Of course, something changed in the sixth form from that day. There was evidently a new respect for Raju, both for his skill and for his daring in choosing Kim as a subject. In Kim herself, Raju detected a coolness. She was pulling away from him, as if she feared, ever so slightly, that Raju had declared with that picture that he wanted to work some spell* on her. She was there just as regularly, working away in the art room, but she did it now with a total absorption in her work. She only turned to talk if she had something definite to say, not just to chatter. Raju thought she was getting worried about her exams, and it confirmed for him the maturity that made her different from the others.
He had to move fast to stop this new silence from solidifying*, from becoming an accepted treaty of distance between them. After all, he'd made his confession and if there was going to be any embarrassment, he had been through it. He thought he should ask her outright, just as the white boys would. The first time would be the only difficult time. He was sure she wouldn't expect it from him. How could he say to her, 'Doing anything later, Kim? Would you like to meet me round the King's Head for a drink?' They would be the wrong words to come out of him. She would laugh. But so what if she laughed, as long as no one heard her. Or him. And if she said yes, then he could see a new kind of existence beginning for him. He would tell her she could take the portait of herself away from school, as a present. They would go together to all the places she talked about, and they would be together in school in the common room and at work in the art room and she would watch him as he became a struggling but successful painter and when he was earning some money from his first job....
Another pressure bore down on his thoughts. If she did accept, how would he take her out? It would mean getting hold of some money and he could do that easily enough by asking his mum and telling her to keep her mouth shut, but what about the next time? Maybe she'd understand and offer to pay for herself. Or maybe he could get a weekend or evening job like Steve and Lesley did and get a few bob to spend on her. If his father found out, or saw them walking down the street together, he wouldn't approve. They would have to meet secretly and keep themselves from all the prying* eyes and gossips* of the Indian community.
For days he couldn't muster the courage. There were moments when he felt like swallowing the stone that came to his throat when he thought of it, and asking her outright. Then his opportunity came.
Towards the end of the term, Ravi got the group together and, before the lesson ended, told them that there was an exhibition of Cuban paintings at a gallery in town and that they had better go and see it, because the poster technique was perfect and because he'd like to discuss it with them after. 'Better spend your time sussing* it, than getting drugged out of your minds at the King's Head.'
Source: East End At Your Feet, Macmillan Educational Ltd. 1977, pp. 103/04
* spell - Zauber, Bann
* to solidify - verfestigen
* prying - here: neugierig
* gossip - Tratsch, Gemunkel
* to suss - unter die Lupe nehmen
1. What scruples does Raju have concerning his relationship to Kim?
2. The way above text is presented, corresponds to the dreamworld which Raju lives in. Comment on the way the text is presented.
3. What are the reasons for Raju's shyness and insecurity?
4. Find an ending to above text revealing how Raju eventually manages to bring about a date with Kim.