The judge thinks about his own hatred. When he had returned from England, he was greeted by Nimi, now nineteen, whom he had forgotten entirely. She draped a garland over him but didn’t meet his eyes. She remembered their bicycle ride, and he still found her attractive.
Juxtaposing Gyan’s cruelty towards Sai in the previous chapter with the judge’s cruelty towards Nimi in this one proves that even across generations, misogyny remains deeply rooted in society.
Nimi had later gone through the judge’s toiletry case, trying to learn a bit about English culture. She picked up the judge’s powder puff and powdered her breasts. She buttoned up her blouse and stuffed the puff inside it, filled with greed at the foreign, silky object.
What is particularly tragic about this episode is that Nimi had initially been interested in English culture. After the judge’s brutal response to her taking the puff, however, she refuses to adhere to it or learn anything about it.
Later the judge went to check his belongings and discovered that the powder puff had disappeared. He questioned the women in his family, asking if they had taken it. They asked what a powder puff was, and when he explained it, they laughed at him for “becoming a lady.” Then the rest of the family was questioned, and each time the embarrassment of explaining was repeated. The judge finally asked Nimi, who denied taking it. Then, he spotted the puff beneath her shirt.
The judge viewed the powder puff as a representation of his new attachment to British culture and power systems. He used it in his role as a judge to literally make himself whiter, a parallel to his behavior as a whole. The rest of the family, however, associates it with femininity, and begins to make fun of him and humiliate him for using it.
The judge cornered Nimi in the bedroom. An aunt shouted at the judge to break the bed; another commented that now Nimi would settle down. She tried to escape, but found the door locked. He came at her, and she picked up the powder container and threw it at him. In a fury, the judge wrestled her to the ground and raped her.
The family’s responses to the judge’s behavior show the extent to which cultural misogyny can go. Thus, not only is Nimi raped in punishment for a relatively harmless crime, but she is also humiliated, and this harsh punishment is condoned by the family.
The judge was glad to be able to disguise his crudity in sex with hatred and fury. Each night he repeated the act; during the day, he never spoke to Nimi or looked at her. The two of them traveled to Bonda, where the judge rented a bungalow. He hired a companion for Nimi named Miss Enid Pott, but Nimi would learn no English. He would hold up food at dinner and if she could not name it, it would be removed from her plate. Enid commented that she was very stubborn.
Nimi’s humiliation continues as she comes to represent something larger than herself: an adherence to Indian culture, which the judge now despises. He then sees her refusal to take part in English culture as an affront to himself. Again, her continued rape and humiliation is supported by those around her—even the women, like Enid.
Nimi did not accompany the judge on tour, unlike other wives. Nimi was left alone in Bonda instead, uncared for. She became desolate. Weeks went by without her speaking to anybody. The servants gave her their leftovers, and only cleaned the house the day before the judge returned.
Sexist double standards continue even when the judge is not at the house, as the servants treat Nimi with immense disrespect until the judge returns from his tour.
The judge grew more and more upset by Nimi’s facial expressions, and then by her blankness. He took off her bangles, threw away her hair oils, and when he saw that she was squatting on the toilet from her footprints, he pushed her face into the toilet. By the end of the year, Nimi and the judge experienced internal rage “with enough muscle in it for entire nations coupled in hate.”
Desai’s comment that they have hate enough for “entire nations” expresses the true essence of the conflict: the judge treats his interactions with Nimi as a battle between English culture and Indian culture. This can be seen in the fact that he takes offense at everything she does that expresses her Indian-ness.