Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Six weeks pass, after which Rajam comes to Swami’s house to tell him that he forgives him for everything, from his political activities to his new status as a student at the Board School. The reader learns that Swami refused to return to the Mission School and that his father sent him instead to the Board School. Swami quickly found himself happily the center of attention at his new school, though he does not yet have close friends there. Back at the Mission School, Somu was left behind after failing an exam, Sankar moved away after his father was transferred, and the Pea began school months late due to mysterious causes. Swami still sees Mani every day but had not seen Rajam since leaving the Mission School.
Rajam’s casual acknowledgement of the way that political differences separate him and Swami underscores the theme that the pressure of English colonization appears everywhere, even in close boyhood friendships. The sudden disappearance of Sankar and Somu also shows how easily a person can go from close friend to distant memory, again challenging Swami to accept the changing identities of those around him.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Rajam finds Swami trying to build a camera, and Swami explains that a boy in his new class had done so. Rajam criticizes Swami for thinking that his new school is superior and Swami, wanting to win Rajam over, agrees that he does not like the Board School but says that he had no choice in leaving the Mission School. Rajam tells Swami that he should have stayed away from politics in the first place, and Swami agrees. Rajam is convinced by Swami’s consent and tells him that they should go back to being good friends.
Just as Swami’s friends earlier accused Swami of thinking he was too good for them by hanging out with Rajam, so too does Rajam accuse Swami of thinking he is superior. That even the powerful Rajam would make this accusation shows the depth to which external ideas of power structures are embedded in the boys’ lives. Swami’s desire to please Rajam wins out over his political convictions, again showing the confusion that Swami feels as he attempts to take charge of his own priorities.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
Rajam suggests forming a cricket team, and although Swami initially feels that he’s not good enough to play, Rajam convinces him to try. Rajam says that the team will be called the M.C.C. but Swami worries that they could get into legal trouble, since there is already a professional cricket team using that name. Swami suggests some other names for the team and they make a list of all the possibilities, choosing Victory Union Eleven as an additional name. Swami brings up the idea that they might need to pay a tax to the government, concerned that their name will not be reserved unless they do so. Considering all of the Swami’s points, Rajam reflects that starting a cricket team is “the most complicated problem on earth” and feels sympathetic toward Gandhi’s opposition to the government.
Rajam and Swami’s plan to form a cricket team introduces the novel’s most important symbol, the English game of cricket. The boys do not discuss the fact that cricket comes from the country of their colonizers; rather, they simply embrace it as a way to enjoy themselves and legitimize their pursuits outside of their families. However, with his concerns about government regulations, Swami intuits that even in this harmless pastime, the effect of political structures will still be present. By somewhat ironically equating the cricket team with Gandhi’s fight for Indian independence, Narayan shows the inextricability of the political from personal life.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Swami and Rajam go to Mani’s house to choose cricket equipment from a sporting goods catalogue. Mani insists that a certain kind of bat, the Junior Willard Bat, is the best kind and that their team must order them. The three friends choose the goods they need from the catalogue, arguing good-naturedly about how many bats they need, and then settle down to write a letter ordering the supplies. Swami at first agrees to write the letter but becomes overwhelmed by the task, at which point Rajam takes over, writing a letter from both M.C.C. and Victory Union Eleven. They complete the letter and agree to mail it.
The act of choosing equipment and writing to the company serves as an important act of self-determination for the boys. They are excited to have chance to choose their own name and do not feel concern about the team’s ties to British culture. This lack of worry illustrates the paradoxical point that colonized people like Swami and his friends can and sometimes must adapt to the culture of the colonizer and even embrace aspects of it in order to lead normal, enjoyable lives.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
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The postman arrives with a card for Rajam, which turns out to be from Sankar, who says that he is also playing cricket now. The three friends are excited to hear from Sankar and immediately write letters in return, only to realize that they do not have an address to mail them to.
Here Swami and his friends demonstrate both deep affection for their friend Sankar and, ultimately, a lack of concern for him when they give up on writing back. With this, Sankar’s identity in their lives slips fully from friend to memory, never to be mentioned again. This moment shows how the actions of others can define a person’s identity, even when those actions are careless or out of line with the actor’s true feelings.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Soon thereafter, Rajam receives a reply from the sporting goods company addressed to the captain of the M.C.C. The friends are delighted to have their team recognized by the company and the postal service. The letter from the company asks for a 25% payment, which confuses them and leaves them unsure how to respond. Eventually, they conclude that the letter was sent to them by mistake, even though Swami points out that it is addressed to the captain of their team. They write back to the company returning the letter and asking that their cricket supplies be sent quickly.
While the friends are excited that an adult organization like the sporting goods company has recognized their team as legitimate, they are not able to respond to the company’s request, showing how far they are from becoming truly autonomous. Their irrational belief that the letter was a mistake also shows the persistence of childish magical thinking in their lives.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Swami, Rajam, and Mani continue to believe that the cricket supplies will arrive soon, and that perhaps the company is even making them especially for their team. In the meantime, they make bats from a wooden box and get used tennis balls from Rajam’s father’s club and begin practicing without their complete supplies. The Pea joins their team, along with a few boys that Rajam chooses from his class.
Swami and his friends remain intent on playing even without ideal equipment, perhaps symbolizing the way that the citizens of India must make do with lesser versions of the cultural artifacts brought to them by the English. The boys also end up needing help from Rajam’s father, demonstrating another way that their families of origin are still crucial to their pursuits.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The team assembles for its first practice. The Pea arrives late without the stumps he promised to bring, but says that he will bring them to the next practice. Rajam and the others are at first upset not to have the supplies they need to play a full game of cricket, but they manage to continue when someone suggests using the wall as a temporary wicket. As practice starts, Swami bowls very well and is immediately given the nickname Tate, after a famous bowler.
Swami’s sudden transformation, after a very short time playing, into the cricket star Tate indicates that not only is identity fluid, but it can also change based on scant evidence or even happenstance. Over the course of the rest of the novel, Swami is a continual disappointment to his cricket team, so it is noteworthy that he keeps the nickname Tate nonetheless.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon