The narrative slips back to Sai’s arrival at Cho Oyu, when she is eight years old. The cook asks where she’s from, and she says Dehra Dun. He asks why she didn’t come before, if she’s been so close. She tells him her parents are dead; Sai’s father was a space pilot, and he and Sai’s mother both died in Russia. The cook asks how they died.
The circumstances of Sai’s arrival in Cho Oyu provide an explanation for her English upbringing, and also explain her relationship to “home,” because she had been separated from her parents for most of her life. Thus she, like the judge, feels caught between two worlds.
The narrative jumps back even further, explaining the circumstances of Sai’s parents’ deaths. Sai’s father had been a resident at the Society for Interplanetary Travel in Moscow, during “the last days of Indo-USSR romance.”
Sai’s father’s job demonstrates the whole family’s opportunity for globalization. He is recruited by the Russians, but he had also had a job in the Air Force which allowed him to travel, which could perhaps be one of the reasons that Sai says she is interested in traveling.
Sai’s mother and father (referred to as Mrs. and Mr. Mistry) had met in a public park in Delhi, when her father had been stopped in his tracks on a jog by her mother’s beauty. Less than a year later, he proposed. She wished to “be an adult” and said yes.
Note that Sai’s mother’s beauty is what draws Mr. Mistry to her—this is ironically what also led to Nimi’s marriage to the judge.
As space exploration grew, a visiting Soviet team had been instructed by the government to find candidates to send to space in India. They had been impressed by Mr. Mistry and asked him to come to Moscow. Sai, only six at the time, was left in India and entrusted to the same convent her mother had attended. But one day as Mr. and Mrs. Mistry were crossing the street, they were crushed by a local bus, in which thirty ladies were speeding from the provinces to barter and sell their nesting dolls.
The accident that takes Sai’s parents’ lives adds to the misfortune that has permeated the family’s tale, which will be explained more fully later. Even though it would be simplistic to blame globalization entirely for the circumstance, each generation (from the Judge and Nimi down to Sai) has experienced misfortune due to colonialism and the ensuing globalization.
Hearing the news at the convent, Sai has a hard time picturing Moscow. The nuns try to console her, but she admits to herself that she couldn’t really remember her mother and father, because she had not seen them in two years. She finds herself unable to cry about their deaths.
Sai’s inability to cry at her parents’ deaths only reinforces the cultural homelessness she feels. The only values she has ever had have been instilled in her by the convent, which she is soon to leave.
The nuns worry about what to do with Sai. Under the emergency contact information in their register, they find the judge’s name and address, and remember that he was the one paying for her to stay at the convent. Sai had never met him.
Even though the judge had not met either his daughter or Sai, his wealth has still enabled them to continue his cultural lineage as Anglophile Indians.
Meanwhile, the Scotsman who built Cho Oyu is showing the judge the home. The judge finds the house appealing because he could live in it as a “shell,” and would take solace in “being a foreigner in his own country.”
The judge’s thoughts demonstrate how the home is a reflection of himself: like the house, he would belong to a different culture than what surrounds him.
Sai says goodbye to the nuns at the convent, who had taught her fear and humiliation but who had also defined sin for her in a way that made it tantalizing. She describes other lessons she had learned: cake is better than laddoos, silverware is better than hands, worshipping Jesus is better than worshipping a phallic symbol. English is better than Hindi.
Sai’s lessons illustrate the way cultural elitism is instilled. Even though she is Indian, she begins to forego Indian cultural staples in favor of English ones. This will make her later interactions with Gyan all the more difficult, as they share few traditions.
A nun delivers Sai to Cho Oyu. On the train they see a panorama of village life, and on the railway tracks they see dozens of people defecating. The nun calls these people dirty, but a scholar seated next to her tells her that it’s because the ground drops to the railway track, so it’s a good place to do that.
Like the concept that wealth breeds support, the train trip demonstrates the way poverty breeds criticism. The people on the railway tracks are simply trying to perform a bodily necessity in the least intrusive way, and yet they are still criticized by those who have far more wealth than they do.
The nun and Sai part ways at the base of the mountains, just as night falls. Sai travels the rest of the way in a car, terrified because of the dangerous turns on the path and the fact that there are no streetlights in Kalimpong.
Sai’s car ride up the mountain is symbolic of a journey towards a new, isolated, and often dangerous home. The mountain also makes no distinctions between those who are wealthy and those who are not, putting everyone on the same level.