Biju goes to the Queen of Tarts bakery at 4:25 A.M., watching for police who might question him—though he knows that the police and immigration officers operate separately from each other. He bakes the morning bread and says hello to a fellow employee, Saeed Saeed.
Biju’s arrival time demonstrates one of the reasons why he is unable to truly call America home. The simple fact of not having his green card means that his ability to remain in the country is constantly under threat.
Biju admires Saeed, even though he is Muslim. Biju sees that Saeed isn’t “drowning” being an illegal alien but is instead afloat, to the point where others cling to him in their misery. Biju begins to question his own deep-seated hatred of Muslims and people from Pakistan, and other stereotypes that exist in India about black people.
Saeed represents an exception to the rule in the life of an undocumented immigrant. For every Saeed Saeed, there are far more who are unable to continue that kind of life, forging a path to make America their home. Saeed is both Biju’s goal and his contrast when Biju eventually decides to return home.
Biju realizes that he has been in awe of white people, who have arguably done India great harm, and lacked generosity towards almost everyone else in America, who have never done a single harmful thing to India. He has also learned that others hold the same prejudices toward Indians.
Biju’s way of thinking serves as an example of how colonialism and globalization can make people buy into cultural beliefs that harm them. Biju tries to dismantle his own bias against people of different races and ethnicities, while coming to acknowledge that white people have done great harm in his country.
Saeed sleeps with many women. He describes the beauty and poverty of Zanzibar to them, and they quickly take him home. His first job in America had been at a mosque, where he arrived at dawn. On the way he would stop at the nightclubs, taking pictures of himself with American celebrities until he was discovered during an INS raid and deported.
Eventually, Saeed’s goal is to get a woman to marry him, which he does. Thus, the gender dynamics here are still relatively unfavorable to women, as women are shown only to be useful in what they can provide for men, both economically and sexually.
Back in Zanzibar, Saeed had been hailed as an American. After two months, however, he returned to New York. When he arrived at JFK with a new name, the officer who had deported him stood at the desk but did not remember him.
Saeed’s deportation and return provide another example of the racial and class bias that permeates the novel. Just as Lola and Noni later cannot distinguish the poor faces around them, the officer does not recognize Saeed.
By 6 A.M., the shelves at the bakery are stocked. One day, Biju sits outside, eating a roll. As ambulances and police cars pass, he can’t help but worry that his father the cook might be sick or dead.
As Biju’s concern over his father grows, it also represents a growing concern that his home is disintegrating, and that he no longer has a place in which he feels truly recognized as a human being.
Meanwhile, the cook is writing a letter to Biju, asking if he might be able to help a friend whose son wants to go to America because of the lack of jobs in India. At first the cook had been frustrated by the request, but he quickly comes to take pride in being asked, because it confirms Biju’s success story.
Belief in one’s own success can be a strong means of feeling powerful, as shown here. Even though these requests overwhelm Biju, the cook continues to pass them on because it makes himself feel good to be asked for help.
Saeed applies for a green card each year, but Indians are not allowed to apply. Not having a green card presses constantly on Biju’s mind. After work, he walks down to the river and looks out at New Jersey. He becomes angry with the cook for sending him to America, but also knows that he wouldn’t have forgiven his father for not trying to send him.
The arbitrariness of who can and cannot apply for a green card is another extension of the unfairness and racism of colonialism, and globalization by extension. Biju here also provides a commentary on the pros and cons of trying to go to America: even though it might dehumanize him and alienate him from a sense of belonging, it also has the potential to break him free of the cycle of poverty.