The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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Nirmal Bose Character Analysis

Nirmal was Nilima's husband. As a young man, Nirmal was a Marxist intellectual and a promising writer who taught English at a college in Calcutta. He suffered a mental break after being arrested for his politics, and his doctors suggested he leave the city. Though he was initially aghast at the prospect of taking a job at the Hamilton Estate, which was started by a renowned capitalist Sir Daniel Hamilton, Nirmal changes his mind when he learns that Sir Daniel's work was very Marxist in nature. Nirmal this sees as proof that his theories—which he loves more than anything else—can work in practice. However, for the thirty years that Nirmal teaches in Lusibari, he writes nothing and does no reading. When he retires in 1978, he's filled with regret that he's done nothing with his life. Nirmal then reconnects with Kusum, whom he knew when she was a teen in the care of the Women's Union, and is introduced to the settlement on Morichjhãpi. He becomes instantly obsessed with the settlement, which he sees as an even better iteration of what Sir Daniel did years before. Though Nirmal desperately wants to help, he becomes bogged down in theory and thinking about the implications of the settlement. On the night before the final assault, he chooses to stay on the island with Kusum and writes the story of his involvement on Morichjhãpi in a school notebook, which is to be passed onto Kanai. When Kanai talks about Nirmal, he talks mostly about Nirmal's love of stories and his belief that everything can be turned into a story. Though his notebook is lost in the floodwaters of the cyclone, his one lasting contribution to the world is the cyclone shelter he insisted Nilima include in the hospital.

Nirmal Bose Quotes in The Hungry Tide

The The Hungry Tide quotes below are all either spoken by Nirmal Bose or refer to Nirmal 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: S'Daniel Quotes

"It is common knowledge that almost every island in the tide country has been inhabited at some time or another. But to look at them you would never know: the specialty of mangroves is that they do not merely recolonize land; they erase time. Every generation creates its own population of ghosts."

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Kanai Dutt, Sir Daniel Hamilton
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

"What he wanted was to build a new society, a new kind of country. It would be a country run by cooperatives, he said. Here people wouldn't exploit each other and everyone would have a share in the land.

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Kanai Dutt, Sir Daniel Hamilton
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short 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:
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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:
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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:
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Part 1: Dreams Quotes

I felt something change within me: how astonishing it was that I, an aging, bookish schoolmaster, should live to see this, an experiment, imagined not by those with learning and power, but by those without!

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Kusum
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Part 2: Storms Quotes

"My friend, not only could it happen again—it will happen again. A storm will come, the waters will rise, and the bãdh will succumb, in part or in whole. It is only a matter of time."

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Fokir
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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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: Transformation Quotes

I realized with a sense of shock that this chimerical line was, to her and to Horen, as real as a barbed-wire fence might be to me.

Related Characters: Nirmal Bose (speaker), Fokir, Kusum, Horen Naskor, Bon Bibi, Dokkhin Rai, Shah Jongoli
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: Crimes Quotes

"Who are these people, I wondered, who love animals so much that they are willing to kill us for them […] it seemed to me that this whole world had become a place of animals, and our fault, our crime, was that we were human beings, trying to live as human beings always have, from the water and the soil."

Related Characters: Kusum (speaker), Nirmal Bose
Related Symbols: Tigers
Page Number: 216-17
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
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Nirmal Bose Character Timeline in The Hungry Tide

The timeline below shows where the character Nirmal 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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Kanai says that Nilima's husband, Kanai’s late uncle Nirmal, was similarly known just as Saar (sir), but he's been dead a long time. However,... (full context)
Part 1: Canning
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Kanai also thinks about the last time he saw Nirmal in Calcutta in the late 1970s. Nirmal had been perusing books when Kanai barreled into... (full context)
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...she sent—the papers Kanai read on the train—and Kanai is disappointed that they're not from Nirmal's packet. Nilima asks why Kanai insisted on coming through Canning, and explains that the river... (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... (full context)
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Kanai says that that was surely a reference to Nirmal's favorite story about Henry Piddington and the port of Canning, but Nilima cuts him off;... (full context)
Part 1: Lusibari
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...around to the back door, which leads into a bathroom. He remembers his offense when Nirmal had explained what the bathtub was as though Kanai had never seen one before. He... (full context)
Part 1: S'Daniel
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Going back to when Kanai first visited Lusibari, Nirmal tells Kanai that like in deserts, people often see mirages in the Sundarbans. This is... (full context)
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...so many people, Sir Daniel started giving out rewards to people who killed them instead. Nirmal explained that Sir Daniel wasn't after money: he was after a new society, based on... (full context)
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Nirmal handed young Kanai a banknote, signed by Sir Daniel himself. Nirmal explained that what Sir... (full context)
Part 1: The Trust
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...a few hours every night. When they finally reach the guesthouse, Nilima directs Kanai to Nirmal's study on the roof, where the packet is stored. (full context)
Part 1: The Letter
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...dinner despite her worries. He goes onto the roof to watch the sunset before entering Nirmal's office. A strangely wrapped package sits on the desk. Kanai has to use a razor... (full context)
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Nirmal writes that time is passing slowly as he waits, in fear, for some unknown to... (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... (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... (full context)
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...crocodiles. The school was grossly underfunded; all the money apparently went to the corrupt landowners. Nirmal was entirely overwhelmed and read Lenin's pamphlet. Nilima began to speak to the local women.... (full context)
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Nilima struggled to name this group of women, and Nirmal objected to calling the widows a class—it implied a division incompatible with Communism. Finally, she... (full context)
Part 1: Kusum
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Kanai looks to where Nirmal's house once stood. It had been a two-room bungalow, and Kanai had slept in the... (full context)
Part 1: The Glory of Bon Bibi
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...be mistaken for a maid. Kusum introduced Kanai to The Glory of Bon Bibi, and Nirmal encouraged Kanai to go to a local stage performance of the tale. (full context)
Part 1: Morichjhãpi
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...looking very unwell. She insists it's just a cold and is excited to hear about Nirmal's packet, though she's disappointed to hear that the packet contains only a notebook. She's surprised... (full context)
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...several times, and the final clash happened in May of 1979. Nilima doesn't know if Nirmal was on Morichjhãpi during that final clash, as he hid things from her during that... (full context)
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Nilima explains that Nirmal accused her of "joining the rulers" when she tried to talk him out of it.... (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... (full context)
Part 1: Moyna
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...easily reach Canning or Kolkata come to Lusibari instead. She points out the cyclone shelter, Nirmal's one contribution to the hospital. (full context)
Part 1: Travels
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Kanai eats his lunch and then returns to Nirmal's study. He opens the notebook and begins to read. Nirmal explains that Kanai was one... (full context)
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Other schools invite Nirmal to visit, and he accepts an invitation in Kumirmari. He misses his ferry for the... (full context)
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...of nowhere. Horen cries that they must have crossed "the line" into Dokkhin Rai's territory. Nirmal snaps that that's nonsense, and Horen suggests they agree to disagree. Nirmal addresses Kanai directly... (full context)
Part 1: A Disturbance
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At night, Kanai is still in Nirmal's study when the generator goes out, and the room goes dark. He steps out onto... (full context)
Part 1: Blown Ashore
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Nirmal resumes his account in the notebook. At Kumirmari, he first hears about Morichjhãpi. People suggest... (full context)
Part 1: Dreams
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Back in Nirmal's notebook, Horen and Nirmal decide to stay the night in Kusum's hut. Late at night,... (full context)
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The settlement's leader shows Nirmal around. Nirmal is still amazed by the organization and the industry of the settlers. When... (full context)
Part 2: Beginning Again
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Kanai resumes reading Nirmal's notebook. On the way back to Lusibari, Nirmal feels invigorated and refreshed. He laughs that... (full context)
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Nirmal wants to show them how the Ganga riverbed continues into the ocean, and how the... (full context)
Part 2: Landfall
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...around, and comments about feeling lonely by himself. Piya ignores this, and Kanai returns to Nirmal's study. (full context)
Part 2: A Feast
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Resuming his reading, Kanai reads that Horen invites Nirmal to Morichjhãpi for a feast where there will be journalists and intellectuals. Finally, Nirmal tells... (full context)
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The feast is strange; Nirmal sees what he could've been had he not left Kolkata. He recognizes some of his... (full context)
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When Nirmal mentions teaching on Morichjhãpi, the writer notes that the settlers may not be able to... (full context)
Part 2: Storms
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Nirmal's writing picks up after his retirement. One day, Horen brings Kusum to Lusibari to speak... (full context)
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...crocodile took up residence inside. Fokir looks apprehensive and asks if it could happen again. Nirmal says that it will absolutely happen again and when it does, the bãdh will fall.... (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... (full context)
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Nilima reminds Nirmal that she came to Lusibari for him and has managed to make the best of... (full context)
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Nirmal wonders if it might not be a bad thing for the tide country to disappear,... (full context)
Part 2: A Sunset
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...excitedly rushes away to gather her things and Kanai, annoyed by her departure, returns to Nirmal's notebook. (full context)
Part 2: Transformation
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Kanai resumes his reading. In mid-January, Horen invites Nirmal to accompany himself and Kusum to Garjontola, where there's a shrine to Bon Bibi. Nirmal... (full context)
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...that they crossed over the dividing line between Bon Bibi's realm and Dokkhin Rai's realm. Nirmal is shocked to discover that to Kusum and Horen, the line is very real. (full context)
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Nirmal begins to think that landscapes are like books in that people derive different things from... (full context)
Part 2: Destiny
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Kanai returns to the notebook. Nirmal asks why the island they're going to is called Garjontola—he wants to know if it... (full context)
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Suddenly, Nirmal hears the sound like someone blowing their nose. Fokir points to dolphin backs in the... (full context)
Part 2: The Megha
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...to Nilima and tells her that he's going away with Piya. He promises to keep Nirmal's notebook safe and explains that they'll be going into the jungle. Nilima seems somewhat alarmed.... (full context)
Part 2: Memory
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Nirmal writes in the notebook that as Horen approaches the shore, he asks Nirmal if he... (full context)
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Nirmal follows Horen, Kusum, and Fokir to the shrine, knowing he'd be the first one dead... (full context)
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...Muslim man. The story is written in a strange combination of verse and prose, and Nirmal reasons that it was probably written in the late nineteenth century, when there was a... (full context)
Part 2: Intermediaries
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Nilima says that when Kanai came to stay, it meant a lot to Nirmal to have someone to pass on his words to. Kanai never returned after that one... (full context)
Part 2: Besieged
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...returns from her trip with news that the government plans to take action against Morichjhãpi. Nirmal wonders if he can pass information to Kusum. Soon, the government announces that nobody may... (full context)
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...boat right in the middle, destroying the boat and flinging the passengers into the water. Nirmal and the schoolmasters try to pull people onto their bhotbhoti, and one man tells Nirmal... (full context)
Part 2: Crimes
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In Nirmal's notebook, he writes that rumors circulate about rationing, police destroying drinking water, and a cholera... (full context)
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Kusum refuses the food that Nirmal brought, insisting that it needs to be divided up among those in her neighborhood. As... (full context)
Part 2: Leaving Lusibari
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...that there are certainly fewer dolphins now than there used to be. Kanai mentions that Nirmal felt the same way. Later, Kanai remarks that he'd be bored to tears doing what... (full context)
Part 2: An Interruption
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In the afternoon, Kanai tries to talk to Horen about Nirmal's notebook. Horen isn't interested in chatting, but does explain how the notebook got lost in... (full context)
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...Piya laugh. Piya decides to go to bed early, and Kanai decides to return to Nirmal's notebook. (full context)
Part 2: Alive
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Nirmal comes home sick from Morichjhãpi, struck by Kusum's insight. He spends days experiencing visions and... (full context)
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One afternoon when Nirmal is feeling better, he starts to go downstairs but stops when he hears Nilima talking... (full context)
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When Horen and Nirmal find Kusum, they find her happy and entirely unwilling to leave the island. She agrees... (full context)
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...possibly taken away with a group of women, raped, and then thrown into the river. Nirmal was put on a bus to central India, but he was presumably let off in... (full context)
Part 2: A Post Office on Sunday
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Kanai says that Nirmal was a historical materialist, which he defines as a belief that everything is interconnected and... (full context)
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...before proving him right and flattening the city with a tidal surge. Kanai said that Nirmal always closed with a Rilke quote, using it to compare Canning to "a post office... (full context)
Part 2: Signs
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...Kanai takes the opportunity to try to talk to him. He asks if Fokir remembers Nirmal and if he remembers Kusum. Fokir doesn't remember Nirmal, but says he sees his mother's... (full context)
Part 2: Lights
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...Looking at the glowworms, she says it was beautiful while it lasted. Kanai says that Nirmal would've called it a tide country mirage. (full context)
Part 2: Fresh Water and Salt
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...asks if Kanai thinks that someone like Fokir can't fall in love. Horen says that Nirmal was the same way—he was absolutely in love with Kusum but wouldn't admit it. (full context)
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...leave his wife and marry her instead. Eight years later, he stumbled onto Morichjhãpi with Nirmal, reconnected with Kusum, and couldn't stay away. Both he and Nirmal used each other as... (full context)
Part 2: Losses
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...he's getting off the bhotbhoti. Horen gives Kanai a plastic bag in which to put Nirmal's notebook and then explains that he'll have to wade to shore. He asks Kanai to... (full context)
Part 2: The Wave
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...and asks if Kanai read it. Kanai says it was mostly about Morichjhãpi and what Nirmal experienced in the lead-up to the assault on the island. Nilima asks why Nirmal didn't... (full context)
Home: An Epilogue
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...time off. He wants to live in Kolkata for a while so he can write Nirmal's notebook, and he's coming to visit in a few days. Piya smiles and says it'll... (full context)