Swami’s cap becomes important to the story as he begins to develop a political consciousness. Swami thinks little of his clothes until the night that he and Mani stumble on a protest against British oppression, and Swami realizes that some of his clothing may be made by British manufacturers at the expense of Indian craftspeople. When a bystander suggests that he is “wearing a foreign cap,” Swami is ashamed and throws the cap into the fire—his first act in support of Indian liberation. However, the cap also comes to symbolize Swami’s naivete about political matters. The next morning, Swami thinks not of his devotion to Indian independence, but of the anger his father will feel when he sees that the cap is missing. Then, even after his intense experience at the protest, Swami continues to view his fledging political activity through the narrow lens of his own self-interest, telling his father that the cap was burned by someone else in the crowd rather than owning up to his own actions. Finally, Swami’s father informs him that the cap was Indian-made all along, undermining Swami’s passionate destruction of what he believed to be a symbol of England. The cap thus underscores Narayan’s point that Swami’s actions are tied to a political context even when he is only able to engage with that context in a childish, haphazard way.
Swami’s Cap Quotes in Swami and Friends
Swaminathan was watching the scene with little shivers of joy going down his spine. Somebody asked him: ‘Young man, do you want our country to remain in eternal slavery?’
‘No, no,’ Swaminathan replied.
‘But you are wearing a foreign cap.’
Swaminathan quailed with shame. ‘Oh, I didn’t notice,’ he said, and removing his cap flung it into the fire with a feeling that he was saving the country.