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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 868

K. K. Harouni

K. K. Harouni is the estate owner around whom the entire short story collection revolves. He is a powerful figure of the past stuck in the ever-changing sweep of the present. In his old age, K. K. simply wants peace and companionship, so he takes Husna as...

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K. K. Harouni

K. K. Harouni is the estate owner around whom the entire short story collection revolves. He is a powerful figure of the past stuck in the ever-changing sweep of the present. In his old age, K. K. simply wants peace and companionship, so he takes Husna as his mistress. While K. K. searches for some sense of comfort, the others around him take advantage of his aging state. The Harouni estate bleeds money, and the lands that have belonged to his family for generations are abruptly sold away, yet K. K. appears to show little concern over the state of his affairs. He dies bitter, cursing those around him.

Nawabdin the Electrician

Nawab is a successful manager on the Harouni estate, and his efforts are rewarded when he is given a motorcycle to use as he conducts his business. However, a sense of materialism takes over Nawab, and when he is assaulted by a robber who brandishes a gun, Nawab risks his life to hold on to the motorcycle. Even in the face of the robber’s death, Nawab remains cold and refuses to forgive him.

Saleema

Saleema has hopes of finding a better life outside the confines of addiction and abuse that bind her family. Yet even when her life falls into the same pattern once her husband begins using amphetamines, she hopes for things to turn around. She believes in her relationship with Rafik and cannot bear the sense of obligation that he has to his aging wife and their sons. Ultimately, Saleema is not strong enough to overcome the circumstances of her birth, and she succumbs to the dangerous life of the city.

Chaudrey Jaglani

Over the course of many years, Jaglani has taken advantage of his employer, K. K. Harouni, and he has become a rich man in the process. He has spent his life being dishonest, and once he finds love, his past ills come back to haunt him. He cannot comprehend why Zainab refuses to give her love to him even though she submits her body readily. Even on his deathbed, Jaglani curses Zainab for never having loved him, and all he wants is power and position for his eldest son. He does not allow himself to accept that power and influence do not extend beyond the grave.

The Lahore High Court Sessions Judge

The unnamed Lahore High Court sessions judge is one of many who use the judicial system to their personal advantage. Even though he knows that Khadim is not responsible for the murder of his sister-in-law, the judge resorts to using a bribe to have him released from prison. He has been included on this deal, which has been prompted by Khadim’s family. This also ensures that the true murderer—the woman’s husband—will not be charged; all passes through the court system oiled by unjust money.

Husna

Husna is neither pretty nor intelligent, yet she is shrewd and understands the inner workings of the feudal system enough to carve a comfortable path by which to conduct her life. She uses the tenuous family ties she has to K. K. Harouni to get close enough to him to be of influence. Husna does not let any opportunity pass by her, and she benefits from her decisions. But Husna’s wiles do not win her any position after K. K.’s death, and she knows that she will be sent back to her old life even before K. K.’s daughters call her into conference.

Helen

Young and idealistic, Helen does not believe that the boundaries created by culture and class can stand in the way of love. She visits with Sohail’s family in Paris, but Sohail’s mother, Rafia, tells her that she cannot make Sohail happy. Helen begins to realize that life in Pakistan would not suit her American ideals, and she is forced to come to terms with this reality.

Leila/Lily

Lily will not allow herself to be characterized by social conventions of Pakistani culture—she lives a life of freedom that is defined by her own personal whims. However, she is calmed by her married life, and for a while she sees her relationship with Murad as an element of escape. But soon Murad takes on the life of a farmer and businessman, and Lily feels confined by his love. Once Lily reads Murad’s journal and realizes that he is worried about her wild behavior, she decides that she must leave and not return lest she lose her sense of identity.

Mohammed Rezak

Rezak is a gentle old man who has made do with little. When he is hired by the Harouni family, the mistress of the house, Sonya, insists that Rezak be given the same salary as the other employees—this is the most money Rezak has ever made in his life. He saves and is able to buy provisions for his home and make a payment for a bride. When he is beaten by the police who suspect him as having sold his wife into prostitution, Rezak figures that he has been punished for wanting and having more than someone in his position should ever have.

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