Selvam and Irawaddy have always been extremely close, always sharing the same opinions even when they oppose their parents. Irawaddy is especially grateful for Selvam’s ease with her son. He accepts Sacrabani’s albinism and rarely discusses it, even though the boy is usually ostracized by his peers and can’t stay outside for very long.
While Rukmani worries about Sacrabani’s lack of a father, he does enjoy the same strong family structure as her own children. In many ways, Selvam reproduces Nathan’s patience and gentleness in his treatment of his nephew.
One day, Sacrabani asks Irawaddy what a bastard is; apparently, another child has levied this insult at him. Irawaddy explains that a bastard is a child whose mother did not want him to be born. When Sacrabani asks if she wanted him to be born, she assures him that she did, although in fact she tried to induce an abortion more than once. Later, he asks Irawaddy if he has a father, and Irawaddy fibs that his father is away and will come to see him when he’s older. Irawaddy is upset by these questions, and Rukmani hears her crying privately.
Social stigma has never been an issue for the family, because they’ve fulfilled most conventional social expectations. Now it’s really sinking in that the community isn’t unconditionally supportive as the family is. The novel simultaneously points out the strict social mores that dominate rural Indian society, and the capacity of strong bonds within families to counteract social stigma.