Chapter XXXV from E M Forster’s A Passage to India (Part 3 Temples): Summary and Analysis
In this chapter the two old friends meet again. However, the conversation between the two does not take the right turn. Aziz is on a walk to the old fort with his kids when the meeting takes place. Aziz’s biggest confusion regarding Fielding’s marriage with Miss Quested gets cleared. However, the thought of being friends with British again evokes unpleasant feelings in him and so he asks Fielding to not to see him again. Learning of his wife that she is mrs Moore’s daughter makes Aziz feel good inside but on the outside he is still stubborn that he will remain with his own community rather than trust the Britishers again.
Long before Aziz arrived there was another Mohammedan at Mau – a saint. When his mother ordered him to free the prisoners, he took a sword and released the prisoners. They got out and got back to their old businesses. However, the policemen could not like it and chopped his head off but he did not fall and continued from the prison chopping policemen’s head on the way to his house were he fell before his mother having accomplished her orders. People made two shrines for him – one for the head and another for the body. Both Hindu and Muslim worship the shrines. At first Aziz was filled with scorn to hear that Islam was practicing idolatry and desired purification like Alamgir. However, soon he grew tolerant and passionate like Akbar. The shrine of the body was in Aziz’s garden and that of the head was a short walk from his home.
Next morning after the grand Pujah, the doctor was free and so took his kids on a walk. His daughter held his hands and his two boys and Ahmed and Karim were arguing about the saint’s body as it came downhill from the prison and if it would have frightened them had they seen it. He rebuked them for he did not believe in superstitions and did not want them to either. However, the two continued the talk after a short break as their nature compelled. The shrine was located inside a tall eight sided building at the top and was not well kept. Bees had made hives there. They went on after visiting the shrine to the Mosque and these were the only reminders of Islamic culture in this part of India.
From there they went to the old fort. Heavy monsoon had fallen and they loved the colour of the sky which had grown grey. A heavy monsoon meant bumper crops. Somewhere close, there was the site of a diamond mine and then the residence of junior Rani. The Rani was not so strict about purdah (curtain – like Muslim women the women of the royal families were expected to remain behind the curtain where strangers could not see them). Aziz and his kids could see her busy with her maidens. On another side was the European Guest house behind which lay a range of hills on which there were several temples scattered like little white flames. Many influential people lived in that direction who owned hundreds of cows and the betel leaf industry in India. Several of them are in the palace at the time of hate pujas and some had only send their symbols and gifts to represent them. Two things filling the air of Mau were religion and weather. The two sins of Aziz ran over the old fort which contained the prison towards a line of prisoners and asked which one of them was to be released tonight. After the pujah night was a procession and one of the prisoners will be released on that auspicious moment.
Aziz’s family paid regular visits to the prison and the prisoners with lowered eyes discussed the chances of their being freed with them. These people were hardly any different from the commoners except for the chains in their legs. The Rajah ad God both were far from their reach and very high personalities in their eyes. The guard was educated and ventured to ask about His Highness’ health. It was getting better was Aziz’s reply but the truth was that Rajah (the king) was dead and the news of his death had been kept hidden in order to not spoil the excitement around the festival.Only the Hindu physician, a manservant and the private secretary had remained near the Rajah’s corpse and Aziz had assumed the duty of being seen in the public and creating the illusion that Raja was still alive. The children were hunting for a frog to tease Mohammed Latif by putting it in his bed when they saw two people wearing caps climbing up towards the saint’s tomb. The two knew they were Englishmen whom they hated like their father and so talked of throwing stones on them but Aziz rebuked them asking them that they were state guests and deserved to be treated so. The two visitors entered the octagonal building where the shrine was located but soon came out running stung and chased by bees. The two ran here and there and the kids shrieked with joy.
Aziz was not in a mood to greet his friend but somehow the incident improved his temper. He called out to help them and suggested Fielding’s brother in law to lie down in a pool of water. However, pouring rain controlled the bees which stopped chasing them and retired to the shrine. Aziz went to help the brother in law and pulled a few stings out of his wrist. Fielding saw Aziz and asked how he was later all this time. His tone was not very friendly but loaded with formality. Aziz said he was going to send an embrocation to the Guest house where Fielding had settled. Fielding soon got to his point and asked why Aziz had not replied to his letters. Rain was pouring very hard and his companion exclaimed. Fielding asked if there was a shortcut to his carriage at the bottom and Aziz showed him the way. He asked if Aziz was going to follow. Aziz gave a salute that showed the increased distance between the two. It was like an Indian saluting a British as a formality and Fielding got the message that Aziz was in no mood to be messed with or he would not have treated him as an English Babu. All of them started descending with Aziz and Fielding in the lead and the children last. The two started talking and Fielding asked who was in charge of the Guest house. It was the private secretary. Fielding was disappointed for no one had bothered to approach them since they arrived. Fielding had written beforehand about his visit and received a formal permission. However, there were no eggs and no boat for his wife wanted to go boating. There were two boats but none had any oars because Colonel Maggs had broken them.
Aziz was not very keen on helping them because each of Fielding’s questions received a readymade reply. He had received a better reception both at Mudkul and Deora but not at Mau. They had reached the carriage and Fielding asked his brother in law Ralph to jump in. Aziz too asked him addressing him as Mr Quested which surprised Fielding. He asked who on earth was Mr Quested. Aziz was held aback and asked if he had mispronounced or if the boy was not his brother in law. Fielding asked whom Aziz believed he had married. The boy blushed and said that he was Ralph Moore. Aziz would have liked to withdraw his remark but it was too late now. Fielding asked if Aziz did not know he had married Mrs Moore’s daughter and Aziz hated having heard Mrs Moore’s name. However, there was more to it than Aziz had yet known. Fielding said that his ignorance explained his odd attitude when Aziz asked innocently what was wrong with his attitude. Mahmoud Ali had sent a preposterous letter on his behalf to Fielding calling Miss Moore (Stella Moore – Fielding’s wife) Heaslop’s brother. Aziz was feeling ashamed but the name of Heaslop made him furious and enraged he said that what Ali said was true. His wife was Heaslop’s sister and his brother in law Heaslop’s brother. He said a quick goodbye and then babbled on about what he had to do with Fielding’s marriage. He did not want any of them in his life because had felt seriously cheated by the British. He was going to pardon Mahmoud Ali for whatever he did was because he loved Aziz. Before turning away he said out loud that his heart was meant for disown people now onwards. Cyril followed him trying to apologise and repair. It was not Ronny’s betrothed that he had married but his sister and what if he had built his life upon a mistake. Now, he had built it. Aziz said in Urdu that he did not want to be followed and wanted no Englishman or woman in his life.
When Aziz returned home, he was happy and excited. Mrs Moore’s mention had left him uneasy and restored memories. Esmiss Esmoor again rang in his ears. She had been so kind and that boy he had not noted well was her son. He had promised her he would be kind to her other children and Now Stella had married Cyril. He was satisfied.