Chapter 1 gives us an overview of Jagan’s lifestyle and introduces the protagonist in his environment. He is in his sweets shop with the person identified as his cousin (who apparently claims cousinhood with many others in the town). The novel begins with Jagan stating an important quotation: ‘Conquer taste and you will have conquered the self.’
Then the narrator lets us know how Jagan has a framed picture of goddess Laxshmi and offers jasmine flowers, prayers and incense first thing in the morning. These fragrances mix with the smells of the sweets.
The narrator explains that Jagan was fifty five and he shaved only at intervals because he thought looking at yourself in the mirror everyday was ‘an intolerable European habit.’ He wore a loose jibba over his dhoti – spun with his own hand. He spun (thread, to make clothes) every day for an hour.
For Sandals, he used to make his own from the hide of a dead cow – he would not buy shoes as he didnt want an innocent animal to be killed for the confort of his feet. The process of making shoes was very inconvenient to the household – wife (Ambika) and son, Mali. He didn’t consider their discomfort.
The cousin knows how Jagan is hypocritic and wants to ask why Jagan should expect others to eat sweets and keep him flourishing (because Jagan maintains a very minimal diet, and brags about this to the cousin).