The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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Nilima Bose Character Analysis

Nilima, who is known simply as Mashima (Aunt) on Lusibari, is Kanai's aunt and Nirmal's wife. Nilima grew up wealthy in Calcutta and met Nirmal while in college in the late 1940s. She was so taken with him, they married within a year against her family's wishes. Though Nilima appears to have shared Nirmal's love for Communist theory in their youth, she's soon forced to face the consequences of relying so heavily on theory: Nirmal suffers a mental breakdown after being arrested for his involvement in a Socialist International conference and later, she watches Nirmal do nothing with his life except fixate on theory. Nilima, on the other hand, throws herself into helping the local women after discovering that women in the Sundarbans expect to be widowed in their twenties. In a matter of years, Nilima forms a Women's Union and the Babadon Trust, which provides a number of important services to the people of Lusibari and the surrounding islands. Nirmal is dismissive of her work, given that Nilima must compromise her morals in exchange for funding from the government. Then, when Nirmal Nirmal becomes involved in the Morichjhãpi incident, it is Nilima who is scornful. In the present, Nilima remains extremely disturbed by Nirmal's death twenty years earlier, and she's even more upset as she wonders why Nirmal left his notebook to Kanai instead of to her. Though she loves Kanai, she also views him as a spoiled and self-centered man who preys on women. At the end of the novel, Nilima accepts Piya's plan to develop a conservation and research plan based in Lusibari because Piya wants to both provide funding for the Babadon Trust and work with the locals.

Nilima Bose Quotes in The Hungry Tide

The The Hungry Tide quotes below are all either spoken by Nilima Bose or refer to Nilima Bose. 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 Mariner Books edition of The Hungry Tide published in 2006.
Part 1: The Trust Quotes

But these elements of an ordinary rural existence did not entirely conceal the fact that life in Lusibari was lived at the sufferance of a single feature of its topography. This was its bãdh, the tall embankment that encircled its perimeter, holding back the twice-daily flood.

Related Characters: Kanai Dutt, Nilima Bose
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Part 1: The Letter Quotes

There is nothing I can do to stop what lies ahead. But I was once a writer; perhaps I can make sure at least that what happened here leaves some trace, some hold upon the memory of the world. The thought of this, along with the fear that preceded it, has made it possible for me to do what I have not been able to do for the last thirty years—to put my pen to paper again.

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Kanai Dutt, Nilima Bose
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 1: Nirmal and Nilima Quotes

It shamed them to think that this man—a foreigner, a burra sahib, a rich capitalist—had taken it upon himself to address the issue of rural poverty when they themselves, despite all their radical talk, had scarcely any knowledge of life outside the city.

Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

But for these women the imagining of early widowhood was not a wasted effort: the hazards of life in the tide country were so great; so many perished in their youth, men especially, that almost without exception the fate that they had prepared themselves for did indeed befall them.

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose, Nilima Bose
Related Symbols: Tigers
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 1: Moyna Quotes

"Why else?" she said. "Because there's a lot of money in prawns and the traders had paid off the politicians. What do they care—or the politicians, for that matter? It's people like us who're going to suffer and it's up to us to think ahead."

Related Characters: Moyna (speaker), Kanai Dutt, Nilima Bose, Fokir, Tutul
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: A Feast Quotes

I was tempted to tell him what I thought of him, but it struck me with great force that I had no business to be self-righteous about these matters. Nilima—she had achieved a great deal. What had I done? What was the work of my life? I tried to find an answer but none would come to mind.

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Nilima Bose, Kusum
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: Habits Quotes

"Nirmal, you have no idea of what it takes to do anything practical," she said. "You live in a dream world—a haze of poetry and fuzzy ideas about revolution. To build something is not the same as dreaming it. Building is always a matter of well-chosen compromises."

Related Characters: Nilima Bose (speaker), Nirmal Bose, Kusum
Related Symbols: Cyclone Shelter
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

The sight was almost unbearable for me at the moment; I felt myself torn between my wife and the woman who had become the muse I'd never had; between the quiet persistence of everyday change and the heady excitement of revolution—between prose and poetry.

Most haunting of all, was I overreaching myself even in conceiving of these confusions? What had I ever done to earn the right to address such questions?

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Nilima Bose, Kusum
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: A Post Office on Sunday Quotes

"He loved the work of Rainer Maria Rilke […] Rilke said 'life is lived in transformation,' and I think Nirmal soaked this idea into himself in the way cloth absorbs ink. To him, what Kusum stood for was the embodiment of Rilke's idea of transformation."

Related Characters: Kanai Dutt (speaker), Piya Roy, Nirmal Bose, Nilima Bose, Kusum
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: The Wave Quotes

"Yes," said Nilima. "Making us build it was probably the most important thing he did in his whole life. You can see the proof of that today. But if you'd told him that, he'd have laughed. He'd have said, 'It's just social service—not revolution.'"

Related Characters: Nilima Bose (speaker), Kanai Dutt, Nirmal Bose
Related Symbols: Cyclone Shelter
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Hungry Tide LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Nilima Bose Character Timeline in The Hungry Tide

The timeline below shows where the character Nilima Bose appears in The Hungry Tide. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: An Invitation
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...need to ask for Mashima. He explains that though "Mashima" just means aunt, his aunt Nilima is so influential on the island, everyone will know who she's talking about. (full context)
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Kanai says that Nilima's husband, Kanai’s late uncle Nirmal, was similarly known just as Saar (sir), but he's been... (full context)
Part 1: Canning
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The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
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...that he wanted Kanai to have, but nobody could find them. Suddenly, two months ago, Nilima had found them and called Kanai, asking him to visit. Kanai had tried to put... (full context)
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Back on the platform, Kanai spots Nilima sitting, surrounded by admirers and well-wishers. When she spots Kanai, she snaps her fingers, which... (full context)
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When Kanai and Nilima reach the river, Kanai sees what she meant—at low tide, the half-mile wide riverbed is... (full context)
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Kanai starts to reminisce about Nirmal, but Nilima stops him. She explains that they "found" him in Canning, and he died months later.... (full context)
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...a reference to Nirmal's favorite story about Henry Piddington and the port of Canning, but Nilima cuts him off; she insists it's too hard for her to talk about Nirmal. Kanai... (full context)
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Horen had offered to take them all back to Lusibari, and Nilima accepted. She explained to Kanai that Horen was a fisherman with three children, though he... (full context)
Part 1: Lusibari
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When Kanai and Nilima arrive in Lusibari, it's low tide. Kanai climbs to the top of the bãdh and... (full context)
Part 1: The Trust
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The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
...island, life there is dependent on the bãdh to protect it from the twice-daily floods. Nilima lives in a house owned by the Babadon Trust, which has a guesthouse on the... (full context)
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Nilima clicks disapprovingly about Moyna's husband and then tells Kanai that her husband is Fokir, Kusum's... (full context)
Part 1: Nirmal and Nilima
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The narrator goes back in time to 1949, when Nirmal and Nilima met. Born in Dhaka in what became East Bengal, Nirmal chose to stay in Calcutta... (full context)
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This had a profoundly negative effect on Nirmal. After Nilima begged her parents' forgiveness and had their doctors out to see Nirmal, they suggested he... (full context)
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...money apparently went to the corrupt landowners. Nirmal was entirely overwhelmed and read Lenin's pamphlet. Nilima began to speak to the local women. She was shocked to learn that women in... (full context)
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Nilima struggled to name this group of women, and Nirmal objected to calling the widows a... (full context)
Part 1: Kusum
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...roof above his canopy of mosquito netting had come alive, which wasn't far from the truth—Nilima once found a snake in the ceiling while tying up a canopy, and creatures fell... (full context)
Part 1: Morichjhãpi
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After Kanai wakes in the morning, he goes downstairs and finds Nilima looking very unwell. She insists it's just a cold and is excited to hear about... (full context)
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Nilima explains that Morichjhãpi was an island set aside for tiger conservation, but refugees began to... (full context)
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Nilima explains that Nirmal accused her of "joining the rulers" when she tried to talk him... (full context)
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Kanai asks if Kusum had anything to do with Nirmal's obsession with Morichjhãpi, noticing that Nilima flinches. Nilima isn't sure how Kusum ended up on the island but once, in 1978,... (full context)
Part 1: Moyna
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Kanai goes back to Nilima after noon, at which point she looks alert and happier. She tells Kanai that Moyna... (full context)
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Moyna knocks on the door and enters. Kanai can tell she's been crying, and Nilima tells him in English to be careful. Kanai is shocked when Nilima says "righty-o" as... (full context)
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The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
...be gone in fifteen years with the introduction of nylon nets to catch tiger prawns. Nilima tried to get the nets banned, but the traders paid off the politicians. Moyna insists... (full context)
Part 1: Travels
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Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
...begins to think of how much life he wasted. He admits that he lied to Nilima—he's written nothing in the thirty years they've been in Lusibari and has also read very... (full context)
Part 2: Landfall
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...out of the house. Piya hastily introduces herself to the woman, whom she assumes is Nilima. Kanai comes downstairs just as Piya begins to explain how she got to Lusibari. He... (full context)
Part 2: A Feast
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...to Morichjhãpi for a feast where there will be journalists and intellectuals. Finally, Nirmal tells Nilima about what he's been up to. As he expected, she's unenthusiastic. She already knew about... (full context)
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...speaking his mind, but decides he has no right to be self-righteous. He recognizes that Nilima spent her life doing important things while he cannot think of what his life's work... (full context)
Part 2: Storms
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...picks up after his retirement. One day, Horen brings Kusum to Lusibari to speak with Nilima and ask for help. Nirmal says it won't do any good and Horen concurs. He... (full context)
Part 2: Habits
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Kanai reads in Nirmal's journal that Nilima was very upset by Kusum's visit. She insists there's nothing they can do—the settlers are... (full context)
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Nilima reminds Nirmal that she came to Lusibari for him and has managed to make the... (full context)
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...justice to the settlers’ hopes and dreams. Nirmal gazes at the water, feeling torn between Nilima and Kusum, whom he speaks of as a muse he never had. He feels unqualified... (full context)
Part 2: The Megha
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Kanai goes to Nilima and tells her that he's going away with Piya. He promises to keep Nirmal's notebook... (full context)
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Nilima pulls a file down and reads that between 1860 and 1866, 4,218 people were killed... (full context)
Part 2: Intermediaries
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...bed before dinner. She makes herself some Ovaltine and then goes downstairs, where she finds Nilima. Nilima greets her in Bengali and then apologizes. Piya explains why she never learned Bengali:... (full context)
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Nilima says that when Kanai came to stay, it meant a lot to Nirmal to have... (full context)
Part 2: Besieged
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Returning to the notebook, Kanai reads that Nilima returns from her trip with news that the government plans to take action against Morichjhãpi.... (full context)
Part 2: Alive
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...sick from Morichjhãpi, struck by Kusum's insight. He spends days experiencing visions and reading Rilke. Nilima is angry with Horen, but gentler with Nirmal. She does ask if the rumors are... (full context)
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
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...when Nirmal is feeling better, he starts to go downstairs but stops when he hears Nilima talking with the doctor. They discuss Morichjhãpi and Nirmal's interest in the island, and decide... (full context)
Part 2: A Post Office on Sunday
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...love with—though he'd never admit it. Kanai explains that Nirmal was a Marxist radical, and Nilima believes that Nirmal involved himself on Morichjhãpi because he couldn't let go of the idea... (full context)
Part 2: Going Ashore
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...Horen's message about rescuing Fokir to her. Kanai then heads to the guesthouse to find Nilima. (full context)
Part 2: The Wave
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Kanai races for the guesthouse and knocks on the door. As soon as Nilima unlatches it, the wind whips it back and wrenches her wrist. After they both ascertain... (full context)
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Nilima is horrified, but composes herself and asks if Kanai read it. Kanai says it was... (full context)
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...peeks out the window. He sees people at the hospital looking at the floodwaters, and Nilima admits that they never would've built the cyclone shelter if Nirmal hadn't insisted. She says... (full context)
Home: An Epilogue
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A month after the cyclone, Nilima sits at her desk when a nurse races in to say that she saw Piya... (full context)
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Piya knocks on Nilima's office and explains that she's been at her aunt's house at Kolkata, writing letters about... (full context)
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Piya asks if she could rent the guesthouse and set up an office upstairs. Indulgently, Nilima points out that Piya would need a staff, and Piya says she'd like to hire... (full context)
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Nilima quietly ponders this and then declares it will be a fitting memorial to Fokir. She... (full context)