The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Bela Mitra Character Analysis

Bela Mitra is the biological daughter of Udayan and Gauri, though she is raised in Rhode Island by Gauri and Subhash. Bela is, for all of her childhood and much of her adult life, ignorant of the truth of her parentage. Bela is politically-minded, socially conscious, and fiercely independent—all traits Subhash believes she has inherited from Udayan. She is also deeply scarred by her mother’s abandonment and creates a nomadic life for herself that allows her to refuse attachments to other people and never put down roots. When Bela reveals to Subhash that she is going to become a mother herself and wants to raise the child alone, Subhash is so overwhelmed by the ways in which Bela is unknowingly repeating her own history that he reveals the truth of her parentage. Though shocked at the news, Bela reminds Subhash that it is he who is her true father, displaying the loyalty and gratitude she has felt toward him all along, in spite of her transient lifestyle and difficulties maintaining a familial structure.

Bela Mitra Quotes in The Lowland

The The Lowland quotes below are all either spoken by Bela Mitra or refer to Bela Mitra . 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:
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Lowland published in 2014.
Part 4, Chapter 5 Quotes

Every night, at Bela's insistence, he lay with her until she fell asleep. It was a reminder of their connection to each other, a connection at once false and true. And so night after night, after helping her brush her teeth and changing her into her pajamas, he switched off the light and lay beside her. […] Some nights he, too, fell asleep briefly beside Bela. Carefully he removed her hands from the collar of his shirt, and adjusted the blanket on top of her. Her head was thrust back on the pillow, in a combined posture of pride and surrender. He'd experienced such closeness with only one other person. With Udayan. Each night, extracting himself from her, for a moment his heart stopped, wondering what she would say, the day she learned the truth about him.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Bela Mitra , Udayan Mitra
Page Number: 186-187
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 6 Quotes

[Gauri] was failing at something every other woman on earth did without trying. That should not have proved a struggle. Even her own mother, who had not fully raised her, had loved her; of that there had been no doubt. But Gauri feared she had already descended to a place where it was no longer possible to swim up to Bela, to hold on to her.

Nor was her love for Udayan recognizable or intact. Anger was always mounted to it, zigzagging through her like some helplessly mating pair of insects. Anger at him for dying when he might have lived. For bringing her happiness, and then taking it away. For trusting her, only to betray her. For believing in sacrifice, only to be so selfish in the end.

She no longer searched for signs of him. The fleeting awareness that he might be in a room, looking over her shoulder as she worked at her desk, was no longer a comfort. Certain days it was possible not to think of him, to remember him. No aspect of him had traveled to America. Apart from Bela, he'd refused to join her here.

Related Characters: Gauri Mitra (speaker), Bela Mitra , Udayan Mitra
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5, Chapter 2 Quotes

For breakfast [Bela] was given bread toasted over an open flame, sweetened yogurt, a small banana with green skin. Her grandmother reminded Deepa, before she set out for the market, not to buy a certain type of fish, saying that the bones would be too troublesome.

Watching Bela try to pick up rice and lentils with her fingers, her grandmother told Deepa to fetch a spoon. When Deepa poured Bela some water from the urn that stood on a little stool, in the corner of the room, her grandmother reproached her.

Not that water. Give her the boiled water. She's not made to survive here.

Related Characters: Bijoli Mitra (speaker), Bela Mitra , Deepa
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5, Chapter 3 Quotes

In the house in Rhode Island, in her room, another remnant of her mother began to reveal itself: a shadow that briefly occupied a section of her wall, in one corner, reminding Bela of her mother's profile. It was an association she noticed only after her mother was gone, and was unable thereafter to dispel.

In this shadow she saw the impression of her mother's forehead, the slope of her nose. Her mouth and chin. Its source was unknown. Some section of branch, some overhang of the roof that refracted the light, she could not be sure.

Each day the image disappeared as the sun traveled around the house; each morning it returned to the place her mother had fled. She never saw it form or fade.

In this apparition, every morning, Bela recognized her mother, and felt visited by her. It was the sort of spontaneous association one might make while looking up at a passing cloud. But in this case never breaking apart, never changing into anything else.

Related Characters: Bela Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5, Chapter 4 Quotes

She was establishing her existence apart from him. This was the real shock. He thought he would be the one to protect her, to reassure her. But he felt cast aside, indicted along with Gauri. He was afraid to exert his authority, his confidence as a father shaken now that he was alone.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra, Bela Mitra
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

[Subhas] learned to accept [Bela] for who she was, to embrace the turn she'd taken. At times Bela's second birth felt more miraculous than the first. It was a miracle to him that she had discovered meaning in her life. That she could be resilient, in the face of what Gauri had done. That in time she had renewed, if not fully restored, her affection for him.

And yet sometimes he felt threatened, convinced that it was Udayan's inspiration; that Udayan's influence was greater. Gauri had left them, and by now Subhash trusted her to stay away. But there were times Subhash believed that Udayan would come back, claiming his place, claiming Bela from the grave as his own.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra, Bela Mitra
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6, Chapter 1 Quotes

[Gauri] knew that the errors she'd made during the first years of Bela’s life were not things she could go back and fix. Her attempts kept collapsing, because the foundation was not there. Over time this feeling ate away at her, exposing only her self-interest, her ineptitude. Her inability to abide herself.

She'd convinced herself that Subhash was her rival, and that she was in competition with him for Bela, a competition that felt insulting, unjust. But of course it had not been a competition, it had been her own squandering. Her own withdrawal, covert, ineluctable. With her own hand she'd painted herself into a corner, and then out of the picture altogether.

Related Characters: Gauri Mitra (speaker), Subhash Mitra, Bela Mitra
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6, Chapter 3 Quotes

Were her mother ever to stand before her, even if Bela could choose any language on earth in which to speak, she would have nothing to say.

But no, that's not true. She remains in constant communication with her. Everything in Bela's life has been a reaction. I am who I am, she would say, I live as I do because of you.

Related Characters: Bela Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra
Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6, Chapter 4 Quotes

The coincidence coursed through [Subhash,] numbing, bewildering. A pregnant woman, a fatherless child. Arriving in Rhode Island, needing him. It was a reenactment of Bela’s origins. A version of what had brought Gauri to him, years ago.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra, Bela Mitra
Page Number: 322
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 7, Chapter 5 Quotes

I’ve known for years about Udayan, she went on. I know who I am.

Now it was Gauri unable to move, unable to speak. Unable to reconcile hearing Udayan's name, coming from Bela.

And it doesn't matter. Nothing excuses what you did, Bela said.

Bela's words were like bullets. Putting an end to Udayan, silencing Gauri now.

Nothing will ever excuse it. You're not my mother. You're nothing. Can you hear me? I want you to nod if you can hear me.

There was nothing inside her. Was this what Udayan felt, in the lowland when he stood to face them, as the whole neighborhood watched? There was no one to witness what was happening now Somehow, she nodded her head.

You're as dead to me as he is. The only difference is that you left me by choice.

She was right; there was nothing to clarify, nothing more to convey.

Related Characters: Bela Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra, Udayan Mitra
Related Symbols: The Lowland
Page Number: 383
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Lowland LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Lowland PDF

Bela Mitra Character Timeline in The Lowland

The timeline below shows where the character Bela Mitra appears in The Lowland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 4, Chapter 3
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
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...from the hospital, Gauri adjusts to new motherhood and the “all-consuming” awareness of her daughter, Bela. Gauri is afraid of harming her daughter by falling asleep while she’s nursing or somehow... (full context)
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Subhash is surprised and relieved that Bela recognizes his voice and sleeps contentedly in his arms—she has no idea that he is... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4
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At four years old, Bela is developing a memory. When she uses the word “yesterday,” though, she is referring to... (full context)
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After dropping Bela at school, Gauri goes to the library each day to read. She is becoming more... (full context)
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Each day at noon, Gauri collects Bela from nursery school. Subhash is attending a postdoctoral program fifty miles away and is gone... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
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...though Bijoli and his father write to him and beg him to come visit with Bela, he tells them she is too young for such a journey. Deep down, though, Subhash... (full context)
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Bela is growing up right before Subhash’s eyes. The two have a close relationship, and it... (full context)
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On Saturdays, Subhash and Bela go to the supermarket. One weekend, while crossing the parking lot after they finish shopping,... (full context)
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Subhash takes Bela to the beach, and as he watches other families play together on the shore, he... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
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Bela demands to be played with more and more often. Gauri sometimes indulges her daughter, but... (full context)
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Gauri broaches the topic of hiring a babysitter for Bela so that she can take a German philosophy class twice a week, but Subhash vetoes... (full context)
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On days she is home with Bela, Gauri feels entwined but alone, and is often unaware of time passing. The simple tasks... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 7
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Each morning, Gauri watches as Bela walks down the lawn at the front of the apartment complex to the street to... (full context)
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One morning, after a night of rainstorms, Gauri hands Bela her lunch and sends her down to the street, grateful that the day is now... (full context)
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Though Gauri knows Bela’s words were part of a tantrum, they haunt her all day. That night, after Bela... (full context)
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One afternoon, Gauri needs to go out and pick up some milk, but Bela does not want to go with her. Gauri decides to leave Bela alone while she... (full context)
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One day, Subhash comes home early to find Bela playing in a pillow fort alone; she tells him that Gauri is out getting the... (full context)
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...days a week, and arranges for undergraduates from the campus in Providence to look after Bela while she’s gone. Subhash does not fault her for wanting to spend time away, but... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 1
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...the time he will arrive in Calcutta. He informs Bijoli of his plans to bring Bela with him and writes in his letter that Bela knows Subhash as her father—she is... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 2
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Bela and Subhash arrive in Calcutta at the beginning of monsoon season. Storms come to Tollygunge... (full context)
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Bela has trouble feeling comfortable in the house—she cannot sleep in the heat under the mosquito... (full context)
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...service for Subhash’s father, Subhash begins giving lectures at nearby universities and meeting with scientists. Bela spends her days waiting nervously for him to return. One day, Bela accompanies Deepa shopping,... (full context)
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There is no dining table in the house, and Bela eats on the floor in the room where Bijoli sleeps. As she eats her meals,... (full context)
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One afternoon, Bela asks Bijoli about her ritual of going out to the lowland each night. When Bijoli... (full context)
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Bela and Subhash show Bijoli pictures of their lives in Rhode Island. When Bijoli asks why... (full context)
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One evening, Bela asks Subhash how old he was in the picture in Bijoli’s room. Subhash explains that... (full context)
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Bela and Subhash spend Bela’s twelfth birthday at the Tolly Club—one of Subhash’s old college friends... (full context)
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Soon after Bela and Subhash leave the club, Bela is overcome by longing for her mother. She begs... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
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Bela and Subhash arrive in Providence. As they approach their house, Bela can see that the... (full context)
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Gauri’s letter—written in Bengali, to avoid Bela’s reading it—explains that she has left. She had been thinking of going for a while... (full context)
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Subhash relays a version of the letter to Bela, but it is Bela who winds up comforting Subhash, and promising that she will never... (full context)
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In the weeks after Gauri’s disappearance, Bela notices that a shadow in the corner of the room resembles her mother’s profile. In... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 4
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Subhash and Bela adjust to life in the wake of Gauri’s abandonment. Bela is entering the seventh grade... (full context)
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One day, Bela’s guidance counselor calls Subhash. She is concerned by Bela’s performance in middle school so far—she... (full context)
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On the guidance counselor’s recommendation, Bela begins seeing a psychologist once a week. She attends the sessions alone and does not... (full context)
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As the year goes by, Subhash can see Bela experiencing a “release.” She grows calmer and more confident and begins making many friends in... (full context)
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The summer Bela graduates from high school, Subhash receives a letter from Deepa informing him that Bijoli has... (full context)
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Subhash returns to Rhode Island. Bela goes off to a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, where she majors in... (full context)
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After college, Bela moves to Western Massachusetts and takes a job on a farm as an agricultural apprentice.... (full context)
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Subhash has maintained a quiet social life, but the only company he longs for is Bela’s. She is skittish, though, and returns to Rhode Island infrequently and unpredictably. Even when she... (full context)
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Over the years, Subhash notices Bela becoming more political and socially active. On her visits home, Bela berates Subhash for not... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 1
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...in California, it was the living that haunted her—not the dead. She feared Subhash or Bela turning up on her new campus and confronting her or exposing her. In twenty years,... (full context)
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Gauri left because she felt she had made errors during the early years of Bela’s life that she could never fix. Because she’d failed to build a good foundation with... (full context)
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...that have separated her from her memories of her previous life. She begins wondering about Bela, and why her daughter has never contacted her, but ultimately concludes the silence between them... (full context)
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Gauri knows that what she has done to Bela is “a crime worse than anything Udayan had committed,” and can never be undone. She... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 2
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...Elise, and as the two begin talking, they discover another strange connection—Elise was one of Bela’s high school teachers. Elise now works part-time at the historical society. She is a widow.... (full context)
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...that what is disturbing him so deeply that he is “still too weak to tell Bela what she deserve[s]” to know—in other words, the truth that Udayan is her father. It... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 3
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Bela emerges from her Brooklyn brownstone on her way to her job converting a dilapidated playground... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 4
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...been rainy ones—it rained the first night he spent with Holly, and on the day Bela was born. He thinks, too, of how the monsoon season in Tollygunge flooded the lowland,... (full context)
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Bela calls Subhash to tell him that she is coming for a visit. He prepares her... (full context)
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At the house, Bela unpacks and then sits down with Subhash for dinner. As they eat, he asks her... (full context)
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After dinner, Bela goes out for a drive. She asks Subhash to come with her, but he declines;... (full context)
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As Bela travels away from Rhode Island by bus to stay with a friend and calm herself... (full context)
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Subhash does not hear from Bela for several days. He wonders if she has gone to California to track Gauri down,... (full context)
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...Subhash’s phone rings—he picks up, assuming it is Elise calling to check on him. Instead, Bela is on the other end. He asks her where she is, and she tells him... (full context)
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Bela returns home, and in the days that follow, she and Subhash begin to repair their... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 1
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...he’s still working at the same lab in Rhode Island. She has googled Udayan and Bela, too, but neither of them have left a footprint on the internet. Gauri expected not... (full context)
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...correspondence. She has updated him about her separation from Subhash but invented a lie about Bela in order to avoid telling her brother that her daughter does not speak to her... (full context)
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...from many years ago; his name is Dipankar Biswas. He is the same age as Bela, and Gauri had, as a result, always felt “generous” toward him. Now, as Gauri reads... (full context)
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...off the deed to the Rhode Island house so that it can be left to Bela. Subhash writes that both of them are getting older, and they need to prepare for... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 3
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One afternoon, Bela takes her daughter Meghna to the beachy cove where Subhash first taught her to swim;... (full context)
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...man is there, running the stand. He has some lambs with him in a crate. Bela begins talking with him, and they find that they were both born in Rhode Island... (full context)
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Bela and Drew begin seeing each other. Bela helps him with his farm stand, and Drew... (full context)
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Drew wants to escalate his relationship with Bela—he wants her to begin spending nights at his house, so that they can wake up... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 4
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...Subhash will never forgive her but wants to thank him for being a father to Bela, and for bringing Gauri herself to America—and then for letting her go. Gauri exits her... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 5
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Bela is home alone with Meghna—Subhash and Elise are out for breakfast. Meghna approaches her mother... (full context)
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Bela lets Gauri in, and the three of them sit in the living room. Gauri asks... (full context)
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Meghna, disinterested, goes back to coloring. In the wake of Bela’s shocking answer, Gauri realizes how deep and impenetrable the abyss between her and her daughter... (full context)
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...her visit and the effort of her journey, Gauri says she’ll be on her way. Bela puts a jacket and a pair of shoes on Meghna and tells her daughter to... (full context)
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Gauri silently takes Bela’s vitriol until Meghna knocks at the back door with her flowers. Bela goes to her... (full context)
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As soon as Gauri is out of the house, Bela opens the envelope and checks for the signatures. Though the visit was taxing and “bewildering,”... (full context)
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As Bela listens to the sound of Gauri’s car driving away, she feels strange—she has dreamed so... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 6
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...conference to explain why she’d be absent. Nothing matters to her now, after the things Bela said to her in Providence. Now, Gauri arrives at the guesthouse where she’ll be staying... (full context)
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...years. Manash asks Gauri to wait for him to return to Kolkata and asks about Bela—Gauri assures Manash that he will meet her someday, though she knows this is a lie. (full context)
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...knows what Gauri has done—she is “the sole guardian of her guilt.” Gauri remembers what Bela said to her about her being “nothing.” Now, as she looks out on what used... (full context)
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...taking stock of the images that have haunted her over the years: her betrayal of Bela, her part in the conspiracy against Nirmal Dey, her first meeting with Udayan. Gauri shuts... (full context)
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...drawing Meghna made. As Gauri begins reading the letter, she sees that it is from Bela. The letter states that Meghna often asks about Gauri—Bela has not told her daughter the... (full context)