The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 1, Chapter 7 : In the Suburbs | Summary



Auntie Jean and Uncle Ted arrive at the Amir home. Ted waits outside while Jean helps Margaret Amir pack, and Margaret and Allie leave with Jean and Ted and move into their home. Eva Kay arrives to pick up Haroon Amir and Karim Amir. Karim has put Jean off with the promise that he will show up at her house. In the meantime he asks Eva's permission to stay with her and Haroon. Karim, spending the night in Eva's guest room, sorts out his sense of the difference between "the interesting people and the nice people" and concludes that nice—such as his mother—deserves more love, but it is interesting people—like Eva—who end up with everything.

Karim gives up on school and spends his time drifting among the various homes where he is welcome. He visits his mother without being able to comfort her. He likes to hang out with Jamila and Changez, who have set up housekeeping in a flat rented for them by Anwar. Jamila has settled in a room of her own where she educates herself, reading the radical feminist and political writers of the time. Most of the time Karim and Changez drink beer, listen to popular music, and watch Jamila at her studies.

Changez confides in Karim that he has found a lover, a Japanese prostitute who is also a friend. Karim spends time with Jamila on a day when Changez visits his friend. Karim and Jamila make love and practice the sexual positions that Changez has confided he will try out with his friend. Jamila and Karim doze, and Karim wakes up to Changez at home and resting in his usual place, a camp bed outside of Jamila's room but angled so that he can see both of them. Karim closes the door, dresses, and leaves, feeling ashamed. "I'd betrayed everyone—Changez, Mum and Dad, and myself."


Karim is drifting and observing. He is both aimless and thoughtful. He summarizes what he sees as though each encounter is a life lesson that he doesn't yet know how to use. Early in the chapter, he hypothesizes that there are three sorts of individuals: those who know what they want to do, those who never had a purpose in life (the unhappiest), and those who found out later on. He believes himself to be in the latter group. The chapter demonstrates in the behaviors of Karim's friends and family members the categories he has made. His mother, despite her artistic abilities, belongs to the unhappiest group. Then there is Jamila, who in her determination to study and her announcement that she has a plan, he sees in the first group. After betraying Changez with Jamila at the chapter's end, he leaves acknowledging his betrayals, demonstrating perhaps a turning point in his aimless existence.

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