The Buddha of Suburbia

by

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia: Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Karim gets home, Mum and Dad are in the bedroom and Allie is banging on their door. Ted and Jean arrive immediately. Jean packs for Mum and Karim packs for Allie, and then Ted and Jean take Mum and Allie out as Dad yells. After they're gone Dad starts throwing things in a plastic bag, but eventually decides to leave everything. Soon, Dad calls Eva, and she arrives to pick them up. Karim feels pressured into saying that he'll stay with Eva, but Eva doesn't seem to detect that.
Dad's decision to leave his physical belongings mirrors his decision to, in Karim's eyes, completely abandon his family. This reinforces the fact that Karim sees this whole shakeup as an overt betrayal of him and of his family; he doesn't just see it as Dad following his heart and his love.
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Eva settles Karim in her spare bedroom. Late that night she comes in with a book and informs Karim that she's going to read to him. She reads him the short story The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde and afterwards she tells Karim to think about being an actor. When Karim thanks her, she says that beautiful people such as he should get what they want. When Karim asks about ugly people, Eva says that it's their fault they're ugly. Karim thinks that this is where Charlie gets his cruelty.
Eva's assertions about ugly people here foreshadow her eventual shift to espousing conservative Thatcherite ideas. This particular assertion shows that she believes that people are wholly responsible for their own situations, even when a person's situation is dictated for the most part by uncontrollable outside forces like genetics. 
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Karim lies in bed and thinks about the difference between interesting people and nice people. He thinks the interesting people, like Eva, make you see things differently. Nice people, like Mum, deserve love, but people like Eva end up with everything in the end.
When Karim casts Mum as a victim of Dad's decision, it shows that he's maturing in how he thinks about love—compared to his earlier statement that Mum should try harder, this is a much kinder and more empathetic viewpoint.
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Karim begins splitting his time between Eva's house, his parents' empty house, and Changez and Jamila's flat. He drops out of school when Charlie stops going, and Eva sets Karim up to go to college. Karim attends classes with women for the first time, and the college women laugh at him. Karim is lonely and doesn't really want to be in school, so he only attends some of his lectures.
Despite his sympathy for Mum, Karim doesn't deign to live with her at Jean's house at all. He's still selfish and even if he thinks of Mum as a victim, he thinks of himself as the primary victim of all of this change. This is, again, indicative of his youth.
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Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
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Karim spends much of his time at Changez and Jamila's two-room flat. Jamila lives in the bedroom and spends all of her time reading and studying. Changez spends his days reading novels on his camp bed in the living room, where Jamila had insisted from the beginning that he sleep. Karim gives Changez books by Harold Robbins, which opens Changez's eyes to a world of sexual possibilities.
Even if Anwar forced her into marriage, Jamila shows that she still has the power to dictate what her relationships look like. Further, Changez's willingness to go along with this suggests again that not all families or relationships look the same, and that a basic sense of respect is essential for any relationship.
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Before Changez's "sex trouble" truly begins, he starts having trouble with Anwar. Anwar had started Changez working the till at the grocery store, but Changez was purposefully bad at it. Then, Anwar had Changez sit on a stool and watch for shoplifters, but Changez turned out to be able to sleep sitting. Anwar's despair soon became obvious. Karim, like Jeeta and Jamila, laughs at Anwar, but nobody is willing to say it's his own fault for bringing Changez to London in the first place.
The entire conflict between Anwar and Changez reflects the changing attitudes of the decade—Anwar's failure to impose Changez on Jamila in the way he hoped to is indicative of the fact that old ways of doing things are on the way out, while unconventional relationships are the new normal, even if they came about through old systems of doing things.
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Family, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
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Karim and Changez become friends, as Karim finds Changez easy to bully. Karim enjoys that Changez finds him daring, and he shows Changez around South London to see how long it takes him to become "corrupt." They attend strip clubs and dance halls, and Karim makes Changez wear a hat to cover his face so nobody thinks he's Pakistani.
When Karim mentions making Changez wear a hat, it implies that Karim reads to others as merely "exotic" more than he reads as identifiably Indian. This supports Karim's identification with being English more than being Indian, while making Changez wear a hat shows the racism and fear of the period.
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
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Soon, Jamila neither likes nor dislikes Changez. He tells her stories about India and asks her about her political beliefs, though he refuses to read any of her suggested books on politics. One day in a bookstore, Changez asks Karim if Jamila will ever sleep with him. Karim says that Changez is too ugly, and Changez replies that he wants to have children with his wife. When Karim insists that won't happen, Changez makes a mysterious phone call and asks Karim to take him to a big house. He makes Karim wait for twenty minutes and then reemerges, a middle-aged Japanese woman behind him. Changez happily explains that the woman, Shinko, isn't a prostitute, she's a friend, and he can love both her and Jamila.
Just like Jamila does, Changez finds a way to make their marriage fulfilling for him. This adds more evidence for the growing sense that relationships are no longer defined by the same things they once were, both in terms of change over generations as well as change over the course of a single relationship. Similarly, Changez's interest in Jamila's thoughts and ideas also represents a progressive tone in their relationship, as this sort of thing is exactly what Anwar would never dream of doing.
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Karim explains that having children is extremely important to Changez. Recently, Anwar had asked Changez if Jamila was expecting his grandson and when Changez was silent, Anwar insulted Changez's manhood. Changez had rushed at Anwar, but Jeeta put herself between the two men.
Karim mentions later in the novel that Anwar's Muslim beliefs dictate that men are the heads of their households, so it's naturally a shock for Anwar to find that his daughter is running the show at home. This is also an insult to Anwar's masculinity, as he bullied Jamila into this marriage so that her husband could perpetuate this system of male power.
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Karim calls Mum every day and finally decides to visit her. As he walks to Jean and Ted's house, Karim sees Hairy Back and the Great Dane. Karim crosses the street and walks back to watch him, suddenly feeling nauseous, angry, and humiliated. He reasons that he needed to be reminded how much he hates the suburbs.
Karim's reasoning suggests that he views the suburbs specifically as racist, while naïvely believing that the city won't be nearly as racist. Again, this shows how youthful and idealistic Karim is.
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Racism, Success, and Identity Theme Icon
Social and Political Discontent Theme Icon
Mum has spent all her time in bed since she moved in with Jean, but Ted has completely changed after talking with Dad. While he once boasted that he had ten men working for him, Ted now smiles and doesn't get up until 11:00 in the morning. Jean is furious, but it has no effect on Ted. When Karim gets to the house, Ted snags him immediately and asks about Dad. Ted says he'd like to see Dad, but it's against Jean's rules. When Ted lets Karim go, Jean greets him curtly and mentions that Allie dresses up a lot and plucks his eyebrows, both unmanly things. Karim suggests she join the police force as he heads upstairs to Mum, Jean cursing about the "Buddhist bastards" as he goes.
It's important to realize that though Ted is unemployed, he and Jean aren't necessarily suffering too much financially—they're wealthy and privileged enough that it's not the end of the world if Ted doesn't work for a while. This begins to develop the idea that the middle class isn't all the same, as historically speaking, unemployment rates are skyrocketing at this point in time and it's not a good thing for a number of people.
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Mum is curled up in a pink nightie and looks miserable. Karim is afraid her unhappiness might be infectious. He begins to tell her about the bizarre sight of watching Changez fall in love with Jamila, but Mum becomes bored. Karim then begs Mum to draw him. Finally Mum agrees, and when she takes a break to use the bathroom, Karim peeks at the sketch. When she returns, he informs her that she drew Dad, not him. Mum insists that fathers and sons look alike and says that Karim left her, just like Dad. She's sarcastic when Karim insists that he's not around much because he's in school.
Like the drawing of Dad and Eva at the beginning of the book, Mum's drawing contains a fair bit of truth. Just like Dad, Karim is embracing an identity that's not necessarily Indian (that of an Englishman), but it allows him to pursue what he wants in life more effectively than his Indian identity would. Both men did also leave Mum, and her fixation on this shows that like Karim, she places importance on loyalty.
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Karim kisses Mum and tries to sneak out without saying goodbye to anyone, but Ted grabs Karim again. He asks Karim to tell Dad he's appreciated. Karim nearly runs back to Jamila's flat, where she's busy studying and Changez is occupied watching her study. Changez pulls Karim into the kitchen and whispers that he has to go out and see Shinko that afternoon. Karim insists that Jamila doesn't care where Changez goes. He mentions that Anwar is going to send a letter to Changez's relatives saying that he's fat and lazy, but he agrees to try to steal the letter as Changez leaves.
Karim never supports his claim that Anwar is actually writing this unflattering letter, which suggests that he's only telling Changez about it to bully him and make him feel unsettled. Either way, however, it shows that Karim is beginning to borrow some of Charlie's cruelty and experiment with that kind of an identity.
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Related Quotes
Karim and Jamila have sex, and he asks her if she cares for Changez at all. Jamila insists she never wanted him here and doesn't see why she should care about him. She says that he's nothing but a sexually frustrated parasite, and Karim tells her that Changez is off seeing a prostitute. Karim and Jamila have sex again, and Jamila asks Karim if he's sad and what he's going to do now that he's dropped out of college. Karim insists that he just doesn't go to lectures that often and he returns the subject to Jamila and what she's doing with her life.
Karim's actions here betray some of his own latent traditionalism—he doesn't recognize that he's doing to Jamila and Changez's relationship is akin to what Eva and Dad did to Dad's marriage. This is mostly because Karim doesn't think of Jamila and Changez's marriage as being quite as real or legitimate as that of his parents, and he also doesn't yet have a good sense of guilt.
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Jamila says that she's preparing for something, she just doesn't know what. She and Karim have sex again and then fall asleep. Karim wakes several hours later to see Changez lying awake on his camp bed, a vacant expression on his face. Karim dresses and slinks out of the flat, feeling like he's betrayed everyone.
As cruel as Karim can be, he does care for Changez and the fact that he feels like he betrayed Changez supports this. This continues to show how important loyalty is to a relationship, both romantic relationships and platonic friendships.
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