The judge decides to pray, telling God that he will never deny Him again if Mutt is returned to him. He realizes that he has turned into a superstitious man making bargains. He begins to worry that Mutt’s disappearance is faith’s way of paying him back. But he quickly remembers that he simply doesn’t believe in angered divinity, and knows that the universe isn’t in the business of justice.
As Lola, Noni, and Sai established at the library, one of religion’s primary purposes is to provide an explanation for the world’s injustices—a goal that they often fail to accomplish. Here, the judge turns to Christianity, but even finds that to be insufficient, as he knows he does not truly believe in it. It is one of the only times in which he truly turns away from a Western cultural institution.
The judge begins to think back to the family, the culture, and the wife he had abandoned. His mind returns to why he exactly he sent Nimi home. One morning in Bonda, a Congresswoman named Mrs. Mohan came by in her car and asked Nimi to join her and some other women to have fun. The Congresswoman refused to take no for an answer.
What may be particularly tragic about the episode is that not only did Nimi not intentionally go to a political function, but she had also not wanted to leave the house at all—revealing just how broken she had become from the war between her and the judge.
The women had driven to the train station and parked far away, for thousands of people had gathered to demonstrate, screaming, “British raj murdabad!” They had stopped and then followed a procession of cars to a house. Inside, Nimi was given a plate with scrambled eggs and toast, which she did not eat. Then a voice announced that the train was about to leave, and most of the crowd poured out of the house. Mrs. Mohan had then dropped Nimi home and said that today she saw one of the greatest men in India. Nimi had no idea who.
Another ironic part of Nimi’s accidental attendance at the Congress Party’s event is that for her, cultural independence was not nearly as important to her on a grand scale as it was on an individual one. She is completely ignorant of who Nehru is and doesn’t fully understand what is happening around her. The only thing she knows she does not want is to eat scrambled eggs and toast—a distinctly British dish.
The judge returned from his tour. He was then summoned by the district commissioner, who informed him that Nimi had been part of the Nehru welcoming committee, and had eaten scrambled eggs and toast with top members of the Congress Party. The commissioner was concerned by the embarrassment that the entire civil service would suffer from this incident, and blocked Jemubhai’s promotion.
For the judge, Nimi’s attendance at the rally represents a final embarrassment for him. He does not know that she went there unintentionally, but regardless, her symbolic support of an anti-British party served as a humiliation from which he cannot recover.
The judge fixed himself a drink at home. When Nimi entered the room, he offered a series of explanations for what had happened—primarily that she was stupid, a liar, or deliberately trying to make him angry. He asked which explanation was true. She responded that he was the one who was stupid.
The judge’s misogyny and disgust toward his wife have reached a peak here, as he doesn’t even allow her to speak in order to explain what happened and instead provides his own explanations that she is either unintelligent, deceptive, or manipulative.
The judge hit Nimi. He emptied his glass on her head, swung a jug of water into her face, and hammered his fists onto her and kicked her. He cursed at her. The next morning, large bruises bloomed on her skin. He then decided to send her back to her family, worrying that if he did not, he would kill her.
When Nimi tries to stand up for herself, this only leads to more abuse, because the judge refuses to have any more challenges to his authority. This hatred runs so deep that he cannot even have her in his presence, because any little thing might provoke him.
Six months after the judge sent Nimi away, he received a telegram that his daughter had been born. Jemubhai had gotten drunk in distaste. Nimi, on the other hand, found peace in being a mother.
Whether the judge’s assumptions about his daughter are based on his own nature or Nimi’s nature is unknown, but he gets rid of his problems in the only way he has ever been able to: by providing money for his child, and then ignoring her. The judge never meets his daughter.
Nimi’s uncle wrote to the judge, saying that Nimi was ready to return. He had misunderstood the reason for Nimi’s arrival, because it was customary for a daughter to return to her family for the birth of a first child. The judge sent money but told the uncle he did not want Nimi to return. The uncle told her to go back and ask for her husband’s forgiveness.
Even though the judge was the one abusing Nimi, and who had sent her away for fear he would kill her, her uncle blames her for the fact that the judge has sent her home. This society believes that any marital disputes are the fault of the woman, with women having very little rights when it comes to their husbands.
Nimi instead lived the rest of her life with a sister whose husband was resentful of Nimi’s presence, frustrated that she was eating their food. The judge’s father arrived at his home to plead for Nimi, but the judge refused to take her back. His father said that it was a mistake to send Jemubhai away, because he had become a stranger to them. The judge sees how he had been sent to bring his family into the modern age and was now being reproached.
Unlike Nimi’s uncle, the judge’s father realizes that there is more going on than simply Nimi angering her husband. He understands that the judge’s alienation from the family and from his culture is what is causing their dispute. Even as India is progressing further toward independence, the judge refuses to return to the culture that he had worked so diligently to abandon.
Meanwhile, war broke out in Europe and India, and the country was disintegrating. The judge worked harder than ever for the ICS. Sometime during those years, a telegram arrived, saying that a woman had caught fire over a stove. There had been no witnesses to the simple accident—just a single movement of the hand, and another movement of the hand for Nimi’s brother-in-law to pay off the police. The judge had chosen to believe it was an accident.
Separately, the story of Nimi’s death also demonstrates that cultural bias was not the only reason for Nimi’s abuse, as her brother-in-law had caused this “accident” simply because he did not want her to eat their food or live in their home, questioning her right to live and take up space.
Now the judge wonders if he killed Nimi (indirectly) for false ideals, in order to shame his own culture. After her death, he condemned his daughter to convent boarding schools, and had never seen her. His mind in disarray, he remembers his one fond moment with his wife: their glorious bicycle ride together. He realizes that in bringing Sai to Cho Oyu, he had been hoping to begin to erase his debts.
The judge slowly starts to admit that his harsh adherence to British culture only led to the loss of his family but also to Nimi’s death. The memory of the bike ride posits a what-if situation, had the judge not been both oppressed by and become complicit in colonialism.
The judge continues to search for Mutt with Sai and the cook’s help. Sai is glad to have another disguise for her distress over Gyan. The cook, likewise, is calling not for Mutt, but really out of worry for Biju.
As each of these characters searches for Mutt, it is clear that each one is in reality searching for a way to return to “home” through the love of another individual. The cook searches for his son, and Sai looks to regain a sense of belonging in having someone who understood and valued her.