In 1993 Rahel looks through Pappachi’s study, where mounted moths and butterflies have disintegrated into dust. Rahel reaches into her old hiding place behind a book and finds Baby Kochamma’s rosary, which Rahel stole twenty-three years before. Estha appears in the doorway but doesn’t say anything. Then Rahel finds that Ammu had hidden something there as well, four old “Wisdom Exercise Notebooks” that the six-year-old twins had used to practice their writing.
The adult twins act like the reader, looking through small things that signify the larger events of the family’s past. The Ayemenem House has become a “History House” of its own, where Pappachi’s moth and the twins’ childhood have been preserved despite their long absence.
Rahel reads through the notebooks and laughs at their childlike stories. Under many of them Ammu had written corrections, and the narrator muses how Ammu never finished her “corrections” in her own life. The story shifts to years earlier, the last time Ammu came back to Ayemenem, years after Chacko had kicked her out and she had no “Locusts Stand I” (Locus standi: legal standing).
“Locusts Stand I” is another example of free indirect discourse, as Roy never actually explains what the phrase means, but only narrates it as the twins perceive it. After the events of 1969, Ammu’s decline is swift and tragic.
On this last visit Ammu had just been fired from her receptionist job for being sick too often, and Rahel had just been expelled from a school. Ammu bought Rahel presents fit for a seven-year-old, as if she could freeze her daughter in time. Ammu had a rattle in her throat and kept coughing up phlegm. They had lunch with Mammachi and Chacko, and Mammachi suggested that Ammu not visit anymore. Ammu left the table in silence and Rahel refused to go after her.
Ammu joins the Ipe tradition of trying to preserve a moment in time forever as she tries to keep Rahel a child. Ammu has some kind of lung disease, probably tuberculosis. Mammachi as usual is more concerned with the social perception of the family than with her own daughter’s health.
Rahel never saw Ammu alive after that. Ammu died alone in a lodge at age thirty-one. She had been dreaming about policemen coming to cut off her hair to mark her as a veshya, a prostitute. The church wouldn’t bury Ammu, so Rahel and Chacko took her to a crematorium. Chacko tried to hold Rahel’s hand as Ammu disappeared into the machine, but Rahel slipped away. Rahel did not tell Estha about Ammu, as it would have been too strange – like writing a letter to her own body.
Ammu’s demise will be all the more tragic when we learn more details of her life and downfall. This is the second time the word “veshya” has been associated with Ammu, the first being when the policemen called her a prostitute in Ayemenem. Rahel acknowledges her special relationship with Estha, but they can be no comfort to each other in their separation.