Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Indian Summers - Season 1, Episode 2 - Recap

If Alice was expecting a relaxing summer visiting her highly-placed-in-the-British-hierarchy brother, she had a rude awakening within hours of arriving in Simla.   First, a scheming brother and sister seem to have moved into her brother Ralph’s house, and then there is an attempted assassination on Ralph while she is inches away. Not much happens to advance the plot in Episode 2. Although Ralph had seemed very hot and heavy with his American guest, Madeleine’s brother Eugene tells Cynthia (aka Mrs. Weasley) that Ralph is losing interest. Madeleine is very pretty and allegedly rich: why did she have to come to India to look for a husband? What is her secret? Does she really like Ralph?
Aafrin, pre-assassination attempt
Ralph, who is private secretary to the Viceroy, and the other British civil servants don’t seem to do much at work except talk about discouraging Gandhi and other attempts at nationalism. Back at the house, ladies of leisure Alice and Madeleine are thinking about going to a gymkhana (which makes me think of the Pullein-Thompson sisters) when Suspicious (and doubtless friendless) Sarah drops by, hoping to ingratiate herself with her betters. She continues to ask nosy questions about Alice’s husband – Alice mendaciously told her the man is dead but we know he is alive back in England. Whatever he did (is it worse than just cheating on her?) was sufficiently painful that whenever he is mentioned, Alice has to rush outside for fresh air.

Aafrin is still in the hospital, and his female relatives are concerned that his recovery is slow. Ralph is more concerned about negative publicity when an Indian newspaper reporter from the Delhi Herald comes asking questions. He doesn’t even want to pay Aafrin’s hospital bill! The assumption is that the attempted assassination was politically motivated but the would-be assassin won’t speak. “But he’s wearing a Gandhi hat!” says one of the Brits triumphantly, i.e., it must be political. Mr. Khan, the polite Indian reporter, points out it is merely a hat everyone wears to keep off the sun! However, the Indian servant listening to this conversation finds an identity card hidden in the lining of the hat that I think shows the man is a nationalist.

Ralph visits the assassin and says they’re in a bit of a hole. Well, it was pretty obvious they had some relationship! Startlingly, the man first strokes Ralph’s face (this surprised me because I couldn’t believe they were secret lovers) and then begins beating him viciously. The man does some damage before someone pulls him off; then Ralph visits Cynthia to be cleaned up and cuddled, in a semi-motherly way. This seems odd although we know both Alice and Ralph lost their mother early, and he has known Cynthia for years. Ralph seems to cherish sentimental memories of his childhood that aren’t identical to Alice’s recollections; for example, he bought Alice a piano because he remembers her accompanying her singing as a child but Alice says she doesn’t play. Ralph also seems to cherish a drawing (done by him?) of Alice as a child. If he is so obsessed with her, why didn’t he ever go back to England to visit her? He doesn’t seem to be hurting for money but perhaps was too busy pursuing a career. Alice says she didn’t come to India just to practice the piano but she doesn’t explain why she did come. I think it is obvious that she was escaping from the husband and visiting Ralph was expedient. No sign of the baby in this episode but that’s why you have an ayah.

Mr. Khan says if there wasn’t a political motive for what everyone politely calls “the incident,” there must be another reason. He does some digging and finds out that Ralph was an Assistant Magistrate at some point in the past; he wonders if there is a connection. When Khan goes to visit the man in prison; he is too late, the man has killed himself. Mr. Khan won’t stop pursuing the matter, so Ralph distracts him by bringing him to visit Aafrin. Ralph tells the reporter that Aafrin saved the life of this “very grateful Englishman.” Ralph even charmingly poses for a picture with Aafrin, more proof he is hiding something, as he does not like Aafrin and does not seem grateful.

Last week I ignored a character named Ian, a young man who was on the train with Alice and Sarah, coming to live in India with his uncle. He is beginning to find out that the uncle is in debt and very disreputable, but he continues to be forgettable (except that I think he had a flingt with Sarah on the way home from the Club in Episode 1).

Alice covers her bright hair to venture discreetly to visit Aafrin’s family to inquire about his recovery. It turns out his family kept the news of his injury from the father who has a weak heart (and did he say they are living in a cow byre or did I misunderstand?), so everyone is annoyed with Alice for coming, plus they hate that she saw their humble home.  Aafrin’s elder sister Sooni meets up with his Hindu girlfriend, who tries to give her a letter for Aafrin. Sooni opens and reads the letter and seems unlikely to pass it on.

Adam, the child who nearly was killed on the train tracks, runs away from the orphanage, and lovely Leena, the assistant teacher, wanders around until she finds him. She sent for Dougie, the missionary/orphanage director, to help her search, but jealously Sarah insisted he stay with her.

Ralph and some other guy competed at the gymkhana, which looks quite jolly, especially when everyone heads off for drinks, but then they leave Sarah behind, and you know what a woman scorned is likely to do…

Madeleine accosts Ralph while he is taking a bath (American hussy). She wants to talk about their relationship. As my Latin teacher used to say, “Nihil novi sub sole – there is nothing new under the sun.” Like all men, he has no interest in the Serious Talk but it’s boring taking a bath by oneself, so he beckons her to join him in the bathtub and she does not realize she should play hard to get.

Sarah, still smarting about being ignored at the gymkhana, writes to a friend in England to do some sleuthing about what Alice is hiding. Wouldn’t you think the mail back and forth to India would be unreliable? Yet I am sure Sarah’s correspondent will write back by return of post with all the dirt about Alice’s husband, which we are eager to hear!

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