The World We Found Discussion – Friendships and Relationships

Welcome to the readalong and book club discussion of The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar.  Today we are discussing the friendships between the book’s characters, as presented in chapters 1 through 9 (pp. 1-91) of the novel.  If you have insights to share, but they are based on events that occur later in the book, please note that as the beginning of your comment by typing SPOILER so those who haven’t read on will know to skip your comment.

The World We Found centers on four best friends from college – Laleh, Armaiti, Kavita, and Nishta – that have drifed apart over the years.  They have lived their own separate lives, yet in the wake of Armaiti’s illness, they are finding each other once again.

  1. By the end of the book, the reader understands why these friends drifted apart.  But now, at one hundred pages in, what are your thoughts?  Why didn’t they keep in better touch?
  2. Why is it so important to Armaiti to see these women, when she likely has many friends in America?
  3. These women went through a lot together during the protests in India in the late 1970s.  More than once, they refer to each other as comrades.  How does their comradeship differ than friendship?
  4. Kavita admits that she never told Armaiti about her feelings for her.  Why didn’t she express her love for Armaiti?  If Laleh and Nishta are her best friends, why doesn’t she trust them with information about her sexual orientation now?
  5. Adish and Iqbal used to be close, yet their reunion doesn’t have the joy that the women’s does.  Why is Iqbal so annoyed to see Adish?

Please feel free to answer any or all of these questions in your comments, as well as expound on your thoughts about the characters and their friendships.  If you’re new to this readalong and would like more information or to see the rest of the discussion posts, please visit my landing page for The World We Found dicussion.  Please be sure to check back on Tuesday, when we’ll be discussing religion in the first eighteen chapters of the book.

Comments

  1. 1. I thought it was similar to most college friends, our lives take us elsewhere, we move, we marry, we have children etc.
    2. I think that Armaiti looks back on her life and remembering when you may have been at your best your strongest you want to be with those people. In my experience I was a completely different person at 22 vs. 40 something. I was young, full of dreams and visions.
    3 Comradeship is like fighting for a common goal and cause. Friendships can come out of this.
    4. I thought that Kavita did share with Laleh about her feelings for Ingrid? Or maybe I just felt that Laleh knew there was something more between them. I wondered more about the whole cultural differences in India vs the US and being gay. It may also be an age issue. I entered college in 78 and met my first openly gay friends.
    5. I think Iqbal sees Adish as his past, and as what he is against.
    Looking forward to others’ thoughts.

  2. 1. I thought it was similar to most college friends, our lives take us elsewhere, we move, we marry, we have children etc.
    2. I think that Armaiti looks back on her life and remembering when you may have been at your best your strongest you want to be with those people. In my experience I was a completely different person at 22 vs. 40 something. I was young, full of dreams and visions.
    3 Comradeship is like fighting for a common goal and cause. Friendships can come out of this.
    4. I thought that Kavita did share with Laleh about her feelings for Ingrid? Or maybe I just felt that Laleh knew there was something more between them. I wondered more about the whole cultural differences in India vs the US and being gay. It may also be an age issue. I entered college in 78 and met my first openly gay friends.
    5. I think Iqbal sees Adish as his past, and as what he is against.
    Looking forward to others’ thoughts.

  3. #3 – I’ve thought a lot about the differences in comradeship and friendship. I think comradeship is born out of stressful, intense, war-like situations – they form out of a bond forged through conflict and struggle. You can be completely different in personality, class system, religion – but there’s some hard fought for ideology that connects you. Soldiers who fight beside each other might lead entirely different lives outside the battle, but they will always be comrades. And I do see Nishta, Laleh, Armaiti, and Kavita as soldiers.

  4. #3 – I’ve thought a lot about the differences in comradeship and friendship. I think comradeship is born out of stressful, intense, war-like situations – they form out of a bond forged through conflict and struggle. You can be completely different in personality, class system, religion – but there’s some hard fought for ideology that connects you. Soldiers who fight beside each other might lead entirely different lives outside the battle, but they will always be comrades. And I do see Nishta, Laleh, Armaiti, and Kavita as soldiers.

  5. 1) I’m assuming that something happened, at least between Laleh and Armaiti. It’s pretty obvious by now how Nishta lost contact. Kavita has her own reasons for not seeking contact with Armaiti and has remained in contact with Laleh. So yeah, I assume something happened between La & Armaiti.
    2) There is some comfort, I think, although also a unique sort of pressure, in seeing very old friends. Of course, Armaiti is also an immigrant. It seems like most of her friends are American. Some may be Indian-American, though you can’t tell from the names. Immigrants often seek connections to their homelands and it doesn’t seem like Armaiti has much of that right now. (Obviously that was some gross generalization, but I do see some of that longing in Armaiti.)
    3) I don’t know that I can add to what Anita and Brooke said. Comrades are part of a team, fighting for something they believe deeply in. I think it’s the combination of team-hood and belief that makes their connection so strong.
    4) I’m with Anita, I wasn’t sure whether or not Laleh knew about Ingrid. As to why she hasn’t come out about Armaiti, I think it was a combination of the societal stigma of India in the 70s (80s? I already can’t remember :P) and social stigma – that is, what if her friends saw her differently? Not even necessarily for being gay, but for falling in love with one of the group. What if it broke the group up?
    5) As an expansion of Anita’s insight, I think Iqbal also sees Adish as a threat. Like I said on Tuesday (though I think that comment got eaten), Iqbal is very driven by fear. Adish, coming both from the past and from a very different perspective in the present, represents things that Iqbal doesn’t even want to engage with. (I say that as an expert avoider!)

  6. 1) I’m assuming that something happened, at least between Laleh and Armaiti. It’s pretty obvious by now how Nishta lost contact. Kavita has her own reasons for not seeking contact with Armaiti and has remained in contact with Laleh. So yeah, I assume something happened between La & Armaiti.
    2) There is some comfort, I think, although also a unique sort of pressure, in seeing very old friends. Of course, Armaiti is also an immigrant. It seems like most of her friends are American. Some may be Indian-American, though you can’t tell from the names. Immigrants often seek connections to their homelands and it doesn’t seem like Armaiti has much of that right now. (Obviously that was some gross generalization, but I do see some of that longing in Armaiti.)
    3) I don’t know that I can add to what Anita and Brooke said. Comrades are part of a team, fighting for something they believe deeply in. I think it’s the combination of team-hood and belief that makes their connection so strong.
    4) I’m with Anita, I wasn’t sure whether or not Laleh knew about Ingrid. As to why she hasn’t come out about Armaiti, I think it was a combination of the societal stigma of India in the 70s (80s? I already can’t remember :P) and social stigma – that is, what if her friends saw her differently? Not even necessarily for being gay, but for falling in love with one of the group. What if it broke the group up?
    5) As an expansion of Anita’s insight, I think Iqbal also sees Adish as a threat. Like I said on Tuesday (though I think that comment got eaten), Iqbal is very driven by fear. Adish, coming both from the past and from a very different perspective in the present, represents things that Iqbal doesn’t even want to engage with. (I say that as an expert avoider!)

  7. #2: I think it is important for Armaiti to see these particular women because they are the ones that know her the best. Even though its been so long and they have not kept in touch, the events they went through growing up were so profound that they have left an indelible mark on Armaiti. I also think Armaiti has not developed any relationships with girlfriends in America that has the depth and ease as what she had with Kavita, Laleh and Nishta.

  8. #2: I think it is important for Armaiti to see these particular women because they are the ones that know her the best. Even though its been so long and they have not kept in touch, the events they went through growing up were so profound that they have left an indelible mark on Armaiti. I also think Armaiti has not developed any relationships with girlfriends in America that has the depth and ease as what she had with Kavita, Laleh and Nishta.

  9. 1) I think this is inevitable with life. When one has a job, a spouse, children…it becomes much more of an effort to see each other, to even talk on the phone.

    2) I think there is a difference between friends and forever friends. Some friends are integral – they know who you are and they are the ones you turn to in times of crisis, regardless of the time and distance between you.

    3)I think comradeship has more to do with belief. In that moment, they were people who believed in and would fight for the same things. While that feeling still lingers, it is obvious that some of these beliefs have changed with time.

    4)I think it’s a fairly typical reaction when one falls for a friend, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Kavita worries it could ruin the friendship that means so much to her. I think it’s the same reason she doesn’t reveal it to others. While it is important to her, having her friends know her secret is not worth losing the friendship.

    5) I think it is several things. Adish is well-off now, which is an issue of contention, since Iqbal is not. I feel that there is also a bit of fear – fear that someone who used to be a good friend might be able to change Iqbal’s mind.

  10. 1) I think this is inevitable with life. When one has a job, a spouse, children…it becomes much more of an effort to see each other, to even talk on the phone.

    2) I think there is a difference between friends and forever friends. Some friends are integral – they know who you are and they are the ones you turn to in times of crisis, regardless of the time and distance between you.

    3)I think comradeship has more to do with belief. In that moment, they were people who believed in and would fight for the same things. While that feeling still lingers, it is obvious that some of these beliefs have changed with time.

    4)I think it’s a fairly typical reaction when one falls for a friend, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Kavita worries it could ruin the friendship that means so much to her. I think it’s the same reason she doesn’t reveal it to others. While it is important to her, having her friends know her secret is not worth losing the friendship.

    5) I think it is several things. Adish is well-off now, which is an issue of contention, since Iqbal is not. I feel that there is also a bit of fear – fear that someone who used to be a good friend might be able to change Iqbal’s mind.

  11. Anita – I like your comment that Armaiti saw herself as her best when she was surrounded by these people. It makes a lot of sense.

    Brooke – Seeing these four women as soldiers is very interesting, and I completely agree with you.

    Nisha & Anita – I’m not sure about Ingrid/Laleh. I got the impression that Laleh understood what was happening, but Kavita never actually came out and said anything about their relationship (at least, at this point in the book).

    Nisha – I agree with you on Armaiti’s longing. It is a gross generalization, but one I think is safe to make.

    Legalmisfit – You make a great point that Armaiti has not really found that ease of relationship she had with these women in America.

    Lindsey – It’s sad that Kavita worries that coming out to her friends could cause them to back away from her, but you are so right.

  12. Anita – I like your comment that Armaiti saw herself as her best when she was surrounded by these people. It makes a lot of sense.

    Brooke – Seeing these four women as soldiers is very interesting, and I completely agree with you.

    Nisha & Anita – I’m not sure about Ingrid/Laleh. I got the impression that Laleh understood what was happening, but Kavita never actually came out and said anything about their relationship (at least, at this point in the book).

    Nisha – I agree with you on Armaiti’s longing. It is a gross generalization, but one I think is safe to make.

    Legalmisfit – You make a great point that Armaiti has not really found that ease of relationship she had with these women in America.

    Lindsey – It’s sad that Kavita worries that coming out to her friends could cause them to back away from her, but you are so right.

  13. 1. By the end of the book, the reader understands why these friends drifted apart. But now, at one hundred pages in, what are your thoughts? Why didn’t they keep in better touch?

    I assumed it was what happens to many old friends…circumstances, marriage, children, relocations happen and you slowly lose touch.

    2. Why is it so important to Armaiti to see these women, when she likely has many friends in America?

    As the reality of her death came clear, I’m sure she longed to connect with these friends whom she had felt the most vital and passionate with. I imagine she wanted her daughter to meet them too, so she would have that connection with her mother, after Armaiti was gone.

    3. These women went through a lot together during the protests in India in the late 1970s. More than once, they refer to each other as comrades. How does their comradeship differ than friendship?

    I imagine comradeship is something you feel with someone who shares a common social or ideological passion, where friendship is when you like the person because of who they are. I think these four women were both friends and comrades.

    4. Kavita admits that she never told Armaiti about her feelings for her. Why didn’t she express her love for Armaiti? If Laleh and Nishta are her best friends, why doesn’t she trust them with information about her sexual orientation now?

    I imagine she was worried that if Armaiti did not understand or reciprocate her feelings, she could seriously damage or end the friendship. Her fear of disclosing herself to Laleh and Nishta probably was for similar reasons. She was used to “hiding” and it probably just seemed easier than the risk of losing a friendship.

    5. Adish and Iqbal used to be close, yet their reunion doesn’t have the joy that the women’s does. Why is Iqbal so annoyed to see Adish?

    I think Iqbal is angry at the injustice he feels as a Muslim and as a man with less opportunities…perceived or otherwise. I also think he feels the sting and sadness of the loss of time and friendship and the fear that Adish won’t understand and accept him.

  14. 1. By the end of the book, the reader understands why these friends drifted apart. But now, at one hundred pages in, what are your thoughts? Why didn’t they keep in better touch?

    I assumed it was what happens to many old friends…circumstances, marriage, children, relocations happen and you slowly lose touch.

    2. Why is it so important to Armaiti to see these women, when she likely has many friends in America?

    As the reality of her death came clear, I’m sure she longed to connect with these friends whom she had felt the most vital and passionate with. I imagine she wanted her daughter to meet them too, so she would have that connection with her mother, after Armaiti was gone.

    3. These women went through a lot together during the protests in India in the late 1970s. More than once, they refer to each other as comrades. How does their comradeship differ than friendship?

    I imagine comradeship is something you feel with someone who shares a common social or ideological passion, where friendship is when you like the person because of who they are. I think these four women were both friends and comrades.

    4. Kavita admits that she never told Armaiti about her feelings for her. Why didn’t she express her love for Armaiti? If Laleh and Nishta are her best friends, why doesn’t she trust them with information about her sexual orientation now?

    I imagine she was worried that if Armaiti did not understand or reciprocate her feelings, she could seriously damage or end the friendship. Her fear of disclosing herself to Laleh and Nishta probably was for similar reasons. She was used to “hiding” and it probably just seemed easier than the risk of losing a friendship.

    5. Adish and Iqbal used to be close, yet their reunion doesn’t have the joy that the women’s does. Why is Iqbal so annoyed to see Adish?

    I think Iqbal is angry at the injustice he feels as a Muslim and as a man with less opportunities…perceived or otherwise. I also think he feels the sting and sadness of the loss of time and friendship and the fear that Adish won’t understand and accept him.

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