In the months just before Arun’s first summer in America, he realizes he needs to search for summer housing. Having turned down the offer from his Indian classmates to join them in renting a house, he begins fruitlessly searching ads for a room to rent for the summer. Just as he begins to get desperate, he receives Papa’s letter in Uma’s handwriting, informing him that Mrs. Patton has offered her home to him for the summer. Disgruntled at his family’s continual interference in his life, he arranges to come. On his first night at their house in the suburban countryside, he is given a nice room to himself, yet he is nevertheless upset at finding himself once again in a family unit. He asks Mrs. Patton if there are wild animals in the trees outside, and she jokes that the only wild animals around are the neighbor’s children.
As Arun has always been accustomed to having his need for food and shelter met by either his family or now the university, he hasn’t developed the survival skills to make his own living arrangements. While Arun desperately desires to be independent, even in America, he must depend on family—both his own and someone else’s—to help him meet his needs. Arun must accept the company of others for his own survival. He fears that even though he will have privacy, that more will be asked of him. For in his own family, his parents always wanted his obedience in return.