The English Teacher


Chapter Summary


Chapter 1:

·         The argument with Brown over ‘honour with a u’

·         Krishna’s decision to have more regular habits

·         He wakes up early the next morning, swims in the river and writes the poem ‘Nature’: there is considerable rebirth and baptismal imagery here (including images from Alchemy suggesting purity and sublimation), although no true ‘rebirth’ seems to occur

·         Krishna bemoans literature teaching in schools, where the is ‘a desperate attempt to wrest meaning’ from poetry

·         Krishna goes to a lesson unprepared – he wastes time with the register and seems unprepared, foolish and reductionist

·         He returns to his room and has received letters from his wife, Susila, and his father telling him that it is time for him to start living with his wife. Krishna is perturbed by this possible disturbance to his nicely ordered life

·         Flashback to his father’s ink-making and his visits to Kawadi

·         He waits along time for the bathroom and constructs a poem about God waiting an infinite time to punish someone in the hostel bathroom

·         He goes house-hunting and meets the old, blind man who initially won’t let him see the house until he says he is from a ‘cultured’ family

·         Krishna finds the house, moves out of the hostel and tips the servant Singaram



Chapter 2:

·         Krishna discuss with his mother how small the house is

·         Krishna’s mother is established as a traditional housewife who, in turn, trained Susila in her wifely duties

·         Krishna collects Susila and the baby, Leela, from the train station. He irrationally panics about whether it will be possible to to get his wife, the baby and their luggage off of the train in the seven minutes for which the train will be stationary. On arrival, however, Susila calmly manages to exit the train with ease.

·         Krishna’s mother welcomes the child and takes much care of it over the subsequent two months before she leaves

·         The family grow closer together and we learn about Leela’s fascination for water and Susila’s cooking

·         Susila’s shopping list described in detail: she is a ‘technician’ of the home

·         Krishna’s mother sends the old woman from her village to help in Krishna’s house

·         Krishna writes a poem for Susila, which is actually a copy of Wordsworth’s poem ‘She was a Phantom of Delight’

·         Susila sells the clock, they argue but Krishna eventually concedes



Chapter 3:

·         Susila and Krishna go house-hunting

·         They lunch at the Bombay Anand Bhavan Hotel and Susila is impressed by the bathroom tiles on the walls

·         Susila wants to go to the river, where they bathe their feet

·         Susila and Krishna meet Sastri the logician and house builder

·         They find ‘The Jasmine Home’ but Susila gets locked in the toilet and is frightened by the flies

·         They pray at the temple of Srinivasa

·         Susila becomes ill with suspected Malaria which turns out to be Typhoid

·         Krishna visits the doctor for medicine who appears to be inhuman, mechanical and not much help at first. However, when he visits the family at home he becomes more friendly, human and natural

·         Susila continues to get worse and she is visited by both the exorcist and the medical specialist

·         Susila eventually dies and is cremated



Chapter 4:

·         Krishna’s life is blank and empty without Susila, however he continues to look after Leela and care for her

·         Krishna’s mother leaves on the bus after telling him that he should re-marry

·         There is a flashback to Leela playing just after the cremation of her mother. Leela questions the adults as to why Susila’s door is shut but they do not tell her that Susila is dead

·         Krishna describes the new routine of his life with Leela: washing and then reading because the Goddess Saraswathi is the Goddess of Learning and they must touch her with clean hands



Chapter 5:

·         Krishna gets a letter from the mystic who believes he is receiving messages from Susila

·         1st visit        Susila cannot communicate

·         2nd visit        Susila gets the daughter’s name wrong

·         3rd visit        Susila talks about letters and a sandalwood box that Krishna has no recollection of

·         4th visit        Susila informs Krishan that Leela is going to school, which he was unaware of

·         Krishna goes to school with Leela, meets ‘The Headmaster’ and invites him to lunch on Sunday

·         5th visit        Susila talks about her last day but she makes many mistakes and doesn’t remember the toilet

·         6th visit        Susila talks about the after-life and encourages Krishna to play the Veena



Chapter 6:

·         Krishna and Leela go to the school on a Sunday and discover that the ‘Headmaster’ is there every day

·         The Headmaster shows Leela’s first piece of work, a green paper boat, to Krishna

·         He attacks modern education methods and demonstrates his method of teaching through play by reading the bison and the tiger story

·         The Headmaster eats at Krishna’s house and he promises Leela a kitten

·         Krishna and Leela go to the Headmaster’s house for the kitten and meet his messy children and argumentative wife.

·         The Headmaster cannot find the kitten that he offered to Leela and is eventually describe by Krishna as a man who had ‘strayed into a wrong world’



Chapter 7:

·         The mystic has disappeared and Krishna tries to speak to Susila without the mystic but fails

·         He become angry at (Western) literature and denounces it to his students as garbage and trash

·         The mystic writes and offers the possibility of a sitting in absentia by agreeing on a time at which to meditate

·         In subsequent sittings Krishna is encouraged by Susila to develop his own psychic abilities

·         The Headmaster visits Krishna late at night telling him that his horoscope has predicted that he will die tomorrow and asking if Krishna will continue to run the school after his death

·         Krishna agrees reluctantly and the following day goes to the Headmaster’s house to find out if he is really dead. The Headmaster is not there and Krishna tells his wife that he is dead which upsets her greatly.

·         The Headmaster returns home, not having died, but he has decided to leave his wife and children, while still supporting them financially. In a sense he has a new life, a form of rebirth and so perhaps his old self has died

·         Krishna’s mother comes to visit, bringing with her the sandalwood box that Susila spoke about in their tird sitting with the mystic

·         Krishna’s mother visits and tells Krishna that his father has set aside money for Leela’s endowment

·         Krishna’s mother stays for four weeks. Leela leaves with her grandmother to their village

·         Krishna receives a letter from his father and Leela explaining how happy Leela is and asking him to visit, which he does

·         Krishna returns from the village feeling that ‘a profound and unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life’. He visits the Headmaster who seems happier and enjoys being surrounded by the playful and lively children



Chapter 8:

·         Krishna decides to resign from teaching and teach at the Headmaster’s school. He plans to write a ‘singeing’ letter condemning the teaching of Shakespeare which has produced ‘a nation of morons’. Instead, he feels, children need to be taught about ‘the fullest use of the mind’.

·         He however refrains from sending this letter, which he feels sounds too ‘theatrical and pompous’ and, besides, he believes only a ‘fool’ could be insensible to the beauties of Shakespeare

·         Krishna resigns and leaving party is held for him where he receives a Jasmine garland

·         That night Susila appears to him for the first time and they talk together until dawn