Biju’s second year in America begins at Pinocchio’s Italian restaurant. The owner’s wife complains that he smells, having hoped for men from the poorer parts of Europe instead. The owner tries to buy him shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, and deodorant, but Biju doesn’t use them. He is fired.
Jumping off the bias that even many wealthy Indians have against Indian culture, Biju continues to face prejudice simply for existing in America. America strives to be globalized, but it also has a definite hierarchy of which people and cultures are worth more than others.
Biju looks for another job. He finds one at Freddy’s Wok because he can ride a bicycle. One day he delivers food to three Indian girls who are studying in America. They discuss a friend of theirs who doesn’t want to date Indian boys, but instead wants “the Marlboro man with a Ph.D.” They are condescending to Biju and he sees how they are lauded as extraordinary in America simply for being Indian women who have escaped their “downtrodden” lives. He is impressed by them, but also hates them.
Again, the young Indian students demonstrate how quickly globalization can lead to racism and bias against one’s own culture, opting instead for American boys who have higher education. This also plays into Biju’s later struggle in finding a green card, as he doesn’t think that anyone—not even women with similar backgrounds—would want to marry him.
At the time, Biju is living in the basement of a building in Harlem. The superintendent supplements his income by renting out the basement to other undocumented immigrants. It is cramped and dark, because if too many lights are turned on, the electricity goes out.
Biju’s living situation demonstrates how his economic status has relegated him to what he calls the “shadow class.” Here, this classification becomes more literal than metaphorical as he is literally relegated to a place without light.
As winter falls, people start to complain that the food Biju delivers is cold. More than the food, Biju himself starts to freeze, and one day it is so cold that he begins to weep. The owner tells Biju to pedal faster. When he says he cannot, he is fired. He returns to the building exhausted, and hears the sound of rats around him.
Biju’s firing from Freddy’s Wok reinforces yet again how the owners of these restaurants prioritize the food that their staffs make over the actual people making them. At this point Biju lives a similar life to the rats that nest beside him.
By the time Biju finds his next job at a bakery called the Queen of Tarts, he has spent all of the money he had been saving. He is introduced to Saeed Saeed, an Indian man from Zanzibar whom Biju comes to admire. Saeed Saeed sings and dances numbers from Indian movies, and Biju regains some pride in his country.
The fact that between jobs, Biju is forced to spend all of the money he has saved serves as another example of how poverty and racism can be experienced in a self-defeating cycle. Separately, Biju’s happiness at hearing songs from Indian movies demonstrates that away from one’s physical home, a sense of belonging can come even from cultural institutions.