Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Anuradha Roy’s first novel to be published in the United States, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2011), is set in India and follows the lives of three generations of a middle-class family. Carol Haggas, writing for Booklist, described Roy’s debut novel as being “incandescently evocative” and “filled with wrenching tragedy as well as abiding passion.”
The novel is divided into three parts. The first part is called “The Drowned House.” In Chapter 1 of Part 1, the story focuses on Amulya, who is described as a learned man who left his family’s home in Calcutta twenty years ago to set up a business in a small country town at the edge of the jungle, Songarh. Living with Amulya is his wife, Kananbala, and their two sons, Kamal and Nirmal. The business that Amulya has established in Songarh produces herbal potions and pills. At the opening of the novel, it is 1927, and Amulya is sitting uncomfortably at a party given by some of his workers. Amulya feels obliged to be at the tribal celebration so as to demonstrate his understanding and acceptance of local customs. But Amulya is not a social person and is anxious to leave. When he is finally able to excuse himself, it is late.
Kananbala is waiting for him. She attempts to disguise her anger and suspicion that her husband has been flirting with local girls at the party. Kananbala is frustrated because her husband spends less time at home than he used to, and she spends most of her time in the house with little to do. There are no neighbors with whom Kananbala can develop relationships. Larissa and Digby Barnum live across the street, but they are British, and the two families do not speak to one another; there are both language and cultural barriers between them. However, because she is bored, Kananbala often watches the Barnums out of her bedroom window. She keeps tabs on the strange clothes they wear and how they treat their Indian servants. Mr. Barnum is exceedingly rude to the locals who work for him.
Amulya’s older son, Kamal, helps his father at the factory. Kamal is married to Manjula, who is a rather bitter, childless woman. The couple lives with Amulya and his wife. When Amulya suggests that his wife develop a friendship with Manjula, Kananbala scoffs at the idea. The only person Kananbala enjoys talking with is her younger son, Nirmal, who is in college. Whenever Nirmal comes home, he is very attentive to his mother....
(The entire section is 618 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
Nirmal has been married for a year and a half now, and his wife, Shanti, is expecting their baby. Nirmal, who has been teaching at the university, has become interested in archeology and is applying for a job with the Archaeological Survey of India. In the midst of his filling out the application, he begins to reflect on the changes in his recent life. He expresses his awe to Shanti of the dramatic transitions he has gone through. A year and a half ago, he was single. Now his is married and about to become a father. A year and a half ago, his mother was normal. Now she is confined to her room because her communications with her family have become so radical.
The focus moves to Nirmal’s mother, Kananbala, who is sitting in her room and watching the Barnum family across the street. Mr. Barnum is in a bad mood and yells at his servants. When his wife approaches him and tries to quiet him, Mr. Barnum slaps her across the face.
On several other occasions, Kananbala takes note of the various fancy dresses Mrs. Barnum wears each night that she and her husband go out. Kananbala waits up for them so she can witness their return. Mrs. Barnum often looks uneasy on her feet, swaggering across the lawn and having to be led through the front gate. Sometimes the Barnums entertain guests at their home. Kananbala watches to see who attends, hoping she will recognize someone she knew, but she never does.
Kananbala notices that there are weeks when Mr. Barnum appears to be out of town. For long stretches of days, Kananbala does not see him. During these absences, however, Mrs. Barnum continues to go out. Later, Larissa Barnum returns with a man Kananbala does not recognize. She can hear them laughing. One night, Mrs. Barnum points up to Kananbala’s window and waves. The stranger waves too.
This arrangement continues for a long time. Mr. Barnum disappears, and Larissa Barnum spends as much of her time as possible with the younger man. Kananbala watches it all. Then one night, as she waits for Larissa to return, she senses someone is waiting in the shadows for Larissa. When she sees Larissa’s car approaching, Kananbala leans out of her window as far as she can to warn her neighbor. Larissa does not understand the signal Kananbala is trying to issue. Instead of being worried, Larissa laughs and waves frantically back at the old crazy woman.
At this point, Mr. Barnum steps out from the bushes. He has a...
(The entire section is 656 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
Due to a lack of reliable witnesses, the police do not have enough information to bring anyone to trial for Mr. Barnum’s murder. After investigating the local population, the police discover that many people disliked the Barnums, but no one stands out as a possible suspect. The young lover, in the meantime, flees to Calcutta, and the police lose his trail. People who knew the man suggest that he might have gone to Australia. With this lack of information, the murder is quickly forgotten. The only one who thinks of it is Kananbala, who often worries about the story she made up about the night of the murder. She hopes she has not gotten anyone in trouble, especially not Larissa Barnum. Because she is not allowed out of her house—and rarely even out of her room—Kananbala has no way of hearing the gossip surrounding the case.
Nirmal and Shanti are preparing for their baby’s birth. In accordance with tradition, Shanti has returned to her family’s home for the occasion. Shanti’s mother had died when she was very young, so she will be under the care of her father and her aunt. Most of Nirmal’s family, with the exception of his mother who does not pay much attention to anything but her own thoughts, is anxiously awaiting the new baby—the first child of the third generation.
Manjula, Kamal’s wife, is not as excited, nor is she looking forward to the event. She and her husband tried everything to have their own child. Her sense of loss is increased with the anticipated new arrival. Majula thinks she must have done something to irritate the gods, so over the years, she has tried to make amends. She has fasted, prayed, and made offerings at both Sufi and Devi temples. Now she has been married more than three years and is somewhat resigned to being barren. As she prepares to have a new baby in the house, she grows more stern. Her workload will increase, and she has no one to help her. She bemoans the fact that her mother-in-law will never be able to provide assistance. She alone will be responsible for taking care of the new baby and her sister-in-law.
As the time nears for the birth, signs of the monsoon season increase across much of India. However, in Songarh, there has not yet been much rain. Nirmal walks out to the terrace outside his room and lights up a cigarette. He is glad that Shanti is not there to complain about his smoking. He thinks about his wife and the one and only argument they ever had....
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
The scene changes to Shanti’s family home in Manoharpur in rural Bengal. Her father’s home sits at the edge of a river that, to Shanti’s mind, seems to widen each year, slowly rising closer and closer to the foundation of the house. Her father tells her not to worry. The house is strongly built. But when Shanti walks along the edge of the river, she sees that the steps where she used to play with her school friends are now under water. She imagines seeing her childhood friends standing on the submerged staircase. When an image of her own face appears under the water, she runs away in fright.
Bikash Babu, Shanti’s father, is entertaining an old acquaintance and feeling slightly nostalgic about his past. When Bikash had his mansion built with its many pillars and Roman arches, he had a lot of money. Now most of that money is gone. Most of what is left is tied up in the house. Bikash refuses to notice how threatened the house has become by the rising river. He dismisses the concerns about the mildewed, crumbling, wet walls. He ignores the swayed ceilings, signs that the river has already saturated the foundation of the house and the moisture has been absorbed by the floors and the walls. Bikash explains to his visitor that he has had engineers examine the lay of the land around his house. They reported that the house was safe for at least another two generations.
A storm is gathering. As Shanti takes a nap, the wind picks up and bends the trees and slams doors shut. A maid is sitting out on the veranda to enjoy a few quiet moments between meals. She is surprised by the quick movements of the large, black clouds moving across the skies. After it rains for three days with no sign of letting up, people begin commenting on how unusual the weather is, even for monsoon season. Bikash yells at his servants when he has to point out that the legs of the chairs on the veranda are standing in water. He orders that the chairs be removed. A few days later, the carpets in the interior rooms have to be rolled up and stored away. But still Bikash sees no immediate danger. He tells his daughter there is nothing to worry about. The house will withstand the storm.
The rain continues for weeks. One day Shanti feels a horrible pain and screams out for her maid. The baby is coming a month early. The maid tells the houseboy to run out for the midwife. When the boy attempts to go get the midwife, he finds that the river has broken...
(The entire section is 534 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary
The story returns to Songarh, where Mrs. Barnum has walked across the street to visit her neighbor, Kananbala. None of the other members of the family are aware of Mrs. Barnum’s presence because one of the servants opened the door to her and showed her to Kananbala’s room. Mrs. Barnum invites Kananbala to come for a visit. The two women do not share a common language, so servants must translate. What they do not vocalize, Kananbala assumes through gesture and tone of voice. Although she is somewhat startled by Larissa Barnum, she is also exhilarated by the idea of going out.
Without asking permission from anyone, Kananbala does what Mrs. Barnum invites her to do. She descends the stairs, walks out of the house, and enters the car that is waiting outside. Kananbala is wild-eyed with enthusiasm and a mild panic; she has never been in an automobile before. She lets the wind rush through her hair and thinks she has not felt so free since she was married.
Around noon, Amulya returns home in his usual fashion. When he goes upstairs to greet his wife, he is shocked to not find her in her room. The servants attempt to avoid him because no one wants to be the one to announce that Kananbala has left with Mrs. Barnum. His daughter-in-law, Manjula, finally tells Amulya what his wife has done. The news is difficult for Amulya to digest. He worries that Mrs. Barnum might have found out that Kananbala was a witness to the murder of her husband and wonders if Mrs. Barnum is trying to silence her. There is nothing he could do but wait.
Mrs. Barnum takes Kananbala to the ruins of an ancient fort nearby. The women walk across a field, find a peaceful place, and stop. The servants bring a basket of food. Larissa Barnum offers many different types of food and drink that are new to Kananbala. She refuses most of it. Then Larissa begins to tell the story of her life. She tells how she met her husband and how he would beat her. She also confesses that she murdered him. Then she is quiet. Kananbala does not understand one word of what she has said. When Larissa is finished talking, Kananbala takes her first sip of wine as if to celebrate their friendship. The taste is bitter, but she enjoys the warm feeling it produces inside of her. She drinks more and relaxes.
Back at the house, a stranger appears with a message for Amulya. The servants see the look on Amulya’s face after the stranger leaves and worry that something...
(The entire section is 731 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary
Eleven years have passed. Amulya’s household is now headed by his oldest son, Kamal. Nirmal, the second son, is living in another, undisclosed city. He has been traveling most of these eleven years. He stops at home only briefly to check on his daughter and then disappears again. He works as an archaeologist and has traveled all over most of Asia.
Also living in the family home are Kananbala and Manjula. The additions to the family include Bakul, Nirmal’s daughter, who is now eleven; Meera, a widow who was asked to come to the home to act as mother to Bakul; and Mukunda, the boy born out of wedlock that Amulya had once supported at the local orphanage. In his will, Amulya stated that Mukunda should be supported by the family until the boy reached adulthood.
Mukunda does not know who his parents are, and Amulya did not provide details of the boy’s story in his will. However, Mukunda currently lives in the home as a somewhat privileged servant boy. He is dark skinned and assumed to be of a lower caste. No one knows if he is a Muslim or a Hindu. At this time (1940), knowing one’s roots is a very important social stipulation because Muslims and Hindus are at odds with one another. It will become more significant as the story moves forward, when India is split into Muslim (Pakistan) and Hindu (India) states.
Although Mukunda lives with Amulya’s family, his bedroom is outside the main house. He is being educated but not as well as Bakul, Nirmal’s daughter. However, Mukunda and Bakul are best friends, and Bakul often helps Mukunda with his studies and supplements the subjects he is taught with concepts she has learned in her more advanced lessons. Mukunda is two years older than Bakul is. Most of the remaining story will focus on these two children and how they change as they grow up and enter adulthood.
On most days, Mukunda finishes his chores and his lessons and then slips into Mrs. Barnum’s house through the open front door. This has become a daily pattern. He is at liberty to run up to the second floor of the house and choose any book from the library that he wants to read. Mrs. Barnum has encouraged this practice and helps him with difficult words. In this way, Mukunda supplements his meager education.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
After not having seen his daughter for five years, Nirmal returns home. He tells Bakul that he has come back for good. The last time he saw her, she was only six years old. Now she is almost a teenager and has lost all the chubbiness of her childhood. He barely recognizes her except for her wildly curly hair and the color of her eyes, which are both characteristics from her mother. When he greets her, Bakul is standoffish. She does not trust her father; he is little more than a stranger to her. In addition, she is angry that he has not previously wanted to be home with her. Nirmal offers Bakul a gift, a stone the same color of her eyes, he tells her. When Nirmal is not looking, Bakul throws the stone into the water well.
Bakul has a special treasure tin that she keeps in a covered tin case. She hides the tin in her grandmother’s trunk of old saris. Whenever she feels lonely, she digs out the tin, opens it, and explores the treasures she has collected inside. One of her most precious possessions is a photograph of the house in which she was born, owned by her grandfather, which had all but drowned in the river of the terrible monsoon storm when she was born.
When Bakul was much younger, her grandmother had told her that the photograph was magical. Kananbala had pointed out a window behind a tree; it is the window to the room where Shanti gave birth to Bakul. Kananbala convinced her granddaughter that Shanti still lived there, in the photograph. Bakul learned about her mother from Kananbala. During the infrequent visits of her father, Bakul had asked him about her mother but Nirmal provided no details. He always changed the subject.
Nirmal has come home because he asked and received permission to direct an archaeological dig at the old fort near his home in Songarh. Nirmal has long suspected that the mounds behind the fort hold archaeological interest.
Now home, Nirmal absorbs all the changes his family has gone through. He teases his brother, Kamal, about the new style of his clothes. Kamal no longer wears suits and ties, which reflect the influence of British society that once ruled India. Kamal mentions that Gandhi has changed all that. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) led India during the country’s movement toward independence from Britain. To bring national pride to the people of India, he recommended that they return to their traditional clothing—kurtas (long loose fitting shirts) and dhotis...
(The entire section is 751 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary
Nirmal is so distracted by Meera that he has trouble concentrating on his job at the fort. Every lunchtime he slips away from his office and goes in search of Meera, hoping to find her doing more sketches. One day he asks her if he can see her work. Meera is embarrassed at first but allows him to see some of her landscape drawings. In the process, Nirmal also glimpses portraits she has made of him. These sketches are more than mere images. They are created with passionate strokes and gestures, through which Nirmal interprets that Meera is in love with him. Nirmal suggests that Meera make sketches of the fort. Nirmal can use the drawings in his work, and he thinks this is another way to keep Meera close to him. Maybe if she is involved in his work, people will not spread rumors about them.
When an earthquake hits while Nirmal and Meera are at the fort, Kamal wonders where they are and why they are not in the house. He wants to know why they did not immediately return once the ground stopped shaking—and why they were both missing at the same time.
Instead of worrying about his brother and the house, Nirmal is inspecting the fort. He is amazed that even with the ground shaking there is no damage to the fort. The building is so old, he explains to Meera, that it is not affected. Meera is less enthused. The earthquake scared her. While she is in this mood, Nirmal asks her what she would want if she thought she were about to die. Meera quickly responds, “Onions, garlic, fish.” According to Indian customs, widows are forbidden to eat these foods. These are what she craves the most.
Mukunda and Bakul also experience emotional communications that go beyond what they thought was merely friendship. They are not the only ones to notice that their feelings for one another are deeper than they realize. They spend so much time together that the adults (other than Nirmal and Meera) grow suspicious. There are hints that the adults may be considering sending Mukunda away. They believe Bakul is too vulnerable to have an unrelated young man in the house. Mukunda has other problems brewing, too. At Mrs. Barnam’s house, he wandered into her bedroom and found a letter from her lover. Having seen this letter, which expresses emotion for Mrs. Barnum, Mukunda becomes suspicious. He wonders if Mrs. Barnum really killed her husband as Bakul’s grandmother has said.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary
The next time Nirmal and Meera meet at the fort, Nirmal brings a surprise. He hands Meera a lunch tin and tells her to open it. Inside, Meera finds fried fish, one of the forbidden foods. She is embarrassed and turns away from the food, but Nirmal insists that she try it. Reluctantly, she breaks off a small piece and turns her face away from him when she chews it. She is, of course, delighted, and the act of defiance fills her with joy.
Meanwhile, Mukunda is agitated by curiosity. He must find proof of either Mrs. Barnum’s innocence or guilt. He waits for the right time, when she is busy in another part of the house, and he ascends to her bedroom. He is searching for more letters when Mrs. Barnum discovers him. She yells at him that he has betrayed her. She then demands that he leave her house and never return.
At dinner that night, Nirmal announces that finally everything is in position for the archaeological dig to begin at the fort. Kamal, who has become very suspicious about the relationship building between Nirmal and Meera, attempts to make jokes about Nirmal destroying the fort. There will be no place for couples to go to make love, Kamal says. The fort has long been known as a place where lovers go at night, but Kamal is also implying that Nirmal has spent time at the fort for the same reasons. Kamal’s wife tries to stop him from continuing with his insinuations, but he is undeterred.
Later, Kamal finds Meera in the kitchen cleaning up the last of the night’s dishes. He lays his hand on her back as he talks to her, telling her that she can come to him if she ever needs anything. Meera is shocked that he should be so personal with her. Then she realizes that because he suspects that she and Nirmal are having an affair, Kamal believes he also has a right to enjoy her. She decides she must do something before there is any trouble.
When Mukunda and Bakul stay out too late that night, Kamal, his wife, and Nirmal discuss their situation. Kamal and his wife urge Nirmal to send Mukunda away before there are serious consequences. They suspect that Mukunda and Bakul are becoming too close. Nirmal attempts to brush their concerns away. They are children, Nirmal insists, and they think of one another only as brother and sister. Kamal points out that they are not related and that is the problem. On his way to bed, Nirmal looks in on his sleeping daughter, stares at her, and realizes that she is not...
(The entire section is 551 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary
The setting shifts to Calcutta and now the book focuses on Mukunda as he matures into adulthood. The longing mentioned in the title is Mukunda’s longing. He knows nothing of his family. He does not even know for sure the date of his birth. Although has lived in many different places, he has never really had a home. The closest he came to having a family and a home was when he was living with Nirmal and Bakul, but he was forced to leave them. This leaves him with very passionate longings to belong.
While in Calcutta at school, Mukunda made a friend with a young man his own age named Arif. When they graduate and Arif must leave the city, he introduces Mukunda to his landlord, who offers to let Mukunda stay in a room in his home free of rent. Suleiman Khan is a Muslim and a history teacher. Mukunda does not know details about his own heritage, but he grew up in Nirmal’s Hindu home so he thinks of himself as Hindu. During this time, it is dangerous for Muslims and Hindus to mix. But because Mukunda does not know for sure on which side he belongs, he accepts Suleiman’s generous offer and moves into the Muslim house.
After living with Suleiman for one year, Suleiman and his wife must go away, and they do not know for how long they will be gone. From the top of the roof, Suleiman and Mukunda can sees explosions in the distance. They feel the impact as bombs fall to the earth. Muslims and Hindus are fighting not very far away, and Muslims are moving out of Calcutta. Suleiman tells Mukunda that he wants him to continue living in the house to protect it from squatters. Suleiman hopes he and his wife will be able to return one day.
Before he leaves, Suleiman gives Mukunda a sum of money that he believes will pay for all the house bills until he returns. A year later, though, Suleiman has not returned. Mukunda has been working at a tannery owned by Muslims but suddenly finds himself out of a job when the business must close down.
In despair, Mukunda turns to Barababu, a man he met at the tannery. Upon hearing that Mukunda has been left to take care of Suleiman’s house, Barababu suggests that Mukunda rent out rooms or lease the whole house. There are many Hindu people migrating to Calcutta who need a place to live. Mukunda could made a lot of money, Barababu tells him. He could even sell the house and be even more successful.
Mukunda considers Barababu’s advice, but he does not have the...
(The entire section is 489 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary
Barababu sends Mukunda to an acquaintance, Aangti Babu. He is a somewhat unscrupulous businessman but he offers Mukunda a job. Mukunda apprentices under Aangati Babu, who buys and sells property; sometimes he tears houses down to sell pieces of it, but he leaves the rubble behind. Part of the business also often entails throwing people out of their houses because they cannot make the payments or have in some other way lost ownership.
With the influx of immigrants, there is a constant demand for housing, so Aangti’s business is very profitable. Mukunda learns the business, and eventually Aangati Babu trusts him with more complicated responsibilities.
When Mukunda turns twenty-three, his old business friend from the defunct tannery, Barababu, invites him to his daughter’s wedding. It becomes quite clear once Mukunda arrives at the house that Barababu is interested in marrying his other daughter to Mukunda. Shortly after this visit, Mukunda and Malini are married. After some time passes, Mukunda also becomes a father. He has a son that he worships. Finally he has his family.
Time moves forward, and Mukunda is traveling with Aangti Babu to look at an old house in the town of Manoharpur. Mukunda knows that he has heard of this town, but he cannot remember why it means so much to him. Once they arrive in the town, they walk to a large house built on the edge of a river. Though he does not know it yet, this is the house in which Nirmal’s wife, Shanti, died. This is the house where Bakul was born.
A local agent takes Aangti Babu and Mukunda inside the house to inspect it. Mukunda notices how poorly the house has been maintained. Everything inside is mildewed or covered in fungus. The owner is an old man who does not move from his sick bed. When the agent is evasive about the deed of the house, Mukunda suspects that the agent has forced the old man into signing papers that are not legitimate. Mukunda has come in contact with such men. They get many businessmen interested in the same property and take their deposits, but later the businessmen discover that the papers they have in receipt are not valid. By then, the agent has disappeared. This is exactly what happens to Aangti at Manoharpur. It is the first time Mukunda has witnessed Aangti take a loss.
A few months later, Aangti calls Mukunda into his office and tells him he has a special project that he wants Mukunda to do on his own. There...
(The entire section is 538 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 3 Summary
It has been twelve years since Mukunda left Songarh. He travels back in a train, the same way he once left all that he ever had as a home. When he arrives in Songarh, he is surprised at how small everything looks: the train station, the town, the streets. He has grown used to living in Calcutta.
He goes to Nirmal’s house, but Nirmal and Bakul are not there. A small boy answers the door when Mukunda knocks but says he cannot come in. He has been given orders not to allow anyone inside the house. Mukunda finds out later that the thugs have been trying to persuade Nirmal to leave his home by throwing stones at the doors and windows at night.
When Nirmal and Bakul arrive home, Bakul recognizes Mukunda immediately and teases her father for not knowing him. Nirmal warmly receives Mukunda, which makes Mukunda question why he has stayed away for so long. He notices that, Nirmal has aged in the past twelve years. Bakul later tells Mukunda that her father suffered a heart attack and is no longer very healthy. When Nirmal asks Mukunda about his job, Mukunda says he is merely a clerk in an architect’s office. He does not want Nirmal to know the reason why he is here. Mukunda watches how carefully Bakul attends to her father. Later he teases her because she had not been very friendly with Nirmal last time he saw her; she disliked him for having made Mukunda leave.
Later Bakul takes Mukunda across the street to visit Mrs. Barnum. The last time Mukunda was in that house, Mrs. Barnum caught him looking through her personal papers and told him never to come back. Shortly after she sees him now, Mrs. Barnum reminds him of the incident. She whispers something in his ear, but her voice is shaky, and Mukunda is not quite sure what she says. He thinks she confesses to her husband’s murder. Mrs. Barnum’s nephew, Tommy, is now staying with her. It is obvious that Bakul and Tommy have become friends. As he watches them, Mukunda feels as if he has been replaced.
At dinner back at Nirmal’s house, Nirmal tells Mukunda how his brother sold the house behind his back. Nirmal says he could win a fight in court, but he does not want to spend his remaining years fighting his brother. All he wants to do is find a suitable husband for Bakul, then he will find a small house in which to live.
The next day, before Mukunda must leave, he meets with and makes love to Bakul. It happens innocently and yet they both feel...
(The entire section is 510 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary
Back in Calcutta, Mukunda goes to Aangti and makes a deal: He offers Aangti his house in Calcultta in exchange for Nirmal’s house in Songarh, plus some cash to make up the difference because the house in Calcutta is worth more. Aangti agrees, though he offers Mukunda a little less cash than Mukunda requested.
At home, Mukunda writes a letter to Nirmal; he does not tell him the details but only the results. The family home is now in Nirmal’s name. He can live there as long as he wants. Nirmal responds and tells Mukunda how grateful he is. In some ways, this makes Mukunda uneasy; he thinks Nirmal sounds weak. But Mukunda is glad that Bakul is now safe.
To make the deal go through, Mukunda must move his family out of the Calcutta house. His wife is, of course, upset. Not only do they have to move out, but Mukunda rents out a very shabby apartment in which they must now live. There is no private bathroom and the neighborhood is noisy, but his wife, Malini, was used to having luxury. She feels miserable and does not understand why her husband has done this to her. She suspects it has something to do with his trip to Songarh, but Mukunda denies this. He tells her that he is attempting to set up his own business. It will take time for him to find clients, so their budget is very meager. When Malini asks about the money he made from the sale of their house, Mukunda tells her that the money is tied up in a business deal he has made.
Months go by, and Mukunda and Malini’s relationship grows worse. Money is not coming in as well as Mukunda had expected. When he is at the baby’s doctor’s office one day, he flips through a magazine and is stunned to see a model who closely resembles Bakul. Malini notices that Mukunda tears out the picture and brings it home with him. This irritates her even more. Then Mukunda receives a wedding invitation from Nirmal: Bakul is getting married. The invitation was late in arriving, and Bakul is already someone else’s wife. Regardless, Mukunda decides he has to go to Songarh and see Bakul. He tells his wife he has to take an unexpected business trip that night. Malini grows increasingly suspicious.
When Mukunda arrives in Songarh, he goes immediately to Nirmal’s house. He is about to knock on the door when a window opens. He sees Bakul but backs away from the door before she notices him. He cannot face her. He runs back to the town and rents a room. He feels lost in an...
(The entire section is 572 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary
Two years have passed, and Mukunda is doing well in his business. He has grown accustomed to his wife’s absence and feels somewhat guilty for being so comfortable in his new single life.
One day, he goes to visit Aangti’s office to gather some papers. While there, he notices an old woman sitting in a chair but does not recognize her. But when he walks outside, someone calls his name. It takes a while to remember him, but there standing in front of him was Suleiman, the Muslim man who had left Mukunda his house. The woman inside the office is Suleiman’s wife. They go out for tea and exchange stories of the past nine years. Suleiman tells Mukunda of the hardships they have endured. Many people died; Suleiman has lost many members of his family. He never knew where they would sleep or what they would eat from day to day. But now he has found a job in Calcutta and eventually will find another home.
Mukunda does not provide the truth about what happened to the house. Instead he tells Suleiman that he came under financial problems and had to sell it or lose it all. Then he suggests that Suleiman and his wife come live with him. It is his turn to take care of them. He tells them he has no one else to care for. He does have a wife and son, he says, but they had to move back with her family because he has to travel so much.
Suleiman senses that Mukunda is lying but does not say anything. Instead, Suleiman insists that they have a place to stay and will do well for themselves. Mukunda helps them find the bus they need, and they say good-bye.
Many days pass, and one day the milkman knocks on Mukunda’s door and hands him a letter from Nirmal. Nirmal says that Bakul has gone to Manoharpur, to the house where she was born, because her grandfather has died. Others are claiming ownership of the house but Bakul is the rightful owner. She has only to find the legal papers to prove it. The papers are hidden somewhere inside the house. After reading the letter, Mukunda realizes that this is the house he had gone to see years ago with Aangti. That is why the name Manoharpur had sounded so familiar and the house made him feel as if he had known it his whole life: he had seen Bakul’s photographs of it. Mukunda wonders why Bakul is in Manoharpur all by herself and why her husband is not helping her.
When finally they are alone in the house by the river, Bakul tells Mukunda that she has found the title...
(The entire section is 578 words.)