Biju now works in Brigitte’s, an upscale restaurant in the financial district. In the morning, the owners of the restaurant, Odessa and Baz, drink Darjeeling tea at a table and read the New York Times, particularly the international news, which is overwhelming and full of stories of third-world debt, dirty dealings by companies, and “everything run by white people.” Odessa says that these are just the rules of nature.
The owners of the restaurant make a similar argument that Lola did in the previous chapter. They are able to discuss the news with a certain remove because they have the privilege to, and again make no effort to change society because the system has placed them in a better position than others (although they also seem to be cynical about the ability to change at all).
A fellow dishwasher complains about the restaurant customers, but admits that America is better than England because Americans want to believe that they are good people, and won’t yell at him openly in the streets. He wants a green card for revenge, even though he hates America. Biju comes to think that the more he hates America sometimes, the more he wants a green card.
The debate over which is better, America or England, continues in America. While English colonialism may have been more outwardly cruel, America’s quiet complacency in relegating people to the “shadow class” can be just as harmful.
The restaurant serves steak, and Biju is unhappy serving it. He is particularly frustrated when he sees other Indians eating steak, and they pretend not to notice his sneering as they eat. Biju knows that one should not give up one’s religion and the principles of one’s family—but he also knows that those principles would lose him his job.
Biju’s discomfort with the restaurant serving steak (since cows are sacred in the Hindu religion) shows how his sense of belonging stems from the acceptance of his traditions and beliefs, particularly the traditions and beliefs that have been passed down by his family.
Biju learns to sear steaks for the businessmen who come to the restaurant talking about the potential for their products to be sold in China and India. Biju remembers Saeed Saeed, who refused to eat pigs. He resolves to quit, and leaves his job feeling confident in his decision. The owners are shocked and say he will never make it in America with an attitude like that.
At first, Biju sets aside his beliefs for the sake of his job—illustrating the ways globalization and the ensuing drive to assimilation can actually be a means of oppression, because of the financial pressures (or pressures brought on by racial bias) immigrants can experience to set aside their culture or religion.
Biju’s first question at his next interviews is whether or not the restaurant serves steak. His first few attempts are unsuccessful until one day he discovers the Ghandi Café. In the dim space, Harish-Harry sits in the back filling out a donation form for a cow shelter in New Jersey. Biju asks if they serve steak, and Harish-Harry looks at Biju as if he’s crazy. One week later, Biju is in the kitchen.
Eventually, Biju is able to retain his principles and find a place that values his own culture, because the owner of the restaurant shares in that culture. This is the first place Biju feels truly comfortable, highlighting the idea that belonging and home can be found in a values system or group of people, not only in a geographic place.