Sai becomes interested in other people’s love affairs. She asks the cook about the judge’s wife (Nimi). The cook says that she was a great lady, and the judge had loved her very much. The cook then remembers the real story: the judge didn’t like his wife at all, and she was mad. She had been the daughter of a rich man, who had only allowed her to marry the judge because he was in the Indian Civil Service.
The cook continues to try and make his employer out to be better than he actually was. But his thoughts about what actually happen introduce the injustice done to Nimi and the theme of misogyny that will run throughout the tragedy of her life. Here, the cook calls her mad, when in reality she had been abused by the judge.
Sai then questions the judge about her grandmother. The judge rebuffs her questions, telling her not to interrupt his chess. But he begins to remember Nimi anyway. His family had wanted to send their son to England, but there wasn’t enough money to send him even after borrowing. They began to look for a bride for him. The uglier and darker the woman was, they knew, the higher her dowry would be.
Later, Sai will taunt Gyan for the fact that he may have to undergo the same thing the judge does here: having an arranged marriage in order to gain more wealth, a circumstance borne of poverty. However, the attitudes throughout this courtship demonstrate how objectified the women also become—valued only for the wealth their fathers can provide.
On the other side of the town lived the wealthy Bomanbhai Patel. One day a group of men told Bomanbhai of Jemubhai’s departure for England. A week later, Bomanbhai offered Jemubhai his most beautiful daughter Bela (who would later be renamed Nimi), knowing that she might be getting married to one of the most powerful men in India.
Nimi (and eventually her sisters after her) becomes simply a pawn in the men’s games. She is just a symbolic link between two families trading wealth and power. This system not only ignores whatever wishes she might possess, but also turns her into a commodity.
The wedding had lasted a week and was exceptionally lavish. Bela’s name was changed into the one chosen by Jemubhai’s family, and she became Nimi Patel. After the wedding, Jemubhai had pulled off his new wife’s sari, ready to consummate the marriage, but discovered that the fourteen-year-old girl was terrified and wept in fear. He replaced her clothing.
The dehumanization of women is particularly clear here. Not only does Nimi lose her identity completely in losing her name, but Jemubhai does not even fully think about her as a human being who might not want to marry and have sex with him until he unexpectedly confronts her face.
The next morning, the uncles laughed at Jemubhai, noting that nothing happened in the bed. More days passed, and they grew concerned, telling him to force Nimi to have sex. They began to think she was spoiled or stuck up and wondered how she could be unhappy with Jemubhai, who would be the first boy from their community to go to England.
The misogyny continues, supported by the family. Though she is only fourteen, Nimi is blamed for the fact that she does not want to have sex with a man she only just met, and they begin to question her character. Particularly disturbing here is the idea that rape is the best solution.
One day, Jemubhai had offered Nimi a ride on his father’s bicycle. She at first had declined, but then climbed on with him when he rode up to her. They pedaled faster and faster, flying down a hill, sharing a moment of joy.
Tragically, this episode represents the only moment in the novel where misogyny does not dominate Nimi’s story—and also where she and the judge experience a brief time of happiness together.
In the present, the judge looks up from his chess and sees Sai climbing a tree, waiting to see Gyan approach. Each succeeding week of tutoring, their anticipation for each other grows. The judge tells her to come down. Sai remembers that Noni told her time should move—she should not remain in a life where time never passes. Sai resolves to leave someday.
This sequence links the two relationships. Though initially Sai and Gyan’s courtship starts in a more affectionate place, their relationship also falls victim to larger political dynamics and society’s gender structures.