The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Karim and Helen accompany Jeeta and Jamila to the airport to pick up Jamila's new husband. His name is Changez, and he's a very short and fat man. Helen drives them to Anwar's store in Hairy Back's car. When they arrive, a weak and pale Anwar pinches his new son-in-law's cheeks. Karim explains that Anwar is over the moon about his victory over Jamila and Jeeta. Anwar has been pulling Karim into the shop storeroom for weeks now and talking about how excited he is to have grandchildren and be able to spoil "his woman" now that there's another man around to work.
Anwar's insistence on this arranged marriage is an attempt to force Jamila into Anwar's idea of a familial ideal—the validity of which is instantly called into question given the tone of Karim's narration as he describes Changez. This begins to suggest that the characters must learn that they can only control the particulars of their familial relationships so much.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Changez's welcome party is awkward. Jamila and Changez don't look at each other, and even Helen is unusually subdued. Karim thinks that Anwar doesn't know anything about his own daughter. The party picks up when some of Anwar's relatives arrive with gifts. Slowly, Anwar seems to realize that Changez isn't a strapping young man, and he points with concern at Changez's left arm, which is withered and has only a tiny fist on the end. Karim thinks that even if Changez had had several working arms, Changez doesn't seem like a man who knows how to work.
Karim confirms that Anwar's attempts to create an ideal family for Jamila were misguided as he describes all the ways in which Changez himself isn't ideal. Further, when he realizes that Anwar never truly knew Jamila, he grasps that regardless of how happy he was being a part of Anwar's family, that family is also not perfect. This shows Karim that all people and families are flawed.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Jamila seems wholly resigned to her marriage. She'd called Karim the day after her decision, and Karim had thought it typical of her to make this choice. He'd reasoned that it would be a rebellion against rebellion to marry him. When it's time to eat, Helen looks ready to vomit as she watches Changez eat with his one hand, not with silverware. Karim, however, feels bad for Changez. They talk about books for a few minutes and Karim finds Changez kind and innocently enthusiastic. Jamila reprimands Karim for this when Anwar takes Changez to talk about the shop.
As interested as Helen might be in Karim, Hairy Back's racism hasn't left her untouched: though she's the only white person in a room full of Indian people at an Indian celebration, she still "others" Changez when she's horrified by him eating in a way that's considered rude in England.
Themes
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Dad arrives at the party, dressed colorfully and looking exceptionally young next to Anwar. Helen asks Karim if they can leave and soon, she, Karim, and Dad leave. Helen explains that one of Anwar's relatives had been rude to her, and she's mad at Jamila for marrying Changez. Karim tells Helen to go to San Francisco. As they pass through Anwar's shop, Changez runs after Karim and asks him to use his nickname, Bubble, and asks if they can go to a bookshop soon. Karim agrees.
For now, the budding friendship between Karim and Changez is evidence that Karim is growing up, as he's willing to overlook his prejudices to be Changez's friend. Karim also reinforces his connections to his Indian heritage when he snaps at Helen, which shows that he's beginning to develop a more nuanced and rounded view of himself.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
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Outside, Dad tells Karim to get into Eva's car. Karim tries to refuse, but Dad insists. Karim says goodbye to Helen and gets into Eva's car. Karim watches Dad and Eva touch each other in the front seat and thinks they're in love. Karim thinks about how the foundations of his family are eroding, and he thinks that poor Allie has it the worst because he doesn't know anything.
As Karim worries about his family's future, he shows again that when it comes to his family, he values loyalty and stability above all else. When he mentions Allie here, however, it again suggests that he's growing up and expanding his thoughts to include more people than just himself.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
When they get to Eva's house, Eva sends Karim upstairs to see Charlie. Karim is annoyed, but he sees Eva and Dad groping at each other as they fall back into a bedroom. He peeks his head into Charlie's attic and notices that it appears as though Charlie is giving up on being a hippie—he's throwing flowered shirts out his skylight. The Fish sits in a chair and laughs as Charlie talks about how jobs should be assigned to people randomly, though some are undeserving of jobs. Charlie offhandedly tells Karim that he'll be down in a minute. When Karim looks hurt, Charlie invites him into the attic.
The tone of this passage suggests that Charlie's proclamations are chilling for Karim to hear. This is indicative of Karim's coming of age in relation to Charlie, as it's no longer so easy for Karim to idolize him when Charlie is so overtly cruel. What Charlie says is also reflective of the politics of the time; it vaguely ties in with Terry's Trotskyism later in the novel, though Charlie's version is infinitely crueler.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Charlie embraces Karim, and Karim grabs Charlie's buttocks. When Charlie jumps, Karim grabs between his legs. Charlie throws Karim into his drum kit. Karim pretends like he's not hurt. Downstairs a few minutes later, Eva wipes Karim's forehead as Charlie and Dad sit on the couch. Dad begins to explain that he and Eva are in love. Karim interrupts and says that this is all boring. Dad pauses for a moment before saying that he's decided to be with Eva.
Here, Karim's physical injuries and physical pain show that he is indeed hurting inside as a result of Dad's decision, even if he feels he can't show it. When Eva acts motherly towards Karim by wiping his forehead, it shows that she's already expanding her web of familial loyalty to include him. This in turn suggests that the parameters of familial loyalty are subject to change.
Themes
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Karim asks what'll happen to his family, and asks what will happen to Mum. Dad gets up to go talk to her. Karim gets up too and walks outside. He wanders around for a while before using a payphone to call Auntie Jean. He tells her only that Dad has decided to live with Eva.
Karim's loyalty also shifts when he decides to pull Jean into the mix. She becomes an unlikely ally in Karim's eyes, but she appeals to Karim's youthful hope that families will remain the same over the course of a lifetime.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon