The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide Part 1: An Invitation Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Twenty minutes outside of Kolkata, Piya has the opportunity to move to a window seat. The train is stopped, so she summons a tea seller on the platform. As she tries to bring her cup of tea through the bars of the window, the man sitting across from her (Kanai) flips his pages, jostling her hand in the process, and some of her tea spills on his pages. He's the last person she wanted to spill on—he seems wealthy and entitled. Annoyed, Kanai tells her that his pages are replaceable and says that things like this happen with Americans.
Kanai's language again reinforces the power he believes he has—his comment about Americans suggests he views himself as superior to them and specifically, to Piya. It's worth noting that because Kanai is so entitled, he's never fully able to get to know Piya.
Themes
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Piya feigns admiration and asks how Kanai knew she's American. He explains that he's a translator, knows six languages, and knew from her accent. Kanai asks how Piya expects to get by with no Bengali or Hindi. She says that her work doesn't require much talk. She's a cetologist and hopes to do a survey of marine mammals in the Sundarbans, which has never been done before due to the difficulty of getting permits. Piya explains that her uncle is important in Kolkata, and his influence will hopefully help.
Kanai's word choice shows clearly that he prioritizes spoken language and likely doesn't value other forms of communication (like gestures and visual cues, which Piya presumably uses on her surveys where she doesn't speak the local language). In addition, the fact that Piya is a cetologist means that she likely believes fully in conservation efforts, a stance that will be important later on.
Themes
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Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Piya explains that she was born in Kolkata but moved to Seattle with her parents when she was a year old, which is why she never learned Bengali. Kanai introduces himself formally and says that he's visiting his aunt. Piya pulls out a map, and he shows her where his destination, the island of Lusibari, is. He invites her to visit and explains she'd only need to ask for Mashima. He explains that though "Mashima" just means aunt, his aunt Nilima is so influential on the island, everyone will know who she's talking about.
The fact that one can get ahold of Nilima by simply asking for Mashima shows again that language isn't something static; it changes depending on the people using it and can mean different things to different communities. Kanai's ability to accept this as fact shows again that he prioritizes spoken language over other forms of communication.
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Kanai says that Nilima's husband, Kanai’s late uncle Nirmal, was similarly known just as Saar (sir), but he's been dead a long time. However, Nilima recently found some of his papers that he left for Kanai. Kanai explains that he's been to the Sundarbans once before, when he was ten. He was sent to stay with Nilima and Nirmal as a punishment for misbehaving at school. As he finishes his story, the train arrives in Canning.
It's worth noting that Kanai has an advantage over Piya because he's been to the Sundarbans before: he already knows just how dangerous the landscape is, and he presumably has some grasp of the culture there. Essentially, he's far more culturally literate than Piya is.
Themes
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Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Get the entire The Hungry Tide LitChart as a printable PDF.
The hungry tide.pdf.medium