His lines had been honed over centuries, passed down through generations, for poor people needed certain lines; the script was always the same, and they had no option but to beg for mercy. The cook knew instinctively how to cry.
They surveyed the downfall of wealth with satisfaction, and one of the policemen kicked a shaky apparatus of pipes leading from the jhora stream, bandaged here and there with sopping rags.
An accident, they said, and there was nobody to blame—it was just fate in the way fate has of providing the destitute with a greater quota of accidents for which nobody can be blamed.
Still, they considered themselves lucky to have found each other, each one empty with the same loneliness, each one fascinating as a foreigner to the other, but both educated with an eye to the West, and so they could sing together quite tunefully while strumming a guitar. They felt free and brave, part of a modern nation in a modern world.
The judge could live here, in this shell, this skull, with the solace of being a foreigner in his own country, for this time he would not learn the language.
This underneath, and on top a flat creed: cake was better than laddoos, fork spoon knife better than hands, sipping the blood of Christ and consuming a wafer of his body was more civilized than garlanding a phallic symbol with marigolds. English was better than Hindi.
This habit of hate had accompanied Biju, and he found that he possessed an awe of white people, who arguably had done India great harm, and a lack of generosity regarding almost everyone else, who had never done a single harmful thing to India.
The dowry bids poured in and his father began an exhilarated weighing and tallying: ugly face—a little more gold, a pale skin—a little less. A dark and ugly daughter of a rich man seemed their best bet.
The more pampered you are the more pampered you will be the more presents you receive the more presents you will get the more presents you receive the more you are admired the more you will be admired the more you are admired the more presents you will get the more pampered you will be—
You lived intensely with others, only to have them disappear overnight, since the shadow class was condemned to movement. The men left for other jobs, towns, got deported, returned home, changed names. […] The emptiness Biju felt returned to him over and over, until eventually he made sure not to let friendships sink deep anymore.
“Don’t work too hard.”
“One must, Mrs. Rice.”
He had learned to take refuge in the third person and to keep everyone at bay, to keep even himself away from himself like the Queen.
One should not give up one’s religion, the principles of one’s parents and their parents before them. No, no matter what. […] Those who could see a difference between a holy cow and an unholy cow would win. Those who couldn’t see it would lose.
It was a masculine atmosphere and Gyan felt a moment of shame remembering his tea parties with Sai on the veranda, the cheese toast, queen cakes from the baker, and even worse, the small warm space they inhabited together, the nursery talk—
It suddenly seemed against the requirements of his adulthood.
Don't you have any pride? Trying to be so Westernized. They don't want you!!!! Go there and see if they will welcome you with open arms. You will be trying to clean their toilets and even then they won't want you.
But the child shouldn't be blamed for a father's crime, she tried to reason with herself, then. But should the child therefore also enjoy the father's illicit gain?
There was no system to soothe the unfairness of things; justice was without scope […] For crimes that took place in the monstrous dealings between nations, for crimes that took place in those intimate spaces between two people without a witness, for these crimes the guilty would never pay. There was no religion and no government that would relieve the hell.
He thought of how the English government and its civil servants had sailed away throwing their topis overboard, leaving behind only those ridiculous Indians who couldn’t rid themselves of what they had broken their souls to learn.
The man with the white curly wig and a dark face covered in powder, bringing down his hammer, always against the native, in a world that was still colonial.
They rushed out: “This is our land!”
“It is not your land. It is free land,” they countered, putting down the sentence, flatly, rudely.
“It is our land.”
“It is unoccupied land.”
There were houses like this everywhere, of course, common to those who had struggled to the far edge of the middle class—just to the edge, only just, holding on desperately—but were at every moment being undone, the house slipping back, not into the picturesque poverty that tourists liked to photograph but into something truly dismal—modernity proffered in its meanest form, brand-new one day, in ruin the next.
He felt everything shifting and clicking into place around him, felt himself slowly shrink back to size, the enormous anxiety of being a foreigner ebbing—that unbearable arrogance and shame of the immigrant.