BookRags Literature Study Guide
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
This novel is set in India in modern times. Although the times are modern, the
luxuries that those of Western culture take for granted are missing in Koly's
world. Most homes do not have electricity, the schools do not have computers,
and phones are never mentioned throughout the novel.
Homeless Bird is the story of Koly, a young Indian girl forced into a tragic
marriage with a terminally ill boy who, through the experiences of widowhood,
discovers the truth about who she is and what love really means. Koly is a
thirteen-year-old girl whose parents have decided to marry her off so that the
financial burden will be lessened on their family. Koly's parents believe they
have made a good match for their daughter and they struggle to come up with
the demanded dowry in time for the wedding. However, the day before the
wedding, Koly's parents discover that the bridegroom's parents lied to them
about the age and health of Koly's husband to be. It is too late to do
anything about it now, so Koly's parents agree to go on with the wedding.
After the ceremony is over, Koly learns that her husband has tuberculosis and
that his parents had him marry so that the dowry would pay for his medical
care and a trip to the Ganges River. Koly's in-laws hope that the waters of
the magical river will heal their son. However, the trip weakens the boy, and
he dies soon after bathing in the river.
A widow now, Koly is condemned to a life of loneliness and servitude to her
mother-in-law and father-in-law, her sass and sassur. Koly's sassur is a kind
man, however, and he teaches Koly to read. Koly finds solitude in the books
her sassur allows her to borrow and in the friendship she has forged with her
young sister-in-law. Soon, though, her sister-in-law reaches marrying age and
a husband is found for her. The young girl leaves her home in hopes of a good
marriage and leaves Koly alone with her grieving sass and sassur.
Koly's sassur gets very depressed after both his children leave him and soon
he dies. Koly is now left alone with her emotionally abusive sass. One day,
Koly's sass receives a letter from her brother in Delhi. Koly and Sass are to
travel to Delhi to live with Sass's brother. On the way there, Sass suggests
they stop at Vrindavan, a city full of holy shrines. While there, Sass
abandons Koly. Koly turns to the only person she knows, the rickshaw driver
who transported she and Sass to a shrine. This kind boy, Raji, takes Koly to a
home for widows where she is fed and given a job.
Soon Koly is working for her own money and saving up for a home of her own.
When her talent at embroidery is discovered, Koly is given a high-paying job
embroidering cloth for an expensive sari shop. Everything is going so well for
Koly that she is shocked when it gets even better. Raji wants to marry her.
Koly is afraid, afraid of losing her independence and afraid of being forced
back into the life she lived with her sass. However, Koly finally realizes
that this time is different; this time it is for love.
Chapter 1 Summary
Koly's parents tell her she is to be married. Money is tight in the household
and Koly's marriage would make it possible for the family to have more food
for all its members. Koly's father is a scribe and her mother embroiders saris
to sell in the market place.
Koly has two brothers who attend school in town. Koly does not go to school
even though she would like to, because it is impractical for a family to pay
for the education of a girl.
When a husband is finally found, Koly wants to run away but she is worried
about the shame this will bring on her family. Koly's parents are worried
about coming up with enough money for Koly's dowry. Koly is told that her
perspective husband's family is from a good caste and that his father is a
Koly, her mother, and her father leave to go to the groom's home. Koly is sad
that she will not see her home again for a long time and that her brothers
cannot go along. When they arrive, the groom's father asks for the dowry
before he escorts them to a wagon that will take them to his home. Koly is
surprised by this because the man did not seem to care what she looks like or
what her personality is like.
Koly's mother dresses her the next morning in the traditional wedding attire.
The ceremony takes place in the courtyard of the Mehta's home. Koly finally
manages to sneak a look at her new husband and discovers that he is not much
older than she and that he is very frail looking.
Koly has worn a pair of silver earrings (these are important) her mother gave
her at the wedding. Her sass insists that she hand them over for safe keeping.
Koly refuses and when Chandra is out of the room, Koly hides them behind a
loose brick in the wall.
Chapter 2 Summary
Koly rises early and joins her new sass in the kitchen. Sass makes it quite
clear that she would be the only person to take care of Hari when Koly offers
to take him some breakfast. Sass keeps Koly busy all day with housework. When
Koly hears Hari cough, she thinks, as a good wife, she should go see to his
needs. Hari seems pleased to see her. Koly asks about his illness and Hari
says that he heard the doctor say he will die. Hari then says that his parents
are going to take him to Varanasi to the Ganges River. They believe this river
will heal him. Hari expects to die there, which would be good because Varanasi
is a holy place and if his ashes are spread over the river his spirit will be
When Hari begins to cough again, Koly goes and makes him a remedy of honey and
ginger root. This seems to help Hari. They are still talking when Sass returns
from her errand. Sass is very angry to find Koly on Hari's bed and even
angrier when she learns that Koly got into the expensive honey. However, Hari
calms her anger by saying how much better he feels and how much he enjoyed his
talk with Koly.
Sass tells Koly that Hari wants her to accompany them to Varanasi. Then Sass
allows Koly to go sit with Hari. Koly tells Hari stories of her home and her
parents. Hari laughs until he begins to cough again. Later the doctor comes
and says that Hari has tuberculosis and a trip to Varanasi will only weaken
him and make his condition worse. Hari's father argues with his wife, telling
her the doctor is right and they should save their money to buy medicine.
However, Sass is determined that only the river can heal her son. That night
the local healer comes to help build Hari's strength for their trip, the next
Chapter 3 Summary
As they leave the next morning, Chandra asks Koly to make sure Hari has a
marigold garland from her should he die in Varanasi. Koly promises. Hari has a
hard time on the trip. Before the train leaves, Koly sees many urns being
place in the baggage car. Koly sees this as a prediction of this ill-fated
When they take Hari to the river, begins to splash in the water with Koly
until a look from his father makes him stop. Soon, though, Hari becomes weak
again and must be helped from the water.
That night, Hari's coughing becomes very bad and a doctor is called. The
doctor says there is nothing to be done. Finally Sassur comes and tells Koly
of Hari's death. Sassur says they never should have made her marry their son,
but that she is like a daughter to them now.
The next morning Hari's body is wrapped in cloth and covered in garlands of
marigolds. Koly makes sure there is one from Chandra. Then Hari is carried to
the Ganges, the family following behind and chanting. The men escort the body
to the cremation while the women wait. Hari's ashes are then spread over the
Ganges so his soul will be free. Before leaving Varanasi, Sass buys Koly a
white cotton sari because this is what widows wear.
Chapter 4 Summary
Things are more quiet and tense at the Mehta home after Hari's death. Koly is
grateful for Chandra's presence since the two girls have become quite good
friends. A week after Hari's death, Sass takes Koly into the village. They go
to a government office and tell a man that she is a widow. The man has them
sign some papers that Koly cannot read. Sass will not tell Koly what the
papers are for. However, after this an envelope comes for Koly every month
that Sass takes away.
Sass grows very bitter toward Koly, resentful that they now have another mouth
to feed. Nothing Koly ever does is good enough for her sass. Koly tries to be
grateful and never insolent, however it is difficult. Koly begins a new quilt
to remember Hari by and to soothe her own soul, but Sass will only let her
work on it late at night. The quilt is very beautiful and even Sass is
impressed with it.
There is a schoolbook in Hari's room and Koly finally draws up the courage to
ask her sassur if she can have it. Sassur wants to know why she wants it since
she cannot read. Koly says that she wants to look at the pages and imagine
what they say. Sassur agrees to give her the book and says he will teach her
to read it as well. Soon Koly begins to enjoy her time at the river washing
the clothes because if she gets done quickly enough she can take a book and
read for a few minutes.
Koly also daydreams as Chandra is often caught doing. Koly imagines running
away and going back home to her family although she knows she cannot do this.
If Koly goes back home she will bring shame on her family, not to mention the
financial burden since her brothers have surely married by now.
When the rains came that year, Sass, Koly, and Chandra play out in it for a
little while. Everything comes to life again. At the end of summer is
Krishna's birthday. Sass takes Chandra and Koly into town for the celebration.
However, Sass is still cruel and bitter toward Koly. Koly cannot turn to
Sassur because he is sad a lot of the time since his students do not treat him
with respect. However, Koly and Sassur can share their reading. Sassur has a
book of poetry by Tagore that is signed by the author. The book has been
handed down from father to son for generations. Two years pass and then it is
time for Chandra to be married.
Chapter 5 Summary
Chandra's wedding is scheduled and the preparations begin. Chandra's husband
has attended mission school and is going to get a job working with computers.
Chandra is very impressed by this even though her father is suspicious of
computers. Koly is concerned that Chandra's husband will not be a good match
for her, but Chandra believes that he will be if she is a good wife.
Sass tells Koly that they have no money for a sari for Chandra and will have
to use Koly's wedding sari. Koly is not happy with this but for Chandra's sake
she agrees. Sass then demands that Koly give Chandra her silver earrings. Koly
lies and says she has lost them. Koly hopes to one day use the earrings to run
away from Sass.
One night Koly goes out into the courtyard alone after bedtime and overhears
Sass and Sassur talk about the dowry. Sassur says it is good that Koly is
around because they have been able to use her widow's pension for the dowry.
Koly becomes very angry about this. Koly wakes Chandra and asks if it is true.
Chandra is surprised that Koly did not know. Now Koly does not feel guilty
about keeping her earrings from Chandra. The next morning, Koly demands that
the widow's pension come directly to her. However, Sass says that the money
barely pays for her keep and if not for their son, Koly would not have it at
Koly wants to give Chandra something for her wedding, so she begins work on
another quilt that has scenes from all the good times they spent together.
Sass provides cloth scraps for the quilt, however she will not allow Koly to
miss any of her chores to work on the quilt, therefore Koly must work very
late at night and very early in the morning to have it done in time.
When the time for the wedding comes, Koly is not allowed to help Chandra dress
since she is a widow and it is bad luck. Koly is very disappointed. Koly also
is not allowed to partake in the festivities except as a common servant. When
the ceremony is over, Koly watches Chandra leave with her new husband and sees
all her happiness leaving with her.
Chapter 6 Summary
Life becomes even worse for Koly. Sass is deeply grieved by the loss of her
last child and Sassur is so depressed he does not even read the Tagore
anymore. Koly has lost her only friend and her pension. Koly tries to console
her in-laws, but neither will allow her to do so. Sassur becomes very devoted
to his chants, often forgetting to eat. Koly attempts to make friends with a
stray dog and a bandicoot to soothe her loneliness. One day, when she is in
the village, Koly goes to the government office to find out if she can pick up
her pension there, but they will only mail it.
Koly makes plans to sell her earrings and run away, to find a job somewhere
and then find a place to live. If she could do that, she could have her
pension forwarded to her new residence. However, Koly is afraid she does not
have the courage this will take. Then one day, Sassur comes home and lies down
in his room. Sass goes to check on him and finds him dead. Now Sass and Koly
are both widows.
Chapter 7 Summary
Chandra comes home for the funeral and tells Koly all about the wonderful
things that marriage has brought her. Chandra's husband is very proficient
with computers and makes good money. Her sass is sickly and does not interfere
with the running of the house. Chandra is very happy with her new marriage.
Koly tells Chandra she wants to run away and Chandra begs her not to since
there will be no one to take care of her.
Chandra goes home and life returns to normal for Koly and Sass. Sass has
trouble stretching what little money she has and she often sells her
belongings to make up for the shortfall. One day, Sass attempts to sell the
Tagore book. Koly stops her by giving her the silver earrings in exchange for
the book. Now Koly's only hope of escaping is gone.
One day Sass gets a letter from her younger brother that she refuses to allow
Koly to read to her. Sass goes into the village to have someone there read it
to her and is very excited when she comes home. Sass's younger brother has
agreed for the two of them to come live with him. Sass arranges to sell the
house and the two of them pack up their few belongings to go. Koly is sad to
say goodbye to the house since, although her time there was mostly unhappy, it
was her home for many years.
The train is crowded and hot. Koly feels ill throughout the trip and Sass is
kind, making sure she gets fresh air to help her sickness. Sass has suggested
they stop in Vrindavan before they reach Delhi because it is a city of many
temples and they could pray there. Once they arrive, Sass has them leave their
bedrolls in storage and then hires a rickshaw to take them to a temple. On the
way, Koly sees many, many widows on the streets and in the temples. The
rickshaw driver says widows come here because they are taken care of here.
At the temple, Sass gives Koly fifty rupees to buy lunch for them. Koly is
surprised Sass has entrusted her with so much money and is careful to be sure
she has gotten all the change when she is finished making her purchase. Once
back at the temple, Koly cannot find her sass. Koly waits, eating both lunches
when Sass does not reappear within an hour. Finally, Koly thinks she might
have been told to meet Sass at the train station. Koly goes back and collects
her stuff. Then she sees the rickshaw driver again and asks him if he has seen
her sass. The boy says he did. Sass got on a train hours ago.
Chapter 8 Summary
Koly had suspected that she had been abandoned, but had not wanted to believe
it. Now she begins to cry. The rickshaw boy tells her that it happens all the
time. If she will go and chant at the temples, the monks will give her food.
Then a man jumps into the rickshaw and the boy must leave her there alone.
Koly walks through the streets of the city and watches the other widows find
sleeping places on the street. An elderly woman calls to her from the steps of
a house and tells her she will share the spot for the night. The people in the
house are kind and do not make them leave, she says, and sometimes they hand
out food. The old woman tells Koly that her husband's brothers brought her
here, that widows are abandoned here every day, and that Koly's sass will not
be coming back.
Koly has trouble sleeping, worried about her few rupees being stolen and about
her situation. The next morning, the elderly woman is gone when Koly wakes.
Koly takes her things and walks through the city. Koly tries to chant at the
temples, but she cannot make herself concentrate longer than a few minutes at
a time. Koly spends a week sleeping on the doorstep, taking what little food
the homeowners offer.
Koly goes to the government office to fill out the forms to request her
pension, but they will not allow her to have it until she has a permanent
address they can mail it to. Koly's rupees quickly run out. Koly goes to the
train station often, hoping her sass will come back for her. One day she runs
into the rickshaw driver again. The boy tells her not to cry, that he knows a
place where she can go if she will wait there for him. Koly waits with a
family who is taking a train in the morning.
When the boy returns, he takes Koly to a house where the woman, Maa Kamala
takes in widows, gets them jobs, and helps them save up for a home of their
own with the help of a rich benefactor. Here Koly meets Tanu, another widow
about her age. Tanu shows her around the house and the bedroom they will
share. Then Maa Kamala tells Koly she will get a job in the morning working
with Tanu stringing marigolds on traditional garlands. Koly is happy to have
food in her belly and a bed.
Chapter 9 Summary
At Maa Kamala's home, Koly feels safe for the first time in over a week. Early
the next morning, Koly goes with Tanu to the vendor's booth where they string
the marigolds. The work is easy for Koly to learn, but the overwhelming smell
of the flowers is difficult to get used to. At lunch, Tanu and Koly walk
through the market place. They find the booth of a jeweler who tells them if
they are good girls, he will give them beads to string bangles and allow them
to keep one for themselves. The girls agree. Tanu finds the work fascinating,
but Koly is quickly bored with it.
Koly hangs her wedding quilt on the wall of the bedroom she shares with Tanu
and three other widows to keep the room from being so plain. However, the
memories she has sewn into the quilt make Koly so homesick that she finds she
cannot look at it very often. Maa Kamala allows the girls to keep half of
their pay and the other half is put into a savings account so they can save
for a place of their own. Koly and Tanu talk often about the room they will
someday have together.
Koly often reads from her book of poems to the girls in the courtyard after
dinner. One night, Raji, the rickshaw driver, comes by while she is reading a
poem about a homeless bird. Raji sits and listens, fascinated. Later, Koly is
talking to him about the poetry and realizes he cannot read. Koly offers to
teach him. Raji is a difficult student at first, but learns quickly.
Sometimes Raji does not feel like reading and they only talk. Raji tells Koly
about his farm and how he is only in the city to make enough money for seed to
plant on his land. Koly tells Raji about the river where she once read her
books and daydreamed. Raji tells Koly he has something to show her. The next
day, Koly sneaks away from Maa Kamala's and meets Raji. Raji takes Koly to a
beautiful place next to the river just outside the city. Here Raji tells her
that one day he plans to fix up his farm and he will marry. Koly is happy for
Raji, but sad to think of going away and marrying someone else. After that,
Raji did not come back again.
One evening, Maa Kamala told the girls they must clean the house because their
benefactor was going to come by. The girls all line up out in the courtyard
and the lady walks down the line meeting each girl. When she reaches the end,
Maa Kamala tells Tanu and Koly to show her the house. Once they reach Koly's
room, the rich woman is enthralled by Koly's quilt. The woman wants to know
all about it. The lady tells Koly that there is a man in the city who is
looking for women who can embroider like this. Koly says he must want artists
and the lady says that is exactly what Koly is.
Chapter 10 Summary
The next morning, the rich lady comes and picks Koly up in a car. The car has
air conditioning, a phenomenon that Koly is not familiar with and must ask
about. The lady then tells Koly a story of how her father came to this city
looking for his widowed mother who had been abandoned by his uncles. While
living here, searching for her, the lady's father showed a man how to improve
his drill and made a lot of money with this new design. Then the lady's father
started the widow's house for women like his mother, whom he never found. The
lady continues the widow's home in his memory.
When they reach Mr. Das's shop, the lady asks Koly to show Mr. Das the quilt.
The man looks at it and says the work is good, but amateurish. The lady
convinces Mr. Das to give Koly a chance. Mr. Das says he will. Mr. Das takes
Koly into the workroom and hands her a scrap of cloth. Mr. Das tells Koly to
embroider something. At first Koly copies another woman's work, but Mr. Das
wants something from her imagination. Koly embroiders a heron. Mr. Das is
happy and allows Koly to work for him for more money than Koly would ever have
The work at Mr. Das's quickly becomes very important to Koly. The only bad
thing in her life now is that Raji has not come back. Koly makes friends with
one of the other workers, Mala, who is about her age. Most of the other
workers are older and one, the Shrew, is unkind and like a spy for Mr. Das.
Once a wedding veil disappeared and Mr. Das was very upset, as was the Shrew
because she had been working on it.
Mala is very outspoken and often tells Mr. Das that she can go work with the
rival shop down the street any time he does not like her tardiness. However,
because Mala's work is very good, Mr. Das puts up with her difficult attitude.
Mala has a room of her own and asks Koly to come to a party there one day
while they are walking home. Maa Kamala refuses to allow Koly to attend,
saying she knows girls like Mala and she does not want Koly spending time with
her. Koly decides to sneak out with Tanu's help.
Koly tells Maa Kamala she is going to the movies with Tanu. Tanu goes to the
movie, but Koly goes to Mala's. Once at Mala's, Koly sees the stolen wedding
veil over a lamp. Koly asks Mala about it and Mala says Mr. Das does not pay
her enough for all her work and this is compensation. Mala then introduces
Koly to a man. This man is an artist and he wants to paint Koly. Koly tries to
leave when the man makes her uncomfortable. Instead, he convinces her to drink
some punch that is laced with a drug, bhang. Luckily, the sitar player sees
what is happening and he takes Koly out of the building and to Tanu who is
waiting at the movie theater.
Tanu helps Koly hide the evidence of what has happened and takes her inside.
They tell Maa Kamala that Koly ate a whole bag of monkey nuts and it has made
her sick. Koly stays home from work for two days. When she returns, Koly stays
away from Mala. Mala threatens Koly about the veil and completely finishes
their friendship. However, the next day Raji returns.
Chapter 11 Summary
Raji is waiting for Koly when she leaves work the next day. They walk to their
spot beside the river. Koly reluctantly tells Raji about Mala's party and what
happened to her there. Koly thinks Raji will be angry with her, but he is not.
Raji tells Koly about his farm, that his uncle rents half of it and that a
government man is showing him how to make the land more fertile. Raji says
that he has started repair on the house and that he wants Koly to go back
there with him. Koly is confused until Raji says that he wants her as his
Koly is very surprised by this because tradition dictates that a man should
marry a woman whose family can provide a good dowry. Not only does Koly not
have a dowry, but she is a widow. This is very unusual and Koly is afraid
Raji's family will not accept her. Raji says he does not need a dowry; his
parents are dead so there is no family to accept or deny her. Raji says he
loves her and wants only her.
Koly says she is not ready to say yes now, but asks him to wait. Raji is not
happy, but he agrees to wait. Raji promises to write. Every week a letter
comes from Raji, some are all about the farm and the weather, some are love
letters talking about how much he misses Koly. Koly replies by telling him she
misses him too.
Tanu and Koly have gotten a room together to make room for more widows at the
widow's home. They have decorated their room nicely with pictures from
magazines and two charpoys, or beds. They share the building with four
families and must share a toilet and faucet with them. At first Koly is
excited by this room, but quickly becomes bored with it.
One day, a woman was in the workroom sewing a wedding sari with gold thread.
The woman said Mr. Das has not given her enough thread even though he just
laid one beside her. The Shrew tells Mr. Das to look in Mala's purse. When he
finds the thread there, Mr. Das fires Mala. Soon they find out Mala has gone
to work with the man down the street and been fired from there, too.
In June Raji writes that he has built Koly a room on his house where she can
work on her embroidery. Koly realizes then how much Raji loves her and how
much she loves him. Koly begins work on a wedding quilt and tells Raji she
will marry him when it is finished. Raji says she should work fast.
Koly, at the beginning of the novel, is a thirteen-year-old Indian girl who
has just reached the age which tradition dictates she is eligible to be
Hari is the young man whom Koly marries. When the marriage is arranged, the
parents are led to believe that Hari is an older boy, perhaps seventeen or
eighteen. However, when Koly's parents finally are allowed to meet Hari, it
turns out that he is no older than their thirteen-year-old daughter. After
the wedding, Koly quickly discovers that Hari is very sick, not just ill with
the flu as her parent's were told. Later, Hari takes a turn for the worse and
dies the following day.
Sass is the Hindu word for mother-in-law.
Sassur is the Hindu word for father-in-law. Koly's sassur is a schoolteacher.
Sassur was Koly's only protection from her sass and with his death Koly's life
becomes even more difficult than it had been before.
Chandra is Hari's sister. Chandra is younger than Koly, and spoiled. Chandra
does very little work around the house and Koly often finds herself making up
for the girl's daydreaming. However, Chandra is a good friend to Koly.
Maa Kamala runs a type of boarding house for widows who have been abandoned.
With the help of a rich benefactor, Maa Kamala provides food, lodging, and
jobs for young widows to help them start their lives over again. After being
abandoned by her sass, Koly is brought to Maa Kamala by Raji. Maa Kamala also
does not allow the girls to be alone with any man and does not want them to go
to parties with disreputable people. Despite her strict rules, Maa Kamala is a
very kind woman who always makes sure all her girls are well clothed and fed.
Raji is a rickshaw driver who Koly meets her very first day in Vrindavan.
Since Raji is the only face that is familiar to Koly in the big city after her
sass abandons her, Koly seeks him out several times and they become friends.
Tanu is another widow who lives at Maa Kamala's. Tanu was abandoned by her
sass and sassur when they decided they wanted to marry their son off a second
time for a better dowry. Tanu is about Koly's age. Koly and Tanu share a room
at Maa Kamala's and they work together in the marigold booth. Tanu is one of
the reasons Koly hesitates to marry Raji, however, because she does not want
to leave another friend. When Koly's boss agrees to allow her to take
embroidery work with her, it makes it easier since she will have to return to
the city often and will be able to visit Tanu.
Mr. Das is the owner of the shop where Koly works as an embroiderer. Mr. Das
is a very fair man who is impressed with Koly's work from the first moment he
sees it, although he pretends he is not. Mr. Das encourages Koly to be
artistic, to make whatever designs she wants to make.
Mala is another young widow that Koly meets when she goes to work with Mr.
Das. Mala is very beautiful and extremely talented in her work. Since Mala is
one of the only embroiderers who is close to Koly's age, Koly and Mala become
very good friends. Soon, it is discovered by Mr. Das that Mala is a thief when
she is caught with a spindle of pure gold thread in her purse.
Tradition, Shame, and Religious Beliefs
One of the strongest themes in the novel Homeless Bird is the sense of
tradition the people of India live with. Koly's marriage is traditional in the
sense that it is expected that a child of a young age will marry in order to
free her own home of the burden of caring for her and to enhance the home of
the prospective groom by helping the sass to care for it. When Koly's parents
realize the boy they have arranged for their daughter to marry is not what
they thought he was, they chose to go on with the wedding despite the fact
that they are not happy with the situation and they know it is not the best
for their daughter. They do this because tradition dictates that if they back
out, there will be shame brought on their household and they are not willing
to take the risk. Tradition also keeps Koly at the home of her sass and sassur
even after her husband has died because it would shame her family if she were
to return to them. Also, it would bring them bad luck since a widow is
considered bad luck despite the fact that Koly's husband was dying before she
Koly is desperately lonely after Chandra marries. After she is abandoned, Koly
feels as though she is never going to find happiness again. It is only when
she meets Raji and he shows her kindness that Koly begins to lose her
loneliness and find happiness.
It is not traditional for people like Koly to fall in love and marry for love.
Koly married because her parents told her to. Raji says you can not speak to
rupees and you cannot lie beside rupees. Therefore, Raji does not want to
marry a big dowry, he wants to marry the woman he can talk to, the woman he
wants to have children with. Raji wants to marry Koly. At long last, at the
old age of seventeen, Koly has found love.
"There were days when my ma took only a bit of rice for herself so that the
rest of us--my bapp, my brothers, and I--might have more. 'It's one of my days
to fast,' she would say, as if it were a holy thing, but I knew it was because
there was not enough to go around. The day I left home, there would be a
little more for everyone else." Chapter 1, pg. 1
"At last I was ready, and Baap came in to see me. I thought he would be
pleased. I turned one way and the other to show off my splendor, but to my
disappointment he began to cry."
Chapter 1, pg. 18
"I was very angry with the Mehtas, but after listening all day to Hari's
terrible coughing, I began to think that if the Ganges could cure Hari, our
wedding would not be such a bad thing."
Chapter 2, pg. 34
"I was not introduced as Hari's wife. I believe they took me for his sister. I
wondered if Hari's parents were ashamed to admit before this dignified man
that they had married so young and so sick a son to get money." Chapter 3, pg.
"Before we left Varanasi, Sass purchased a cheap white cotton sari for me. 'It
is what widows wear,' she said." Chapter 3, pg. 55
"In her sadness over Hari's death Sass grew bitter. Her angry words buzzed
around me, stinging like wasps." Chapter 4, pg 59
"I hoped Chandra was right, but I could not help remembering a stall in the
bazaar where Chandra and I had sorted through a heap of mismatched earring. We
had looked through them hoping to find two that matched. What if it was as
difficult to find two matching people?"
Chapter 5, pgs. 79-80
'The river where I washed clothes and studied my books was a friend." Chapter
7, pg. 111
"Some of the people fell asleep immediately, as if their square of sidewalk
were as much a shelter as a house would be." Chapter 8, pg. 125
"At first he was impatient, but as the letters became words, and the words
thoughts, he became both eager and suspicious, as though I were holding
something back from him."
Chapter 9, pg. 153
"I had known that Raji would make a fine husband for some lucky girl, but I
could hardly believe that he had chosen me or that his family would accept
me." Chapter 11, pg. 197
"Immediately I knew that it would be the homeless bird, flying at last to its
Chapter 11, pg. 212