The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 18 : In the City | Summary



Karim Amir returns to London homesick and eager to see his friends and family. He meets Terry, who has become a pop culture figure. His regular work as Captain Monty supports his political preoccupations.

Karim visits his father and Eva Kay during a photo opportunity for Eva. Her decorating skills have become a popular success. His father seems physically worn out. This disappoints Karim, who finds himself to be the "powerful one." Ted is also visiting. Karim sees that success in his work with Eva has revived Ted's best spirits. He is self-confident and happy, though he worries over Auntie Jean, who is reportedly in alcoholic despair. Uncle Ted asks Karim if he (Karim) leads an "untrue life." Karim answers, "Yes." Karim also learns that his father, having discovered what he calls "the meaning to his life," has chosen to leave his job and to continue to spread his spiritual practice.

Karim returns to his childhood home, where he finds his brother much changed. Fashionably dressed, Allie has money; he is working for a clothing designer. Karim is surprised by his brother's right-wing politics. Allie looks down on "blacks" yet sees the Amirs' Indian heritage as a background of privilege. He also does not identify as white. A young man of the time, successful in business and clear about his racial identity, he dislikes theater and opera and loves pop culture. "Television's the only medium I like," he notes. He also informs Karim that their mother has taken up with a lower-middle-class man of moderate habits.

Karim visits Jamila and Changez and finds what he has found everywhere among family and friends. Everyone has adapted to their ordinary lives. Jamila is in love with a girlfriend; Changez still yearns for Jamila and has a regular relationship with Shinko; Jamila and Changez have a tender working relationship. He is a member of her socialist/activist household, though his principle job is looking after Jamila's baby girl.

The chapter closes with a dinner party at a posh restaurant. Karim is the proud host. Although clearly nothing is perfect, all seems settled. Allie has a reunion with Haroon Amir, Eva announces that she and Haroon will marry and invites everyone to their wedding, and Karim is happy with his present and optimistic about his future.


All is well that ends well, at least as well as individual lives can be. Karim's fortunes have changed, and change is upon the city he loves. Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013) is about to become prime minister, and the celebration of the wealthy right is in full swing. Karim sees his brother as a model of the new cosmopolite, a man who is certain of his identity and place in the world. Karim is charmed by his immediate world and aware of the reconciliations among the individuals in his circle. He wants the same for himself and seems to have a better sense of what it means to live carefully in time. "Perhaps in the future," he muses, "I would live more deeply."

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