The clash between cultures – Asian children discuss problems they have with their parents.
The following conflict situations are taken from three novels written by Asian writers.
Text 1: Arranged marriage.
Excerpt from Hanif Kureishi’s novel: The Budhha of Suburbia.pp. 59-60 (slightly abridged)
The book is written from the point of view of Karim, son of an Indian father and an English mother. In this
extract he visits his uncle Anwar whose daughter Jamila is Karim’s best friend. Anwar is ill in bed.
‘Why didn’t you tell me he was sick?’ I whispered to Jamila. But I wasn’t convinced that he was
simply sick, since the pity in her face was overlaid with fury.[...]
‘He’s not ill,’ she said.
‘No?’ I said, and then, to him, ’Hallo , Uncle Anwar. How are you boss?’
His voice was changed: it was reedy and weak now. ‘Take that damn kebab out of my nose,’ he
said. ‘And take that damn girl with you.’
Jamila touched my arm. ’Watch.’ She sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned towards him.
Please, please stop all this.’
‘Get lost!’ he croaked at her. ’You’re not my daughter. I don’t know who you are.’ [...]
‘What’s going on here?’ I asked her.
‘Look at him, Karim, he hasn’t eaten or drunk anything for eight days! He’ll die, Karim, won’t he, if
he doesn’t eat anything!’
‘Yes. You’ll cop it, boss, if you don’t eat your grub like everyone else.’
‘I won’t eat. I will die. If Gandhi could shove out the English from India by not eating, I can get my
family to obey me by the exactly the same.’
‘ What do you want her to do?’
‘To marry the boy I have selected with my brother.’
‘But it’s old-fashioned, Uncle, out-of-date,’ I explained. ‘No one does that kind of thing now. They
just marry the person they’re into, if they bother to get married at all.’
This homily on contemporary morals didn’t exactly blow his mind.
‘That is not our way, boy. Our way is firm. She must do what I say or I will die. She will kill me.’
1. Describe the conflict Jamila has with her father.
2. What does he want you to do? How does he act?
3. What are Jamila's feelings about the situation?
4. Try to understand Jamila’s dilemma and assume her position while talking about the conflict with
Text 2: Racism at school.
Extract from Hanif Kureishi’s novel: The Black Album (pp.71-72 abridged)
The protagonist, Shahin, is the younger son of two Pakistani immigrants.
He is still at school but has to work in his spare time at his father’s travel-agency.
On Papa’s headed note-paper he [Shahin] began writing stories.
The first effort he copied – [...] - was called ‘Paki Wog. Fuck Off Home’. It featured the six boys who
comprised the back row of his class at school, who, one day when the teacher had left the room in despair,
chanted at Shahid, ‘ Paki, Paki, Paki, Out, Out, Out!’ He banged the scene into his machine as he relived it,
recording the dismal fear and fury in a jagged cunt-fuck-kill prose that expressed him, like a soul singer
screaming into a microphone.
One evening he returned to his bedroom to discover his mother, still in her raincoat,
reading the piece. She flapped the sheets at him, as if she had discovered a letter in
which he had written intolerable things about her.
‘I always know when you’re playing some trick. I hope you’re not trying to
‘I haven’t thought about it,’ he lied. ‘It doesn’t depend on me, does it?’
‘ What does it depend on ?’
‘Whether anyone’s interested.’
‘Not one person is interested! Who would want to read this? People don’t want this
hate in their lives.’ She began to rip up what she’d read. ‘ Goodbye to filth, goodbye to
filth - and don’t you spread it!’
It was not physically easy for his mother to obliterate the fifteen pages, a copy of
which he had posted to the literary magazine Stand along with a self-addressed envelope
More than anything she hated any talk of race or racism. Probably she had suffered
some abuse or contempt. But her father had been a doctor; everyone - politicians,
generals, journalists, police chiefs - came to their house in Karachi. The idea that anyone
might treat her with disrespect was insupportable.
Karachi - a city in Pakistan
1. Describe the conflict between Shahid and his mother.
2. What does Mother think? How does she act?
3. What are Shahid's feelings?
4. What problems does Shahid have with his racial and cultural identity? How does yhe try to
come to terms with these problems?
Text 3: Being British.
Extract from Shyama Perera’s book: Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet (pp.117-118)
Mala, the protagonist was born in Sri Lanka and came to London as a child. She is 16 years old
and lives alone with her mother, an art teacher.
Aunty Anu dropped by the next evening. ‘How are the mocks going, Mala?’
‘Not too bad. Well, maybe French oral – I get embarrassed talking to strangers in a foreign language.’
‘We’ve done it all our lives.’
‘That’s not the same.’
‘Your mother and I were taught by Irish nuns. We spoke English to each other, Sinhalese to the
servants.’ I tried to show interest. ’Now of course we speak and think in English but at home
they’ve reverted to Sinhalese.’
‘That doesn’t matter to me because I’m British.’
My mother laughed. ‘ Mala thinks she’s white.’
‘Being British doesn’t mean being white.’
‘It does to the British.’
‘But I’m British.’
‘Then one day it will happen to you.’
Anu put up her hand. ‘We’re talking about French. Try and speak it as well as your mother speaks
‘I have warned you,’ my mother said,’ that if you don’t get good results, you can forget that boy of
‘It’s not his fault that I muddle up la and le.’
‘ The two evenings you’re out with him could be spent learning the difference.’
‘Too much ooh-la-la, and not enough la and le,’ Anu smiled.
‘I hope not,’ my mother said darkly.
Oh, Mum – I’m the most virginal fifteen-year-old in the country.’
‘Chi! That you say things like that! This is the British for you – sex ,sex ,sex from the cradle to the
grave – dictionaries by the dozen but interested only in three-letter words.’
‘I wish I’d never opened my mouth,’ I said.
1. Describe the conflict with Mala and her mother.
2. What does Mala's mother think? How does she act?
3. What are Mala’s feelings about the situation?
4. How far are Mala's problems with her mother a question of racial and cultural identity?
5. Reflect on Mala’s upbringing and her attitude to race.
Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen in der Abiturprüfung Englisch
(Beschluss der Kultusministerkonferenz vom 01.12.1989 i.d.F. vom 24.05.2002)