Anita and Me

by

Meera Syal

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Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) Character Analysis

Meena’s mother is known in the Tollington community as a warm, kind, and beautiful person. She has a principle of being friendly with everyone, although she makes an exception for racist and intolerant people such as Deirdre, whom she treats with coldness. She is uncompromising when it comes to moral matters, and her daughter’s lying makes her sad and furious. In addition, Mrs. Kumar is deeply committed to her family. She spends hours cooking meals to please her husband Mr. Kumar and has great faith in her daughter’s goodness and intellectual capacities, despite Meena’s occasional misbehavior. Meena’s mother values family so much that she finds the lack of commitment between English children and parents unnatural and disturbing.

Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) Quotes in Anita and Me

The Anita and Me quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) or refer to Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”). 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:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oberon Books edition of Anita and Me published in 1996.
[Untitled] Quotes

I do not have many memories of my very early childhood, apart from the obvious ones, of course. You know, my windswept, bewildered parents in their dusty Indian village garb standing in the open doorway of a 747, blinking back tears of gratitude and heartbreak as the fog cleared to reveal the sign they had been waiting for, dreaming of, the sign planted in tarmac and emblazoned in triumphant hues of red, blue and white, the sign that said simply, WELCOME TO BRITAIN.

Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

‘You’re so lovely. You know, I never think of you as, you know, foreign. You’re just like one of us.’

My mother would smile and graciously accept this as a compliment. And yet afterwards, in front of the Aunties, she would reduce them to tears of laughter by gently poking fun at the habits of her English friends. It was only much later on that I realised in the thirteen years we lived there, during which every weekend was taken up with visiting Indian families or being invaded by them, only once had any of our neighbours been invited in further than the step of our back door.

Related Characters: Meena Kumar (speaker), Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”)
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

But to be told off by a white person, especially a neighbour, that was not just misbehaviour, that was letting down the whole Indian nation. It was continually drummed into me, ‘Don’t give them a chance to say we’re worse than they already think we are. You prove you are better. Always.’

Related Characters: Meena Kumar (speaker), Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) (speaker), Mr. Christmas
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

‘I will never understand this about the English, all this puffing up about being civilised with their cucumber sandwiches and cradle of democracy big talk, and then they turn round and kick their elders in the backside, all this It’s My Life, I Want My Space stupidness, You Can’t Tell Me What To Do cheekiness, I Have To Go To Bingo selfishness and You Kids Eat Crisps Instead Of Hot Food nonsense. What is this My Life business, anyway? We all have obligations, no one is born on their own, are they?’

Related Characters: Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) (speaker), Mrs. Worrall
Page Number: 58-59
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

‘They’ll want cookers!’ giggled mama. ‘Doesn’t he know we were fitting bidets into our houses when their ancestors were living in caves? Oh God!’ and then she went suddenly quiet and looked hard at papa. ‘God Shyam, is that how they see us? Is it really?’

Related Characters: Meena Kumar (speaker), Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) (speaker), Mr. Kumar (“Papa”), Mr. Ormerod
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I decided there and then to heal myself, both in body and mind. It was time. I asked mama to bring in all my school books to prepare for the eleven-plus, I would grow my hair long and vaguely feminine, I would be nice to Pinky and Baby and seek out their company willingly, I would write letters to India and

introduce myself properly to that anonymous army of blood relatives, I would learn to knit, probably, and I would always always tell the truth.

Related Characters: Meena Kumar (speaker), Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”), Pinky, Baby
Related Symbols: The Eleven-Plus Exam
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Anita and Me LitChart as a printable PDF.
Anita and Me PDF

Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) Character Timeline in Anita and Me

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Kumar (“Mama”) appears in Anita and Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
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...landed in Britain after leaving their village in India, their early struggles in England, and her mother ’s pregnancy. After reflecting on these events, Meena then reveals that these are not actually... (full context)
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Meena admits that her first memory involves understanding an actor’s pun on television. Her mother says that she laughed so hard that she ultimately threw up. Meena explains that she... (full context)
Chapter 1
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...if she should confess and looks around her for help. From a distance, she sees her mother in a Punjabi suit, her brown skin and colorful clothing standing out among people’s white... (full context)
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...filled with flowers and gnomes, but that her own yard makes her feel embarrassed because her mother only uses it to grow fresh herbs that she uses in her Indian cuisine. She... (full context)
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...and whispered to each other. Meena, who felt embarrassed because she was wearing a dress her mother had forced her to put on, tried to communicate silently with Anita that she was... (full context)
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...Mr. Ormerod truly gave her candy for free or if she took the money from her mother ’s bag. Meena is furious, arguing to herself that her mother should simply have given... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...sits and eats her candy, concluding that feeling sick will be adequate punishment for stealing her mother ’s money. Meena then recalls an episode in which she almost choked to death. That... (full context)
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...by this sudden life-or-death adventure. However, when her sausage finally fell out of her mouth, her mother saw it on her dress and got mad at her for ruining it. Meena did... (full context)
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Meena describes her mother as someone who does not raise her voice often but who is terrifying when she... (full context)
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...their own personality, this group functions as enforcers of good manners and discipline, often supporting mama’s criticism. Meena does not usually agree with their comments—criticism of how dirty Meena looks after... (full context)
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...through the Aunties. She discovered that her parents’ courtship was glamorous and exciting, even if her mother does not like to admit this openly. Meena wonders why there is only one picture... (full context)
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...has an outdoor toilet and he has to take three buses to get to work. Her mother , by contrast, has never cared about the state of the house, focusing instead on... (full context)
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Meena describes her alternate fascination and boredom with her mother ’s stories about home in India, though she does cherish a particular anecdote about her... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...off by a white neighbor is, to her mother, an insult to India in general. Mama always says that the family needs to behave impeccably, so that people might not be... (full context)
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...She explains that showing pain only demonstrates vulnerability, thus inviting greater violence. In contrast with her mother ’s sentimental attitude, which is bound to pity others, Meena knows that she sometimes needs... (full context)
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...(next to the outdoor toilet) that they use as storage, though they have no bikes. Mama yells to Mrs. Worrall, their kindly neighbor who shows much interest in Meena, that she... (full context)
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Mama walks to Mrs. Worrall, giving her an old vase. Meena says that she is hungry... (full context)
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After mama walks back into the house, Mrs. Worrall asks Meena if she would like to help... (full context)
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...is courageous to take care of such a sick husband. She concludes that, unlike what her mother says, not all the English are selfish. Rather, the Tollington women often demonstrate a sense... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...a fake leather chair, which they all find funny because it makes leathery farting sounds. Her mother stands up to go to the kitchen and her father tells her to sit down.... (full context)
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...she should eat, revealing that her mother has made her something special. At that moment, mama comes in, bearing a plate of fish fingers and French fries. (full context)
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...the Christmases’ house, where two men are carrying Mrs. Christmas’s body out of her house. Mama enters Meena’s room, asking her what she is doing. Both of them hear then Deirdre’s... (full context)
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Mr. Christmas dies three weeks later in his sleep. While mama gets ready to go to the funeral, Meena notices that her father is in one... (full context)
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...father always gets depressed whenever he hears news about death, her father suddenly announces that her mother is pregnant and that Meena will soon have a baby brother or sister. He asks... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The next time Meena runs into Anita Rutter is in late October, by which time her mother ’s tummy has already grown visibly. Meena has seen Anita around. She has noticed that... (full context)
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From that moment on, Meena's mother decides to treat Deirdre coldly, showing her only a polite façade, at odds with the... (full context)
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That day, Meena’s mother has been cooking for weeks to prepare for Diwali, what she refers to neighbors as... (full context)
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Meena’s mother tells her that all religions coexist peacefully in India, and that religions all lead to... (full context)
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...to the gurudwara in Birmingham, the Sikhs’ place of worship. This was surprising both because mama is not very religious, and because she is a terribly slow driver and this would... (full context)
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...at Christmas, decides that she will treat herself by going to the fair with Anita. Her mother tells her to be back by five o’clock. On the way there, Anita tells Meena... (full context)
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...herself in the mirror while wearing a traditional Indian outfit and puts on some of her mother ’s make-up. She also grabs her mother’s gold necklace, with a diamond in the center,... (full context)
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...Meena comes back down and notices the various groups that have formed, she realizes that her mother ’s tranquility and elegance will always make her feel insecure, since, by comparison, she is... (full context)
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...about Meena’s frequent bad behavior, and Auntie Shaila says that she is probably seeking attention. Mama then enumerates Meena’s various lies and misdeeds. At one point, Meena interrupts the conversation by... (full context)
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...and, as Meena tries to decipher people’s expressions, she hears an ambulance. She then sees her mother on a stretcher, in pain. The neighbors are there, and Mrs. Worrall offers to do... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...out and receiving a cesarean at the hospital before the anesthesia was fully working. When mama complained to the nurse, the nurse simply told her to shut up. Mama also recalls... (full context)
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Once Meena’s brother Sunil enters their household, everything changes. During the weeks when mama is in the hospital, Meena lives alone with her father and feels free to see... (full context)
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When mama returns home, she spends most of her time taking care of Sunil, and Meena decides... (full context)
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...mother and books from her father. That Saturday, her parents throw a party for her. Mama, who thinks that Meena might be jealous of all the attention Sunil is receiving, asks... (full context)
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...this situation, Meena has the idea of asking Mr. Ormerod to grab some polish for her mother . While Mr. Ormerod is gone, Meena steals a jar on his counter that contains... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...does not want to go to Fete with Meena and her father. Meena explains that mama has been overwhelmed by having to care for Sunil. To solve this problem, Meena once... (full context)
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...Kumar later told his wife what had happened, both of them erupted in laughter, though mama suddenly went quiet, wondering if Mr. Ormerod’s opinions expressed how the English actually saw Indians:... (full context)
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Taking Meena’s hand, the fortune teller tells her that her mother will soon have health problems but that they will receive help from overseas. She also... (full context)
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...They find her mother in the living room, with a sleeping Sunil on her lap. Mama begins to talk about how much she misses India, where she would have so many... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...Nanima greets Pinky and Baby and then Sunil, she comes to great Meena, who recognizes her mother ’s traits in her grandmother’s face and begins to cry when Nanima whispers blessings in... (full context)
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...to be in Nanima’s presence, as Nanima reminds them of their own parents. Meena finds her mother cheerful and strong again and, in that moment, promises to herself never to leave her,... (full context)
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...flirting with him playfully as they usually do, which makes Meena’s father blush but amuses her mother . At one point, while the adults are drinking and smoking, Meena’s father tells her... (full context)
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...house. Nanima’s presence has magically allowed Sunil to distance himself from his asphyxiating relationship with mama and to extend his love to other family members, especially Meena. Meena finds herself happy... (full context)
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...India. After Nanima mentions how difficult it is for the poor to receive an education, mama tells Meena that this was the primary reason behind her decision to leave India: to... (full context)
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...has seen her, but Mrs. Worrall then yells to them that Nanima is with her. Mama feels relieved and is about to leave, but Deirdre then asks her if she has... (full context)
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...that the two of them must understand each other beyond language barriers. Mrs. Worrall tells mama that Nanima says she has not left the house much and encourages them to take... (full context)
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On their way home, Meena keeps on feeling sharp pain in her head. When her mother sees her, she concludes that Meena has a fever. Meena lies down and wakes up... (full context)
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...on and left for Delhi, where Nanima lived a second life, like a second birth. Mama is now living yet another one, and Meena as well. (full context)
Chapter 9
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The next day, Meena leaves Nanima alone with mama, who is also on holiday. She goes to Anita’s house, where Tracey answers the door,... (full context)
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...Meena returns home, she realizes that she does not even know how she walked home. Her mother tells her that she is early and asks her if she had a good ride,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...Meena by the arm and says that she has become a “rude, sulky monster,” although mama intervenes to say that no one can control what Meena hears outside the house. Meena... (full context)
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...Anita’s mother Deirdre has left, and both parents immediately change tones, showing pity for Anita. Mama then suggests that the neighbors should organize a rotation for Anita to have someone take... (full context)
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...that Anita is not particularly polite. When they sit down at the table to eat, mama asks Anita questions about school and her family, but Anita barely answers. Instead, she asks... (full context)
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After hours of trying on Meena’s Indian clothes, the girls walk back down. When mama hugs Anita to say goodbye, Anita is so surprised by this gesture that she drops... (full context)
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When Meena asks her mother if Anita can come over again, mama says that they could do that if Anita asks Meena over to her house. Despite... (full context)
Chapter 11
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When Meena asks her father what a promotion consists of, mama explains that it means more money and a bigger office. Meena concludes that all she... (full context)
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...begins to mutter words, pronouncing the names of his family members among words in Punjabi. Mama is impressed that her son can speak before reaching one year old, and Meena regrets... (full context)
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Trouble begins when mama discovers that her diamond necklace is missing and Meena, who does not like remembering that... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...serious. One day, she overhears her father complaining about how happy Meena used to be. Mama interjects that Meena is happy, but that she is growing up and it is normal... (full context)
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...their children and also allow them to move out of Tollington. When the telephone rings, mama learns that Auntie Shaila’s husband Uncle Amman has just had a heart attack. Meena’s parents... (full context)
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...name, “Harinder P. Singh,” on the typewriter and concludes that he is a Sikh, like Meena’s mother . Meena feels completely exhausted, but listens as Mireille explains that she met ’Arry while... (full context)
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Mireille’s monologue is then interrupted by Meena’s mother frantically calling out for her daughter. When mama finally hugs her, looking both angry and desperate, she says that they found Tracey but... (full context)
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...house. However, papa makes a gesture that indicates he discussed property matters with Mr. Singh. Mama then explains that Mr. Singh, who owns the entire field across from Meena’s house, will... (full context)