The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 10 : In the City | Summary



Charlie Kay has become a phenomenon in the punk-rock scene, and Karim Amir is happy to be in a professional production. He also believes he will fall in love with someone in the cast. Karim's mother, Margaret Amir, is out of bed and working again. She leaves Uncle Ted and Auntie Jean's, moves back home, and transforms the decor according to her tastes and needs. She lets her hair grow and starts to wear pants.

Karim needs to adapt as well. When he is asked by Jeremy Shadwell to use an Indian accent for his part as Mowgli in the adaptation of The Jungle Book, he initially refuses but finally bows to the authority of the director and agrees. Meanwhile Karim takes up with Terry, a Trotskyite (an adherent to the communist and revolutionary ideas of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky (1879–1940)) and cast member, and learns to think in political terms about the dynamics of race and class. Testing his own power, Karim begins to make demands during rehearsals and finds acquiescence in small concessions.

He is living with Haroon Amir and Eva Kay in London once again and watching Eva's ambitions flourish. She has surrounded herself with artists and proclaimed herself one of the group.

Charlie, who has changed his name to Charlie Hero and his group's name to the Condemned, enjoys great notoriety. Eva and Karim visits one of Charlie's gigs, which turns into a riot. Eva revels in Charlie's success and reminds Karim that a similar future is in store for him.

The entire family attends the opening of The Jungle Book. Margaret, Jean, and Ted applaud the production while Haroon, Eva, and Jamila are appalled by Kipling's colonialist view of India. Eva scolds Shadwell for badly using Karim. Haroon and Jamila are dismissive of Karim's participation, and both are angry about the production and its racist message.

Karim also faces his ambivalence in liking the attention he receives for his role in The Jungle Book and the very clear message from his father and Jamila over the racist content of the work. Shadwell, happy with Karim's potential, invites him to take a part in his next production, a play by French dramatist Molière (1622–73). Karim is courted at the same time by the internationally famous Matthew Pyke. Succumbing to the allure of international fame, Karim rejects Shadwell's invitation. Shadwell is angered by Karim's failure to be loyal to him and to his company. Karim has put aside his ambivalence by choosing the plan most promising to his personal success. Like his surrogate brother, Karim makes his choice without thinking about the morality of the work or the politics of the director.


As the chapter opens, Karim is living on airy expectations: imagining himself in a professional production and ready to fall in love with a cast member. He thinks of his own progress in relation to Charlie's success. He also watches his mother's progress as she recovers from losing Haroon. Progress, in fact, is the theme of Karim's study of life lessons. Everyone is growing and changing. Age is not a factor—nor is sex or belief.

Although Karim doesn't agree with Terry's assessment of the working class and its potential for revolution, he begins to think critically about what he does know from life in the working-class suburbs, where the political rhetoric was "virulent and hate-filled and directed entirely at the people beneath them." That is, he comes to see that the easy generalizations and categories do not work very well. His politics emerge as his critical thinking develops. Like Terry, he hates inequality. He admits, however, that he thinks of himself as destined for "standing apart," and he appreciates the power granted individualists like his father and Charlie. When the time comes for him to choose his next path, he opts for personal ambition. He drops Shadwell for Matthew Pyke and the promise of greater success. He has his criteria for progress, and working with Pyke seems to be the best next step.

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