Uma is writing to Arun on behalf of MamaPapa, and Papa criticizes Uma for her slow writing and her inability to keep up with grammatical directions. The letter tells Arun that the sister of Mrs. O’Henry, Mrs. Patton, is inviting Arun to stay in her home in Massachusetts for the summer, since he won’t have campus housing. Uma reminds her parents of how kind the O’Henry family turned out to be after all, but MamaPapa ignore her. Uma tells Papa she must be done writing because her eyes hurt, and Papa reproaches her for her weakness. She angrily reminds him that she has told him many times that her eyes hurt, and her mother supports her and says maybe Uma should see a specialist. Uma reminds Papa that he himself went to a doctor for glasses. Papa scoffs and exits the conversation, turning a deaf ear to any further pleas.
Papa fails to take responsibility for his role in creating the problems Uma experiences as an adult. The needs which Uma’s parents have denied her—the opportunity to basic education and to receive medical care for her eyes—have led to the struggles in reading and writing, for which Papa criticizes Uma for. His belief in his own rightness and his refusal to admit his own mistakes betrays the arrogance of his gender and social status. As the man of the house, he sees himself as godlike, infallible. Even when faced with the consequences of his neglect, he shuts down, fearful that he might be proven wrong.
Still in the modern day, a phone call comes from Mother Agnes at the convent, inviting Uma to come to the Christmas bazaar to help Mrs. Henry run her Christmas booth. Against the complaints of MamaPapa, Uma goes, and she describes the entire event as heaven. The paper crafts, the treats, the company, and the many people, pique Uma’s curiosity and make Uma feel alive and involved. At the end, Uma finds a book of poetry for sale, and brings it home as a souvenir to remember the event.
Uma deeply yearns to have things that are her own, to be involved in activities of her choosing, to seek new friends and experiences. While the Christmas bazaar may be nothing more than a yearly community holiday event, the event is magical to her because it provides her an opportunity to meet her needs to be social, creative, and independent.
The novel tells the story of Mama’s friend and neighbor, Mrs. Joshi—one of few people who Mama allows Uma to visit. Mrs. Joshi arrived to the neighborhood as a bride years before. Unlike most arranged marriages, Mr. and Mrs. Joshi were actually in love, and this sparked hatred from his mother, who punished the young bride. Mrs. Joshi often came running to Mama, and the two would end up laughing together. After the mother-in-law died, Mrs. Joshi took over her household, making it a cheerful place. Her children played freely and tried new things, and they all grew up successful in their marriages and careers. Uma remembers how one of Mrs. Joshi’s daughters is pursuing a career of her own, and the thought makes her feel inspired and sad. She would like some kind of a career, but she can only dream vaguely of a life of wandering, unsupervised.
With many of the wives and mothers in the novel living lives of either joyless submission to their husbands and families or of becoming mean themselves, Mrs. Joshi stands out as a woman who finds freedom in her marriage and family, and who passes her joy onto her household. She has known tyranny, and she is determined not to be tyrannical herself. Because she is in a marriage of love, rather than business, she is free to feel and express love and keep her spirit. By allowing her children, even her daughters, to choose their own paths, she asserts her own personality even within the structure of a traditional female role.