The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Lowland: Part 6, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 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, and wonders whether the rain falling each day now means something.
Subhash is correct in observing that eventful or pivotal times in his life have often been marked by torrential rain. The cleansing but threatening power of bad weather always lets Subhash know that something big is about to happen.
Themes
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Bela calls Subhash to tell him that she is coming for a visit. He prepares her room, changing the sheets and placing a fan in the window. He meets Bela at the airport in Boston and drives her back to Providence. As the two make small talk in the car, Subhash wonders why Bela has never brought a significant other home. On the few occasions he has suggested Bela find someone to care for her, since he won’t be around forever, she has rebuffed him for being dramatic. He considers how here his inquiries into her private life are considered meddlesome, whereas in Calcutta he would be arranging a marriage for her. He ultimately realizes that he and Gauri have set a poor example for Bela, where relationships are concerned; theirs is a “family of solitaries [who] collided and dispersed.”
Subhash and Bela are both adults now, and as Subhash considers what his role has been in shaping his grown daughter’s life, he worries that he has made some missteps and exposed her to harm. The idea that he, Gauri, and Bela were all “solitaries” who only hurt each other is a bleak one, though not entirely inaccurate. Subhash was a loner in his first years in Rhode Island, and Gauri proved to be aloof and isolated even back in Calcutta before their marriage. Bela is the same now, and Subhash wonders whether nature or nurture has made her this way.
Themes
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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 this time; she tells him that “it depends” before confessing that she is pregnant. She tells Subhash that she is more than four months along—the baby’s father is not in her life and is not aware of “her condition.” Bela expresses her desire to keep the child. Subhash warns Bela that raising a child alone is difficult, especially when one lives as itinerant an existence as she does. Bela tells Subhash that she wants to give birth in Rhode Island and raise the child at home. As her words sink in, Subhash is blindsided by the coincidence of these circumstances. Bela is pregnant with a fatherless child; she has arrived in Rhode Island, needing him, in a veritable “reenactment of [her own] origins.” 
When Bela tells Subhash the news that she is expecting a child—and wants to raise it on her own, without the father in the picture—she is, unknowingly, repeating the circumstances of her own birth and entry into the world. Subhash can’t help but wonder if things would be different for Bela if she had known the truth all along, and if she hadn’t had to bear the brunt of her parents’ arguing and suffering over something she was always kept in the dark about.
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Related Quotes
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 he must do. When Bela returns, he resolves to tell her the truth about who he is to her, though he is afraid she will hate him. After Subhash’s confession, the two of them stay up all night talking. Bela is confused at first and does not believe Subhash—she thinks that he is having some sort of stroke. Once she realizes what is happening, though, she becomes angry, and berates Subhash for having lied to her for so many years. She asks questions about Udayan—about his involvement with the Naxalites, about whether he knew she was going to be born. Eventually, the exhausted Subhash excuses himself and heads off to sleep. When he wakes in the morning, Bela is gone.
Bela’s announcement spurs Subhash to reveal the truth of her parentage, though he is afraid of the discord it will bring into their relationship. Subhash has long ignored the duty he has had to Bela: the duty to tell her the truth, and to help her to understand why her life has been so fractured and unstable. Subhash cannot hide the truth any longer, and does not want to be part of the conspiracy to keep Bela in ignorance.
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As Bela travels away from Rhode Island by bus to stay with a friend and calm herself down, she feels that the “unknown person” inside of her is the only one in the world to whom she feels any connection. Bela is relieved to at last have an explanation, to some degree, for why Gauri abandoned her, but deeply disoriented and confused by the sudden presence of a “third parent.” Bela decides to attempt to confront the “heavy stone” of pain her mother’s abandonment left in her life, now that she finally understands how it got there in the first place.
Bela is forced to consider the role presence and absence, as well as secrets and lies, have played in her family and upbringing. She always knew something was off between her parents, and though she now has an explanation for it, she longs for a childhood in which she did not feel disconnected from her parents and so hyperaware of tension, pain, and sadness she could never know the root of.
Themes
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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, and soon convinces himself that this is what his daughter has done. Subhash, exhausted, sleeps and sleeps—though he has unburdened himself, he feels heavy and fatigued, and he calls in sick to the research lab several days in a row.
Subhash is devastated—his worst fear has come true. He has told Bela the truth of her parentage and she has rejected him to go in search of more answers, denying Subhash the role of father he played for so long—or so he thinks.
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At the end of the week, 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 that she is in Massachusetts, staying with a friend, but that she wants to come back home tonight. She asks Subhash if she should take a cab, or if he will come pick her up from the bus station.
Bela forgives Subhash and expresses her desire to return home to him, a place where she feels comfort and love. Though she was initially angry and overwhelmed by his confession, in the end, Subhash has always been, and always will be, Bela’s one and only father.
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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 him that knowing this piece of her own personal history helps her to feel closer to her unborn child—it is a detail both their lives will share. In autumn, after Bela’s daughter is born, she tells Subhash one day that finally knowing what he did for her has made her love him more.
The overwhelming knowledge of what Subhash did to secure a better life for Bela causes her to see her father in a new light and increases the gratitude and love she feels toward him. The sacrifice he made for her is something Bela can only understand fully once she herself becomes a parent and knows what it is to love a child.
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