Different Places, Different People
Alice at the Ashram isn’t the same Alice that teaches telemarketers English in Electric City; or at least Alice tries to keep these two selves separate in order to maintain a sense of balance between work and play, purpose and solidarity. Before considering the idea of finding a job while on sabbatical, Alice find the ashram to be a paragon of spiritual India, a retreat away from the hectic lifestyles in Mumbai and the sudden abandonment she feels when Stella leaves. But something was missing at the Ashram and it began to feel cult-like. What was once a place of complete selfless regard for one another became a place where Swami ruled. Patrons confused safety for freedom. Upon realizing that nothing, even her stay at the Ashram, is free in life, Alice chooses to look for a job with the help of Amitahb, regretfully: “With the job, her life changed. The inner Alice was released, and she was able to be two different people in the two different parts of Bangalore…but really she was the same person using two different side of her personality.” (Theroux, 215) Carrying on two different lives in the same place and keeping those lives completely separate from one another was a way for Alice to feel like her trip to India had principle.
Both situations harmoniously played off one another: “the ashram was a retreat from the ambition and worldliness of Electronics City. Electronic City was a refuge from the selfish spiritualism and escapism of the Ashram.” (229) But, the harmony Alice found in her life in Bangalore ended just as quickly as it was sought out. When Amitahb begins to learn American English, his personality changes for the worst, and of course, Alice blames herself for teaching a means of communication that generates such a change: “Indians were much ruder speaking English. They sounded more impatient. Naturally confrontational, these Indians now had a language to bolster their tendency and no longer had to rely on the subtleties of Hindi.” (223) After the rape incident, Alice experiences a drastic character change similar to Amitahb’s: “she was cold, she was sad, she was someone else now.” (251) Theroux constantly keeps the reader on his toes as he bounces back and forth between the ever-changing characters. By creating new situations, Theroux allows for the characters to become dynamic, and the dynamics keep the reader guessing what the next plot twist will be.