Swami’s father walks through town, ashamed of himself as he moves toward the Sarayu river. He is planning to look for Swami’s body in the water and feels ridiculous doing so, but he also feels unable to return home without finding news of his missing son. Swami’s mother and grandmother are at home, “dazed and demented” with worry about Swami.
The sudden shift to Swami’s father’s perspective marks one of the only times that the narrative strays from a close focus on Swami himself. This section is particularly notable because it shows the humanity of Swami’s father in a newly immediate way, letting the reader see the emotional, vulnerable side of his character that had previously been hidden.
Swami’s father thinks back to earlier in the evening, when he had not yet been worried about Swami and had only gone looking for him to “please his wife and mother.” He checked Swami’s school, as well as Rajam’s house, and was unable to find Mani’s house. He returned home after an hour without news, which made Swami’s mother and grandmother even more nervous. Eventually, their worry began to rub off on him and he became convinced that something had happened to Swami. Granny seemed to blame him for Swami’s disappearance, but he thought back over his actions during the day and couldn’t think of anything that would have driven Swami away. He went out again, leaving his wife crying at home.
Swami’s father’s confusion over the role that he himself might have played in Swami’s disappearance points to a key moment in the changing relationship between Swami and his family. At this point, it’s unclear even to Swami’s father whether or not he is his son’s protector. As Swami moves beyond the reach of his family’s safety in the book’s final section, his father’s sense of his own identity becomes as fragile as Swami’s.
Swami’s father considers checking the hospital, but thinks that he is not brave enough to see Swami injured if he is indeed inside. Instead he goes toward the river, praying and wondering what he will do if he does find Swami’s body in the water. However, he sees nothing but shadows on the water and proceeds to the railway station. He walks along the rails for about a mile and finds nothing, stopping once to see whether a wet patch is blood. When he finds that it is water, he thanks God.
The final phase of this chapter highlights Swami’s father weakened state, as he finds his own bravery lacking. Furthermore, his sincere fear that he may find his son drowned or dead on the train tracks illuminates just how dangerous Swami’s world has become; he is still a child in some ways, but he is now fully subject to all of life’s dangers, as well.