Vendor of Sweets Chapter 6 Summary


The chapter begins with the cousin manipulating Jagan once again. ‘Flattery was his accredited business in life,’ says the narrator. They discuss about Mali who is seen riding a scooter and they talk of how things have changed – ‘these are the days of speed’ says the cousin. Cousin mentions the scheme that Mali has spoken of, and seeing Jagan confused, the astute cousin realizes that Jagan is feeling like an outsider – a misfit in his own territory. Chapter 5 ends with Mali explaining the scheme to Jagan, who fails to pay attention and listen but pretends to have paid attention. The cousin has to explain the story writing machine to Jagan, rather than his own son. The communication barrier still stands, and Jagan still fails to take on the responsibility of a father to fix the communication barrier that he was responsible for.

Jagan tries to meet Mali next morning, but Grace says that he is busy, and will meet him in 15 minutes – ‘Jagan felt as if he were a petitioner in his own house.’ A bell sounds to indicate that he is free. Mali is slightly annoyed and explains the machine once again. Wondering in anxiety what his part was in all this, he speaks about how the ancestors had an oral tradition. Mali responds abrasively: ‘these are not the days of your ancestors. Today we have to compete with advanced countries not only in economics and industry, but also in culture.’

Later on, Jagan learns from the cousin that Mali is counting on Jagan for the 51,000 USD which is the equivalent of about 2.5 Laks in INR.

‘I hope you will find an occasion to tell my son that I have not got all that money.’

‘now you are both on speaking terms, why don’t you tell him yourself?’

Jagan sighed and said, ‘I do not wish to spoil his mood.’

He feels like he is being hunted by Mali and Grace, and tries avoiding them. At Truth Printing he finds that Mali’s prospectus is being printed even before his book. He goes to his shop and lets ‘his eyes rest on the copy of the Baghavad Gita.’ Soon, he sees them abandoning the scooter and moving about in a green car. Jagan, feeling the pressure building, tries to avoid it saying, ‘Gandhi has taught me peaceful methods, and that’s how I am going to meet their demand.’

‘He was going to meet the situation by ignoring the whole business; a sort of non-violent non-cooperation.’

But he extremely restless and anxious at home and the simple joy has been taken away. Grace’s expectant stare, and the significant side glances of Mali got on his nerves.

‘He was aware of a silent tension growing.’

Finally, when Grace asks if he has thought about the proposition, he feels cornered and diverts the topic once again. He feels trapped. Grace has a flower stuck on her hair, and says that, ‘as it’s a Friday, I have remembered my duties as a Hindu wife.’ She has decorated the threshold with white flour. She tries to blend in, which is rather ironic because Mali seeks to detach himself from all things Indian, while Grace, who is the outsider by birth and upbringing, tries to assimilate the local culture.

While they were speaking, Mali speaks out of a window, saying, ‘Father, come in for a moment. I must talk to you.’ The narrator says that, ‘Jagan felt that Grace had only been holding him in a trap and scowled at her accusingly.’

Father and Son have an unproductive session – Jagan accuses Mali of including his name in the prospectus but Mali claims that Jagan said ‘go ahead,’ when he asked permission.

Jagan cast his mind back. ‘What day was that?’

Mali’s temper had now risen.

Eventually Jagan says ‘I am a poor man.’ He notices the shock and embarrassment in Mali’s face. So he says, ‘Gandhi always advocated poverty and not riches.’

Mali mocks him, mentioning his large profits.

If you feel you can take up the business and run it, do so; it is yours if you want it. Says Jagan.

You expect me to do that? I have better plans than to be a vendor of sweetmeats,’ is Mali’s response. Jagan leaves.

Later, as he speaks of his preparation in the shop, the cousin notes, ‘You pay attention to every detail.’ This stands in stark contrast to how he handles people and relationships because it seems that he is more comfortable and interested in his shop rather than family.

We learn that it is while he was in jail that he came up with the idea of becoming a sweet vendor. Jagan seems to have an epiphany of sorts, and declares that he will reduce the price of his sweetmeats.  He remembers how Mali mocked his business and feels like breaking down and crying. He had a mental picture of himself standing like a ragged petitioner in front of Mali and the Chinese girl…’

Seeing some boys loitering around near the shop, he instructs the captain to send them to the counter and give them each a packet.

Jagan tells the cousin while counting his money:

‘Tonight and tomorrow I will have to do a lot of reckoning with concentration. I have left things to drift too long.’

The cousin, a bit worried, offers to speak to them on his behalf. But he answers firmly.

‘By all means, speak to him on any matter you like,’ Jagan said, and added with firmness, ‘But not on my behalf.’

Go to Summary of Chapter 7

One comment

  1. Chapter 6 is in a way, a build up of the tension between Father and Son once again – Jagan seems to feel like an outsider in his own house gradually, and tries to even avoid meeting his son and Grace. We see Jagan hitting a crucial mark in his life – he comes to some understanding that he has to put his foot down and speak up – seem like he has now realized that he has been too complacent and inactive – letting the malaise grow, not attending to the details in relationship between him and his son. But, the question is, does he understand it in a broader way, in terms of his own wrong doing – how he was the one who failed to speak and guide Mali in his younger years, especially after the death of his mother? Will he address those issues? Unfortunately, he does not speak to Mali regarding this past trauma; he merely separates himself from Mali in the later chapters, and continues to build barriers. The early part of the novel speaks of a metaphorical barrier that came up between them, but in the middle of the book, we see how he creates a literal barricade inside the house because he feels that they are living in sin (after he finds out that they are not married) and that he will also become polluted by their presence.

    He never speaks of his failure as a parent. on the other hand, Mali is as stubborn as ever and treats people around him without loyalty – his father and even Grace, as he ditches her in the end, and expects her to leave.

    The chapter also shows how Jagan is so dependent on the cousin – at the end of it, it seems like a change is coming, and he may become free of that bond.

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