been with her family in India. She confronted him about it on the walk home, and it had turned into an awful fight. She threw her engagement ring into oncoming traffic and he moved out soon after, canceling their engagement. Moushumi had taken the rest of the semester off from NYU and mourned, finally returning to school in the fall. It was then that she had met Gogol.
Moushumi knows Gogol as "Gogol," and is surprised when he introduces himself as Nikhil at the bar. It is "the first time he's been out with a woman who'd once known him by that other name." He comes to like the sense of familiarity it creates between them. She still calls him Nikhil like everyone else in his life, but she knows the first name he ever had, and that seems like a secret bond between them.
Moushumi and Gogol bond over their Bengali identities, and over how they are a source of confusion for Americans. "They talk about how they are both routinely assumed to be Greek, Egyptian, Mexican - even in this misrendering they are joined." Neither of them thought they would date another Bengali seriously, since it was something both their parents wanted for them so badly. They know that their relationship will appeal to their Bengali parents, and they find this both comforting and surprising; they never thought they would please their parents in that way.
The theme of alienation appears in Moushumi's life, as she describes to Gogol how she rejected all the Indian suitors with which her parents tried to match her. She tells him, "She was convinced in her bones that there would be no one at all. Sometimes she wondered if it was her horror of being married to someone she didn't love that had caused her, subconsciously, to shut herself off." She went to Paris so she could reinvent herself without the confusion of where she fit in.
The relationships between parents and children are introduced in Chapter 8 with regard to Moushumi and her parents, who are Bengali like the Gangulis. Because she is a woman, they had been presenting her with Bengali suitors throughout her teenage years, none of whom she was interested in. This experience alienated her from her parents, since she did not want to take their advice about whom she should marry, and since she resented them for trying to control her destiny in that way.
The narration’s perspective changes throughout the novel. It is always a third-person narrator, but the story is presented from the view of different protagonists. Up to this point, the main protagonists have been Ashima and Gogol. Now, the switch to Moushumi's voice begins as the reader learns about her life growing up, the stress that resulted from her parents' attempts to match her up with Indian men, and her broken engagement to Graham.