A House for Mr Biswas

Mrs Tulsi Character Analysis

The Tulsis’ authoritative and stoic matriarch, Mrs Tulsi coordinates Mr Biswas’s marriage to her daughter Shama and rules over Hanuman House, caring for her whole family despite her propensity to fainting and mysterious illnesses that demand her fourteen daughters’ full attention. Although Mr Biswas generally despises her in the first half of the book, Mrs Tulsi coordinates his marriage, feeds and shelters him, takes special care of his children, and insists on continuing to provide for him despite the blatant lack of respect he shows her. Later, she houses Mr Biswas and his family in Port of Spain before moving everyone to Shorthills and then ultimately allows him to return to her house. As she ages and her cherished son Owad goes off to university, she loses motivation to care for the family and eventually starts ruling through mysterious pronouncements from her bedroom, which allows the Shorthills estate to fall into disrepair; but she regains her energy when Owad returns from England and returns to fawning over him.

Mrs Tulsi Quotes in A House for Mr Biswas

The A House for Mr Biswas quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs Tulsi or refer to Mrs Tulsi. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A House for Mr Biswas published in 2001.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

How often did Mr Biswas regret his weakness, his inarticulateness, that evening! How often did he try to make events appear grander, more planned and less absurd than they were!

And the most absurd feature of that evening was to come. When he had left Hanuman House and was cycling back to Pagotes, he actually felt elated! In the large, musty hall with the sooty kitchen at one end, the furniture-choked landing on one side, and the dark, cobwebbed loft on the other, he had been overpowered and frightened by Seth and Mrs Tulsi and all the Tulsi women and children; they were strange and had appeared too strong; he wanted nothing so much then as to be free of that house. But now the elation he felt was not that of relief. He felt he had been involved in large events. He felt he had achieved status.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Shama, Mrs Tulsi, Seth
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

Mr Biswas had never thought of Tulsi property as belonging to any particular person. Everything, the land at Green Vale, the shop at The Chase, belonged simply to the House. But the lorries were Seth’s.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Mrs Tulsi, Seth
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

It sickened him that he had fallen into Mrs Tulsi’s trap and shown himself grateful to her. She was keeping him, like her daughters, within her reach. And he was in her power, as he had been ever since he had gone to the Tulsi Store and seen Shama behind the counter.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Shama, Mrs Tulsi
Page Number: 506
Explanation and Analysis:
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[Mr Biswas] turned the long room into an office. In this room, where the lotuses still bloomed on the wall, he had lived with Shama. Through the Demerara window he had tried to spit on Owad and flung the plateful of food on him. In this room he had been beaten by Govind, had kicked Bell’s Standard Elocutionist and given it the dent on the cover. Here, claimed by no one, he had reflected on the unreality of his life, and had wished to make a mark on the wall as proof of his existence. Now he needed no such proof. Relationships had been created where none existed; he stood at their centre. In that very unreality had lain freedom. Now he was encumbered, and it was at Hanuman House that he tried to forget the encumbrance: the children, the scattered furniture, the dark tenement room, and Shama, as helpless as he was and now, what he had longed for, dependent on him.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Shama, Mrs Tulsi, Owad, Govind
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 509
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

“Communism, like charity, should begin at home.”

Related Characters: Mr Biswas (speaker), Anand, Mrs Tulsi, Owad
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 533
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

And it was astonishing how the furniture, to which they had grown accustomed, suddenly, exposed on the tray of the lorry in the street, became unfamiliar and shabby and shameful. About to be moved for the last time: the gatherings of a life-time: the kitchen safe (encrusted with varnish, layer after layer of it, and paint of various colours, the wire-netting broken and clogged), the yellow kitchen table, the hatrack with the futile glass and broken hooks, the rockingchair, the fourposter (dismantled and unnoticeable), Shama’s dressingtable (standing against the cab, without its mirror, with all the drawers taken out, showing the unstained, unpolished wood inside, still, after all these years, so raw, so new), the bookcase and desk, Théophile’s bookcase, the Slumberking (a pink, intimate rose on the headrest), the glass cabinet (rescued from Mrs Tulsi’s drawingroom), the destitute’s diningtable (on its back, its legs roped around, loaded with drawers and boxes), the typewriter (still a brilliant yellow, on which Mr Biswas was going to write articles for the English and American Press, on which he had written his articles for the Ideal School, the letter to the doctor): the gatherings of a lifetime for so long scattered and even unnoticed, now all together on the tray of the lorry.

Related Characters: Mr Biswas, Shama, Mrs Tulsi
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 551-2
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mrs Tulsi Character Timeline in A House for Mr Biswas

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs Tulsi appears in A House for Mr Biswas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 3: The Tulsis
Colonialism, Oppression, and Escape Theme Icon
...open he went to hide it—but the woman stood in the way, and the stoic Mrs Tulsi , adorned in as much jewelry as Tara, came inside to speak with her. (full context)
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As Mrs Tulsi stood behind the desk, right next to the note—“I love you and I want to... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi sauntered down the stairs, holding the note. Mr Biswas denied writing it but Mrs Tulsi... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi asked Mr Biswas whether he liked “the child” and he affirmed that he did. Seth... (full context)
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...enjoy, with the family. He noticed a photograph of Pundit Tulsi on the wall, and Mrs Tulsi reminisced solemnly about his protectiveness and decency, mentioning that he built the house with his... (full context)
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Their family’s sudden poverty was no big deal, affirmed Mrs Tulsi , for they did not much care about “drums and dancing and big dowry” at... (full context)
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...how—or even look at her. He received no dowry, house, or job from the Tulsis— Mrs Tulsi and Seth did not even consider it. (full context)
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The Tulsis had a servant whom everyone called Miss Blackie (except Mrs Tulsi ), but the daughters did most of the housework, and the husbands worked their land... (full context)
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...that included the drawing-room and prayer-room. He also asked about Seth, the “Big Boss,” and Mrs Tulsi , the “old queen” or “old hen” or “old cow.” During his “vile abuse of... (full context)
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...would become a leather-worker and the “two gods” (Shekhar and Owad) barbers. Worst of all, Mrs Tulsi “ain’t a Hindu at all” because she married Shama off so unceremoniously and sent her... (full context)
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...the Catholic college. Mr Biswas declared them “just jealous” and “the elder god” (Shekhar) blamed Mrs Tulsi for letting Mr Biswas move in. Furious that Mr Biswas wanted the girls to go... (full context)
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...Chinta ran to make sure she did not faint before continuing to the room of Mrs Tulsi , who actually had fainted. (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi fainted frequently, and her children had a complex protocol to get her to her room,... (full context)
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...downstairs, as was expected, and nobody would talk to him in the morning—until he asked Mrs Tulsi whether she was feeling better and she replied that she was, which astonished and pleased... (full context)
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...But he decided to just spill the food down on Owad, who bawled and called Mrs Tulsi . (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4: The Chase
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...up outside Mr Biswas’s shop, seeking the free food that would follow the blessing ceremony. Mrs Tulsi told Mr Biswas he had a “nice little property” and he could not decide whether... (full context)
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...baby was a girl, healthy and already named Savi when Mr Biswas reached her in Mrs Tulsi ’s Rose Room in the Hanuman House. His pick was “Sarojini Lakshmi Kamala Devi,” but... (full context)
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...attention to him, and the children solemnly ate sulphur and condensed milk for their “eggzema.” Mrs Tulsi asked Mr Biswas about Savi and let out a string of “simple, unconnected statements” that... (full context)
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...laughed before Seth reminded them that they would not get food because of their “eggzema.” Mrs Tulsi returned to her pontificating, and Mr Biswas asked her for a coal barrel. (full context)
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...like who had given her heavy iron boots to straighten out her bow-legs. (It was Mrs. Tulsi .) (full context)
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...She loved her granny, despite her father’s protests and pleas for Shama to stop letting Mrs Tulsi feed her fish brains. (full context)
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...including Savi, playing their new card and board games on the verandah. Shama said that Mrs Tulsi was sick, gave Mr Biswas cold leftovers, and asked whether he planned to return to... (full context)
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...Savi with the stick while Mr Biswas watched. But Sushila came to remind them that Mrs Tulsi was sick and the hall fell into silence, as Shama stormed away. Sumati finished readying... (full context)
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Mr Biswas ate breakfast before Shama took him upstairs to see Mrs Tulsi , who was “barely recognizable” laying in her forehead bandage next to a table covered... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi and Shama both cried as Shama massaged her mother with more rum. Seth entered and... (full context)
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...begged him to try. Mr Biswas explained that he knew nothing about estate work while Mrs Tulsi and Seth mentioned Owad’s success in college. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5: Green Vale
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
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...Mr Biswas brought it into the hall. “When I give, I give to all,” noted Mrs Tulsi with fury, criticizing Mr Biswas for forgetting his son. The sisters beat their children for... (full context)
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...Shekhar, whose matching process was arduous and took him to live with his wife’s family. Mrs Tulsi left, too, buying three houses in Port of Spain (“one to live in, two to... (full context)
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Mr Biswas did not want to borrow money from Seth, Mrs Tulsi , or Misir, so he decided to try Ajodha, but found that he did not... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: A Departure
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...the Blue Room in anticipation of Owad’s return. Not wanting to interact with him or Mrs Tulsi and not wanting to live elsewhere in Hanuman House, Mr Biswas packed his clothes and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1: “Amazing Scenes”
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Later, Mr Biswas met with Mrs Tulsi in Port of Spain, leading him to feel as though “he had won a victory.”... (full context)
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Mr Biswas seldom fought with Mrs Tulsi and Owad, and actually became friends with the latter, who respected his job and ability... (full context)
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...to wake him up when he had requested, winning complaints from Shama but approval from Mrs Tulsi . He made Shama file his papers, and she insisted on keeping track of their... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi elected to send Owad to medical school in England, which devastated a jealous Mr Biswas... (full context)
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...war doesn’t break out—” and started to cry. In fact, everyone after him wept except Mrs Tulsi . Three drunk Germans stumbled on board, everyone waved to one another, and the ship... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: The New Régime
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With Owad gone, Mrs Tulsi moved back to Arwacas; Mr Biswas fixed up his garden and wondered how long he... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3: The Shorthills Adventure
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...morose about the whole conflict, defining their Christmas with her insistence on acting exactly as Mrs Tulsi always did. Sisters passed through their house, and when she occasionally visited Shorthills, she would... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi was much better, no longer sick and now engrossed in her task of coordinating the... (full context)
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...and flanked by a cricket field and swimming pool, both out of use. He and Mrs Tulsi walked up the driveway and the steps that made him “feel regal,” ascending to the... (full context)
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...wandered onto the estate, which became increasingly overgrown and “began to look abandoned” now that Mrs Tulsi was too busy being ill to direct things. Govind destroyed the cricket pavilion to build... (full context)
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Mostly, the children just walked in the direction of Shorthills, singing songs at Mrs Tulsi ’s suggestion, until they encountered a bus with space for them. Eventually, one of the... (full context)
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...of which alleged that Seth killed her and led the sisters to curse him. Meanwhile, Mrs Tulsi still did not leave her room. Two of the sheep died, too, and the gully... (full context)
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...themselves after the chickens either ran away or got eaten by predators. From her room, Mrs Tulsi directed everyone to start eating bamboo shoots (nobody could figure out which part of bamboo... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi coordinated the manufacture of various products, from cups and plates to mattresses and cushions. The... (full context)
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...try and get inside, but nobody heard their calls—which were much quieter than they thought. Mrs Tulsi finally found them, believing them to be Hari and Padma’s departed spirits, and when they... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4: Among the Readers and Learners
Independence vs. Belonging Theme Icon
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...all the Tulsis’ transportation options deteriorated beyond repair, so he moved his family back to Mrs Tulsi ’s newly-vacant house in Port of Spain. He put a “FOR RENT OR SALE” sign... (full context)
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...children quickly infuriated Mr Biswas and his children, leading them all to various ailments, as Mrs Tulsi started sending in her friends’ children from Arwacas, too. Unable to bear the house, Mr... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5: The Void
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Soon, Mrs Tulsi announced that she was moving into the spare rooms, and everyone fell into misery, anticipating... (full context)
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Soon, absorbed in her illness, Mrs Tulsi started insisting that Myna pick out and kill her imaginary lice; Myna did this reluctantly,... (full context)
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...and even went to an auction, to no avail, until one day Shama affirmed that Mrs Tulsi was kicking them out and would allow them to live in one of her decrepit,... (full context)
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One evening, Mrs Tulsi stopped Mr Biswas on the verandah to ask about Anand’s health before mentioning Owad’s flowery... (full context)
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...and spent some of their time there, the rest in the house that was now Mrs Tulsi ’s. Mr Biswas coordinated politics in whole villages during the day, only to return to... (full context)
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Mrs Tulsi ’s renovations in Port of Spain went slowly, as she underpaid and “regularly abused and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: The Revolution
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...house filled with Tulsis and festivities unparalleled since Owad’s departure. The evening before Owad’s arrival, Mrs Tulsi was ecstatic, and the sisters decided to stay up all night, cooking and celebrating. Visitors... (full context)
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...He walked off the boat and joined his family in crying. He kissed his mother, Mrs Tulsi , shook Shekhar’s hand, and embraced the sisters before moving onto the brothers-in-law. When he... (full context)
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...revolution, life had to be lived.” Owad started working at the Colonial Hospital, looking after Mrs Tulsi (who “improved spectacularly”), and reading his English medical journals. The whole family started visiting him... (full context)
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...and Mr Biswas yelled out, which started a shouting match between him and Owad, which Mrs Tulsi interrupted by telling Mr Biswas to “go to hell.” Eventually, Owad declared that he could... (full context)
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When Owad returned from Tobago, Mrs Tulsi grew tearful, spinning “a lengthy tale of injustice, neglect and ingratitude” for her daughters. However,... (full context)