There must be multiple published versions of Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy”. That must be the explanation.
I can understand that when we go back to the same book after many years, we may see it differently. There may be meanings we hadn’t understood earlier, or maybe an entirely new sub-text. But can the characters of the story change drastically?
I read the book the first time around many years ago, and I don’t remember what I thought of each character. But I do remember thinking that Kabir was the hero. I can now see why I thought that. Vikram Seth makes sure you think this – he takes pains to tell you that Kabir is tall, dark and handsome. Just in case you don’t make the connection from such descriptions as “6 feet tall” and “aquiline features”, he makes sure to have at least one character tell you that he is, in fact, “tall, dark and handsome”. Oh, and he even has wavy hair. Seth doesn’t actually have some character tell you “this is the hero”, but that must surely be an oversight. Lata, the heroine, agonizes that she cannot marry him. He is unsuitable to her family, but not to her.
Now I read the book again many years later and what do I think? Kabir comes across as a somewhat self- centered and insensitive guy. He is controlling and possessive, and a little thoughtless. I am not very sure I like him, despite the aquiline features and did I mention, wavy hair ? I wonder what Lata sees in him. (Although, I must add that I love the way Seth has sketched his character).
Surely I couldn’t have liked this Kabir all those years ago. Now, I am sure my views have not changed, so I have come to the conclusion that Kabir has changed. How can this be? Maybe there are multiple copies of Vikram Seth novels, with different characters and possibly even different endings. Or maybe the solution involves multiple universes. Nah, I’ll stick to the multiple copies. I am sure there is no better explanation.
Has this happened to any of you? Have you found a book or a character to change so dramatically?