In the modern day, Mama wakes Uma to tell her that thieves are stealing guavas from their trees. Mama remarks that while everyone else sleeps, only she guards the house from danger. Back in time, marriage proposals flood in for Aruna, but Uma’s unmarried state keeps MamaPapa from pursuing them. Aware of her own appeal, Aruna begins to act with greater confidence and undertoned sexuality, to MamaPapa’s alarm and pride. Aruna starts to withdraw her sympathies for Uma and replace them with a feeling of superiority. Everyone in the house starts to withdraw from Uma, treating her like an outcast. Uma notices, and wonders if the family unit really can promise to love and protect its members. She thinks of the abuse and isolation that her cousin Anamika suffers, in the marriage that her own parents had arranged, as an example of the failure of family to do what it claims.
Mama sees herself as the only one wary of thieves in the garden - a metaphor for Mama and Papa’s confidence that they know best how to protect their children from trouble. Yet, in reality, they cannot protect Uma from false marriage proposals or from her isolation when she fails to meet their expectations of marriage. Uma begins to realize the hypocrisy of the family institution—particularly in the misplaced focus that parents have on securing the best marriages. MamaPapa and Anamika’s parents are so concerned with marrying their daughters off, but in the process, their daughters become endangered or, in Uma’s case, outcasted.
MamaPapa make a last effort at marrying Uma off. The old man from the newspaper ad accepts the offer, but when he arrives for the wedding, Uma is horrified to find that the man is old, fat, and shows no interest in her. During the ceremony, the groom indifferently asks the priest to cut the ceremony short. Once at her new home, the husband leaves immediately, telling Uma that he has to work in Meerut. The women don’t speak to Uma, but bark directions to her about cooking and chores. One day, Papa arrives, raging at the family, telling Uma that the husband has another wife and family in Meerut, and needed the dowry to save his business. Upon returning home, Aruna asks Uma if her husband touched her, and Uma says no, but privately wonders about the experiences she could’ve had. MamaPapa give up on marrying Uma, and Uma feels like she has lost all her value to her parents and family.
Rather than treating her like a beloved child, MamaPapa deal with Uma as if she were a burden they are eager to hand off, indiscriminately. Yet, their desperate efforts to secure a marriage for Uma can be understood as a misplaced expression of love. MamaPapa are so sure that marriage signifies honor, status, and security, and that those are the only keys to happiness. In a society where women measure their worth by their husband’s success and their mothering success, Uma becomes invisible. She is lonely, not because she pines for a husband, but because her community isolates her by failing to make a place for her in their world.