Unit VII – Indian Writing in English
|02||Aurobindo’s Thought the Paraclete||27|
|03||Sarojini Naidu’s Poems (from the Golden Treasury of Indian Poetry)||31|
|04||Toru Dutt’s Poems (from the Golden Treasury of Indian Poetry)||45|
|05||A.K.Ramanujam’s Poems (from “Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets”||53|
|06||R. Parthasarathy’s Poems (from “Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets”)||63|
|07||Kamala Das’s Poems (from “Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets”)||72|
|08||Nissim Ezekiel’s Poems (from “Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets”)||80|
|09||Ananda Commarasamy’s The Dance of Shiva||94|
|10||Nehru’s An Autobiography||101|
|11||Tagore’s Muktha Dhara||113|
|12||Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq||120|
|13||Gurucharan Das’s Larine Sahib||139|
|14||Mulk Raj Anand’s Coolie||151|
|15||Raja Rao’s Kantapura||163|
|16||R.K.Narayan’s The English Teacher||205|
|17||Kamala Markandaya’s A Handful of Rice||253|
17. Kamala Markandaya’s A Handful of Rice
Life and Career
- Kamala Markandaya was born in Mysore, India, in 1924 to a privileged Brahmin family.
- Born Kamala Purnaiyas, and often known as Kamala Purnaiya Taylor, she adopted the surname Markandaya when her first novel was published.
- Little is known about her childhood, but as a young woman, she graduated with a degree in history from the University of Madras before working in the Indian army during World War II. She then established herself as a journalist and short-story writer, married a fellow journalist, Englishman Bertrand Taylor, and immigrated to Britain in 1948.
- During the later part of her life she lived an intensely private life in England, traveling to India only occasionally.
- As with the beginning of her life, little is known about the author’s later years.
- Markandaya died of kidney failure on May 16, 2004, in London, England.
- 1954 – Nectar in a Sieve
- Markandaya’s first published novel, was actually the third novel she wrote.
- The book became an international best seller and was translated into seventeen languages.
- 1956 – Some Inner Fury
- 1960 – A Silence of Desire
- 1963 – Possession; a novel
- 1966 – A Handful of Rice
- It is her 5th novel and it revisits the topic of poverty, this time in an urban setting.
- 1969 – The Coffer Dams
- 1972 – The Nowhere Man
- Many critics consider this work to be the author’s greatest novel.
- Epic in scope, the story focuses on the cultural consequences of widespread postwar South Asian migration to Britain.
- 1973 – Two Virgins
- 1977 – The Golden Honeycomb
- 1982 – Shalimar
- It is the last novel to be published in her life time. It was poorly received and she stopped writing.
- 2008 – Bombay Tiger (Posthumously published.)
- Kamala Markandaya is one of India’s best-known novelists.
- The fact that her body of work, especially the novel The Nowhere Man, foreshadowed the explosion of published works by South Asian writers over the last several decades makes her novels required reading for anyone interested in Indian culture.
- Markandaya explores a number of issues in her novels, including urbanization, poverty, sexuality, gender, interracial relationships, India’s struggle to maintain its identity in an increasingly Westernized world, and colonialism’s impact.
- Her works concern the struggles of contemporary Indians with conflicting Eastern and Western values.
- Markandaya never reveals the setting of the novel and never sets the action in a particular time or place, thus ensuring the story’s timeless quality and universal appeal.
- She has been called “one of the most important Indian novelists writing in English”.
A Handful of Rice
When the novel opens we find that Ravi, the hero of the novel, is walking on the road at the dead hour of the night. He is intoxicated and is followed by a policeman. In order to escape from him, he wants to enter Apu’s house. At first Apu argues with him and tries to prevent him from entering his house. But all his efforts are in vain, Ravi threatens him and forcibly enters his house. Then he demands food and Apu brings bread, buttermilk and a sweet potato for him. He eats to his heart’s content and then demands a soft bed. Apu gives a mat, mattress, pillow and a shawl to him. This kind of bed is a luxury to him. Soon he sleeps.
When Ravi wakes up in the morning he finds that he is chained. Jayamma, Apu’s wife, beats him black and blue. His head is injured and it is bleeding. Apu is shocked to see his wife’s cruelty. They ask him the reason of breaking in like a ruffian. Ravi tells them that he was very hungry and wanted some food. Now they take pity on him and wash his wounds and dress it up. Jayamma does not allow him to leave without taking any food. She gives him idlies and coffee.After breakfast, Ravi goes to his friend, Damodar. He is a petty criminal. Ravi tells him everything about the night.
Next morning Ravi goes to Apu’s house and offers to set the bars right he had broken the last night. Jayamma unwillingly gives him five rupees for the bars. Ravi goes to Kannan, the blacksmith. Sometimes Ravi works for him. They have a cordial relationship. Kannan sets the bars right but does not charge for that. He wants to keep Ravi out of mischief. Ravi ses Naline, Apu’s youngest daughter. He finds her very young and pretty.
Ravi is very happy now, because Kannan has done his work. He thinks about what to do with his money. First, he thinks to keep four rupees with him and return one to Jayamma. But he returns four-fifty to her and jayamma being happy gives him twenty-five paisa. Ravi hears Nalini giggling and steals a glance at her. He is attracted towards her and thinks that for the first time a decent girl is on his side. He is now in high good humour.
Ravi thinks uninterruptedly about Nalini and wants to meet her as an equal but not as laboring coolie in her father’s house. He is lost in the thoughts of his previous life. He recollects how his brothers, sister and brother-in-law had left for the city, because the village had nothing to offer. He remembers his mother who died in disappointment. He thinks that it is very hard to get a job in the city where thousands of graduates are going without a job. Ravi tells Damodar about Nalini. He opines that all the girls are same, they are not chaste. But Ravi tells him that Nalini is a different sort of girl. She is chaste young beauty. Seeing Ravi determined to get Nalini, Damodar advises him to propitiate Jayamma. When he comes to know that Nalini’s father is a tailor he asks him to steal some fine goods from a warehouse. Ravi finds it very difficult but Damodar suggests him to grease the palm of the watchman. At last Ravi is ready to follow Damodar.
Ravi takes some cloth material to Apu’s house. Jayamma coldly receives him but Apu is very happy to get that rich, heavy texture. Ravi begins to respect Apu because he is Nalini’s father. He wants to marry her. He is very much impressed by her virtues and is fascinated by her beauty. Ravi is disappointed to see large number of persons living in Apu’s house. Varma, Apu’s nephew, also lives in his house. He does not like Ravi and treats him badly.One day Apu takes Ravi with him to customer’s house. On the way, they talk about various matters. Apu explains to him the importance of not losing a customer. He shows his disgust against his family workers who are not interested in work and is only meant to eat. He tells Ravi that he needs an efficient man who can carry his business after his death. He is depressed because he has only daughters.
Ravi does not like this petty craft of stitching clothes. He prefers a job in a government office because it gives good salary during the job and a pension after retirement. He knows that he cannot get a job in an office because he is not educated enough. Ravi wants to marry Nalini and so he is ready to give up his vagabond life and determines to share Apu’s business.
Ravi notices the strict watch on Nalini by jayamma. But he continues his work at Apu’s house. One day he brings Orange Krush and Kola for Nalini and her mother. Jayamma appreciates it. Ravi suggests that if they could go to the stall, they would get fresh Orange Krush and Kola. Jayamma allows Nalini to go to the stall with Ravi. They go to the stall regularly. One day Ravi proposes to go to the cinema. Jayamma agrees and goes to the cinema with Ravi and Nalini. At the interval Ravi goes out to bring something cool for them. When he comes back he finds that Jayamma is now sitting in the middle.
Sometimes Ravi is frustrated because he has not much time to live in the company of Nalini. If he takes Nalini out, it is only briefly, just long enough to go to the stall and come back, cinemas are monthly events and he has also the problem of money. Jayamma also wants to go with them and Ravi does not like it. One day they go to see a procession. While returning home, Jayamma wants to go to Ravi’s quarters. He has no quarters, he sleeps on pavements. He does not want to tell them the truth. He tells lies. He tells them that he lives with her aunt and she is seriously ill. If they go there. She will be disturbed. Jayamma asks Ravi to bring his aunt to her house. At night he thinks about the problem of accommodation in the cities. Ravi writes to his father to come to the city for negotiation about his marriage. He gives him Apu’s address: after some days his father comes to Apu’s house. Thangam, Nalini’s sister, sees him and informs Ravi about it. Ravi takes him to the coffee-shop and after half hour he comes back to Apu’s house. Thangam teases Ravi and he is irritated.
Ram, Ravi’s father, and Apu discuss the marriage proposal and in no time finalize it. They understand and respect each other. They also talk of land, its price, of the high price of rice and grain etc. Till the evening all the details of marriage are quietly settled. Nalini will bring her husband no dowry, on the other hand Ravi will be paid during apprenticeship. Apu likes Ravi much and as he has no sons, he decides to leave his business to him after his death.Ram also likes Nalini very much. After their engagement Jayamma keeps a watch over her daughter like an eagle. There are no more cinemas or any other outing. Now Ravi’s status in the household is changed, he is now respected even by Varma. Ravi is lost in the thoughts of his marriage. Jayamma lectures Ravi about the duties of a husband and a son-in-law. At this moment we find that she has lust for Ravi.Ravi’s father begins to talk about his past. But Ravi is irritated to listen to the hideous past and he ceases to listen.
Now Ravi is married to Nalini. He receives a warm welcome. Flowers, plantation-fronds are on the way. The groom and the bride are taken in a mother-car. Apu, Varma and Ram all are there. Ravi is eleted at his beautiful wife, Nalini. Apu bears all the expenses of married. Ravi reflects on his poverty and his heart fills with sympathy for his father. He admires Apu who bears all the expenses without any complaint. He feels that Apu loves his daughter very much.
Jayamma prepares evening meal and feeds Ravi. A separate room is arranged for the newly married couple and they are also provided with a good bed. At night they enter the room. Ravi has been in the company of many women before his marriage. But he finds Nalini different from other women. She is young and virgin. Soon they are united. Next day blood is found on the bed and it is proved that she is really virgin. Ravi is proud of her virginity.
After the consummation of marriage Ravi’s father returns to the village. Now Ravi returns to his former role as employee in Apu’s house. Now the comfortable bed is also taken back by Apu, to whom it rightly belongs. His heart is heavy to see his young wife lying down on the floor. He promises her to bring a soft and nice bed. He is very happy with Nalini because now she also responds to his love. Now Ravi’s desires begin to increase day by day. He wants his wages to be higher. He wants to buy a bed, a nice new sari for Nalini, material for some smart dresses for himself, a safety-razor, a mouth organ and other essentials and luxuries. But Apu finds no reason to increase his wages.
Apu’s business is thriving. One day Apu sent Ravi to a shop to sell some beautiful jackets. Apu tells him that one dozen jackets cost eighty rupees. When he goes to the shop, he is stunned to see that one jacket made by Apu costs one hundred and twenty. He is extremely angry and wants the prices to be raised but Apu refuses to do so because he is afraid of losing the customers. Ravi is very much angry and disturbed and for the first time after his marriage he goes to Damodar and spends some time with him. Damodar has deep concern for money and is involved in unfair business. He suggests Ravi that if he wants to earn decent money he has to get rid of his beggar mentality.
After midnight Ravi returns home. Jayamma opens the door and rebukes him boldly. Then he enters his bedroom and finds Nalini asleep. Soon she gets up and a good deal of discussion goes between them. Nalini asks him to be content with what they have, but Ravi says that he wants more. He is very much angry at the thought that only rice people can enjoy everything and poor people like him have no comfort in their life. Nalini says that he has been corrupted. Nalini tells him that they cannot be like rich people. Ravi regrets his action and promises that he will never give her any trouble. Nalini bursts into tears. She understands that Ravi is mentally disturbed, some problem is worrying him. She desires that her husband must be respected by all the members of the family. They try to make love but Varma wakes up. Soon they sleep with each other.
Apu is unhappy with Puttanna, his elder son-in-law. He is very idle. Ravi never neglects his work. He is sincere and hard-working. Apu expresses his satisfaction at the way Ravi is working to increase the income of the family. Apu is now gradually handing over more and more of the work to Ravi. Apu is very happy to see that Ravi is a good worker as well as a good husband. Again there is a discussion between Ravi and Apu over the prices of the jackets. Ravi forces Apu to raise the prices. But he is practical enough to know that if he raises the prices, he will lose the customers. At last Ravi is speechless, he realizes his mistakes.
Apu takes Ravi to Memsahib’s house and tells her that son-in-law is learning the business. He highly appreciates Ravi but he does not pay any attention to him. Then they enter the Memsahib’s bed room. So many magazines are displayed. He does not understand these European ladies but with Indian women he is at ease.His desire for wealth increases and he thinks more and more about money. He has a keen desire to buy a good bed and a bicycle. Apu passes comment on Ravi’s generation. He says that he and his generation is too soft. He observes that ‘Brought up soft, can’t take anything.’ Ravi retorts angrily, ‘We don’t want to take anything and everything.’ Ravi quarrels with Varma, Jayamma does not like it. Kumaran, the cripple, is treated like a child although he is a grown-up man. Nobody talks to him. Ravi hates the idle members of the family. Apu increases Ravi’s wages. Ravi is not interested in giving all his wages to Jayamma. But he realizes that he has to contribute to run a joint establishment.
When Ravi’s shelter is completed, Ravi’s rancours and resentments melt away. Without any dispute he gives his wages to Jayamma. She is very happy. She likes her hard-working and handsome son-in-law.Nalini does not like Ravi’s quarrelling with Jayamma. She is an affectionate aunt. She prepares dresses for her niece. She hints that she is going to be a mother, although she is not sure about it. Thangam is expecting. One night she quarrels with her husband for the latter’s failure to get a job. Puttana says that he is trying for a job and he may get one soon. But Thangam becomes more angry and says that a baby will be born to them before he gets a job. Jayamma is also annoyed with Puttana and she says to Apu that if he cannot support children, he must not have them. Puttana is also very much angry with Jayamma and tells Varma that she is a devil and she even grudges him a handful of rice. But Varma is not agreed with him. Then Ravi intervenes and Puttana quarrels with him.
Ravi has a keen desire for a son, because he may hand over to him his business. Ravi wants that Nalini must be free and unashamed in love-making.By the end of the third month Nalini capitualates. A baby is certainly on the way. Now Ravi and Nalini even give up their occasional pleasures and begin to manage things for their baby. They are very much happy in their roof-top shelter. It is a new world of charm and novelty to them. They enjoy watching people who live in the steamy ovens below.
In the summer months they wake up at six o’clock. But Thangam and Puttana rise at five to attend their child. Then they are busy in washing and cleaning. Ravi hates this part of morning very much. He does not like Thangam to be near the tap because she takes much time. He does not want her to come to his shelter. He objects to it, but Nalini says that she’s eight months gone and wants some fresh air. They argue and Ravi says that he only wants some privacy. Then they see a procession coming. It is a Christian festival and everybody in the house sees it. Ravi explains to Damodar that Christianity is a spent religion. His father, Ram, considers Christians good people. Ravi thinks that they are good and bad in all kinds. Ravi and Nalini like the procession very much. Nalini is tired and they sit quietly in the starlight, enveloped in peace.
Thangam is having her baby, premature labour has started. Jayamma is sending all the male members out of the house. Only Apu is at home. Varma, Puttana and Kumaran follow the separate routes but Ravi is undecided where to go. His eyes are heavy with sleep. He begins to observe the withered flower-petals that litter the street. Ravi secretly goes to the house because he thinks it better to do something. He wants to bring some clothes etc. to sew them somewhere outside. Jayamma sees him and makes a lot of noise. She calls him shameless. Apu calls Ravi in his room. Ravi does not like to sit in the old man’s room and he tells Apu that he should come back for work. He is lost in thoughts. He is thinking about life and death. Now, Ravi does not want to work. He is undecided yet whether to go to the park or to Kannan. He has no friends and relatives to visit. Now he thinks of Damodar. But he does not want to go to him because he had been the cause of his first serious quarrels with Nalini. He has heard about him that he has become very rich and has bought a big splendid house.
Damodar is very rich, yet outwardly there is no change. He still wears the plain white trousers and loose white shirt. He has not become healthy, he is lean and thin. Ravi respects him for his simplicity. Ravi tells him that there is no excitement in his life. He has to live monotonous life, only to work, eat and sleep. They take rose sherbet. Ravi is glad to see everything in the house. Damodar tells Ravi that poor people like him are cattle in the eyes of the world. He tells him that the people for whom he works have become respectable because they have money. Ravi tells him that Nalini is carrying and then they may be short of money. Damodar offers him to join his company.
Ravi is happy to hear that Thangam’s new baby a girl. Now there is chance that he may provide the first male grandchild to the family. Nalini is now in the last stages of her pregnancy. She undergoes severe pain. Jayamma has no sympathy with her, as her own pregnancy is now remote and Thangam takes it lightly, as she carries and bears easily. Ravi serves Nalini. Apu orders that Thangam, her husband and two children will now share with Ravi and Nalini the same room. Nalini takes it stoically as she is used to obedience but Ravi takes it hard. His desire for possession whether of land or bricks and mortar, is like a fever, a lust in his blood. He behaves in an offensive manner and Thangam objects to it. Ravi is very selfish, he refuses Thangam and her children are coming near his room.
When Ravi’s son is being born he goes outside for full sixteen hours. He takes rest in a public place and enjoys delicious coffee. An old man comes there and begins to talk to him. He tells Ravi that it is a minor thing to have a child and tells him that he has nine children. Ravi says that he shouldn’t have so many children and refers to family planning. The old man ridicules birth control but Ravi does not agree with him. They begin to argue. Thangam comes and tells Ravi that a boy is born to him. He goes to his house immediately and sees the child. It is a beautiful baby. Ravi is very happy and pays the midwife. Apu is extremely happy because for the first time a male child has been born to his house.
Raju, Ravi’s son, is now two years old, Ravi, Nalini and Raju go to the sea beach and sit there for some time. Ravi introduces a foreigner to Nalini but she does not take any interest in it. She says, who cares who comes and goes. We remain, we Indians, and that is all that matters. Ravi expresses his desire to become rich, but Nalini opines that even the rich have their own problems. She is happy that Ravi cares for her and Raju. He is not like her brother-in-law. Raju takes something from a vendor. Ravi beats him badly. Then they return home by a rickshaw.
In the morning all are busy in their daily routines. Suddenly heavy brass Chambu falls from Apu’s hands. He is pulling himself along on his stomach, slowly with the terrible slowness of a dying animal. They carry him to his bed. He is unconscious. Ravi calls a doctor. He examines Apu and tells them that he has a stroke. Everybody is shocked. Jayamma begins to weep. Nobody has eaten since the night. In the noon Thangam gives them rice and pickle. Apu’s condition is very serious. He is short of breath. Thangam, Nalini and Jayamma are serving him. Ravi calls Nalini and consoles her with these words, “He is in God’s hands, as the doctor said. Perhaps tomorrow it will be easier to tell.”
On the fourth day Apu opens his eyes and shows signs of progress. Everybody is now happy and hopeful. The doctor declares that he is recovering. Now the household slowly begins functioning again. Jayamma goes for marketing. There is some dispute between Varma and Ravi. Apu rests in his room. We feel that Jayamma has no real love for him. She serves him out of strong sense of duty, but without love. We come to know when they were married she was young and Apu past his prime. She did not love him then. But after the birth of her children, she was happy. She did the prime of her life, when she sees her daughter and son-in-law so happy, she feels her other loss. She is not sexually satisfied. Apu is speechless, but now he thinks a lot. His left hand functions. He now realizes the utility of education. One night it rains heavily. The floor is slippery. Apu again falls. Ravi is most upset by his illness because the work is not going well. Gradually Apu is improving and even the doctor is surprised at his progress.
Three months after his stroke Apu is able to walk. Ravi tells him that the Memsahibs are going away from him and placing their orders with experienced tailors. He thinks it better to work for Indian ladies, but they do not pay well and they even teach the Memsahibs not to pay more. Apu tries to convince Ravi that things would change for better. Ravi feels bitter about them. He tells Nalini the secret of her father’s business. He also tells her how shameless these Memsahibs are. They come before him only putting on a bodice and little shorts and he has to measure them. Nalini is surprised to know about their shamelessness. She wants to go with him to see these half-naked ladies. Nalini informs Ravi that Thangam is pregnant. Although Ravi bears a grudge against her, but he has affection for her children. One day Ravi takes Nalini, Raju and Thangam’s daughters to the Memsahib’s house. Apu pays a tip to the durwan to get a darshan of the Memsahib. The Memsahib complains against Ravi. Apu introduces his grandchildren to the Memsahib. Ravi resents Apu’s attitude of treating his employees as minor gods. Class consciousness is indicated in the statement of Apu, when he comments on Ravi’s observation as to why should Indian women work against them. ‘Who knows ?’ Apu says, ‘perhaps it is because they are the same class, same money, even coming from different countries makes no difference compared to that. It’s the sameness that makes them stick together.’
Ravi brings basketful of fruits. Thangam is very eager to eat them. Jayamma discovers that Thangam is pregnant again. This is an unwelcome pregnancy. Thangam blames her husband for this and they quarrel. She feels inferior to Nalini. Nalini may give good clothes and other things to her son, but she is unable to do that for her children. She is very much unhappy because her husband is unemployed. She very well knows that his promise to buy clothes for their children is an empty promise. Deepavali comes. Apu refuses to purchase new clothes for the members of the family. Except Thangam nobody is hurt by this decision. The children are given fire crackers. Ravi is also worried when he thinks of his coming baby.
After Deepavali the fire-walkers come. All of them go to see the fire-walkers, but Thangam’s husband Puttana, stays at home. Apu does not like this, he suspects him. After witnessing the fire-walkers they come back. Apu does not feel well. Ravi carries Raju on his shoulders.
After the fire-walking night Apu feels very weak. Taking his pillow he suddenly notices something and calls for Ravi. He is terribly angry. He says, “Every pie has gone, my entire life’s savings, the money upon which we all depended and it is one of you that has done it, one of you in this house, in this room.” Ravi is taken aback. Except Thangam all the members of the family are shocked. Puttana leaves the house in the morning, it is he who has taken away all of Apu’s savings. Ravi blames Thangam for that. Nalini protests and says that Puttana is the criminal and her sister should not be blamed for that. She even weeps for her sister. Thangam keeps contact with Puttanan and after a month she leaves Apu’s house and joins her husband with her children.Apu is very much shocked by this incident. They have betrayed the old man who fed them, sheltered them. . . . Forgave their follies and asked for no return.
In the morning Apu, Ravi, Nalini and Raju are going to the Memsahib’s house. On the way, Apu falls seriously ill and leans heavily on Nalini. They come back home. Jayamma finds that Apu is near to death. She knows that medicine will not work and so the doctor is not called. Apu struggles with death for some time. Thangam comes with her children to see Apu but Puttana does not come. Jayamma and Ravi watch Apu with anxiety. Soon Apu breathes his last, leaving behind his family.
After Apu’s death the family becomes orphaned. Ravi is now to shoulder the entire burden of the family. Ravi wants to put up the prices of jackets but Varma says that thus the business will fall away. Ravi goes to Memsahib’s house to give her clothes. She is very angry because of the delay. Ravi tells her about Apu’s death, but she does not soften. She does not understand Indian social custom. She even rebukes him for the ill-fitting of a blouse, “foul !wretch, call yourself a tailor ? A barber would have done better.” Our social custom does not make any sense to the Memsahib. “These people,” she thinks, with their innumerable uncles and aunts and cousins who seem to be forever dying—really they are quite impossible, impossible people inhabiting an impossible country.” Ravi comes back home and he is terribly angry. He quarrels with Nalini and beats her cruelly.
Ravi cannot face his wife the next day, nor the one after. He stays mostly in the workroom and feels sorry for his ill behavior. He feels very much alone, estranged even from his son. Raju has seen him beating his mother and is very much afraid of him. He loves his mother very dearly. Verma tries to cheer Ravi. Kumaran applies the poultice to the worst bruises under Nalini’eyes. Jayamma at first seems to have concern for Nalini but finding that her bruises are of no serious nature, she gets consolation. In fact, she admires Ravi’s masculinity. Suddenly Nalini’s condition becomes serious. There is much bleeding. Ravi comes for her help. He calls for a doctor. The doctor says that it is a hospital case. Nalini is admitted to the hosipital. It brings a lot of financial pressure on him. He sells out Apu’s bed. Doctor’s report reveals that Nalini is to have twins. The financial condition of the house deteriorates. Ravi is very much confused. He repents the beating of his wife.
Nalini’s labour is very much complicated. Twins, two girls are born and thirty-six hours after their birth, Nalini comes back home with them. Ravi likes his daughters. Sometimes through them, he sees Nalini. But now he is not in a position to meet the expenditure of the family. He goes to the Memsahib’s house but the durwan does not allow him to meet her. Ravi quarrels with him and beats him. The sahib comes out and drives Ravi away. Other trailors have usurped his customers. What to do ? Ravi thinks, “It was the way life was : a jungle, as he and his kind knew all along the line from birth to burning ghat. In this jungle one had to fight, fiercely, with whatever weapons one had or go under ?”Ravi loses all his hopes to sustain his family with the tailoring profession. Life is getting hard on him. He is very sad puzzled.
No one in the family understands Ravi. He is terribly lonely. Ravi comes before Nalini while she is suckling the babies. Raju stands before her. Raju asks Ravi, “Do you still like me ?”, and Ravi replies, ‘of course, I do’ and adds ‘because you’re my first born child. Because you are my only son.’ Jayamma comes and prepares vegetables for cooking. She recollects her association with Apu and feels that she has wronged her husband. She feels that he was good but hates the idea that he was old even when they were married. Ravi goes to Damodar for help.
Ravi decides to keep accounts with a view to managing the household better. He blames Nalini for the expenditure. When Nalini shows him stone from rice he gets angry, ‘You buy this rubbish,’ he cries, ‘with my money ‘What’s the matter with you, is that you think I’m made of money, or have I really married a cretin ?’ Nalini weeps and pleads innocence. Ravi loses his temper and orders her to get out. At night he walks the city alone. He is thoroughly dissatisfied with the present state of affairs. He wishes not to be re-born to his present state. If at all he is to be re-born, then he would prefer to be a priest or a sahib or a police inspector. He thinks of his twin daughters and feels how lovely they are. Raju is different. He is more attached to Nalini—as sons are attached to their mothers.
Ravi discovers that Damodar is now a big name. He goes to him. He tells Damodar about his poor condition. But Damodar does not show any sympathy towards him. He advises Ravi to go back to his village. But the village has nothing to offer him. Ravi promises to do any work of Damodar’s choice, but he does not believe him. Damodar recalls the memories of his childhood. He is an orphan. He cures his parents and has no love for anybody. Ravi is disappointed and returns home.
Nalini tries to pacify his feelings and requests him to take some food. But Ravi is very angry and violent. He sits beside her and she fans him. He enquires about the fan. Nalini says that once Apu gave it to her. But Ravi suspects her and says that one of her admirers has given it to her. He treats her rudely. She is greatly shocked and attributes Ravi’s misbehavior to his association with Damodar. “You go out,” she cries, “at night for hours. They say you meet this man. He is vicious. Everyone knows he is vicious.” Ravi becomes very angry and orders her to get out. Then he goes out for a while. When he comes back, he finds that Nalini is not there. He asks Jayamma about her. She says that she does not know about her. Suddenly Ravi becomes passionate and loses his control. He rapes his mother-in-law.
Next morning, Ravi feels shy of his shameful act, but Jayamma looks normal as nothing has happened. She even talks to him. He is very keen to know about Nalini. Jayamma tells him that she has gone to her sister’s house. Ravi goes there and finds. Nalini and his children. Nalini has told her sister that Ravi beats her badly. When he asks her to return to her home, Thangam passes some comments on him. But Ravi retorts that she is his wife and orders her to follow him and Nalini obediently follows him.
Ravi finds a new job, hemming sheets for a hospital. It is a poorly paid job, but it is a new hospital and there is a plenty of job. Ravi works very hard. With his additional earnings he manages to keep pace with house rent and food bills, although the backlog of debts and arrears remains as heavy as ever. He calculates that he will earn ten rupees a month and within two or three years he will pay all his debts. Nalini thinks of their coming baby. Sometimes Ravi repents why he has rejected Damodar’s offer. Jayamma is very ill. Raju is suffering from fever. Nalini is worried about it but Ravi does not pay proper attention to it. In the morning Raju has severe earache and headache also. Ravi suggests him to take an Aspro and goes out for work. At night Raju’s condition worsens. Nalini asks Ravi to call a doctor but he becomes very angry and says that he has no money for a doctor. Finally he goes out for a doctor. The doctor rebukes them for treating meaningitis with Aspro. Now he cannot see properly and cannot speak anything. He is suffering from severe pain and fever. Ravi becomes sad and emotional seeing his son’s condition. After some time Raju dies. His death breaks his heart.
Ravi loses his balance of judgement after Raju’s death. Nalini becomes speechless and stupefied. They blame the society, ‘guilty of casual murder.’ Ravi goes to Damodar again. Damodar examines him like an ageing harlot and declares that he is of no use to him. You are empty. ‘No heart, no spleen, no lights, no guts,’ he says. Ravi returns disappointedly.
One afternoon a crow raids a godown for rice. Ravi joins the crowd. The crowd begins to loot the godown. Ravi is now confused. Suddenly, Kannan, the blacksmith shouts at him. Kannan urges him to keep away from such a crime. Ravi restrains himself. We know that now Ravi is not a criminal, he is a changed person. He has a family to look after and cannot indulge himself in anti-social activities. When Kannan checks him from taking away the rice, good sense prevails upon him’ and he keeps away. Then he says, ‘I don’t feel in the mood today’. But tomorrow, yes tomorrow……’