I fear that the further into this story I get these posts may end up being more for me than for any other reader happening by, so I will try and keep things as general as possible. But now I am really getting into the story and this is a novel that is very rich in detail, history and character development--to say nothing of the growing cast of characters. I have decided that A Suitable Boy is not just a love story, but it is really a panorama of post-Partition India. Part five is longer than any of the previous sections. It has veered into the realm of history, politics and society yet it continues to intertwine various members of those family trees whose members have been crossing the stage so far, so to speak.
To be honest I have not yet finished reading this section, but I am within twenty pages or so of nearing part six (which is also a long section). I love reading about the characters and how they interact and what their lives are like and when I saw that such a long part would be about religious/race relations and starts out with a riot, I have to be honest I was a little disappointed and wary of whether this would end up being an uphill week of reading. As it turns out, it has been quite a page-turner of a story still. Now, how to describe it in a way that will help plant it all more firmly in my mind and not confuse anyone not reading (and not giving away spoilers) the book.
I don't think I quite have the nuances down of the various ethnic groups in India and more, the various castes, but it is the tensions between these groups that are causing the social unrest. For example, I am not sure if a word like jatav, which refers to one of the castes/one of the untouchable communities means it is only Hindus who are included or also Muslims. With Partition, the areas of Pakistan and Kashmir were 'given up' or became Independent when the British left and India gained independent rule. (My very simplified understanding so far).
The riots of this section come about as a new Hindu temple is being constructed across the may from a Muslim mosque. There is grief and frustration on the part of the Muslims about the nearness and it is expressed when a group of them take to the streets in protest. Violence erupts and several deaths (the result of police intervention) occur. The police (which seem to be made up of both Hindus and Muslims) use force in turn to try and contain the protesting group and you know how messy such a situation becomes. It is all the worse as some of the police who are Muslim are protecting a Hindu temple against fellow Muslims, so very messy indeed. All this happens to take place in front of the Govind Shoe Mart, which means there are repercussions for those business owners and shoemakers (remember last week's discussion of shoes?!--now it begins to come together) in the form of loss of business and income.
What follows is an inquiry into the riot and the aftermath by the local government and here we see some of the older members of the families--namely the Kapoors (Mahesh Kapoor is the Revenue Minister--also Pran's father) and the Khans (I don't think I have mentioned this family in much detail yet) and L.N. Agarwal who are involved in trying to get to the bottom of what happened and who was to blame. All clear as mud, yes? What is most important to know, however, is that there is no love lost between the various factions and quite a lot of animosity.
I do want to mention a new character as I think she is interesting and will be important in how things shake down since she is an independent woman and the leader of the Democratic Party. She is formidable and is described as "immodest" on occasion (when she needs to be) and aggressive and essentially plays by her own rules. I like her, but then I always like strong female characters who assert themselves and stand strong.
There is so much I could write about this section. It is truly a history lesson, but in a good and dramatic (good storytelling) sort of way. So, the plot thickens, in a way . . . Lata's 'love affair' played out against this background, so I guess it is all context. Now it is easier to see why a Hindu girl of good, by all appearances middle class, family falling for a Muslim boy is going to cause more than a few ripples!
Looking ahead to section six, I see I am going to learn more about the Khan family and then there is mention of Veena, so more of the Kapoors, too. I wonder when Lata will make her next appearance. Onward.