A Passage to India
How we cite our quotes:
Like most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it is tainted with the sense of possession. It was only when Mrs. Moore or Fielding was near him that he saw further, and knew that it is more blessed to receive than to give. These two had strange and beautiful effects on him – they were his friends, his for ever, and he theirs for ever; he loved them so much that giving and receiving became one. He loved them even better than the Hamidullahs because he had surmounted obstacles to meet them, and this stimulates a generous mind. (2.14.49)
Here, the novel takes issue with Aziz's attitude toward hospitality. Hospitality is not the same as friendship: it's more about showing off how cool he is ("Hey, check out this awesome elephant I picked up"). It also suggests that an obligation is being placed on his guests: "I give you a sweet elephant, you give me your esteem and respect." Hospitality is basically a way of buying friendship. True friendships like the ones he experiences with Mrs. Moore and Fielding require no obligations, no exchanges. Friendship in this sense goes beyond each individual's own little egotistical needs. (Aziz's friendship with Fielding sours when he suspects that Fielding may have had both an amorous and a financial motive in keeping him from suing Adela.) The novel seems to be playing with an Orientalist stereotype, though, when it claims that all Orientals have this problem with hospitality.
"Never be angry with me. I am, as far as my limitations permit, your true friend; besides, it is my holy festival." Aziz always felt like a baby in that strange presence, a baby who unexpectedly receives a toy. (3.34.3)
Godbole is certainly a strange one, but one of Aziz's true friends. Nobody can ever seem to get mad or stay mad at Godbole, not Aziz, not even Fielding, who discovers that Godbole failed to maintain the school he was supposed to set up at Mau. Oddly, Godbole is a true friend precisely because he is a friend to everybody and nobody at the same time: he loves everybody and nobody (what has he ever done for anyone in the novel?).
"Yes, your mother was my best friend in all the world." [Aziz] was silent, puzzled by his own great gratitude. What did this eternal goodness of Mrs. Moore amount to? To nothing, if brought to the test of thought. (3.34.47)
Aziz also considers Mrs. Moore one of his true friends. Like Godbole, Mrs. Moore never gave him anything, nor put him under any obligations. But the fact that the only woman he considers his friend is dead brings up the pesky question of whether women are being excluded from the novel's depiction of ideal friendships.