The English Teacher


Major Characters




Presented as an immediate contrast to Krishna when she arrives by train she seems calm and composed in contrast to Krishna’s frenzied and faintly ridiculous fears about whether they will have time to disembark in the allotted time. Throughout the rest of the text these contrasts continue. Susila is spiritual where Krishna is not; she is impulsive (washing her feet in the river) whereas Krishna is less so; she yearns for individuality and originality (having bathroom tiles in her home) while Krishna finds it hard to see past the fact that bathroom tiles are usually used in bathrooms and she possesses the economical and house-keeping common sense that Krishna, as a poetic dreamer (or at least someone who fancies himself as such) seems to lack.


It is principally through his contact with Susila that Krishna begins to develop as a character as she drags him out of the orderly routine life he lived in the hostel. This is not to say that Susila disdains order: she is fanatical (perhaps a little too much) about her shopping list and her store; she tidies Krishna’s desk and has ‘an autocratic strain’ to her nature. Unsurprisingly, then, she is strong willed and decisive but nonetheless caring and loving as is demonstrated by her continued doting on Krishna and their daughter and her eventual ‘return’ at the end of the novel.


Susila is not a uniformly positive character however: she seems to develop an irrational fear about the fly on her lip; she fears the doctor and she does sell Krishna’s clock against his express desires. Another example that there are no impeccable teachers for Krishna who has to find his own way in the world.



Page No




Krishna says ‘My dear wife will see that the proper light comes at the proper angle.’




At the train station Krishna panics and snaps ‘No time to be sitting down; give me the baby.’ While ‘[Susila] merely smiled and said: ‘I will carry the baby down. You will get these boxes’ then she ‘unconcernedly moved on’ saying ‘’way please’ and they made way for her.’




Susila reminds Krishna to pay respect to her father and he’ obeyed her instantly’ and then ‘looked at [his] wife for approval’




She waits in the garden every day for his return from work. She becomes embarrassed when he points this out.




‘She seemed to have a secret life’ however in contrast Krishna jokes with ‘the utmost indifference’




She cooks ‘large quantities’ of tiffin and is ‘desperately eager to get [Krishna] to appreciate her handiwork.




‘She was my cash keeper. And what a ruthless account she seemed to be’. There definitely seems to be ‘an autocratic strain in her nature’ as is demonstrated by her anger over the changed shopping list.




‘She … induced me to change over to the co-operative store’ despite Krishna’s habitual use of a store on the other side of town.




‘She was very proud of her list. It was precise.’ ‘She was in raptures over the shopping and savings.’ ‘She watched [the rice containers] like a sort of barometer .. each had to be at a particular level at a particular date.’




Susila’s calm and control is disturbed when the old helper sent by Krishna‘s  mother arrives ‘What shall we do?’ she asked, looking desperate.’ Indeed on p.40 she had ‘lost her supremacy over the kitchen and the store.’




‘She kept a watch over every rupee as it arrived and never let it depart lightly and, as far as possible, tried to end its career in the savings bank.’




She attacks the clock ‘It’s not even showing the correct time … it is four hours ahead.’ before selling it on p.43




When Susila tidies Krishna‘s desk ‘It looked like a savage, suddenly appearing neatly trimmed and groomed.’




After Susila sells the clock Krishna says ‘You did the best thing possible. Even in the hostel the wretched thing worried everyone near about.’




In the Bombay Anand Bhavan Hotel Krishna ‘felt rather shy’ but ‘She went ahead.’




‘What if they are! People who like them for bathrooms may have them there, others if they want them elsewhere …’




‘Please, please’ she pleaded recklessly. ‘I must wash my feet in the river today.’




When house hunting Susila replies ‘Do you think I can’t?’ and then on p.53 ‘I can walk for miles.’




Susila dislikes the similarity of all the houses in Lawley Extension ‘Why are all these alike?’




‘‘Do you like this house?’ Sastri asked me. I looked at my wife.’




Susila is angered when Krishna follows her around the house ‘Oh, you won’t let me alone even for a few minutes. I can look after myself.’




Krishna has to tell her to stop washing ‘Don’t bother about it anymore. You are alright.’ Indeed, he has said similar things about Leela before: p.53 ‘Don’t worry about the child’ and p.48 ‘Don’t keep bothering about her. She will be alright.’




Susila decides ‘We will go in.’ to the temple and while praying ‘Her eyes shone with an unearthly brilliance. Her cheeks glowed.’




Susila fears the doctor when Krishna suggests calling him because ‘The press given by the doctor before Leela was born, still pains.’ Krishna realises that this is ‘absurd’




Despite Typhoid being a predictable disease, Susila’s fever does not run according to plan: ‘The doctor was losing his cheerfulnss and looked harrowed and helpless.’ Saying ‘This continuous temperature is very taxing.’




There are touchingly human details about her – e.g. the unfinished yellow sweater that she left with only the back done.’