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The attitudes of Robi and Ila towards their own positioning are best shown in the way that both have radically different understandings and comprehension of the world around them. As the narrator discovers, much to his exasperation, Ila, although she has spent her entire life travelling around the world, has no real understanding of place in the way that he, a sedentary traveller, does. For him, the names of far off and exotic places such as Cuzco summon up daydreams forged out of scraps of anecdotes narrated to him by Tribid. For Ila, what she remembers about such places, as she demonstrates when the narrator mentions Cairo, is nothing more than the location of the lavatories in the airport. Ila is therefore presented as being constantly in transit and not really belonging anywhere, with no understanding of a distinct Indian identity or any other kind of identity. She is a global citizen who would find it impossible to answer the question, "Where do you come from?"
Robi, by contrast, is very different in his identity. What is more, he is used by Ghosh to voice one of the key quotes of the entire novel, which present the boundary lines that are created by political situations as nothing more than insubstantial "shadow lines" that divide nations in half and separate brother from brother:
…why don’t they draw thousands of little lines through the subcontinent and give every little place a new name? What would it change? It’s a mirage; the whole thing is a mirage. How can anyone divide a memory?
Identity, to Robi, is therefore based on memory and a collective consciousness that cannot be altered, no matter what government decides needs to happen, as was the case with the creation of both Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ila is therefore a character who has no distinct sense of her own identity and does not feel she "belongs" anywhere. Robi, by contrast, is a character to whom belonging is incredibly important, and his identity, he recognises, is based on facts that are far more important than the country one is in. For Robi, identity is constructed out of memory rather than geography.
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