Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Swami discovers that the workload and pressure of his new school are much greater than those he experienced at the Mission School. Swami is also obligated to attend mandatory drill practices and scout classes after school, and the punishments for missing a class are harsh. Swami’s days are now full of rigor and work, and he is a more attentive student than he had been previously. After his after-school obligations, he runs home to drop off his supplies and then arrives at the cricket field by evening. Though he tries his best to get there quickly, Swami is often disappointed to find that the practice is concluding by the time he arrives and Rajam is annoyed at him for arriving late.
Swami is unhappy to find that, like the Mission School, the rules at Board School run contrary to what he believes are his best interests, in this case arriving on time for cricket practice. This time, however, the restrictions force Swami to become a better student and help him develop his individual academic skills even as it keeps him away from his team. Again, Narayan points to the kernels of positivity that still exist within oppressive systems.
Themes
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
One day, Swami’s grandmother calls to him during the brief time that he is at home between school and cricket practice. He feels sorry for how often she is ignored and goes to see what she wants. She asks him to go and get her a lemon to soothe her stomach pain and offers to let him keep three paise for himself, but when she gives him a time limit, he gets annoyed and runs out to practice.
This encounter shows Swami’s inner conflict between following his self-interested impulses as he is used to doing or instead supporting someone else whose needs are counter to his own.
Themes
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Later that evening, Swami arrives home feeling guilty for abandoning his grandmother earlier. He goes to see her, worrying that she might die because of his neglect, but she tells him that his mother gave her a lemon and she is feeling better. Swami is joyful and relieved to find her doing well, and in his excitement he tells her about being nicknamed Tate. However, he is dismayed to find that she does not know who Tate is and, furthermore, she does not know what cricket is. He lectures her on the basics of cricket and explains how well Rajam leads his team. Swami’s father enters, carrying Swami’s baby brother, and remarks that soon it will be the baby teaching everyone about the world.
Swami’s genuine concern for his grandmother’s health marks a new facet of their relationship, in which he begins to see himself as her caretaker rather than the other way around. Even when she upsets him by failing to understand his new identity as Tate, he remains patient and loving, for once setting aside his own wishes in favor of caring for her. It is similarly significant that Swami’s father remarks on the baby’s growing role in the family, pointing to the fact that Swami is no longer the center of his family’s attention and will soon have to make way for the growing needs—and intelligence—of his younger brother.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Rajam warns Swami that he cannot keep being late to cricket practice. Swami tells Rajam that the Board School schedule keeps him from arriving on time, so Rajam suggests asking the Board School Headmaster to let him leave early until after their match. Swami tells Rajam that he is afraid of the headmaster, so Rajam announces that he will speak to the headmaster himself at Swami’s school the next day. Swami begs Rajam not to go to the school, but Rajam insists on doing so.
At this point, it becomes clear that rather than simply bringing Rajam and Swami together, the cricket team is beginning to burden their friendship. As their political disagreements did before, the team—symbolically standing in for British oppression—creates an excuse for conflict that Rajam attempts to solve through straightforward dominance.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
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To avoid seeing Rajam at his school, Swami pretends to be sick the next morning. His father thinks that he is well enough to go to school, but his Granny and mother support him and convince his father to let him stay home, even though he does not have a fever. Halfway through the day, Swami becomes anxious and tells his mother that he feels better and wants to go to school, thinking that Mani will already have gone. On the way there, he runs into Rajam and Mani, who tell him that they went to his school but left when they found he wasn’t there. Mani is carrying a club, which makes Swami afraid of what his friends might try to do to the Board School Headmaster.
Again, Swami relies on the support of his family, this time his mother and grandmother, to get what he wants. However, in this case he is not able to fully accept their protection, eventually leaving for school even though he has permission to stay home. While Swami is frightened of both the headmaster and his friends’ behavior, he feels compelled to return to school nonetheless.
Themes
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Rajam leads Swami back to school and tells Mani to wait outside while they speak to the Board School Headmaster. Rajam and Swami enter the headmaster’s office and find him sleeping. They wait for ten minutes and then make noise to wake him up. The headmaster asks what they’re doing there and Rajam explains that Swami, the best bowler on the team, needs to leave school early to get to cricket practice on time. The headmaster listens and then orders them to leave the office without granting Swami permission to leave school early. Mani gets tired of waiting outside and enters the office with his club, but the headmaster is not intimidated. Rajam tells the headmaster that Rajam’s father is the Police Superintendent, but even that fails to convince the headmaster. Rajam leads his friends out of the office in disgust.
It surprises Swami to see his imposing headmaster asleep and powerless, but he soon learns that the man’s authority is nonetheless absolute. Even though he is old and weak, strong young Rajam and Mani are unable to defy him. In this situation, the wizened headmaster seems to stand in for the idea of the oppressing culture which, old and outdated though it may be, nevertheless wields power over the people of India.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Education and Oppression Theme Icon
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