Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. It could be argued that Navi’s life is a success, while his sister Neela could be characterized as less successful. Do you feel this is a fair assessment of them both? Do you think they would describe themselves the same way?
2. Neela’s mysterious power is referenced throughout the novel, but she never understands or tries to control it, choosing instead to “bask in its darkness.” Do you think this represents a missed opportunity for her? If she had learned more about her power, what changes could it have made in her life?
3. Were Navi’s choices in the novel lapses in judgment, or a necessary compromise without which he would never have left Marasaw? Would he have been happier if he had done nothing wrong but never left home?
4. Both Neela and Navi escape Marasaw in different ways, and find that their new lives don’t live up to their initial promise. What are the main reasons for this disappointment?
5. Within the novel, it is accepted that politicians, police and soldiers are corrupt or at least, out only for themselves. With so many obstacles to success, can people like Navi and Neela improve their lot in life by themselves, or are they prisoners of a corrupt society? How do you perceive corruption within your own social context?
6. Neela makes impetuous decisions, while Navi is more coldly calculating. Do you think it’s better to lead with the heart or the head? How do you lead your own life?
7. Racism and the legacy of colonialism are alluded to on several occasions in the novel. How much of Navi and Neela’s behaviour can be attributed to their personalities, and how much to the broader context?
8. After exhausting official channels, Navi must use his influence and government money to pay a bribe and arrange for Seetha’s safe return. Discuss Navi’s motives for making these choices.
9. Navi and Neela have their flaws, but they end up working together to rescue Seetha, and the novel ends on a hopeful note. What kind of hope is there for Navi and Neela’s future – both together and individually?
10. What do you think the future holds for Seetha? How might her life be different from her mother’s and uncle’s?