The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 1, Chapter 2 : In the Suburbs | Summary



This chapter opens with a description of the lifelong friendship of Haroon Amir and Anwar, next-door neighbors in Bombay from age five. Privileged boys, they were raised in homes with servants and all the appropriate amenities. Having led charmed and luxurious early lives in India, Haroon and Anwar, who were sent to London for university, had no experience with life's practicalities.

Both remained in London, married, and raised their families there. Anwar became wealthy in a grocery store that he ran with his wife, a Pakistani princess named Jeeta. Amir married practical and kind Margaret, who is English. Karim Amir, the first-person narrator throughout, recalls his father's interest in Chinese religion and philosophy. When Anwar, a successful grocer, teases his old friend about his esoteric interest, Haroon retaliates, self-righteously observing that he cared more about spiritual matters than about dry goods and food.

Haroon and Eva Kay are eventually connected in their common interests, and Eva begins to act as Haroon's agent, securing him "appearances" in the homes of the wealthy. His first meeting is held in Chislehurst, a suburb of goldfish ponds, greenhouses, gardeners, and "grand oaks and sprinklers on the lawn." Karim, somewhat amused by his father's costume—Indian pajamas and a silk waistcoat—accompanies Haroon to the elegant home of Carl and Marianne, sponsors of Haroon's talk. Barely arriving on time, Amir notes Haroon's ease and pleasure in the encounters. Leaving the adults to their amusements, Amir meets Helen, the high-school-age daughter of the hosts. He finds her unappealing and yearns for Charlie Kay, with whom he hasn't spoken since their liaison in Charlie's attic room.

The chapter ends with the fragrance of incense, and Haroon, daffodil in hand, beginning his presentation. At that moment Karim's Uncle Ted and Auntie Jean, his mother's sister and her husband, a pair who had never approved of Margaret's marriage to an Indian, appear at the scene.


Haroon's early life had been one of ease and sensual delights, and, closely identified with his son, he has transmitted the notion of life's pleasures as entitlement to Karim. In turn Karim, a keen observer, determines to make sense of his own life in studying his father's. Besides a privileged childhood in a grand house with many servants, Haroon had an uncle who edited a movie magazine. In early adolescence Haroon had enjoyed partying among members of India's burgeoning movie industry. Although aware of British racism, Haroon considered himself above the impoverished and deeply prejudiced Londoners whom he encountered once he emigrated. Still, he is a lowly government clerk who yearns for more.

Karim understands his father's "loneliness and desire for internal advancement" and how these "guru appearances," along with the sexual liaison with Eva, are essential to his fulfillment. At the same time, and as usual, Karim is overcome by sexual desire, his semipermanent state and organizer of his consciousness. He is also sorry for his mother but much more involved in his own personal issues. This chapter, a mirror of the preceding in terms of Karim's meeting the children of the hosts of Haroon's "appearances," establishes Karim's bisexuality and suggests a preference for boys as sexual partners.

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