Sai goes to the market, the music and video shop, and the classrooms in Kalimpong college, but does not find Gyan. She walks two hours downhill to the poor part of Kalimpong where Gyan lived. On her walk she looks at the huts along the ledges, with tin roofs, pumps leading from the stream to the shacks, and outhouses whose disposal system simply leads to the valley below. Sai thinks that these homes look pretty in the daylight, but knows that when night falls, the poverty will become apparent.
The neighborhood in which Gyan lives contrasts with Cho Oyu and the other homes Sai is used to. Not only does it demonstrate the poverty of the people who live there, but also the privilege of Sai’s lens as she looks upon the shacks with pity and guilt.
Sai asks a woman passing by where Gyan lives. She gestures to a house ahead—a “small, slime-slicked cube” with sand coming out of the walls, a nest of electrical wiring running through the windows, and an upper story that consists simply of iron rods, presumably abandoned for lack of funds. It is “modernity proffered in its meanest form, brand-new one day, in ruin the next.”
Gyan’s house is in ruin, but clear attempts have been made to improve the home and make it modern (through the electrical wiring, and the effort to build a second story). The house thus reflects the way those who are just at the edge of the middle class might strive for upward mobility but still often teeter into ruin.
Sai is ashamed for Gyan. The house does not match Gyan’s English, his clothes, or his schooling. She realizes that he had never spoken about his home or his family, and feels distaste for her own wealth and behavior.
Like other characters, Sai comes to a similar realization of how her Western education and her wealth have made her insensitive to those who lead far less privileged lives.
A ten-year-old girl emerges from the hut. Sai asks if Gyan lives here. The girl is suspicious, and Sai explains that he is her math tutor. At that moment, Gyan comes out. He is outraged that Sai has come to find him, and ashamed that he caught her looking at his home with such distaste.
Gyan’s upset makes sense, and shows how Sai has been causing his silence about his family and his life at home. But Gyan here is determined that even though she is humiliating him by showing her distaste for his home, he refuses to allow her to take the power in this situation and becomes angry.
Gyan asks Sai what she wants, and in that moment Sai remembers that she is angry with him. She begins to think he has been pretending the whole time, perhaps planning to “wheedle his way into Cho Oyu,” followed by the rest of his family. She refuses to admit the real reason why she came, and so instead she brings up Father Booty.
Though Sai had actually come about Gyan’s dismissal of their relationship, Sai’s tactic in bringing up his other transgressions makes it clear how easy it is for her to humiliate him, and how vulnerable the poor are to be criticized simply for being poor.
Sai accuses Gyan of what the Nepalis are doing, saying that it is their fault Father Booty was thrown out of India. Gyan asks if Nepalis should continue to sit miserably so that the police don’t have an excuse to throw him out. He continues, saying that India doesn’t need foreigners to come in and make cheese, and it definitely doesn’t need chocolate cigars.
Desai makes her argument through Gyan here: it is a particularly privileged perspective to think that one person’s deportation back to Switzerland is not worth the political equality of thousands of people—a deportation very different from the one that Biju fears, largely because of economic status.
Sai criticizes Gyan for being a hypocrite, saying that he enjoyed cheese and chocolate at her house, but attacks it when he is not with her. She calls him a fat pig. As the conversation disintegrates, Gyan begins to giggle, and Sai sees a glimmer of their old relationship. They both realize that people are made up of contradictions, and that they are arguing about things they half believe in.
Sai’s argument contains flaws in logic, because even though Gyan might enjoy things like cheese and chocolate, this represents something entirely different than doing so in a way that perpetuates an oppressive culture. Sai does, however, hit upon the difficulty of why people with privilege and power have a difficult time changing the status quo.
Sai begins to laugh as well, but then Gyan flashes back to anger. He wants to be a man and to be strong, not tender and sickly-sweet. Yet at the same time, he is afraid of the growing fervor of the political protests, as there is talk of arson and robbery within the movement. He is frustrated that his family hasn’t thought to keep him home, but wonders how he can have any self-respect without believing in anything.
Again, Gyan’s association with masculinity and political action becomes quite dangerous as he finds himself not only putting Sai down but also involved in more and more violent illegal activity, which then connects masculinity, crime, and abuse.
Gyan realizes that he owes a lot to Sai, because she has defined what he was working against. Sai reads his thoughts, saying that he hates her for big reasons that have nothing to do with her. She calls him a coward and low-class. He in turn calls her a fool. She begins to scratch at him, yelling as she accuses him of telling the GNLF about the judge’s guns. She pounces at his guilty look, but he catches her, throws her into the bushes, and beats her with a stick.
The end of Sai and Gyan’s fight makes clear that each of them is coming with a different bias: Sai with classism, and Gyan with sexism. As Sai challenges Gyan’s authority, he takes it out on her with violence. Unfortunately, this misogyny is condoned by society, and Sai is helpless to react against it or do anything about it after the fact.
Gyan’s little sister reappears, and Gyan turns to take her back inside. Sai yells at her to tell Gyan’s parents what her brother has been up to, and says that she will call the police about the gun robbery. Gyan drags his sister by the braids to pull her inside. He thinks that he cannot wait for his marriage to be arranged so he can have a charming girl who won’t allow her mind to wander into gray areas.
Gyan’s misogyny-laden violence continues as he drags his sister by her hair to their hut. His thoughts on his hypothetical arranged marriage also reveal his sexism, as he would prefer to have a nice, mindless girl than a girl who would be able to challenge him intellectually like Sai, reinforcing the stereotype that women should not be strong-minded.
Sai worries about how she will be laughed at and thought of as a lunatic, while Gyan will be cheered on for his conquest. She walks home very slowly, feeling none of the pity she’d felt earlier. She sees that even peasants can have love and happiness, but not her.
Even Sai understands how a sexist society would interpret the events that occurred between her and Gyan, as she would be criticized for chasing after him and becoming the victim of his violence.
When Sai arrives home, a woman is talking to the judge and the cook. She is the wife of the drunk who had been tortured by the police. She and her father-in-law beg for mercy and help. The judge tells her to go to the police, but the cook contradicts him, saying that they would probably just assault her. She already looks so downtrodden that foreigners have photographed her.
With the appearance of the wife of the drunk who had been tortured by the police, readers can see how the misogyny in society can be amplified by other systemic issues, like the poverty that the wife experiences and the power that the police have over her to do whatever they want, even more than they did with her husband.
The judge goes back to his game of chess, having nothing to offer her and having been recently humiliated himself. He thinks to himself that India is “too messy for justice.” He went to the police and reported a problem; after that, it was out of his hands. If he gave these people a bit, he thinks, he could find himself supporting the whole family forever.
It is clearer here more than anywhere else that the judge does not consider India his home, and that he has given up on reintegrating himself into the culture. The irony of the judge saying that India is too messy for justice indicates that he feels he is not someone who can carry out that justice, because he played a major role in perpetuating its oppression.
The woman turns to Sai, but Sai turns away, in no mood to be kind. The cook shoos the woman and her father-in-law through the gate, but they only retreat behind the bushes to wait. Sai cries over Gyan for a while, but the image of the woman returns to her. She goes downstairs, and she and the cook go out with a bag of rice. By this time, however, the pair have vanished.
The way in which Sai, the judge, and the cook deal with this poor woman in a sense boils down the two cycles of poverty and privilege, because one is not willing to give up what they have for fear that others will take advantage of them. What they don't realize is that their lack of charity will cause them to lose something far more valuable.