The next day the train station is more crowded than usual. Many Mano Majrans are hanging around, anxious to watch the trains go by and see who got on and off them. This morning, a young, small, and effeminate man gets off, along with 12 police officers and a subinspector. The man asks the stationmaster for lodging in Mano Majra, and the stationmaster directs him to the Sikh temple. The man sticks out to everyone, because of his manner of speaking and appearance. The police in particular are wary of him, as educated people are always capable of making trouble.
The young man makes his way to the Sikh temple, where an old man greets him and says he may stay at the temple, also called the gurdwara. The two men begin talking, and we learn that the young man’s name is Iqbal, and the old man is Bhai Meet Singh, the priest of the temple. Meet Singh assumes that Iqbal is Sikh, which is a relief to Iqbal, who doesn’t have strong religious feelings. Still, someone named Iqbal Singh would be more welcome in a mostly Sikh village than a Iqbal Mohammed or a Iqbal Chand, so he allows Meet Singh to assume his religion.
The two men talk about Iqbal’s past, life in Europe, and the current state of the government. Iqbal tries to get the priest interested in government reform, but Meet Singh is more concerned about the police presence in Mano Majra. He wonders if they are here because of Lala Ram Lal’s murder, and leaves the gurdwara to scope out the action at Lal’s house. Iqbal stays at the gurdwara, and thinks about his journey to Mano Majra. He muses that the other passengers must have been Muslim refugees on their way to Pakistan, and remembers their nosey questions. Just as he begins to doze into sleep, Meet Singh returns.
Meet Singh is indignant and upset. The police came to arrest Jugga for Lala Ram Lal’s murder. The idea that Jugga would murder a neighbor is appalling, more appalling than the idea of murder itself. Iqbal marvels at the priest’s skewed code of morals, which reaffirms for him how much he doesn’t belong in Punjab culture. Meet Singh and Iqbal discuss Jugga a bit more before Iqbal leaves for a walk.
Iqbal walks along the river and watches the passenger train from Lahore, Pakistan cross the bridge into India. After the train passes he sits on the train tracks and daydreams before returning to the gurdwara. There, the priest is leading others in prayer. Iqbal goes to his room and tries to go to sleep but Meet Singh comes and tells him the lambardar and the imam are coming to meet him. Reluctantly, Iqbal moves his air mattress and pillow to the roof of the gurdwara, and waits to meet the men.
The imam and lambardar ask Iqbal about current events, as Mano Majra is small and isolated from world news. They specifically ask about Pakistan and Hindustan (India), and why the British left. Iqbal tries to tell them Britain finally leaving India is a step forward, but the men are full of positive stories about the British. This upsets Iqbal, who views the British as enslavers, and the men engage in a spirited debate about the true meaning of freedom and the importance of religion. The debate ends when the lambardar says he knows of the destruction blowing across the land, and that India was better off under the British.
The imam and lambardar leave, and Iqbal prepares for bed. He laments his powerlessness in the face of the corruption and violence gripping Hindustan and Pakistan. He wishes his party bosses hadn’t sent him to Mano Majra, and longs to go back to Delhi. There, he rationalizes, he can make a name for himself by becoming a political prisoner and a martyr for his cause. He falls asleep, dreaming of a peaceful life in jail.
In this section of the novel we meet Iqbal, Meet Singh, the lambardar, and Imam Baksh, who round out the novel’s key players. Iqbal is characterized as an effeminate and educated radical from the city, who is critical of government. Meet Singh is Mano Majra’s Sikh priest and thus one of its unofficial leaders, along with the lambardar and Imam Baksh, the Muslim leader. The three men quiz Iqbal about his presence in Mano Majra, and about the developments in the outside world. Here, we really get a feel for how isolated Mano Majra is, and how much they depend on the trains to stay connected and informed. The closeness of the men despite their religious differences also demonstrates the religious tolerance and sense of community typical of Mano Majra.
The sense of community in Mano Majra is tested once news of Lala Ram Lal’s murder spreads. Right now, Jugga is the prime suspect, which is upsetting and alarming to Meet Singh. Ironically, had Jugga murdered someone from another town, the religious leader would have provided the badmash with an alibi. But because Jugga supposedly killed a neighbor, his actions are reprehensible. This skewed view of the situation baffles Iqbal, and also demonstrates how loyalty to one’s community can be the deciding factor in questions of morality for Mano Majra’s denizens.
In addition to morality and community, another important motif introduced in this section of the novel is the meaning of freedom. During their discussion at the gurdwara, Iqbal, Meet Singh, Imam Baksh, and the lambardar talk about India’s connection to Britain, with Iqbal voicing his support of an independent India, and the other men disagreeing. The lambardar in particular says they were better off under the British, because there was at least security. He wonders what will come of this newfound freedom, and if he or his neighbors will receive anything desirable from it, like more land or livestock. This frank and bleak outlook startles Iqbal, who was not expecting illiterate farmers from rural India to have such insight.
Iqbal’s differences from the rural Mano Majrans are thrown into great relief in this part of the novel. At first glance, he stands out because of his manner of speech, dress, and manner. As the chapter goes on, he reveals his city origin with the technology and radical ideas he brings to Mano Majra. For example, when Meet Singh brings him water from an unknown source, Iqbal dissolves a tablet into it. Unbeknownst to the priest, this tablet chlorinated and purified the water. Another example is when Iqbal introduces to Meet Singh and the other men the idea of a proletarian revolution. Unfortunately for Iqbal, the men brush off his ideas as the foolish talk of ungodly men. Though the leaders of Mano Majra know the state of their country is not right, they don’t see much use in trying to change things.
Besides characterization, irony, themes, and motifs, another literary element in this section of the book is metaphor. Meet Singh uses a particularly sharp one when talking about Jugga. He compares the young badmash to a snake that has sloughed its skin but not its poison. Jugga has ostensibly been “going straight for some time,” and living the life of a rural farmer—ploughing his land and looking after his livestock. However, by murdering Lala Ram Lal, Jugga has shown he still has his poison, and has not changed his true nature. We wonder whether Jugga will have a chance to clear his name in the upcoming chapters.