Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ten days later, Swami gets up early in order to get to the train station, from which Rajam is about to leave. Rajam’s father is being transferred to a new city, which Swami learned the previous evening from Mani. Swami feels desolate knowing that Rajam will soon be gone, unable to imagine life without him. In particular, Swami is ashamed because he has not found the courage to go and see Rajam since missing the cricket match. When Swami heard the news from Mani, he asked Mani to come to his house early the next morning to go to the station with him, but Mani said he could not because he would be sleeping at Rajam’s house. Knowing that he is missing their final night together fills Swami with despair and jealousy.
Although Swami has returned to the safety of his family’s home, his new knowledge of the world’s dangers and the true instability of individual identity has left him irrevocably changed. Despairing at the loss of Rajam, Swami no longer has a clear sense of himself and his place in the world.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
After Mani leaves to go to Rajam’s house, Swami looks through his possessions for something to give Rajam as a going away present. He considers giving Rajam back the green clockwork engine Rajam gave him the previous year, but worries that Rajam might take it as a sign that Swami no longer wishes to be friends. Eventually, Swami settles on giving Rajam a book of fairy tales given to him by his father years before. Swami recalls that he has never been able to read the whole thing because of all the “unknown, unpronounceable English words in it” and thinks that Rajam will be able to read it. He inscribes it to his “dearest friend.”
By choosing a book for Rajam, Swami takes the first step toward rebuilding some sense of agency in his life and restoring his relationships. The fact that it is a book of fairy tales points to the potential healing power of imagination, but at the same time, Swami’s memory of its mystifying English words shows that colonial influence still crops up even in sites of fantasy. The gift encapsulates both the hope that Swami can gain increasing agency and the reality that external context will always constrain him.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Swami arrives at the station in the dark early morning, holding the book of fairy tales. He sees Rajam and Mani get out of a car, along with Rajam’s family. He sees how tidy and refined Rajam looks and loses his courage, hiding in the shadows rather than going to speak to him. Rajam remains surrounded by his family and a group of policemen, and Swami is unable to find a gap in which to speak to Rajam. The train arrives and Rajam’s mother gets in as the policemen say goodbye to Rajam and Rajam’s father. Swami finds Mani and asks if Rajam will speak to him, and Mani says that he will.
Even at the last, Swami discovers that the presence of Rajam’s powerful family and their police guard comes between himself and his friend. Despite his newfound maturity and knowledge of the world, Swami is still subject to conventional power structures and needs to ask his stronger friend Mani for help.
Themes
The Political and the Personal Under British Colonial Rule Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Rajam gets onto the train and Swami asks for Mani’s help giving him the book. Mani runs to the window and calls to Rajam that Swami is there to say goodbye, but Rajam replies only by saying goodbye to Mani. Mani points out Swami again, and Swami calls out to Rajam in despair. After looking at Swami for a moment, Rajam says something but his words are drowned out by the noise of the train. The train begins to move.
The uncertainty of this moment leaves Rajam’s final role in Swami’s life undetermined as he departs. At this point, the book’s theme of fluid identity comes to a head, as Rajam appears to be neither good nor bad but rather a mystery.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
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Swami hands the book of fairy tales to Mani in panic, and Mani runs alongside the train to give it to Rajam. Rajam takes the book and waves goodbye as the train departs. Swami waves back, watching as the train vanishes from sight. Swami tells Mani that he is glad he got to say goodbye and Mani tells Swami that Rajam will write to him. Swami is surprised but Mani claims that he gave Rajam Swami’s address. Swami accuses Mani of lying and asks him what the address is; Mani is unable to say. Still, he insists that he did give the address to Rajam. Swami looks at Mani and is ultimately unable to tell whether or not he is joking or sincere.
Swami succeeds in his effort at repairing the friendship by passing the book off to Rajam with Mani’s help. However, neither he nor the reader knows if the attempt is successful, and Rajam and Swami’s relationship to each other remains far from clear. At the end, even the previously simple Mani becomes impossible to interpret, and Swami has no choice but to acknowledge and accept the ambiguity of his words. This tolerance for uncertainty marks a new phase of maturity for Swami as he continues to contend with the new confusions and complexities of his changed life.
Themes
The Fluidity of Identity Theme Icon
Innocence, Family, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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