The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Karim realizes that Eva is in his life to stay. He feels as though she's there while Mum and Dad watch TV at night, and he puzzles over whether Dad is meeting Eva during lunchtime. He even finds a book of Chinese sex positions in Dad's briefcase one day. One Sunday, Karim hears a knock at the door and opens it to find Ted. Ted mumbles something about checking on the roses in the backyard, strides inside, and asks about Dad. Karim asks Ted if he's following up and suggests they go to another football match by train.
Even before anything has changed officially, Karim recognizes that Dad's lapse in fidelity has permanently altered his family structure. In recognizing this, Karim begins to prioritize loyalty over anything else when it comes to family, as evidenced by his growing unease with the situation. He blames Dad's lack of loyalty for his own discomfort. 
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Ted ignores Karim and takes Mum out to the garden, presumably to talk about Dad. When they're done talking Ted goes to the bedroom and barges in. Karim follows. Dad is sitting and polishing his shoes like he does every Sunday. He seems surprised but not unhappy that Ted is here, and asks him to look at his broken record player. Ted looks panicked for a moment but agrees. Karim fetches Ted's screwdriver for him and sits on the bed, watching.
For now, Dad doesn't seem at all concerned with any of this, which creates the sense that he thinks of himself as being outside the reach of suburban policing. The broken record player is a very literal metaphor for the other characters' urgings that Dad step back into line.
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Ted and Dad good-naturedly insult Karim's uselessness. Ted admits that Jean sent him to check on the Buddhism thing. Karim mentions to the reader that Ted said "Buddhist" in a disapproving tone. Dad seems unconcerned and questions why the Buddhism is a bad thing, and Ted simply says that it all has to stop. Dad tells Ted to simply tell Jean, "Harry's nothing." Ted deflates.
Ted's inability to support his argument suggests he doesn't truly believe in what Jean has asked him to do—his loyalty to the cause is nonexistent, and therefore, it shows that he'll be an ineffective way to pull Dad back to an acceptable image of suburbia.
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Dad suddenly changes the subject and asks Ted about work. Dad gets up and pulls Ted's face into his own chest, and then says that there's too much work in the world. Ted starts crying and says he can't stop working. He and Dad go back and forth about why Ted thinks he has to keep working. Ted truly breaks down when Dad points out that the heating business is in shambles and Jean isn't happy in their marriage. Ted walks out of the bedroom with the record player, sobbing, much to Mum's surprise. Dad explains that he released Ted.
This experience shows Karim that Dad isn't a fake, as Ted experiences a true emotional and spiritual transformation as a result of Dad's Eastern philosophy. Then, when Ted clings to the broken record player, it shows that he's been clinging to ideas that no longer are useful to him. Though the novel never says if he fixes it, he does go on to fix the way he relates to these ideas.
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After that incident, Karim begins to fear that Mum and Dad will murder each other. The following Saturday, he bikes to Anwar and Jeeta's shop to escape. Karim peers through the window and doesn't see Anwar, which is unusual. Karim looks into the shop and sees Jamila, Anwar and Jeeta's daughter, stocking shelves. He and Jamila grew up together, and they began having sex when Jamila discovered Simone de Beauvoir. Karim listened to Jamila talk about Miss Cutmore, a white librarian who got her started reading French novels. He says that depending on what Jamila was reading, he and Jamila pretended they were French or Black American since the English punished them for being Indian.
Karim positions Jamila as being at the forefront of the new scholarship on social issues, including feminism, queer theory, and civil rights. When he mentions that they adopt these personas from other countries because the English wouldn't let them be Indian, he makes it very clear that even if Dad experiences fame from being Indian, it's also a very dangerous identity given the current political climate.
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Karim finally enters the shop and greets Jeeta. Jeeta asks him to take Jamila on a walk and won't answer his questions about Anwar's whereabouts. Karim tells Jamila all about Dad and Eva, but he purposefully doesn't mention his experience with the Great Dane. When Karim asks Jamila what he should do, she laughs. Karim finally realizes how unhappy Dad's affair is making him, and Jamila tries to convince him that families aren't sacred and Dad should be able to pursue love.
Jamila's counsel shows that she prioritizes romantic love over loyalty, respect, or stability. Karim's realization, on the other hand, shows that he selfishly prioritizes his stability over his parents' happiness when Dad's quest for happiness outside marriage changes Karim's life. This shows too that Karim is more conservative than he'd like to think.
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Jamila pulls Karim into a public toilet, and he thinks that, though he doesn't believe in monogamy, his mind is fully on Charlie. Karim admits to the reader that he likes having sex with both boys and girls, but he doesn't think too much about it in case something's wrong with him. To distract Jamila, Karim asks her if she has any news.
Because Karim's sexual orientation is fluid, it reinforces the idea that he's in a state of change in his life. Though some of the flux will certainly even out as he comes of age, his multifaceted sexual orientation suggests that things will continue to change even into adulthood.
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Jamila becomes serious as she begins her story. She'd begun learning martial arts, which isn't out of character—her neighborhood is brimming with violent neo-fascist groups, and Jeeta keeps buckets of water in case the shop is firebombed at night. Anwar didn't like Jamila attending classes and secretly decided it was time Jamila get married. He fixed it up with a brother in Bombay for a boy to come to London to marry Jamila. The boy, however, was 30 and demanded a very strange dowry consisting of a winter overcoat, a color television, and the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Karim is likely referring to groups like the National Front, a political party that promoted racial purity and expressed strong anti-immigrant sentiment. This begins to build the sense that immigrant families live in a constant state of fear. The particulars of the boy's dowry requests suggest that he's very interested in English culture, though asking for Sherlock Holmes novels indicates that he has a very specific idea of what English culture is. 
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Anwar consulted Dad about the strange dowry, and Dad insisted that Anwar investigate the boy. Anwar ignored Dad and informed Jamila of his decision, and Jamila, unsurprisingly, refused. She explains to Karim that she would've left right then if Anwar didn't hit Jeeta, and she leads Karim back to the shop. She makes Karim a kebab and then takes him upstairs despite Jeeta's protests. Karim thinks he's had enough of family dramas and just wants to go home.
Though it's somewhat unclear if Karim knew about the domestic violence between Anwar and Jeeta before this, this revelation shows that families are far more complicated than Karim realized. These discoveries about Anwar's buried conservatism and traditionalism turn him into a more rounded and human character.
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Karim smells something horrible as he climbs the stairs. When he finally enters the flat, he sees Anwar sitting on a bed in the living room, looking thin and very ill.  A pot of urine sits next to the bed. Karim tries to eat his kebab quickly and thinks that Anwar looks like he's dying. He tries to talk to Anwar, but Jamila cuts in. She asks Anwar to stop and offers him Karim's kebab. Desperately, Jamila turns to Karim and says that Anwar hasn't eaten in eight days, and he'll die if he doesn't eat.
Anwar's actions turn him into a foil for Dad in how they embrace their Indian heritage: while Dad behaves in a more western way through his affair with Eva, Anwar becomes more Indian than ever in support of an old tradition. In doing this, Anwar insists that Jamila give up her western pursuits and accept her own Indian heritage, which in turn suggests an uneasiness with western culture as a whole.
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Karim affirms Jamila's assessment, but Anwar angrily says that he can get his family to obey him by not eating, the same way that Gandhi got the English to leave India. Anwar insists that Jamila must marry the boy, and Karim tries to explain that people don't go for arranged marriages anymore. Karim can't believe the things he's seeing people do all of their own accords—Ted's breakdown, Dad's relationship with Eva, and now Anwar's hunger strike—things that had nothing to do with outside circumstances. Karim feels unsettled at Anwar's irrationality.
Karim's assessment (and subsequent shock) that Dad, Ted, and Anwar are doing these things of their own volition begins to show that Karim doesn't necessarily think of himself as being in control of his own life. This is indicative of his youth, and shows that until he learns otherwise, he'll float through life like he's not in control of any of it.
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Karim kicks the pot of urine and turns to leave with Jamila, but thinks of Anwar possibly touching that bit of the sheet that the urine splashed on. Karim gets a wet cloth and cleans the corner of the sheet before running down to his bike. Jamila joins him, and when she starts to cry, Karim holds her.
His guilt at splashing urine shows that Karim is exceptionally loyal to those he considers family, even when they're being irrational. This feeds into Karim's assertion that he doesn't need people to be nice to him to like them.
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