Across the hall from Sai’s room, the judge lies awake in bed as well. He realizes that Sai’s arrival has upset him. He thinks of his own journey. The judge had left home at the age of twenty, with a black tin trunk just like the one Sai had. It was 1939, and he had traveled from his ancestral home of Piphit to the Bombay dock, then to Liverpool, and finally arrived at Cambridge.
Sai’s arrival upsets the judge because of the way it makes him think of his own journey, which leads to his alienation from his culture both literally and figuratively. Colonization in many ways causes him to change his values in order to survive, and thus his return home is difficult because he finds that he no longer shares his family’s values.
The judge (then called Jemubhai) had been accompanied by his father to his departure point. His mother stayed weeping at home. With him, Jemubhai had a sweater that she had knit him, a new Oxford English Dictionary, and a decorated coconut to be tossed as an offering into the waves, so that his journey could be blessed by the gods.
The gifts that the judge’s mother gives him reflect his new culturally hybrid life: they give him a dictionary, which will lead to his forsaking his own language; a sweater, which reflects a new climate; but they also give him a coconut, in the hopes that he will retain his religion.
Jemubhai thought of his fourteen-year-old wife, Nimi, whom he had married only a month ago, and whom he would not see for many more years. He had not properly seen her face before leaving.
This story will be explained more in depth later, but here it is interesting to note that a woman was expected to marry and have sex with a man even without his seeing her face, which plays into the objectification of women in this society.
As the judge departed on the ship, the judge’s father yelled at him to toss the coconut. Jemubhai was embarrassed by his father, a barely educated man. He didn’t throw the coconut, and felt that he would never know love for a human being that wasn’t also tempered by other, contradictory emotions.
The judge continues to remember his journey. Jemubhai had discovered spoiled food that his mother had packed him—in case he lacked the courage to go to the dining salon in the ship because he couldn’t eat with knife and fork. His cabinmate was disgusted by the smell of the food, and Jemubhai felt humiliated.
Jemubhai is humiliated not only because his cabinmate was disgusted at his food, but also because his mother lacked confidence in him and believed he would be embarrassed by his own culture, which became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Jemubhai arrived at Cambridge, and when he tried to look for a room to rent, he was turned away several times. One woman, Mrs. Rice, finally accepted him, desperate for the money. Twice a day she gave him cold food. Eventually he worked up the courage to ask her for a proper hot dinner. She told him that she and her husband don’t eat much for dinner either, but that evening he found baked beans on toast that she had left for him.
The cultural bias of the British comes out in even fuller force when Jemubhai arrives in Cambridge. Residents will not take him in simply because he is Indian, even forgoing a source of income. This is true of Mrs. Rice as well, but she is simply more desperate for the money. This treatment is a direct extension of Indians being treated like second-class citizens under colonialism.
Jemubhai began his studies at Fitzwilliam, spending most of the day working so as to avoid the humiliations of being a foreigner. He grew completely solitary, barely speaking. He began to find his own skin odd, and his own accent strange. He forgot how to laugh. He washed obsessively, trying to keep from being accused of smelling strange. He felt barely human. In the present, the judge turns on the light, frustrated that he cannot fall asleep and instead is reliving a nightmare.
During his time at Cambridge, the judge had internalized the bias of the British. In adopting their values, he came to hate himself and his own culture, leading to his complete isolation. He never truly recovers from this isolation, eventually walling himself into Cho Oyu and only enjoying true companionship with a granddaughter who was raised in a similar fashion.
In the morning, the judge instructs the cook to bring Sai to meet her new tutor, Noni. On the road to Noni’s house, the cook points out the neighbors’ houses to Sai. Their nearest neighbor is Uncle Potty, a gentleman farmer and an alcoholic. There is also his friend Father Booty, who runs a Swiss dairy, and who drinks each night with Uncle Potty. Lower down the hill live two Afghan princesses who were given refuge by Nehru when the British ousted their father. In another smaller house lives Mrs. Sen, whose daughter, Mun Mun, had gone to America.
Each new character that is introduced continues the patter of the last: Each of these people is wealthy, foreign, or educated, and most of them are some combination of the three. They profit from the social system as it currently stands, and though most of them do not remember the experiences of colonialism, all of them benefit from the newer system of globalization.
Finally, they reach Noni’s house. Noni lives with her sister Lola in a rose-covered cottage named Mon Ami. Lola’s husband Joydeep had died of a heart attack, and so Noni moved in with her sister. They live on Lola’s husband’s pension, but still needed more money to pay all of the people who work in their house—a maid, sweeper, watchman, and gardener. So, Noni agrees to become Sai’s tutor, and over the years, the two sisters grow very fond of her.
Lola and Noni also continue the pattern of wealthy neighbors who have profited from globalization. It is never revealed exactly where Joydeep is from, but it is implied that he is from a Western country, and the two sisters are in their own way reliant on maintaining the appearance of leading a European lifestyle. Noni only takes up the job, in fact, in order to keep the servants that they have around the home.