Anita and Me

by

Meera Syal

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Anita and Me: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the children’s section of the hospital, Meena lies in between a girl called Angela and a vey sick boy, Robert, who is in an isolation room. The doctor tells her she will be out by Christmas, in four months. This makes Meena panic and cry, as she realizes that she will miss Sunil’s birthday, have trouble studying for the eleven-plus, and, worst of all, that they will not be able to go to India. Her mother tries to reassure her, explaining that she will bring her school material and help her with schoolwork, that everyone will come visit her, and that they can go to India next summer.
It becomes apparent that family and school are Meena’s priorities in life, despite her occasional fits of rebellion. Her capacity to rely entirely on her family for support contrasts with the disappointing experiences she has had with friends such as Anita and Sam Lowbridge, who have proven to be potential enemies.
Themes
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Meena remains haunted by the image of Anita watching her get into the ambulance. She imagines the girl’s joy at taking part in the Indian man’s beating and feels disgusted. Meena concludes that Anita and she were never compatible and, over the course of the days in the hospital, she begins to forget Anita. She realizes that this forced separation could be a good opportunity to separate herself from her friend once and for all.
Meena finally realizes that, more than any other aspect of Anita’s personality, the difference in moral principles between Anita and herself are too strong for friendship to be possible. Meena’s desire to separate herself from Anita marks a turning point in her life, in which she becomes more self-confident and more capable of standing up for what she believes is right.
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Meena finds her roommate Angela boring and begins to converse with Robert, who writes notes to her from the other side of the glass. Meena is flattered that he would want to talk to her, and begins to feel better about being in the hospital. When she asks her parents to bring her paper and a pen, they are overjoyed, convinced that Meena might dedicate herself to study. Reflecting on her accident, Meena, in fact, realizes that her decision to mount the horse and to fall was her last deliberately sinful act, like all her lies, and that she now wants to be a better person. She resolves to focus on preparing for the eleven-plus.
Meena’s relationship with Robert immediately contrasts with her relationship with Anita, as this one is based on mutual communication and kindness. The spontaneous series of events that led Meena to break her leg represent an opportunity for Meena to turn her life around. Her decision to study marks her investment in her future, and represents an opportunity to leave Tollington’s now hostile community.
Themes
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Friendship Theme Icon
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Related Quotes
When Meena finally has paper and a pen, Robert and she begin playing games and exchanging pieces of information. Meena has always dreamed of having a boyfriend, but she had never thought that she would have such an intense relationship with a boy on the other side of an isolation window. The two of them invent their own language so that other people cannot read their notes, and soon realize that they are able to complete each other’s sentences or read the other’s thoughts. They can also judge from the other’s body position whether or not they want to talk.
The relationship between Meena and Robert is based on understanding and equality, as they learn to adjust to the other and perfect their communication. It becomes obvious that this reciprocal relationship is a true example of friendship, whereas Meena’s relationship with Anita was never sincere, as it only survived because of Meena’s loyalty and Anita’s desire for control.
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When Meena’s parents arrive one evening with gifts and a birthday cake for Sunil, Meena realizes that it is already the end of October. She cannot believe that she has already been in bed for six weeks. When she notices that Nanima is refusing sweets—highly unusual behavior—she asks Nanima what is wrong and sees her grandmother wipe off tears. Her father then says that Nanima has decided to go back to India the next day. Although Meena feels as though her entire world is falling apart, she tries to hide her emotions from her parents, because she knows that adults do this all the time to shield their children from worry and grief.
Meena’s grief at hearing about Nanima’s departure shows the extreme closeness she has reached with her grandmother. It also highlights the difficulty of being an immigrant, whose extended family lives in other parts of the globe. Meena has developed a sense of responsibility and ethical behavior that makes her consider other people’s feelings before her own, as she tries to hide her sadness from her family.
Themes
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At the end of the evening, Nanima leaves, blessing and lauding Meena in Punjabi, and it is only once Meena’s family is gone that she feels the full pain of loss. She realizes that she has often faked sadness, but that she is now experiencing the full force of that emotion. That night, she does not exchange messages with Robert, but she knows that he is watching her.
Meena’s realization that she is feeling such strong emotions for the first time puts her relationship with Anita in perspective, suggesting that her bond with Anita must not be that strong. The loss of Nanima also deprives her of a vivid connection to her Indian background.
Themes
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One day, when nurses bring a plastic Christmas tree into the room, Meena notices that Robert’s bed is empty. She desperately asks a nurse what has happened, and she explains that Robert is having some tests done. When Robert returns, Meena tries to make him laugh across the window but notices that he has bruises on his hands and is crying. She calls Sylvie, a nurse, to ask what is wrong, and she explains that Robert gets tired and depressed after some particularly painful tests.
Meena expresses compassionate concern for Robert’s well-being, showing the close relationship she has developed with this young boy. The apparent severity of Robert’s illness foreshadows his later death. This episode puts Meena’s problems in perspective, highlighting that she still has her entire future ahead of her.
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On December 20th, Meena gets ready to leave the hospital. Nurse Sylvie, who knows how much Meena cares about Robert, explains that she has almost gotten herself into trouble for what she is about to do: let Meena into Robert’s room. After putting on a surgical gown and mask, Meena enters Robert’s room. Meena is impressed by Robert’s posh accent, and Robert, in turn, is astounded by Meena’s strong Black Country accent. He laughs and tells Meena he thought she would sound more exotic.
The difference in accents between Meena and Robert signals a class difference, but also emphasizes their shared English culture. Robert’s surprise at hearing Meena’s natural English accent suggests that he automatically assumed she would sound foreign. Meena again challenges traditional categories of identity, proving that it is possible to combine two radically different cultures in one person.
Themes
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Meena is initially quiet and shy, but they both agree to tell each other something the other doesn’t know and Meena tells Robert that she is getting a bike. She then asks Robert when he is going to get better, and he admits he doesn’t know. Meena then asks him if he has a girlfriend, and he takes Meena’s hand in his, saying he does. Meena finds that she is breathing extremely fast and leaves the room, saying she will see him soon for her physiotherapy.
The fact that Meena’s feelings are reciprocated bolsters her happiness and self-confidence, proving once and for all that she does not need to have white skin to be attractive. The tenderness of her relationship with Robert contrasts with Anita’s attitude toward sex, which is focused on asserting power and control over others.
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As Meena’s parents drives her home, Meena is shocked to learn that the motorway is open, that Mr. Pembridge has sold some land in front of the Kumars’ house, and that Anita’s house looks dilapidated. In general, Meena finds the town unappealing. She also learns that Sandy and Hairy Neddy are now married, and that Cara Mitchell has been sent to an institution for treatment, which shocks Meena because she believes that the girl needs open spaces instead of reclusion. When they finally arrive home, papa announces that while this is their home, they cannot stay there forever. That night, while she is struggling with her crutches, Meena hears Sam’s new motorbike outside. She sees him greet Anita and the two of them kiss.
Meena’s shock at seeing the village after a long time away reveals that Tollington is not as appealing as ihabit and affection have made it seem in her mind. Her realization that Anita’s house looks run-down emphasizes the dire situation Anita finds herself in, in terms of both socio-economic status and family life. Such observations, as well as Meena’s comments about Clara Mitchell, once again reveal Meena’s perceptiveness, as well as her ability to feel compassion for those she identifies as weaker than her. However, Anita’s relationship with Sam only emphasizes how incompatible Meena and Anita’s values are.
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When Meena goes to the hospital for physiotherapy, she is told that Robert is having some more tests and cannot see him. She leaves him a lighthearted note and the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. However, when she does not hear back from her friend for a while, she begins to worry. Finally, she receives a letter in the mail from Robert’s parents, announcing that their son has died and thanking her for making Robert’s time in the hospital so happy.
The novel Meena gives Robert is symbolic, highlighting some of Anita and Me’s influences. To Kill a Mockingbird relates the story of a young girl who, like Meena, comes to terms with the reality of racism and injustice in society. Other aspects of Anita and Me, such as the Big House, can also be considered directly inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird.
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