Bela demands to be played with more and more often. Gauri sometimes indulges her daughter, but never wholeheartedly engages in play, reading, or games. She begins to realize why many parents have a second child: to give their first a friend and playmate. Still, Gauri is determined to never become pregnant again. She continues sleeping with Subhash in spite of these feelings, attempting each time to “extinguish Udayan’s ghost” and “smother what haunt[s] her.” Through their exuberant but emotionless lovemaking, she learns that sex and love—the heart and the body—can be two different things.
Gauri is, to some extent, unraveling. The work she is doing to try and erase her memories of Udayan and make herself focus on the life she has made for herself isn’t successful, and she finds herself feeling like her relationships both with Bela and Subhash are burdensome obligations on which she can only briefly, sporadically focus.
Gauri broaches the topic of hiring a babysitter for Bela so that she can take a German philosophy class twice a week, but Subhash vetoes the idea outright. He tells Gauri that it is her responsibility to be home with Bela. Gauri feels many conflicting emotions—she is angry that Subhash wants to hold her back from pursuing academia, since she knows that Bela favors Subhash and would prefer to spend time with him. When Gauri raises the subject again a few days later, Subhash agrees to compromise, and come home earlier a few days a week so that Gauri can take the class in the evenings.
Gauri is crawling out of her own skin—she wants to escape the routine motherhood has made of her life. Though Subhash thinks that Gauri should attend to her duties to Bela wholeheartedly, he eventually realizes that he is forcing Gauri into a role or a pattern is not good for her, and agrees that she should expand her horizons and seek at least a little happiness of her own.
On days she is home with Bela, Gauri feels entwined but alone, and is often unaware of time passing. The simple tasks of gathering Bela from school, preparing dinner, feeding Bela, and cleaning up exhaust her not just physically but emotionally. She begins waiting impatiently for the times when Subhash takes over and resents him when he goes off for a few days to conferences or to do research. Gauri begins taking advantage of her evenings, leaving Bela home with Subhash and heading to the library to be alone. She wonders why she feels so antagonized by her husband and her child, and eventually realizes, with great shame, that motherhood is not bringing any sense of meaning to her life.
Gauri is clearly emotionally disconnected from the life she has built. She can hardly bear the responsibilities of motherhood, and even simply being in her own home creates a sense of claustrophobia. Gauri is out of touch, though, with what she’s really feeling. As she takes this evening walk and the truth that she is unfulfilled by her role as a mother becomes clear to her, she struggles with what to do in the wake of such a realization.
Gauri berates herself for “failing at something every other woman on earth [does] without trying,” and only feels more lost when she considers that her love for Udayan—the impetus for her agreeing to marry Subhash and bring Udayan’s child into the world with him—is no longer recognizable. She is only angry with him for leaving her stuck in such a situation.
Gauri at first blames herself, but then experiences the realization that everything she has done—and the miserable situation she’s landed herself in—is a result of trying to maintain a connection with someone who is dead.
At the end of the semester, Gauri’s philosophy professor, a man named Otto Weiss, calls her into his office to discuss her final paper. He tells her that her paper—a forty-page paper submitted for a ten-page assignment—is ambitious, though in many ways a failure. Gauri apologizes, believing she is being reprimanded—instead, though, Otto praises Gauri’s work and begins asking her about her life. Gauri confides in Otto that her first husband was killed, and that she married his brother to escape Calcutta.
Gauri has been feeling insecure, adrift, and insufficient. In her studies, though, she shines, impressing her professor. She confides in this man, and he becomes the only person other than Subhash who knows the truth of her life. Academia is in this way both an intellectual and emotional outlet for Gauri, and the one bright spot in her life.
Otto tells Gauri that she belongs in a doctoral program—they do not offer one at this university, but he offers to recommend her some books and help her research and apply to doctoral programs. He promises to see that she is admitted somewhere before returning her paper to her and shaking her hand.
With the promise of academic advancement on the horizon, Gauri feels a new chapter in her life opening up—the chance to shoulder a different kind of duty. Otto’s promise to her is its own kind of conspiracy.