The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss

The Cook Character Analysis

The judge’s cook and Biju’s father. The cook had worked for the judge since he was fourteen years old, and his servant status is very much ingrained in him. He does whatever the judge asks, though the judge often abuses him verbally, and at the end of the novel, physically. While he understands his own place, the cook also works hard to make sure that his son Biju can have a better life in America. He has a minor illegal business selling liquor on the side in order to make a small sum of additional money. He is proud hearing from his son hopping from job to job, knowing that his own hard work has paid off. Even though the cook is often humiliated by other characters, he has a streak of vanity as well. He exaggerates his position as well as the judge’s wealth and kindness in order to make himself feel better about working for the judge. The primary characterization of the cook, however, is as a servant. The judge and the cook, though they have spent more time with each other than with anyone else, have no personal familiarity. This is reinforced in the novel’s writing as the cook’s name, Panna Lal, is not revealed until the second to last page of the novel, when his son returns. He does not become a fully realized person, then, until he is reunited with his son.

The Cook Quotes in The Inheritance of Loss

The The Inheritance of Loss quotes below are all either spoken by The Cook or refer to The Cook. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of The Inheritance of Loss published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

His lines had been honed over centuries, passed down through generations, for poor people needed certain lines; the script was always the same, and they had no option but to beg for mercy. The cook knew instinctively how to cry.

Related Characters: The Cook
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 2 Quotes

An accident, they said, and there was nobody to blame—it was just fate in the way fate has of providing the destitute with a greater quota of accidents for which nobody can be blamed.

Related Characters: Sai, Biju, The Cook
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 12 Quotes

It was important to draw the lines properly between classes or it harmed everyone on both sides of the great divide.

Related Characters: Sai, The Cook, Noni, Lola
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17 Quotes

The more pampered you are the more pampered you will be the more presents you receive the more presents you will get the more presents you receive the more you are admired the more you will be admired the more you are admired the more presents you will get the more pampered you will be—

Related Characters: Biju, The Cook
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Cook Character Timeline in The Inheritance of Loss

The timeline below shows where the character The Cook appears in The Inheritance of Loss. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...is playing chess against himself. Underneath the judge’s seat, his dog Mutt is sleeping. The cook is in the kitchen, lighting damp wood to make a fire for tea. (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...late. She excuses his absence because of the thickening mist. The judge complains that the cook is late with his tea, and Sai offers to get it for him. (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
The cook complains about his aching bones and joints, thinking that he might as well be dead,... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
...Service. The boys take the guns and ask for tea and snacks. They drag the cook out from where he is hiding under the dining table. He begs for his life... (full context)
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
The cook fries pakoras for the boys while the judge is forced to set the table, something... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
The boys finish by making the judge, Sai, and the cook say “I am a fool” and “Jai Gorkha” before leaving with Sai and the judge’s... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...February of 1986. The newspapers describe a gathering insurgency. Where Sai, the judge, and the cook live, Kalimpong, the Indian-Nepalese are treated like a minority, even though they constitute the majority... (full context)
Chapter 2
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The judge sends the cook to the police station, knowing that the police could very well be bought off by... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
The policemen question the cook harshly, but they cannot ignore a member of the judiciary, and so they travel to... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The police then go to the cook’s hut, suspicious because they assume that robberies are often the fault of servants. Sai goes... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook’s wife had died seventeen years earlier, when Biju was five. She had fallen from a... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
Sai remembers how the cook would often describe how Biju was naughty but had a good nature. He had beamed... (full context)
Chapter 4
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
The cook is sure that because Biju is cooking American food, he has a higher position than... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
...National Geographic, which traveled all the way from Nebraska. When it arrived, she and the cook blew it up and examined India and New York. The cook was surprised to hear... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
The policemen, having exposed the cook’s poverty, leave. Sai is embarrassed at seeing the cook’s hut, a place into which she... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Sai recalls when she first met the cook—nine years earlier, when she had left St. Augustine’s convent. When she arrived, the door had... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
In the present, Sai expresses her frustration at the way the police left the cook’s hut, and the mess they have made of his letters. The cook is less disturbed,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...different nationalities, to the point where he is relieved when a Pakistani is hired. The cook is shocked to hear in his letters that American restaurants would hire Pakistanis. At work... (full context)
Chapter 6
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
When Sai first arrives at Cho Oyu, the cook had made a huge dinner for her, modeling the mashed potatoes into the shape of... (full context)
Chapter 8
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
In the morning, the judge instructs the cook to bring Sai to meet her new tutor, Noni. On the road to Noni’s house,... (full context)
Chapter 11
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Back at Kanchenjunga, the cook drops Sai off at Mon Ami for her tutoring with Noni. In between dropping her... (full context)
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
This liquor business has led the cook to become a link in the underground system of subsidized army liquor and fuel rations.... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook had entered this underground business for Biju, but also for himself, as he strived for... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
The cook found that the most awful part of his life was in serving a family he... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook also told many of these lies to Sai. He would tell her that the judge... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The narrative flashes forward once more to the cook’s stories. He brags to Sai about how many servants there had been before. The cook... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
...the countryside to fish or hunt (though he was a terrible shot). For dinner, the cook would bring out a chicken, declaring it a “roast bastard,” taken from the Englishman’s favorite... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
The cook had been disappointed to be working for the judge, as his father had only served... (full context)
Chapter 12
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
...a lonely house of only men. Sai explains that she doesn’t mind it because the cook talks so much. (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Sai explains that the cook talks about his wife and Biju, and about their family affairs and finances. Noni believes... (full context)
Chapter 13
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
The cook sets out study tools in a semicircle for Sai and Gyan, and this reminds him... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
During Sai and Gyan’s first lesson, the cook brings in tea and fried cheese toast. He then sits just outside the door and... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Later, the cook remarks to Sai that it is strange that Gyan is Nepali—he would have thought Gyan... (full context)
Chapter 14
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...As ambulances and police cars pass, he can’t help but worry that his father the cook might be sick or dead. (full context)
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the cook is writing a letter to Biju, asking if he might be able to help a... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...down to the river and looks out at New Jersey. He becomes angry with the cook for sending him to America, but also knows that he wouldn’t have forgiven his father... (full context)
Chapter 15
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Back in Kalimpong, the cook reads a letter from Biju explaining that he has gotten a new job in a... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook walks into town, passing the Travel Agency and wondering when he might be able to... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
The cook goes to buy potatoes from an attractive girl. He wonders if Biju would like her,... (full context)
Chapter 16
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Sai becomes interested in other people’s love affairs. She asks the cook about the judge’s wife (Nimi). The cook says that she was a great lady, and... (full context)
Chapter 17
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
In Kalimpong, the cook writes another letter. He is besieged by requests for help in getting people to America.... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...night Biju thinks of his village, where he had lived with his grandmother while the cook worked at Cho Oyu. He remembers it fondly: the tall grasses, the fishing eagles, the... (full context)
Chapter 18
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
...to build. In a flash, it arrives. The wind blows the trees around, and the cook clamps all the doors and windows shut. When Sai opens a door just as he’s... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Gyan finds Sai reading the newspaper (ironed dry by the cook) and wearing her kimono. She had just been thinking about how the country is coming... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
...table. Sai apologizes for his behavior, but Gyan is too preoccupied staring at her. The cook clears the dirty dishes and makes up a bed in an extra room. Sai and... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the cook sits in his own hut, opening two letters from Biju. The first letter’s ink has... (full context)
Chapter 19
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook goes to the post office, complaining that the letters are all wet. Lola tries to... (full context)
Chapter 23
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
...and Father Booty tease her about Gyan. When she reaches Cho Oyu, she discovers the cook waiting for her at the gate. He complains that he has been waiting for her.... (full context)
Chapter 29
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...to argue against speaking English as well, which would be unthinkable. Later that evening, the cook asks where Gyan went. Sai doesn’t respond but says that the cook had been right:... (full context)
Chapter 30
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook is putting buffalo meat into Mutt’s stew, and worries that food and supplies are getting... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Years prior, when the cook’s wife had died falling from a tree, his village had warned that her ghost was... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook first tried to send Biju abroad when a recruiting agent for a cruise ship line... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...cow, and did push-ups in joy. The next day, he sent a telegram to the cook. His father was overjoyed, as was Sai, who knew that with Biju in America, the... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...that had come from India, because it mirrored his own journey.  Biju remembers what the cook had said: stay in America as long as possible, make money, and don’t come back. (full context)
Chapter 33
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Sai arrives home and goes to bed without dinner, offending the cook, who thinks that she probably had a fancy dinner in a restaurant and now doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 35
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
...admiring them. Sai had told Gyan that the judge used to go hunting, as the cook had told her. She had been trying to impress Gyan, but later wondered why the... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...the judge that they will catch the criminals. After he leaves, the judge tells the cook that they never find anyone. Sai continues to think of Gyan avoiding her. (full context)
Chapter 36
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...of the strikes brought on by the Nepalis. Biju had attributed the break in the cook’s correspondence to the weather. Over the course of the day, Biju becomes convinced that his... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Biju calls again and the cook answers. They yell over the phone, trying to compensate for the distance and the bad... (full context)
Chapter 40
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Power and Humiliation Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 41
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Biju grows more and more concerned about the cook in Kalimpong. He looks out over the Hudson. A man comes up next to him... (full context)
Chapter 42
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...arrive at Cho Oyu from the GNLF, demanding that someone attend. The judge tells the cook to go. (full context)
Chapter 43
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
The date is July 27, 1986. The cook and a watchman from the neighborhood arrive at the Mela Ground, where the protesters are... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Everyone is running, including the cook. He gets some distance up the road before feeling his legs collapse under him. The... (full context)
Chapter 44
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
The cook tries to calm himself, but he can’t manage to go to the market, and so... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
One day, the wife of the tortured drunk man returns with her father-in-law. The cook is horrified to see them. They beg for food, but the judge tells them to... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...a smell when they pounce on her. The judge is sitting in a bath, the cook is churning butter, and Sai is sitting in her room thinking of Gyan. They do... (full context)
Chapter 49
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
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,... (full context)
Chapter 50
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...is here. Yet Biju also sees how good it will be for him and the cook not to have their hearts in two places. (full context)
Chapter 51
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
The judge dreams that Mutt is dying. The next day, he tells the cook that if he does not find her, he will kill him. The judge reprimands the... (full context)
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
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The cook, for his own part, goes to the canteen, where people laugh at him for being... (full context)
Chapter 53
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
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The cook returns to Cho Oyu in a haze of alcohol. He asks the judge, who has... (full context)
Colonialism and Globalization Theme Icon
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
...in the dark as it rains, drowning out the sound of the judge hitting the cook. She can’t formulate thoughts, her heart lies in pieces, and she begins to cry—for herself,... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Sai wonders what will happen at Cho Oyu, but she already knows. The cook will back to his quarters; the judge to his room. The next day, the judge... (full context)
Poverty vs. Privilege Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Sai thinks of her father, the National Geographics, the judge’s journey, the cook’s journey, and Biju’s. She resolves to leave. Sai turns to go inside, but as she... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Sai and the cook hear the gate rattle. The cook offers to get it. Morning begins to break over... (full context)