One thing is clear: Ralph is not the upright Private Secretary as he first appears to be.
Having captured the imagination of 2.9 million viewers in its first episode, Indian Summers continues to cure our winter blues.
The second episode opens with a rickshaw travelling through the tropical woods of Shimla, bringing with it an expected guest – Naseem Ali Khan.
A reporter from the Delhi Herald, Naseem is on a mission to expose the truth behind the assassination attempt made on Ralph’s life.
Before Naseem can begin his investigation, the Raj has taken control of the incident. Alarmed by the plot to take his life, Ralph takes a strong stance against the independence movement.
He imposes a strict curfew and declares in his message to the Viceroy: “No more compromise. Meet fire with fire, until Mr. Gandhi and the rest of Congress are subdued.”
Immediately, a solemn tone is set. The supposedly carefree and joyous summer is now tainted by suspicion and tension.
Cynthia’s rhetoric remark to Kaiser, that she does not feel safe even with the heightened security and strict measures to curb opposition, underlies the impending chaos.
What follows are strained exchanges between the British and Indians. Having taken the bullet for Ralph by accident, Aafrin’s traumatic injury is dismissed as a trivial matter – ‘bumping into the bullet’.
His British doctor also makes no apology for calling the sacred thread of Aafrin’s undershirt ‘filthy’ in front of his family.
The British’s cultural ignorance is most obvious when Naseem has to clarify the cap worn by the assassin – to shield from the heat – has been misunderstood for a sign of rebellion.
The Dalal family is at the heart of the unfortunate incident. While Aafrin lies in pain, wrapped in bloodied bandages at the hospital, his mother and sisters try to protect his father by hiding the truth from him.
However, Alice’s sudden visit to their home shatters their secret to pieces. Darius, Aafrin’s father, is heartbroken upon realising his son has been shot.
Alice feels a rush of guilt and dashes out of the Dalal’s humble home, only to see her brother Ralph lying in a rickshaw with blood dripping down his face.
In an earlier scene, Ralph has been beaten with bare hands by the assassin while Ralph questions him in the jail cell. But their very brief interaction is laden with signs that they know each other well.
The way they stare at each other fills the jail cell with agenda and secrecy. Ralph does not even flinch as the assassin reaches out to stroke his face, which eventually results in a few bloody punches.
The mystery around the assassin’s motive deepens further as he takes his own life before Naseem has a chance to speak with him. The only thing we know about him is his name, Chandru Mohan. And the only words we have heard from him are ‘a matter of honour’.
How does Ralph know him? Do they have shared interest or perhaps a common enemy? Though the answers to these questions are yet to be revealed, one thing is clear: Ralph is not the upright Private Secretary as he first appears to be.
The mystery of Ralph continues to unfold as Alice’s relationship with him takes a sudden downturn. Instead of showing admiration for him as we saw in the first episode, Alice challenges his bid to control everything.
She is not pleased with Ralph’s extravagant surprise gift for her, a grand piano. At his suggestion that she should take piano lessons, Alice makes a vengeful remark that she knows more than he thinks.
The sibling rivalry is interrupted when Sarah and Dougie arrive at their home. One bitter remark after another, Sarah makes no secret that she is highly discontent with her marriage.
Though we know from the first episode that Dougie’s heart is elsewhere, his numbness towards Sarah is laid bare in front of us when he is completely unmoved by her heartfelt confession.
There is nothing left for her to do in Shimla, except to develop an unhealthy obsession with Alice. Instead of trying to rebuild her bond with Dougie, she begins to pay pedantic attention to Alice’s every word and every move.
But Sarah is not the only one entertaining themselves with personal affairs, while the world of Shimla starts to tumble down a spiral of political chaos.
Madeleine, dressed in a silky night gown, finds herself in an empty bed the morning after spending the night with Ralph. Just as she sinks into disappointment, Cynthia comes to the rescue and brings the lovebirds back together.
The social queen of Shimla also has a part to play in forging a document that incriminates Chandru and convinces Naseem to drop his investigation.
But hard proof alone is not enough. In order to make sure no one looks the other way, Ralph poses with Aafrin in the hospital for a few photos to convince the country that he is grateful to Aafrin for saving his life.
Still in shock and bandages, Aafrin puts on an awkward smile and goes along with the publicity stunt by saying he took the bullet for Ralph because it is his rightful duty as a civil servant.
There will be a few more wintry showers before summer arrives. For now, we can count on the secrets, passion and rebellion of Indian Summers to turn up the heat on Sunday nights.
You can watch the third episode of Indian Summers on Sunday March 1st, 2015 at 9pm on Channel 4.