The Shadow Lines

by Amitav Ghosh

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How does Robi react to meeting Rehman-Saheb in a London restaurant in The Shadow Lines?

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When Robi meets Rehman-Saheb in the Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant in London, all goes well until the men discover in conversation that they lived in the same areas back in Bangladesh. Rehman-Saheb then describes the "old city" in an idyllic way that upsets Robi since his mother was killed in that very place during a protest.

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In Amitav Ghosh's novel The Shadow Lines, Ila invites the narrator and her uncle Robi to an Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant in London. The owner of the restaurant, Rehman-Saheb, is a friend of Ila's, and from the very start of the visit he is very hospitable and kind to the group.

Rehman-Saheb brings coffee to his guests and sits with them to get to know Ila's party better. During the conversation, Robi and Rehman-Saheb learn that they have both lived in Dhaka. Rehman-Saheb asks Robi if he has been back in Bangladesh after its independence. When Robi says that he has not visited, Rehman-Saheb asks Robi where he is from, which Robi responds that he is from Dahnmundi. To this, Rehman-Saheb says that this is the "rich" and "tourist" area of Bangladesh and asks Robi if he has ever visited the old city.

The problem surfaces when Rehman-Sahed starts describing the old city in such an idyllic way that it rubs Robi the wrong way. His mother was born in the old city, and she was killed in a protest in that very city. As Robi explains this, Rehman-Sahed and the rest of the party at the table realize that this is a very sore topic and they attempt to deflect the conversation. However, Robi takes off past Rehman-Sahed and leaves the place.

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