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Meena. Dishonest - Steals from her mothers purse to buy sweets from Mr Ormerod's shop and lies about it. Intellegent - First person to pass 11-plus exam from Tollington in ten years.

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Dishonest - Steals from her mothers purse to buy sweets from Mr Ormerod's shop and lies about it.

Intellegent - First person to pass 11-plus exam from Tollington in ten years.

 Misfit - Neither a Tollington girl nor truly Indian. "I know I was not a bad girl, just a mixed-up girl, a girl with no name or no place" (pg 303).

Mature - She is mature enough to tear Anita's letter "into tiny pieces" (pg 322) and flushes them down the toilet.

Wise - In the end, she leaves a letter for Anita but didn't expect her response. "She never replied, of course" (pg 328). 


  • Meena is presented to us as an untrustworthy, young girl at the start of the novel."I am not lying, honest papa". Even though she is the narrator, it reminds the reader not to believe in everything she says.

  •  Her character is developed throughout the novel as she becomes friends with Anita and finds out what she really wants. When Meena goes to the fair grounds at night to see Anita without telling her parents, we learn that she thinks her friendship with Anita is superficial. Meena wants to break free from the cluthes of her family and culture. She wants to be accepted in the Tollington society. "I might be missed at home but anxious not to miss the opportunity of going around the fair with Anita". 

  • We learn a lot about Meena at the Fete. When the racist outburst from Sam is supported by some of the crowd with their silence, Meena learns about their view. She learns that she is neither a Tollington girl nor Indian. Meena claimed that she "felt as if I had been punched in the stomach". This conveys to which extend Meena is effected by this comment.


  • She also understands Anita's friendship better. Anita finds Sam's comments amussing and says "In't he bosting?".

    •  By the end of the novel, the character of Meena has developed from a child who wantonly steals and lies to a much more mature, young woman who is determined and self-assuring. She rips Anita's leter "into tiny pieces" and flushes them down the toilet. She has realised that their friendship was built around temporary comfort. Anita, who has had an unstable family is trying to find who cares about her. One of the happiest moments in the novel from Anita is when she meets Poet at the fairgrounds and has a "school girl crush" on him. This is when she takes Meena to her secret place and for the first time in the novel, she gives somehting back to their friendship. Meena understands this and leaves a note in Anita's letterbox but "she never replied, of course".



 Meena is an Indian girl. Her family is the only Indian family known in Tollington (until the end). One of the conflicts that Meena faces is mixing up with the Tollington society. As we know that she is neither a Tollington girl nor truly Indian. Her parents are an embarrassment with their Indian ways, such eating home food with fingers in shifts. Meena tries to mix in by being friends with Anita. She is fascinated by Anita because Anita represents Tollington culture and is the antithesis of every thing Meena's parents stand for and believe in.

Another conflict in Meena's life is being friends with Anita. While shes trying to be friends with Anita, Meena ends up rebeling against her parents. She starts lying, stealing and framing others. However she later realises that her friendship with Anita is just a temporary comfort.


Rites of Passage

There are several Meena's that we see throughout the novel. Firstly, there is a 9 year old Meena who lies and steals from her mothers purse who changes to a much more mature young woman who is now capable of ripping Anita's letter "into tiny pieces and flushing them in the toilet. We also see the adult Meena who is looking back and describing what happened throughout those two years. By the end of the novel, Meena moves into new neighbourhood, in a better house, near a girls' grammer school to start a new life without Anita. In a sense, the entire novel is about Meena growing up.


  • Relationship with Anita.

    • It begins when Meena and Anita meet outside Mr. Ormerod's shop. Initially Anita tries to impress Meena by tell her stories about her father. The reader learn that Meena wants acceptance into the society. Meena looks up to Anita and wants to be her friend. "It had been the first time Anita had ever talked to me." p18

    • Their relationship is developed throughout the novel. Firstly, Meena goes to the fair ground without her parents knowing during. This highlights the fact that Meena thinks her friendship with Anita is superficial. However Anita on the other hand does not value their friendship as much. She has much more power in their relationship. "I was happy to follow her a few respactable paces behind, knowing that I was privileged to be in her company." P38


  • When Anita admires Sam's racist remarks, Meena realises that "Anita and I had never meant for each other". This changes their friendship. After this incident, the power in the relationship shifts. "I would no longer be Anita's shadow but her equal".

  •  When Meena falls off Trixie and breaks her leg, Anita doesn't show any emotions. She is almost unmoved by Meena's horrible fall. Furthermore, Anita doesn't visit Meena in the hospital. This conveys that Anita is very selfish and doesn't value their friendship. However this allows Meena to develop a friendship with Robert.

  • At the end of the novel, Meena moves with her family leaving Anita a note but "she never replied". Meena could've taken revenge with Anita as she was still angry about Sam's racism. But she has moved on. Friendships need trust, but in their case it was built on temporary comfort and acceptance which is why it didn't last.


  • Setting

    • The setting of Tollington affects Meena. The atmosphere in Kumars house is very similiar to India (the type of food they cook, the way they eat, the way they invite friends at home and have "mehfils" and wearing Indian clothes). In contrast, Tollington is very different to India. Meena has never been to India but she hears a great deal about if from the adults. Syal uses it as part of the setting for her narrator's thinking.


Syal wants us to learn that if you lack something and you try to get it by not being yourself, you will only get it temporaryly because as soon as you start being yourself again, it'll be gone.

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