The Hundred-Foot Journey Part 2, London: Chapter 4
By Richard C. Morais
Part 2, London: Chapter 4
To switch things up when they're homesick, Hassan and his big brother Umar take the subway to London, where they are mesmerized by the loud rock music, the tattooed and tee-shirt wearing British, and, of course, the international food market.
While wandering through the scarf stalls which remind him of his mother, Hassan meets Abhidha, a girl working in one of the stands; he tells us right off that her name means "longing" (4.7). He pretends to be interested in the shawls as an excuse to talk to her, and before he leaves he manages to get himself a date. Not bad, Hassan.
He describes her as "by no means a classic beauty" (4.11), but says that he feels a connection to her. She is smart and ambitious, so maybe he feels that she has the Haji streak of motivation. Oh, and another small detail: She's twenty-three and he's seventeen.
On their first date, they go to see a play from the Soviet-era about prisoners in Siberia (her choice). Hassan ends up surprisingly moved by it, and Abhidha calls a cab under the guise of dragging him to a party.
The party, however, turns out to be an empty apartment, and the two spend the night together (another experience which Hassan relates to food).
More dates follow, and Hassan is pulled into her university world of art museums and poetry readings, which he doesn't totally relate to. In his defense, the kid's not even eighteen yet.
Hassan is haunted by his mother's murder, and he says that discovering girls while recovering from his mother's death is confusing; he is left with scars that he can't get rid of.
Confusion about girls continues when he goes to hang out and smoke (ahem, not cigarettes) with his friend Deepak, rather than go to Abhidha's party. Things get hazy and he ends up in bed with an English girl for a weekend; when he calls Abhidha to apologize for the no-show, she has the wisdom to suggest that he finds someone his own age to date.
Hassan takes the opportunity to tell us that this becomes his lifelong pattern with women. We're starting to suspect his biggest love affair is with food anyway, instead of with ladies.
Meanwhile, at home the family is still struggling. Ammi is slowly suffering more and more from dementia, and Mehtab (Hassan's sister) is becoming restless and vain.
Hassan gets his first job at the Jalebi Junction, a sweets stand that makes some of his favorite treats from back in India. He says that he is grateful to England for this job, which helps him realize that he belongs in the kitchen. Yay for figuring things out.
Quick setting change time: The family moves from England. Apparently Hassan was found making out with his "toilet seat" cousin, which prompts quite the family feud. Relatives blow up at relatives, Papa invests in three Mercedes, and the family begins to caravan across Europe for a new home.
Papa starts experimenting (and by experimenting we mean 'eating') all different types of European foods in an effort to expand his culinary knowledge. Hassan describes this new adventure as "crème brûlée" (4.75) compared to life in England.
In Tuscany, they run into a local mushroom festival. They eat to their hearts' content in the sunlight and visit the beach, and in general, the experience is an oasis in the middle of their tough times.
In October they arrive in the French Jura, in the Alps. It's like reaching the Promised Land, where the air is clean and the town is like something out of a postcard.
The car dies on the road. The kids run in the fresh air, and after battling the broken car Papa stands up and breathes clearly for what Hassan describes as the first time in years.
In a twist of fate, the family has stopped in front of a large estate with a "For-sale" sign; Hassan credits destiny, though we're inclined to credit the author.
Papa and Uncle Mayur walk into the town of Lumière and come back with an agent. He approves the idea of an Indian restaurant and encourages Papa, so Papa decides to buy it.
Hassan tells us that the Period of Mourning officially ends here—call it the end of an era, if you will—and the family is now free to start over in the fresh mountain air.
Hassan notices an inn across the street, called Le Saule Pleureur, or The Weeping Willow, and he is struck by how perfect, orderly, and European it looks. As he looks at it, he could swear that he sees a pale face looking at him from one of the windows.