Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Sunday afternoon, the cricket match between M.C.C. and Y.M.U. is underway. The M.C.C. is losing and Rajam is furious, in particular regretting that his team does not have a good bowler. Rajam’s father interrupts the game to give him a letter about Swami, from which Rajam learns that Swami is safe. Rajam’s father plans to leave and give the letter to Swami’s father and asks Rajam if he would like to come. Rajam declines, saying that he doesn’t care about Swami and wants to stay at the match. Rajam begins to tell Mani that Swami is safe, but then remembers that he has resolved not to care about Swami and stops talking before giving Mani the news.
Without Swami present, the reader gains advance knowledge of the fissure that is forming between Rajam and Swami as a result of the cricket match. While cricket helped Swami return home safely in the previous chapter, in this one it causes a painful break between him and his closest friend, again showing the complex effects of this symbol of British power. This chapter also marks the most significant transformation in Rajam’s character, as he goes from being an encouraging leader to a cold former friend. An extension of the changes of social roles that Swami witnessed earlier in the book, this instance is perhaps the most extreme example of the fluidity of individual identity, as Rajam actively chooses to stop caring about Swami.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Back at home, Swami is content at the attention and concern that his family and other visitors feel for him. In addition to his delighted mother and grandmother, Swami is surrounded by friends of his family, all of whom are glad to see him home safely. In the midst of the celebration, Swami remembers Mr. Nair and feels guilty for not saying goodbye to him, after he rescued him and treated him well. He is also touched at the memory of how kind Rajam’s father and his own father were, and he remembers with happiness how everyone laughed when he told the story of his conflict at school.
Swami’s comfort at home represents a temporary stabilization of his sense of self, in which he is able to return briefly to the childish security he felt at the start of the book. However, his concern over forgetting to thank Mr. Nair hints at the difficulty of appreciating such safety in the moment and seems to foreshadow a future in which Swami’s own father will also be a semi-forgotten figure of the past.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Mani arrives to visit Swami and the two friends go into the backyard to talk. Mani has heard the story of Swami’s disappearance from Rajam and calls him a fool for running away from the Board School Headmaster, but he also expresses concern for Swami and asks where he was when he went missing. Swami tells Mani the whole story of his terrifying night, being picked up by Ranga, and then being rescued by Mr. Nair and forgetting to say goodbye. Mani recommends that Swami write him a letter of thanks and Swami agrees, saying how grateful he is that Mr. Nair returned him in time for the cricket match.
The start of this scene with Mani indicates Swami’s continued naivete, as he assumes that his friendships will continue in the same comfortable pattern he is used to. This moment marks the last time that Swami is able to feel confident in his connection with Mani and Rajam, although the reader already knows that this connection has been strained by the results of the cricket match.
Themes
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Mani explains, to Swami’s dismay, that the cricket match has already happened earlier that day, Sunday. He tells the story of the team’s defeat and the ways in which it was Swami’s fault for being absent. Swami is devastated and changes his mind about writing to Mr. Nair, who told him that it was only Saturday. Mani also tells Swami that Rajam is furious with Swami and will never speak to him again. Swami begs Mani to help him reconcile with Rajam, but Mani says there is nothing he can do. Swami plans to see Rajam the following morning, and also informs Mani that he will be returning to the Board School the following week.
With the revelation that he has missed the cricket match, Swami is forced to accept that his plan has failed and that his close relationships will be altered as a result. Swami attempts to evade responsibility by blaming Mr. Nair, a surrogate father figure, but the consequences of Swami’s actions remain unchanged. Furthermore, Swami admits that he must return to the Board School, indicating that as much as Swami has changed, he must still operate largely within the structures that have always constrained his life.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
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