The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide Summary and Analysis of Chapters 33-36: A Feast through Negotiations


Kanai reads that Horen invited Nirmal to Morichjhãpi for a feast with journalists and intellectuals. Nirmal tells Nilima what he’s been doing, but she is unimpressed and doesn’t want Nirmal to return to the island because she fears he could get hurt. The next day, Nirmal goes anyway, telling Nilima that he’s going out with Horen—a crucial moment in the devolution of their marriage. At the feast, Nirmal sees what his life could have been like had he never left Kolkata. He even recognizes some old friends, but they don’t recognize him, and he begins to think of his regrets. He goes up to a writer he knew before and explains that he’s now a nearly retired schoolteacher, mentioning teaching on Morichjhãpi. The writer replies that the settlers might not be able to stay there, but Nirmal is convinced they can’t be driven away without violence. The writer points out that they used to support violent revolution. Nirmal is conflicted—he admires Nilima’s important work, but can’t identify his own life’s work, and mentions that Rilke spent years writing nothing before coming up with the Duino Elegies in only weeks.

Piya takes a shower, then sits down, reminded of the terrifying encounter with the crocodiles earlier. When she hears Kanai talking to a woman, she goes downstairs and finds Kanai with Moyna, who leaves their dinner and walks away. Kanai explains who Moyna is, and Piya is briefly jealous of her relationship with Fokir. Kanai praises Moyna’s dedication to educating herself and reaching her goal of being a nurse, and Piya thinks Kanai must see her as unambitious in comparison. He also explains that Tutul told Moyna all about Piya and what happened, and Piya wonders if Fokir said nothing about her.

Kanai serves the food, but Piya only eats white rice. Kanai discusses Lusibari and its history during dinner, then talks about his career while Piya washes the dishes. Though Kanai wanted to translate poetry when he was young, he quickly realized that it wasn’t a profitable field. He’s come to enjoy his work, however, because he can meet interesting people, especially women. This comment throws Piya off.

Nirmal’s writing continues after his retirement. Horen brings Kusum to Lusibari to meet with Nilima and ask for help, but Nirmal thinks such a meeting would be pointless. Horen gives Fokir to Nirmal, then leaves. Nirmal gives Fokir a tour of the island and tells him about life there. He explains how afraid people were of the rising tide and storms before the badh (floodgate) was complete, mentioning a 1737 storm that happened during an earthquake in which a crocodile was found onshore living in a French ship. Fokir asks if such a thing could happen again, and Nirmal says it certainly will, and that the badh will fall then.

Moyna waits outside of her house as Kanai and Piya arrive the next morning. Piya asks for Tutul, but he’s in school. She also asks for Fokir, who is sitting inside but looks sad and upset. Using Kanai as an interpreter, she thanks Moyna for Fokir protecting her and tries to pay her, then realizes it’s better to give the money directly to Fokir. Moyna intercepts the money, however, and Fokir turns it down anyway.

Piya asks Kanai to draw Fokir into the conversation, but she can tell that Kanai is being condescending to Fokir even though she can’t understand the language they’re speaking in. She then asks Kanai to tell Fokir that she wants to track the dolphins again from a larger boat for five days and pay Fokir $300. Moyna gasps at the sum, and Fokir agrees. Kanai tells Piya that Moyna is confused about why such an educated scientist would need Fokir’s help, but Piya is confused in turn about why Moyna is so dismissive of Fokir’s valuable knowledge of the river.


Nirmal’s recognition that he is not communicating with Nilima and lying to her by omission when he returns to Morichjhãpi highlights the importance of communication yet again. It also shows a self-awareness that can be lacking in other areas of Nirmal’s life, as he often ignores the costs of his over-emphasis on theory over practicality.

Kanai discussing the value in different forms of language and his practical decision to open a company rather than translate poetry for a career reminds the reader that language is not neutral or free of power dynamics. This conversation also contrasts Kanai with Nirmal, who regularly quotes poetry in his writing. Kanai, on the other hand, seems to have abandoned poetry, which emphasizes the more practical aspects of his personality, opposed to Nirmal’s idealism.

Fokir’s apparent discomfort on land highlights how much more comfortable and confident he is in the water. It also suggests that while he was able to form a quick connection with Piya, he may struggle with verbal communication—though life on the water is dangerous, he nonetheless prefers it to settling his disputes with Moyna on land. Given the condescending manner in which Kanai approaches Fokir, his attitude towards life on land is understandable. Similarly, Moyna’s dismissal of the help that Fokir gives Piya shows that, like Kanai, she doesn’t fully understand how complex the natural world is, and how skilled of a navigator of it Fokir is.