Swami and Friends

Swami and Friends Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15


Six weeks later, Rajam comes to Swami's house to announce that he has forgiven Swami for his missteps, meaning his expulsion from the Albert Mission School and his political activities. Swami now attends the Board High School, which Rajam and others look down upon as an inferior institution. Swami is relatively happy at his new school as his new classmates are curious about him and give him a lot of attention. His friendship with Rajam and Mani remains intact, but his other relationships have largely dissolved.

One afternoon, Swami is holding a camera and is hailed by Rajam. Swami says that his classmate, who is Muslim, made the camera. Rajam denigrates the classmate because he is prejudiced against Muslims due to the history of violence between Hindus and Muslims. Rajam tells Swami that he should have never gotten involved in politically subversive behavior, and Swami immediately agrees with him. Swami’s obsequiousness soothes Rajam, who then suggests that they form a cricket team. While Swami is initially reluctant because he does not know how to play, Rajam is adamant that they start a team and declares its name “M.C.C.” standing for Malgudi Cricket Club.

In preparation for the team, they look through a sporting goods catalogue and decide on the list of necessary equipment to order. They write a letter to the company as members of the M.C.C. They receive a letter—not from the sporting goods company, but rather from their old friend Sankar, whose family moved away from Malgudi. He expresses that he has been ill the past few days and that he has started playing cricket. They all aim to reply to him but realize that they cannot decipher Sankar’s address anywhere.

Soon afterwards, they are overjoyed to receive a letter from the sporting goods company and feel themselves massively affirmed in their self-importance. However, they are confused by its bureaucratic and financial phrases such as "remit" and "obliged" and conclude that the letter must have been mistakenly sent to them and send back a letter saying as much. They are optimistic and, even though ten days pass without the arrival of their equipment, they begin practice. On the first day of practice, the Pea is a half hour late, and they become irate when he tells them that he couldn’t find necessary equipment to play. Amidst their gloom and regret, they decide to temporarily use the wall of Rajam’s bungalow as a wicket, and thus they are able to play a makeshift game of cricket. Rajam bowls out on the very first ball and thus earns the title of "Tate."

Swami is dismayed by the higher amount of homework at the Board High School than he encountered at the Albert Mission. He notes that even the sound of the bell lacks the richness of the Albert Mission gong. The strict rigor of the school leaves little room for leisure. He gets out at 4:30, which means that he always arrives late to cricket practice. His perpetual tardiness becomes a problem in the team and Rajam eventually confronts him about it. He says that Swami must find a way to arrive at practice on time, but Swami protests that he cannot help it because his classes keep him at school until late.

One evening, Swami’s conscience begins to prickle him as he reflects on his brusque refusal of his granny. His granny had called out and asked him to come. She had given him six paise, asking that he take three paise and bring her back a lemon. She told him that he must return before she counts to ten, and he, irritated by this time limit, threw down the coins and told her to get the lemon herself. She told him that she had a stomach pain that she needed the lemon for, but he left. He is now full of self-reproach. When he returns home and asks his granny about her stomach pain, she says that her pain has gone away and that they ended up having a lemon in the kitchen. Swami is overjoyed and relieved from his guilt and tells granny that he has been given the title of “Tate” within his team. Granny doesn’t understand the significance of the title nor what cricket is, and Swami is appalled by her ignorance and decides to lecture her about cricket.

Rajam threatens that he will go to Swami’s headmaster himself to demand that Swami be let out early. Swami, afraid of Rajam following through with his promise, feigns sickness the next day and is able to stay in bed through the morning. He goes to school later and meets Rajam and Mani. They enter the headmaster’s room together, but find he is sleeping. When he wakes up, they introduce themselves. Rajam introduces himself as the captain of the M.C.C., and they ask him to permit Swami to go home after 4:30. The headmaster refuses, however, and tells them to leave, even when Rajam tries to invoke his status as son of the police superintendent.

The M.C.C. challenges the Young Men's Union, another cricket team, to a friendly match. Rajam becomes fixated on the upcoming match and assesses all the players on the team, zeroing in on Swami and his great unreliability. He presses Swami further on trying to leave school early. Just one week before the match, Swami becomes desperate to free up his evenings so that he may practice cricket. He tries to beg with the drill master to let him leave early, claiming delirium and lack of sleep. The drill master tells him to leave, and Swami, thrilled, leaves in a blur of happiness and arrives at practice on time. The next morning, he visits a doctor and asks him to write a certificate asking the school to let him off at 4:30 so that he might practice and help M.C.C. win the cricket match. The doctor says that he cannot give him a certificate if nothing is actually wrong with him, but he promises to talk to his headmaster and ask that he let Swami off after 4:30. Thus, Swami starts leaving class early.

However, one day in class, the headmaster intervenes and asks Swami to walk up to him. He twists Swami’s neck to make him face the class and makes an example of him and asks why he has been skipping class early. When Swami tries to defend himself, saying that he thought the doctor had already spoken to him, the headmaster is confused, and Swami realizes that the doctor had not followed his word and had declined to speak with the headmaster. The headmaster starts caning Swami as punishment in front of the class, and a flood of emotions weeps through him. He plucks the cane from the headmaster's hand and flings it through the window. He runs, knowing that his time at the Board High School is likely over. He has nowhere else to go though, since there are no other schools in Malgudi. He decides that he must escape and run away and never come back to Malgudi, a place dominated by his father and the headmaster.

Knowing father will beat him and make him return to the high school, Swami makes up his mind to escape the town and only come back on the day of the match to play for his team. He seeks out Rajam before going, intending to say goodbye, but then changes his mind. He asks Rajam if he thinks he would be necessary for the match, and Rajam looks at him suspiciously, saying that the team could not do without him. Swami thinks that he would try and stop him if he told him the truth and so says nothing as Rajam leaves to go back to class.


Swami’s participation in the political strike and his subsequent expulsion from the Albert Mission School has severely disrupted his life and his relationship with Rajam, a star student and son of the police superintendent. When Rajam rebukes Swami for having “sinned,” Swami is conciliatory and swallows the criticism agreeably, showing that his desire for Rajam’s affections still trump his nascent political radicalization.

Similar to how Swami got totally obsessed with getting a hoop, he becomes obsessed with forming a cricket team with Rajam. The cricket team offers a powerful formation of belonging that soothes over Swami’s falling out with his school friends, but it also sets up new conflicts. The cricket team both consolidates the friend group once again and formalizes its internal hierarchies, most saliently, Rajam’s authority, as he appoints himself as captain. Rajam enforces his power over Swami by coercing him into begging the headmaster to allow him to leave early from school due to cricket practice.

Cricket becomes a focal point of the plot and the upcoming game becomes a natural climax that the story works toward. The embedding of a sport into the narrative—in particular a sport like cricket—demonstrates the novel’s filiation with British rule, given that cricket is a British export. Despite the fact that Swami had just gotten expelled from participating in a political strike against British rule and threw away his cap because it was suspected to be made of Lancashire cloth, he enthusiastically participates in a British sport, demonstrating the inherent contradictions of living in a colonial context.

The incident of the lemons between Swami and his grandmother is a poignant moment when Swami’s frustration of unfair hierarchies gets aggressively unleashed onto his grandmother. Frustrated by the Board High School’s lack of leniency and the stress of his cricket team, Swami lets his anger boil over when his granny requests that he buy her a lemon under a certain deadline. This imposition of an arbitrary deadline for the buying of lemons puts him over the edge, causing him to throw the coins onto the floor. His acting out demonstrates that the stress from his school and team is spilling out and that the women in his family are bearing the brunt of his frustration.

Swami eventually gets in trouble and is caned by the headmaster of his new school in front of his classmates, and he once again runs away, this time throwing the cane out the window. The throwing of the cane out of the window—given the cane (like the lathis) is a symbol of the violent oppression of the colonial institutions that govern his life—is both a personal and political refusal to be disciplined. But Swami's habit of escaping does not give him any solace, but rather, makes him feel like an outcast. The oppression of authority figures gives Swami no room to breath in the story and gives him seemingly no other option but to run away.