The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Mohsin Hamid

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Tea Symbol Icon
Changez leads the Stranger to a cafe for a cup of Lahore's famous tea, though the Stranger initially seems so paranoid about being poisoned (or at least Changez perceives it that way) that Changez switches their cups after the tea is poured. Later, when their waiter brings them green tea, the Stranger accepts it more readily. In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the process of learning to trust another person always hinges upon the exchange of some cultural item: a cup of tea, a book, even a line from the movie Top Gun. At the same time, there is an implication in the novel that Changez taking the Stranger to tea is a kind of charade, an effort to lead the Stranger into a kind of trap in which Changez, the waiter, and others will ambush the Stranger after their interaction. It is not at all definitive that this is the case; it is left an open possibility by the novel’s cliffhanger ending. The question becomes, then, can cultural exchanges like Changez's teatime with the Stranger build genuine trust between two different people, or will they always be unsuccessful?
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Tea Symbol Timeline in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The timeline below shows where the symbol Tea appears in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Human Connection Theme Icon
...has come to Old Anarkali, and suggests an answer: he’s come for a cup of tea. Changez then guides the Stranger to a local cafe that, Changez insists, makes the best... (full context)
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...the Stranger would find the waiter polite if he could understand Urdu. They both order tea, and Changez resumes telling his story. (full context)
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At the café, the waiter brings tea, and Changez says that the Stranger seems suspicious again, refusing to add sugar to his... (full context)
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...finished his drink. Changez muses that Princeton changed him, but couldn’t make him forget Pakistan’s tea, of which he pours the Stranger another cup. (full context)
Chapter 10
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The waiter brings green tea to Changez and the Stranger. Changez notes that it is unusual for a waiter to... (full context)