The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at Kanchenjunga, the cook drops Sai off at Mon Ami for her tutoring with Noni. In between dropping her off and picking her up, the cook goes to the market to sell his chhang (liquor). He had started the business on the side for Biju’s sake, because the judge refused to give him a substantial raise throughout his years of service.
Like Biju, the cook is forced to engage in illegal activity in order to stay above water financially and support his son, providing another aspect of how poverty can cycle into further poverty if the cook were to be caught.
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This liquor business has led the cook to become a link in the underground system of subsidized army liquor and fuel rations. Military trucks stop at his shack, and their crates are unloaded. The cook carries the crates to his shack and then to the merchants in town, who give him a small cut of what they sell.
The military trucks’ complicity in this underground system shows another angle of the society’s corruption. Like the police, they use their power to further advantage themselves.
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The cook had entered this underground business for Biju, but also for himself, as he strived for modernity: toaster ovens, electric shavers, and watches.
The cook’s attempts demonstrate that the wealthy aren’t the only ones who wish to participate in this global system, even if it inherently disadvantages those who are less affluent.
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The cook found that the most awful part of his life was in serving a family he couldn’t be proud of. Other servants told him that they were treated extremely well by their employers. The cook starts telling lies to brag about the judge’s former glory and the religious piety of his late wife (whom he had not known).
The cook’s mistreatment by the judge not only becomes personally denigrating but also doesn’t allow the cook to have good standing in the eyes of others. The cook is so upset by this humiliation that he resorts to lying in order to feel like he’s being treated better.
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The cook also told many of these lies to Sai. He would tell her that the judge was born a rich man, and that he had been sent off to England with an enormous farewell: ten thousand people saw him off at the station; he went on top of an elephant; he had won a scholarship allowing him to go, etc.
The cook’s lies demonstrate what he believes to be important in order to have pride in someone: that is, primarily, wealth. This echoes his later advice to Biju in asking him to save his money.
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The judge was actually born to a family of the peasant caste. His town had been owned by the Gaekwad kings of Baroda before being overtaken by the British. After that, it quickly became home to a variety of people at a pit stop between Kobe, Panama, Port-au-Prince, Shanghai, and Manila.
Even though the judge was born into the peasant caste, the town is a direct part of colonization and becomes a hub for the global market. These opportunities as well as a willingness to comply with the British system are what allowed the judge to find upward social mobility.
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The judge’s father had a small business procuring false witnesses to appear in court. He was proud of his ability to influence people and corrupt justice, and had placed a lot of hopes in Jemubhai to improve the family’s social standing.
It is ironic that the judge’s father corrupts justice while the judge eventually carries it out—this becomes another way in which the judge actually reacts against his father, family, and culture.
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Jemubhai was sent to the mission school, and his mother would wake him every day with cold water so that he could review his lessons. At the entrance to the school stood a portrait of Queen Victoria. The more he looked at the portrait, the more his respect for her grew. Jemubhai was fed to excess at the expense of his sisters, who were deprived of love as well as food.
Jemubhai’s schooling demonstrates how colonialism affected how he viewed the British. Additionally, note that the daughters’ lives and educations were forgone in order for Jemubhai to succeed—another instance of misogyny in the culture.
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Jemubhai rose to the top of the class, and his father dreamed of seeing Jemubhai in court. Jemubhai attended Bishop’s College on a scholarship, and then left for Cambridge. When he returned, he was put to work in a district far from his home.
It is ironic that the judge’s father aimed to see his son in court, but the judge was placed in a district far from home, making this goal unreachable. It signals another step in the judge’s alienation from his family.
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The narrative flashes forward once more to the cook’s stories. He brags to Sai about how many servants there had been before. The cook himself had begun working at ten years old, and then had been hired by the judge at fourteen.
The fact that the cook started working so early provides another insight into the cycle of poverty, as it was necessary for him to work instead of furthering his education, which may have provided him with greater social mobility.
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On the veranda, the judge recollects his life as a touring official. The judge heard cases in Hindi, but they were recorded in Urdu by the stenographer, and then the judge would translate the record into English, even though he spoke neither Hindi nor Urdu well. Witnesses who couldn’t read at all would put their thumbprints at the bottom, affirming that they had read the record. Despite this, the judge gained a fearsome reputation, with his white powdered wig over a white powdered face.
More than any other anecdote, this one demonstrates the state-sanctioned harm done by colonialism. As the judge had completely relinquished his culture and Indian languages, the various parties involved in trials could not communicate with each other. Though his powdered wig and face gave him authority, it did not give him the ability to truly carry out justice.
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The judge continues to remember his routine: in the afternoons, he would have tea before going out to the countryside to fish or hunt (though he was a terrible shot). For dinner, the cook would bring out a chicken, declaring it a “roast bastard,” taken from the Englishman’s favorite joke book of natives using incorrect English. At 9:00, the judge filled out the registers and the diary that would be submitted to his superiors; at 11:00, he would fall asleep.
The judge continued to partake in British cultural staples simply for the gesture of belonging to the culture. This came not only at his own expense, but at the expense of the cook, whose self-deprecating jokes demonstrate how pervasive the racism propagated by colonialism was and remained throughout the judge’s time in the ICS.
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The cook had been disappointed to be working for the judge, as his father had only served white men. The judge had likewise been skeptical of the cook, who came with dubious recommendations. The cook’s father admitted that he needed to be trained, but that is why he would be cheap. The cook’s father then recited a long list of the puddings the cook could make before the judge agreed to hire him.
The cook’s attitude here demonstrates that internalized prejudices affect not only the wealthy but also those with less privilege, as the cook believes that serving a white man is superior to serving an Indian man.
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