The Buddha of Suburbia | Study Guide

Hanif Kureishi

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The Buddha of Suburbia | Part 2, Chapter 9 : In the City | Summary



When Eva Kay sells the renovated house in Beckenham, she purchases a three-room wreck of what were "formerly elegant rooms" in West Kensington as her next move. The family finally has crossed the Thames; they are in London. The new space is huge, and the rooms potentially can be subdivided, although Karim Amir will sleep on a sofa in the main room initially. When Charlie Kay stays over, he gets the floor next to the sofa. Karim is filled with delight and excitement. The neighborhood has history in its past occupants, including Gandhi, IRA bombers, and women whose notoriety consisted of sexual liaisons that initiated the fall of more than one government official. Karim strolls the surrounding neighborhoods, surveying the status of their citizens.

Karim's adventures begin on an evening out with Charlie in which they discover the punk-rock scene. Anger and hatred pour down on them from the stage of a club they visit. In the tumult Charlie recognizes the future. "The sixties have been given notice," he announces. Clearly he is ready for and adaptable to change.

This time it is Charlie's turn to announce to Karim: "You're not going anywhere." With that Charlie rips off his hippie shirt and jumps into a passing car carrying the punk rockers he had seen at the club. This is the beginning of his new adventure.

In the meantime Eva proposes to Karim that he, she, and Ted renovate the West Kensington flat and sell it to move up in the world. At the same time, Eva uses her artsy connections to stage a party at the new place. In attendance are mostly theater folks, but Karim's attention is diverted when Jamila, Changez, and Shinto arrive. He learns that the women have become friends while Changez's sexual liaison with Shinto continues. The men reconcile, and Eva, as part of her plan for Karim, arranges a meeting between him and a theater friend.

With Eva's help, Karim, who is terrified but interested in becoming an actor, prepares an audition piece from an American play. Jeremy Shadwell has other things in mind for Eva's protégé and inquires into Karim's Indian background. Quizzed about his experience with racism, Karim is lost for words and shocked at the openness of the questions. Shadwell announces that his interest in Karim is a bit of typecasting. He needs an actor suited to play Mowgli, the main character in the play based on Kipling's The Jungle Book, a well-known story of colonialist fantasy. Assessing Karim's potential, Shadwell is interested in the racial stereotype; he needs an actor who is dark-skinned, small, and wiry. "You'll be sweet but wholesome in the costume," he advises. At that, two of the women actors agree he is "perfect." Flattered by the response, Karim seems unaffected by the racist implications and happily accepts the job.


The first London adventure opens with Charlie's ambition, which lands him directly inside the next new popular craze. Karim appreciates Charlie's ambition and the energy to run with the next new thing. When acting presents itself as a fresh opportunity for Karim, he hesitates only long enough to be flattered by Shadwell's approach. His naivete is evident in his unhesitating acceptance. Charlie's callous pursuit of the next new thing—in this case, the punk-rock scene—shows his ambition driving his choices rather than a commitment to a particular style of music.

With his surrogate brother as his model, Karim's naive approach to Shadwell's invitation has more to do with his newfound ambition than it does with his interest in acting. He easily succumbs to Shadwell's flattery without dwelling on the racist implications of the director's interest in him.

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