Karim is a second-generation Bengali immigrant, and he speaks English better than Bengali. He is also quite open about sharing details of his life with Nazneen, and quickly reveals his fiery temperament. Karim angrily mentions a group known as the Lion Hearts, who are spreading anti-immigrant propaganda around the neighborhood. Nazneen, however, is frequently distracted by her growing physical attraction to him.
Meanwhile, Chanu's new job means he is out of the flat more often. This creates a more relaxed dynamic between Nazneen and her daughters, but also makes Shahana even less inclined to listen to him. She makes it clear that she hates the idea of moving to Bangladesh.
More letters arrive from Hasina, revealing the new direction her life has taken in Dhaka. After being taken into a shelter for former sex workers, she is hired by a wealthy woman named Lovely. Lovely and James have two children, Jimmy and Daisy. They are very wealthy due to James's work manufacturing plastic bags, and also employ a man named Zaid who handles the cooking and the gardening. Hasina is happy with the way she is treated, even though Lovely is clearly somewhat spoiled and selfish. Hasina also grows to love the children she cares for, even though their presence reminds her that she will never have a family of her own.
Karim continues to talk with Nazneen when he picks up and drops off clothes, and one day he asks her to attend a political meeting. She ends up going to the meeting, which is gathering for Muslim individuals, even though nearly everyone who attends is Bengali. The group votes to be named the Bengal Tigers. There is some discussion of social advocacy and community work, but also a clear element of anger against the British anti-immigration groups which have spreading racist messages.
Karim is elected chairman of the Bengal Tigers, narrowly defeating another man whom Nazneen nicknames "the Questioner." The Questioner seems to push a much more aggressive agenda, and he and Karim clearly disagree on the purpose of the group. After attending the meeting, Nazneen learns more and more from Karim about how Muslim people are suffering all around the world.
Over the years, Dr. Azad and Chanu have maintained an awkward friendship. Dr. Azad is increasingly worried about the spread of drug use among young people in the Bengali community, but Chanu is preoccupied solely with his plan to return to Bangladesh and realize all of his dreams there. When racist pamphlets arrive at their flat, Chanu is disturbed, and increasingly convinced that the family needs to leave London as soon as possible. Leaflets indicate rising tensions, and the possibility of marches, protests, and counter-protests. Karim and Nazneen talk more and more often, with him sharing his frustrations about what he is trying to achieve. She finds herself more and more drawn to him.
One day, Nazneen attends a Bengal Tigers meeting. Karim and the Questioner get into a dispute about tactics and strategy. As tensions begin to rise, Karim takes control of the meetings, achieves compromises, and restores a sense of order. After the meeting ends, Karim and Nazneen return to her flat and make love for the first time.
Nazneen's work parallels Hasina's, since both women are involved in the garment industry. Interestingly, Hasina's work took place in the more public setting of the factory, which was controversial because it involved men and women working alongside one another. Nazneen's work seems to take place in the private and protected domestic setting of her own home, and yet it is Nazneen's job that actually introduces an element of sexual temptation into her life. While Hasina is falsely accused of having an affair with a man she works with, Nazneen is the one who actually does. The sister who has always been perceived as more dutiful, and less visibly sexualized, ends up being the one who actually pursues an illicit relationship.
Nazneen's attraction to Karim represents everything she has always tried to repress coming to the surface. She has tried to reconcile herself to a life of passive obedience, particularly after her attempt at asserting her will failed disastrously during Raqib's illness. However, Nazneen cannot stop thinking about Karim, and cannot deny the force of her physical desire for him. The connection is an intellectual as well as a sexual one: Karim opens Nazneen's eyes to politics, ideology, and controversy in an entirely new way. Interestingly, Chanu's attempts to share ideas and philosophies with his wife has never interested her. Chanu seems to live in the past, but Karim is fiery, immediate, and interested in making the world a better place. At the same time, he finds Nazneen's calm and soothing presence intriguing.
Nazneen's increased awareness of the world around her, and newfound political awareness mirrors the increasing impact of political events on the plot of the novel. For much of Nazneen and Chanu's life in London, their world seems tightly defined and secure, even if it is limited. It is now apparent that as South Asian immigrants and practicing Muslims, they are also implicated in wider political events. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in England, and racial tensions lead to propaganda, community meetings, and protests.
These tensions are interesting seen in the light of immigrants like Chanu, who reveres English culture and history, or Razia, who proudly displays her patriotism by wearing a Union Jack sweater. These first-generation immigrants seem to be eager to integrate, whereas second-generation immigrants like Karim are frustrated by the lack of opportunities and the way in which their racial identities define their futures.
These tensions about how to best create a stable future for immigrant communities is reflected in disagreements between Karim and the Questioner, or Chanu and Dr. Azad. Karim wants to take a local and politically balanced approach, whereas the Questioner is concerned with the global Muslim community and looks for more radical action. Dr. Azad worries about social problems among second-generation immigrant youth, but Chanu focuses on a lack of intellectual appreciation. These internal disagreements lead to conflict and a lack of action: the community lacks clear leadership, and a plan for how to cope with growing problems.