The judge sends the cook to the police station, knowing that the police could very well be bought off by the robbers and would likely expect a bribe. As he goes, the cook thinks of his son, Biju, and of the 250 rupees he had hidden in his hut before moving it to the garage of the house, worried that rats might eat it.
The cook’s poverty is more fully detailed in this incident. He is so poor that he cannot even keep his own money in the house for fear that the rats—which also come to symbolize poverty—might eat it.
The policemen question the cook harshly, but they cannot ignore a member of the judiciary, and so they travel to Cho Oyu. They ask if threats were made, and when the cook tells them that the boys asked the judge to set the table and bring tea, the policemen begin to laugh.
The cook’s interactions with the police demonstrate a different kind of humiliation, as they have state-sanctioned power, but they treat the cook in much the same way as the young boys do in order to assert their superiority over him.
The judge’s house had been built by a Scotsman, who had read accounts of the period and the area, such as The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them and Land of the Lama. It had been fully outfitted with piping, tiling, tubing, and wrought-iron gates.
The judge’s home is a prime representation of colonialism: the house is built by a foreigner using Western architecture. The judge, likewise, feels like a foreigner in his own homeland because he has been steeped in British culture.
The police then go to the cook’s hut, suspicious because they assume that robberies are often the fault of servants. Sai goes along as well. The cook’s hut is very bare, and Sai is pained at how little he has. The police turn over his mattress and leave his few belongings in a heap. She notes the two photographs on the wall: one of the cook and his wife, and one of Biju. She thinks to herself that they are “poor-people photographs” because they are standing stiff and serious.
The police’s visit to the cook’s hut provides an example of how poverty can work in a cycle (in the same way privilege is shown to work in a cycle later). Because he is poor, the police suspect him for crimes. They then expose his poverty even further and also leave his hut in a disastrous state, piling misfortune upon misfortune.
The cook’s wife had died seventeen years earlier, when Biju was five. She had fallen from a tree gathering leaves to feed the goat—an incident described as “the way fate has of providing the destitute with a greater quota of accidents for which nobody can be blamed.”
The incident with the cook’s wife is another example of the unfortunate cycle poverty can provide, which does not have any direct source of blame, but is undeniably linked to systemic forms of classism.
Sai remembers how the cook would often describe how Biju was naughty but had a good nature. He had beamed with pride when recounting how good Biju was with animals, and how unafraid he was. In the present, the police pick up the letters that the cook has received from Biju. In the letter they read, Biju had assured the cook that he was doing well in America, and the cook had reported its contents to everyone in the market.
The initial description of Biju provides a good foundation for understanding his character and his arc. He is willing to break the rules to travel to America illegally, but at the same time he doesn’t have the cutthroat disposition needed to get ahead there. The fact that he is good with animals also becomes symbolic later, as he does not participate in much of the animal cruelty that permeates the novel, demonstrating his unwillingness to mistreat those who are helpless.