This is the story about the cultural divide which exists between immigrants to the USA from India and the traditions of their home country. Kal Penn plays the lead character of Gogol. He rejects his Indian heritage and he hates his name preferring to be called Nick instead. His parents emigrated to the USA after an arranged marriage. His mother Ashima (played by Tabu) is a beautiful woman, who aspires to be a classical singer. She is promised to a man Ashoke Ganguli (played by Irrfan Khan) who takes her away from her family and her culture in India to the cold city of New York. She tries to adapt, but the culture shock is very great for her. Still, she becomes a proper wife and she gives her husband a son, which they name “Gogol” after a Russian author whose writing is respected by Ashoke. According to Indian traditions, the child is also given a second name which is Nikil and this is how he becomes “Nick" in America.
Nick wants to get away from the Indian traditions so he finds himself attracted to a blonde American girl named Maxine (played by Jacinda Barrett) and her super wealthy family. Nick essentially abandons the connections with his family to assimilate with the American family of his girlfriend Maxine. He introduces Maxine to his father and mother with explicit instructions, she is not to touch him or show any sign of affection. Maxine tries her best to work with the cultural differences, but it is her nature to be touchy-feely. She disturbs Nick's parents by kissing them on the cheek as a greeting and by holding Nick's hand in front of them.
Nick and his family take a trip back to India together. At first, Nick does not respect the culture at all and even refuses to ride in a cart pulled by a guy on a bicycle to not be part of the historical colonial suppression, But when they go to visit the Taj Mahal, Nick's attitude completely changes. He announces he will become an architect because of the experience. This pleases both of Nick's parents.
When Nick returns to the USA, he does not find satisfaction in his relationship with the American girl Maxine so he breaks up with her. Nick's father goes away for work at an remote college leaving his wife alone. While he is away Nick's father dies suddenly of a heart attack. Nick breaks up with Maxine because she has no way to relate to the intense grief and the cultural traditions, which require them to return to India to spread the ashes of Nick's father in a Hindu ceremony on the bank of the river Ganghes. Nick has a flashback to how he was named. He remembers his father was almost killed in a train wreck and he was reading a book written by the Russian author named “Gogol” at the time. Nick's father told him, this is why his happiness continued from the moment forward when he was the only survivor of the train crash and this is the significance of his name.
After some time passes, Nick's mother introduces him to another girl, Moushumi Mazundar (played by Zuleikha Robinson), who is the daughter of a friend. This woman is from the same part of India as Nick. She is very Americanized and Nick finds her very attractive. The fall for each other and get married in a traditional Hindu ceremony. But soon after the wedding, Nick discovers Moushumi is having an affair with her French boyfriend from before so they split up. Nick confesses his failed marriage to his mother, Ashima. Ashima decides to sell the house so she will be able to return to India. Nick wants her to go so she can be free and he can be free as well.
Best part of story, including ending:
The best part of this story are the differences between two cultures (USA and India) and how the people try to adapt to blend both together as best as they can.
Best scene in story:
The scene I like is when Nick shaves his head in honor of his father's death so he can participate in the traditional Hindu ceremony because this is a clear indication of his acceptance of his roots and the value of doing this.
Opinion about the main character:
Nick realizes the importance of his strange name “Gogol” by learning of the great significance it had for his father and this is a powerful moment in the boy's maturity.