The protagonist of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, Gogol (or Nikhil) Ganguli, is born to Indian parents who moved to the United States shortly before having him. He is an American citizen who grows up going to American schools and speaking English, but at home, his parents still use Bengali, abide by traditions of their culture, and expect Gogol to do the same.
When Gogol begins dating, he finds that it is awkward to introduce himself to women with the name "Gogol." He introduces himself to a young woman at a college party as "Nik" and later legally changes his name to this more traditional name. His parents named him Gogol after Ashoke's favorite author (Ashoke is Gogol's father) and because Ashoke was reading Gogol's story collection during the train crash that he was lucky to survive. It is not an Indian name, but it was chosen because the tradition of having a grandparent choose the name could not be completed; apparently, the name was lost in the mail on its way from India. When he enters school for the first time, his parents want him to go by Nikhil, but Gogol is used to being called Gogol at home; he keeps the name. When he is 18, he legally changes his name, which is somewhat controversial because it feels a bit like a rejection of his parents. This obviously causes conflict and tension between the generations.
When Gogol is involved with Maxine, the generational and cultural differences between his Indian family and her American parents come to the forefront. Gogol likes spending time with Max's family, as they are more liberal and laidback than his conservative, traditional parents. Max's parents are openly affectionate toward one another, while Ashoke and Ashima are not, though they do love one another. When Maxine finally meets Gogol's parents, he tells her not to kiss or hug them because they will be uncomfortable, but she does so anyway. This makes Gogol feel awkward and feel like he cannot make his relationship with Max fit in with his relationship with his family. He is somewhat estranged from his parents as a result and spends most of his time with Maxine until his father dies suddenly. Then, Gogol immerses himself in family life again and goes on to marry a childhood acquaintance whose parents are also Indian.
Gogol finds that his ambitions and preferences do not match with those of his parents in terms of his choice of romantic partner, school, career, or even his name. The tension between first generation immigrants, like Ashoke and Ashima, and their American-born children forms a central theme of The Namesake.