The M.C.C. has scheduled a cricket match against a team called Young Men’s Union. The match is friendly in name, but in fact the M.C.C. sends a complicated list of demands and threats along with their invitation, including asking the other team to bring their own supplies and telling them that they will have to pay for anything damaged in the course of the match. The match is scheduled for a Sunday two weeks in the future.
The M.C.C.’s irrational insistence on threatening their opponents shows the senseless conflict inherent in their game, and the extent to which their desire to win may stem from a wish for dominance rather than excellence.
As the team’s captain, Rajam throws himself into ensuring that his team beats the Y.M.U. Rajam believes that they are capable of doing so but he is very worried about Swami, who continues to arrive late to practice. With only a week to go until the cricket match, Swami realizes that he has to find a way to get extra practice and goes to tell his after-school drill master that he is not feeling well. The master asks what is wrong and Swami tells him that he is delirious and has been unable to sleep. Though he angrily accuses him of lying, the drill master lets Swami leave early and Rajam is very pleased to see Swami at practice on time.
While Swami wants to please Rajam, he is not willing to outwardly defy his school rules and so seeks permission from the very institution that oppresses him. Even though he is ridiculed and granted only a small reprieve, Swami is happy for even this reward, again showing the psychological necessity of gaining small victories within oppressive systems.
The next morning, Swami sneaks out of his house and goes to visit a physician named Dr. Kesavan before school. He explains that he needs to get a certificate that will allow him to leave school early to practice for the cricket match. The doctor appears concerned, but laughs at Swami when Swami says that he has delirium and that it is “some kind of stomachache.” The doctor examines Swami and says that because he is well, he cannot get a certificate. However, the doctor offers to talk to the Board School Headmaster for him and ask that Swami be allowed to leave school in time for practice.
By sneaking out to see the doctor without his parents’ knowledge, Swami takes another step toward trying to solve his own problems independent of his family. However, Swami’s belief that Dr. Kesavan can convince the headmaster to let him leave early shows that Swami still ascribes significant power to the group of older male authority figures that surround him.
Swami leaves school early and attends practice on time for the next several days, making Rajam and the rest of the team very happy. On Friday, however the Board School Headmaster comes to Swami’s class and confronts him in front of the class about missing drill practice all week. Swami protests that Dr. Kesavan had said he would “die if [he] attended drill” and that the doctor should have talked to the headmaster. The headmaster dismisses Swami’s defense and Swami realizes that the doctor betrayed him. The headmaster prepares to cane Swami, but without thinking Swami grabs the cane, throws it out the window, and runs away from school.
Swami’s punishment at the hands of the Board School Headmaster mirrors the earlier scene of humiliation at the hands of the Mission School Headmaster, which indicates that, to some extent, all schools are the same in their harsh oppression of students like Swami. This time, Swami rebels even more forcefully, physically robbing the headmaster of his strength by taking his cane. With this action, Swami moves still farther on his journey to self-actualization, haphazard though it may be.
Swami sits under a tree to think through his situation. He realizes that there are no more schools in Malgudi, and that his behavior might mean that even schools in other cities wouldn’t accept him. He thinks that he might have to get a job, and although he would enjoy having money, he knows that his father won’t let him live at home without going to school. Swami decides that he cannot face his father, and chooses to leave the city on his own.
In this moment, Swami’s father is not only powerless to help Swami, but he transforms into something of threat to Swami’s well-being. Facing this new reality, Swami chooses uncertainty rather than this new version of his formerly protective father.
Swami continues onward to his old school, the Mission School. He feels full of nostalgia and misses everything about it, from his friends to his teachers to the Mission School Headmaster, whom he now finds dignified. He feels as if he is an outcast and has no choice but to leave Malgudi. He wishes to talk to Rajam and Mani before going, so Swami goes behind the school and waits for a young boy to come outside to blow his nose. He calls the boy over and offers him an almond peppermint in exchange for going and getting Rajam from his class. The boy agrees and returns with Rajam. Swami gives the boy a three-paise coin rather than the promised peppermint, which disappoints the boy, but he goes back to his class nonetheless.
Swami’s sudden fond feelings toward the Mission School indicate that, as much as it caused him pain while he was there, the school acts as a kind of home in Swami’s life. This change in Swami’s feelings offers a new perspective on the school as site of colonialism; just as Swami ends up feeling comfortable in the familiarity of a place that oppressed him, so too must the Indian people learn to call their colonized nation home.
Swami then explains his situation to Rajam, who criticizes him for always getting in trouble. Rajam tells Swami that he has seen their cricket opponents practicing and that Swami must not miss the match. On the spot, Swami decides not to tell Rajam that he is running away but instead plans to leave for two days without telling anyone and return for the match. Then, he will leave Malgudi for good after the match. Rajam goes back to class, reminding Swami to come early to practice.
Rajam’s critical reaction to Swami’s behavior subtly highlights the political differences between the two: Rajam essentially supports following the rules, while Swami repeatedly finds himself acting out against his schools. But as before, the lure of succeeding at cricket and pleasing his friend outweighs Swami’s immediate desire to rebel, and he changes his plans to fit the social structure that brings meaning to his life.