The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Lowland can help.

Subhash Mitra Character Analysis

The protagonist of the novel. Subhash is a reserved, thoughtful, and studious young man whose coming-of-age in a post-Partition Calcutta forms the groundwork of his life—a life which will be ripped apart by both political and personal violence and unimaginable tragedy. Subhash and his brother Udayan are inseparable in childhood, though Subhash often feels suffocated or controlled by his younger brother. As the boys grow older, Udayan’s fiery personality expands and he becomes involved with radical local politics while Subhash, uninterested in such pursuit, retreats into his studies. Subhash feels himself drifting further away from his brother and decides to continue his studies in Rhode Island, where he is isolated, but at last free of his brother’s influence. At the start of his third year of graduate school, word arrives that Udayan has been killed, and when Subhash returns to Calcutta, he finds the city transformed by the violence of the Naxalite movement—a terrorist faction that supported the violent overthrow of landowners in the impoverished West Bengal city of Naxalbari, and which was taken up by local political radicals. Subhash, realizing that his brother’s widow Gauri is not only pregnant with Udayan’s unborn child but also seemingly mixed up in the CPI(ML), offers to marry her and take her to America so that she can escape the ire of his and Udayan’s parents and the scrutiny of the Calcutta police. This selfless act will transform Subhash and Gauri’s lives forever, as their struggle to make a home together in America, their resentments toward one another, their shared grief over Udayan’s loss, and their guilt over raising “their” daughter, Bela, in ignorance of her true parentage overwhelm them. Gauri eventually leaves, and Subhash raises Bela alone in her absence. As his identity as Bela’s father becomes the center of his life, he must wrestle with his own feelings of inadequacy and the nagging sense that he is an imposter, doomed to forever follow in his brother’s footsteps despite all his efforts to the contrary.

Subhash Mitra Quotes in The Lowland

The The Lowland quotes below are all either spoken by Subhash Mitra or refer to Subhash 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 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

Should I stand guard on this side while you explore? Subhash asked him.

What fun would that be?

What do you see?

Come see for yourself.

Subhash nudged the kerosene tin closer to the wall. He stepped onto it, feeling the hollow structure wobble beneath him.

Let's go, Subhash.

Udayan readjusted himself, dropping down so that only his fingertips were visible. Then he released his hands and fell. Subhash could hear him breathing hard from the effort.

You're all right?

Of course. Now you.

Subhash gripped the wall with his hands, hugging it to his chest, scraping his knees. As usual he was uncertain whether he was more frustrated by Udayan's daring, or with himself for his lack of it. Subhash was thirteen, older by fifteen months. But he had no sense of himself without Udayan. From his earliest memories, at every point, his brother was there.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Udayan Mitra (speaker)
Related Symbols: Udayan’s Footprints
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

In the courtyard of their family's house was the most enduring legacy of Udayan s transgressions. A trail of his footprints, created the day the dirt surface was paved. A day they'd been instructed to remain indoors until it had set. […] Subhash had listened. He had watched through the window he had not gone out. But when their mother's back was turned, Udayan ran down the long wooden plank temporarily set up to get from the door to the street. Halfway across the plank he lost his balance, the evidence of his path forming impressions of the soles of his feet, tapering like an hourglass at the center, the pads of the toes disconnected.

The following day the mason was called back. By then the surface had dried, and the impressions left by Udayan's feet were permanent. The only way to repair the flaw was to apply another layer. Subhash wondered whether this time his brother had gone too far. But to the mason their father said, Leave it be. Not for the expense or effort involved, but because he believed it was wrong to erase steps that his son had taken. And so the imperfection became a mark of distinction about their home. Something visitors noticed, the first family anecdote that was told.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Udayan Mitra
Related Symbols: Udayan’s Footprints
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

Now if they happened to pass the Tolly Club together on their way to or from the tram depot, Udayan called it an affront. People still filled slums all over the city, children were born and raised on the streets. Why were a hundred acres walled off for the enjoyment of a few? Subhash remembered the imported trees, the jackals, the bird cries. The golf balls heavy in their pockets, the undulating green of the course. He remembered Udayan going over the wall first, challenging him to follow. Crouching on the ground the last evening they were there, trying to shield him. But Udayan said that golf was the pastime of the comprador bourgeoisie. He said the Tolly Club was proof that India was still a semicolonial country behaving as if the British had never left. He pointed out that Che, who had worked as a caddy on a golf course in Argentina, had come to the same conclusion. That after the Cuban revolution getting rid of the golf courses was one of the first things Castro had done.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Udayan Mitra
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

Subhash remembered climbing over the wall of the Tolly Club. This time, Subhash wasn’t afraid of being caught. Perhaps it was foolish of him, but something told him that such a thing could happen only once. And he was right, no one noticed what they did, no one punished them for it, and a few minutes later they were crossing the bridge again, quickly, smoking cigarettes to calm themselves down.

This time it was only Udayan who was giddy. Only Udayan who was proud of what they'd done. Subhash was angry with himself for going along with it. For still needing to prove he could. He was sick of the fear that always rose up in him: that he would cease to exist, and that he and Udayan would cease to be brothers, were Subhash to resist him.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Udayan Mitra
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

In her cramped bedroom, setting aside his guilt, he cultivated an ongoing defiance of his parents' expectations. He was aware that he could get away with it, that it was merely the shoals of physical distance that allowed his defiance to persist. He thought of Narasimhan as an ally now; Narasimhan and his American wife. Sometimes he imagined what it would be like to lead a similar life with Holly. To live the rest of his life in America, to disregard his parents, to make his own family with her.

At the same time he knew that it was impossible. That she was an American was the least of it. Her situation, her child, her age, the fact that she was technically another man's wife, all of it would be unthinkable to his parents, unacceptable. They would judge her for those things.

He didn't want to put Holly through that. And yet he continued to see her on Fridays, forging this new clandestine path.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra, Holly, Narasimhan
Related Symbols: Udayan’s Footprints
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 3 Quotes

Like the solution to an equation emerging bit by bit, Subhash began to perceive a turn things might take. He was already eager to leave Calcutta. There was nothing he could do for his parents. He was unable to console them. Though he'd returned to stand before them, in the end it had not mattered that he had come. But Gauri was different. Around her, he felt a shared awareness of the person they'd both loved. He thought of her remaining with his parents, living by their rules. His mother's coldness toward Gauri was insulting, but his father's passivity was just as cruel. And it wasn't simply cruelty. Their treatment of Gauri was deliberate, intended to drive her out. He thought of her becoming a mother, only to lose control of the child. He thought of the child being raised in a joyless house.

The only way to prevent it was to take Gauri away. It was all he could do to help her, the only alternative he could provide. And the only way to take her away was to marry her. To take his brother's place, to raise his child, to come to love Gauri as Udayan had. To follow him in a way that felt perverse, that felt ordained. That felt both right and wrong.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra, Udayan Mitra, Bijoli Mitra
Related Symbols: Udayan’s Footprints
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 2 Quotes

On the dressing table was a pair of scissors that he normally kept in the kitchen drawer, along with clumps of her hair. In one corner of the floor, all of her saris, and her petticoats and blouses, were lying in ribbons and scraps of various shapes and sizes, as if an animal had shredded the fabric with its teeth and claws. He opened her drawers and saw they were empty. She had destroyed everything.

A few minutes later he heard her key in the lock. Her hair hung bluntly along her jawbone, dramatically altering her face. She was wearing slacks and a gray sweater. […] Why did you cut off your hair? I was tired of it. And your clothes? I was tired of those, too.

He watched as she went into the bedroom, not apologizing for the spectacular mess she'd made, just putting away the new clothes she'd bought, then throwing the old things into garbage bags. For the first time, he was angry at her. But he didn’t dare tell her that what she'd done was wasteful, or that he found it disturbing.

Related Characters: Subhash Mitra (speaker), Gauri Mitra
Page Number: 168-169
Explanation and Analysis:
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 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 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:
Get the entire The Lowland LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Lowland PDF

Subhash Mitra Character Timeline in The Lowland

The timeline below shows where the character Subhash Mitra appears in The Lowland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
...the water off, and once again the damp, marshy ground would become exposed. Two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, have walked across the lowland uncountable times, using it as a shortcut to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Subhash and Udayan have never set foot in the Tolly Club, a local golf and country... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
...which have been lost or damaged on the golf course for a cheap price, allowing Subhash, Udayan, and other boys like them who are barred from the Club to play golf... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
One evening, Subhash and Udayan decide to try to infiltrate the club. Around dusk, they approach the wall... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Subhash and Udayan arrive at the walls of the Club and find a place where the... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...for the boys to go home. The boys return many times, and on each visit Subhash collects feathers, almonds, and bird eggs while Udayan practices his swing. (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
...they should know better. Udayan insists the break-in was his idea, and the policeman tells Subhash he has a “loyal brother.” The policeman tells the boys that he’ll do them a... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Since childhood, Subhash has been a cautious, quiet boy. He enjoys planting dahlias, observing insects, and helping his... (full context)
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash is insecure about his quiet, passive disposition; his brother, despite his unruly nature, is always... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
In their classes, Subhash and Udayan learn that Tollygunge was built on reclaimed land. It was once a dense... (full context)
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...and electronics, and installs a buzzer at the front door of the house. He and Subhash learn Morse code, and take turns sending each other messages through the buzzer. They pretend... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
...admitted to two of the city’s best colleges: Udayan to Presidency to study physics, and Subhash to Jadavpur to study chemical engineering. They are the only students from their high school... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Subhash and Udayan often stay up late, listening to the radio and discussing what is happening... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...the conflict worsens, and there are demonstrations in support of the Naxalbari peasants at both Subhash and Udayan’s colleges. The West Bengal government authorizes a raid of Naxalbari peasants’ houses, and... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
...Front will remain in power. Udayan criticizes his father for not taking a stand, but Subhash knows that their father is a government employee—there are rules about what he can say... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Subhash begins finding communist texts, including Mao’s Little Red Book, among Udayan’s things. One afternoon, on... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Despite this climate, Udayan and Subhash both begin their postgraduate studies. Subhash continues on at Jadavpur, while Udayan transfers to Calcutta... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
One evening, Udayan invites Subhash to a meeting in North Calcutta. In the small room, students are gathered together to... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Later that week, beneath the brothers’ bed, Subhash finds a can of red paint along with a folded piece of paper on which... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
The next night, Subhash again finds himself in the position of lookout as Udayan paints the slogan “Long live... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
...finishing school, Udayan finds a job teaching science at a high school near Tollygunge, while Subhash applies to Ph.D. programs in the United States, where he can continue his research on... (full context)
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
It is Udayan, however, who goes away before Subhash, claiming he is traveling with friends. A month later, Udayan returns thin and bearded, with... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...day, the newspapers feature articles about the gathering, and photos of Sanyal and his followers. Subhash looks through them, seeing portraits of a city he no longer feels a part of.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Subhash travels to Rhode Island to attend a university there. He takes a room off-campus, which... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
There are few other Indians at the university, and Subhash is the only one from Calcutta. He meets a professor named Narasimhan and his American... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
One day, Subhash sees a wedding taking place at a nearby church. After the couple leaves, he enters... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
With Richard’s help, Subhash learns how to drive, and the two travel up the coast one afternoon. Richard asks... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One afternoon in November, Subhash receives a letter from Udayan. Udayan excitedly describes meeting Kanu Sanyal. He also reveals that... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
...letter from Udayan arrives—along with a black-and-white photograph of a young woman. Udayan’s letter informs Subhash that he is married to the woman in the picture, whose name is Gauri. The... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Subhash reads this letter only once. He is concerned for his brother, who, at only 24,... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash destroys the letter but keeps the photo of Gauri tucked into the back of one... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
In the second year of his Ph.D.., Subhash lives on his own; Richard has moved to Chicago. In the spring semester he boards... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...letters no longer mention Naxalbari or any kind of politics. He asks repeatedly, though, when Subhash is going to return to Calcutta and marry. Subhash is puzzled by the blandness of... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
One summer day, Subhash, back from his research trip, goes down to a beach near campus. He spots a... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Subhash learns that Holly and Joshua live nearby. Though Holly does not mention her husband, Joshua... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One afternoon at the beach, Subhash arrives to find Holly there alone—it is a Friday, and Joshua spends Friday evenings with... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
As Subhash and Holly eat dinner, Holly confesses she is afraid the separation is negatively affecting Joshua.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Subhash wishes he could tell Udayan about the “profound step [he has] taken” in embarking upon... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Subhash goes to Holly’s every Friday, and sometimes stays through the weekend. They are deeply at... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
When he is with Holly, Subhash knows that he is “cultivat[ing] an ongoing defiance of his parents’ expectations.” Subhash often thinks... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One weekend in September, Joshua is visiting his father, and Holly suggests she and Subhash take a ferry to Block Island for the weekend. There, Holly gifts Subhash a pair... (full context)
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash and Holly see a turtle in the road, and Subhash moves it back into the... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
On the ferry back to the mainland in the morning, Holly tells Subhash that their affair must end—she is going to try to make things work with Joshua’s... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
It is Autumn of 1971, Subhash’s third fall in Rhode Island. The changing leaves’ fiery colors remind him of the vibrant... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash makes the arduous journey back to India. On a train from Delhi to Calcutta, his... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
As Subhash, in a taxi, approaches his childhood home, he is assaulted by the pungent stench of... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash joins his parents for lunch. When he asks where Gauri is, his parents tell him... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
After lunch, Subhash takes a walk over to the lowland. He sees a small stone marker bearing Udayan’s... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash returns home and takes a nap. When he wakes up and goes to the kitchen... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
As the days go by, Subhash adjusts to the new layout of his home and the strange ways his parents maneuver... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash’s parents refuses to tell him how Udayan was killed. Subhash later approaches Gauri, giving her... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
The day after hearing Gauri’s story of Udayan’s death, Subhash goes out into the city to the tailor to have new clothes made, though he... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
When Subhash returns home, he confronts his parents about their treatment of Gauri, shaming them for forcing... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
That night, Subhash cannot sleep. He thinks about how Udayan’s death was in vain—dedicated to a movement that... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Subhash is sick of being alone in Rhode Island—and, he admits, is attracted to Gauri. The... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...them: among them are Nirmal Dey and Gopal Sinha. Gauri denies knowing the names, but Subhash realizes she is lying—even he remembers Sinha from the meeting he attended long ago. (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
After the investigators leave, Subhash joins Gauri on the terrace. He asks her when the policemen will come back; Gauri... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
The next morning, Gauri tells Subhash that he does not have to shoulder the burden of marrying her—Udayan would not have... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Gauri, now five months pregnant, arrives at the airport in Boston to find Subhash waiting for her. She is struck by how similar he looks to Udayan, but thinks... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Gauri and Subhash arrive at Subhash’s apartment building. Gauri is shocked by the loose security—the flimsy locks on... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Gauri reflects on the days leading up to her marriage to Subhash. Her in-laws had accused her of “disgracing their family.” Gauri herself knew that the marriage... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One weekend, Subhash takes Gauri shopping for cold-weather clothes, but she hardly uses them; she does not leave... (full context)
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash and Gauri attend an appointment with a local obstetrician, who tells Gauri that the baby... (full context)
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Gauri and Subhash take a walk on the beach one day and discuss baby names. Subhash asks if... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
As Subhash adjusts to life with Gauri, he notes the careful ways their routines are aligned but... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash runs into Narasimhan, who invites Subhash and Gauri over for dinner. The night of the... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
A few days later, Subhash arrives home to an empty apartment. On Gauri’s bureau are the shredded remnants of all... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
That night, Subhash has an erotic dream about Gauri. He wakes up confused and aroused. Though they are... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...begin in the library. She returns home to pack a bag, and then waits for Subhash to come home. They drive to the hospital together in the midst of a torrential... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash is surprised and relieved that Bela recognizes his voice and sleeps contentedly in his arms—she... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...patience with her daughter. One day, when Gauri is zipping Bela’s jacket, Bela protests that Subhash lets her do it herself—“Your father’s not here,” Gauri replies, and is chilled by the... (full context)
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...it passes, whether animals are aware of it too. Gauri, who has been married to Subhash for five years now, feels more guarded by space than by time. She has, deliberately... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Each day at noon, Gauri collects Bela from nursery school. Subhash is attending a postdoctoral program fifty miles away and is gone each day. Gauri checks... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
It is now 1976, seven years since Subhash first arrived in America. He has not returned to Calcutta in five years, and though... (full context)
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Bela is growing up right before Subhash’s eyes. The two have a close relationship, and it is Subhash who puts Bela to... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
On Saturdays, Subhash and Bela go to the supermarket. One weekend, while crossing the parking lot after they... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash reflects on his own marriage—though he and Gauri share a bed and though Gauri does... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Subhash takes Bela to the beach, and as he watches other families play together on the... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...and playmate. Still, Gauri is determined to never become pregnant again. She continues sleeping with Subhash in spite of these feelings, attempting each time to “extinguish Udayan’s ghost” and “smother what... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...for Bela so that she can take a German philosophy class twice a week, but Subhash vetoes the idea outright. He tells Gauri that it is her responsibility to be home... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...exhaust her not just physically but emotionally. She begins waiting impatiently for the times when Subhash takes over and resents him when he goes off for a few days to conferences... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...lost when she considers that her love for Udayan—the impetus for her agreeing to marry Subhash and bring Udayan’s child into the world with him—is no longer recognizable. She is only... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 7
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...tantrum, they haunt her all day. That night, after Bela is in bed, Gauri approaches Subhash and tells him that she wants to tell Bela about Udayan. Subhash protests that Bela,... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...excited by the attention and begins imagining this man when she is in bed with Subhash. One day, she follows the man into the student union, intending to approach him for... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...into. On these outings, Gauri wonders what her life would look like without Bela or Subhash. (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One day, Subhash comes home early to find Bela playing in a pillow fort alone; she tells him... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Over the next few months, Subhash turns away from Gauri. In the spring, Gauri is admitted to a doctoral program in... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 1
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Back in Calcutta, Subhash’s mother Bijoli looks out on the two ponds, and the lowland between them—the area is... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Bijoli feels her home has been “forsaken”—Udayan has not lived to inherit it, and Subhash has left the country. His departure has added to the sense of loss Bijoli feels—not... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...Bijoli home. On the terrace, Deepa gives Bijoli tea and hands her a letter from Subhash. He is planning to visit, though three months will have already passed from the date... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 2
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Bela and Subhash arrive in Calcutta at the beginning of monsoon season. Storms come to Tollygunge each afternoon,... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
After the first week in Calcutta, during which there is a mourning service for Subhash’s father, Subhash begins giving lectures at nearby universities and meeting with scientists. Bela spends her... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...has told her is her father. Bela believes she is looking at a picture of Subhash as a young boy. (full context)
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...inside the house. Bijoli, confused, becomes excited, until she realizes that Bela is talking about Subhash. (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Bela and Subhash show Bijoli pictures of their lives in Rhode Island. When Bijoli asks why Gauri is... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One evening, Bela asks Subhash how old he was in the picture in Bijoli’s room. Subhash explains that the picture... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Bela and Subhash spend Bela’s twelfth birthday at the Tolly Club—one of Subhash’s old college friends is a... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Soon after Bela and Subhash leave the club, Bela is overcome by longing for her mother. She begs to call... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Bela and Subhash arrive in Providence. As they approach their house, Bela can see that the grass in... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...of going for a while now. Gauri acknowledges that she has failed both Bela and Subhash and has decided to take a job teaching at a college in California. Gauri urges... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash relays a version of the letter to Bela, but it is Bela who winds up... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 4
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash and Bela adjust to life in the wake of Gauri’s abandonment. Bela is entering the... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
One day, Bela’s guidance counselor calls Subhash. She is concerned by Bela’s performance in middle school so far—she is unprepared and distracted,... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
...psychologist once a week. She attends the sessions alone and does not discuss them with Subhash; the psychologist does not seek out Subhash to discuss Bela’s progress with him, either. One... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
As the year goes by, Subhash can see Bela experiencing a “release.” She grows calmer and more confident and begins making... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
The summer Bela graduates from high school, Subhash receives a letter from Deepa informing him that Bijoli has had a stroke. While Subhash... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
In Tollygunge, Subhash finds that Bijoli’s mind has truly left her now—she believes she is in the past,... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Subhash returns to Rhode Island. Bela goes off to a small liberal arts college in the... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...Western Massachusetts and takes a job on a farm as an agricultural apprentice. She visits Subhash on the weekends, as she is not very far away, and Subhash watches as Bela... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash has maintained a quiet social life, but the only company he longs for is Bela’s.... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Over the years, Subhash notices Bela becoming more political and socially active. On her visits home, Bela berates Subhash... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 1
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...is “blind to this disjuncture.” Gauri tries to tell Udayan that she is married to Subhash, but he does not listen and continues to undress her.  As Gauri wakes from the... (full context)
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...first arrived 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... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...build a relationship with her would succeed. She had also convinced herself that she and Subhash were rivals for Bela’s attention and affection, though she now sees that she had “painted... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
...world a few times a year. On each plane ride, she brings the turquoise shawl Subhash gave to her back in Calcutta. (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
...crime worse than anything Udayan had committed,” and can never be undone. She hopes that Subhash has found happiness—she is grateful to him for having taken her away from Tollygunge, and,... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 2
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
It is a new millennium. Subhash spends his weekends taking walks through town, and as he does he marvels at how... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
One day, on the nature path, Subhash is surprised when a man on a bicycle pulls up next to him and addresses... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Subhash and Richard begin meeting frequently to walk the nature trails or have a beer in... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
For several nights after the funeral, Subhash cannot sleep. He is kept awake by his anxiety—he feels “a disproportionate awareness of being... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash attends the tour of the historical society’s restored house and is shocked by the coincidence... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
A few days after the tour, Elise calls Subhash and asks if he’s all right—she noticed he seemed “shaken” on the tour. He tells... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 4
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
June arrives in Rhode Island, bringing near-constant storms. The rain wakes Subhash at night and falls heavily each day. Other consequential times in Subhash’s life have been... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Bela calls Subhash to tell him that she is coming for a visit. He prepares her room, changing... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
At the house, Bela unpacks and then sits down with Subhash for dinner. As they eat, he asks her how long she is planning on staying... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
After dinner, Bela goes out for a drive. She asks Subhash to come with her, but he declines; he stays home, reflecting on what he knows... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Subhash does not hear from Bela for several days. He wonders if she has gone to... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
At the end of the week, Subhash’s phone rings—he picks up, assuming it is Elise calling to check on him. Instead, Bela... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Bela returns home, and in the days that follow, she and Subhash begin to repair their relationship. Bela thanks Subhash for telling her about Udayan and tells... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 1
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Sometimes Gauri performs an internet search for Subhash—she has read PDF files of articles he’s coauthored and learned that he’s still working at... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...two of them have established a 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... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...a semester’s leave in the coming fall. One afternoon, she receives a letter in from Subhash, composed in Bengali. The letter is written formally and informs Gauri of Subhash’s plans to... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Gauri pauses, considering her painful and warped wrist. She resumes reading the letter. Subhash writes that he wants to resolve all of the legal matters between them by the... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 2
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
The week before going to America to live with Subhash, Gauri returns to Jadavpur—the neighborhood where she’d tutored the brother and sister. As she walks... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 3
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...making small toys for Bela. The two grow closer, and soon Bela introduces Drew to Subhash and Elise, but Bela is still not fully honest with Drew—she tells him that her... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 4
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...a week back and forth from graduate school, are familiar to her. Gauri tried writing Subhash but found that written words failed her—despite the fact that their marriage effectively dissolved years... (full context)
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Despite Subhash’s letter implying that he would be open to meeting with Gauri face-to-face, she has not... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
In the morning, Gauri checks out of the inn and drives back to Subhash’s. Gauri marvels at how a tree in the yard, which was just a “twig” when... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 5
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Bela is home alone with Meghna—Subhash and Elise are out for breakfast. Meghna approaches her mother and tells her that there... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...Gauri sets the divorce papers on the table, and tells Bela to give them to Subhash. Gauri asks about Subhash’s health, but Bela, again, will not respond to her mother. (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
...the visit was taxing and “bewildering,” Bela is grateful that she was able to shield Subhash from having to confront Gauri; that it was she herself, and not her father, who... (full context)
Part 8, Chapter 1
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Subhash and Elise visit the western coast of Ireland for a week on their honeymoon, having... (full context)
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash and Elise take many walks to the shore and through the cold hills of the... (full context)
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash feels Udayan beside him and remembers walking together across the lowland toward the Tolly Club,... (full context)
Part 8, Chapter 2
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Back in Calcutta, the CPI(M-L) formed. Subhash left for America, disapproving of the party’s objectives. His brother’s disdain filled Udayan with a... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
...out again after a short drive. In the field where Udayan used to play with Subhash as a boy, the paramilitary officers untie Udayan’s hands from behind his back and tell... (full context)