In the first chapter of “the village by the sea”, the author introduces the characters and their lives. The eldest sister of this family is Lila, the protagonist with her two younger sisters Bela and Kamal and also their brother Hari. Unfortunately, their mother is very sick and weak and their father is a drunkard. The family is very poor, so to pay their debts, their father was obliged to sold his fishing boat and the cow. That means that they couldn’t afford money to the books and the uniform of the school for the four brothers. But Bela and Kamal had to be educated because they’re still young, so Hari and Lila do their best to afford books and uniform to these innocent girls. The protagonist and her brother have stopped going to school, Lila is practically the mum and instead of going to school, she takes care of all of the family.
Every morning, she goes to a special and a sacred rock and pray to it and gives it flowers. Hari digs holes in the back yard and sometimes goes fishing and works in the fields. The lucky Hari, heard news that the government is going to build factories in Thul. He and his friends hope to get jobs there. Meanwhile, Biju, the richest fisherman in the village, is building a new fishing boat that will have an engine. A day, Bela and Kamal had to go to the beach and get molluscs, they saw a lady in a beautiful purple sari with her daughter. The girls and all of their friends at the beach got jealous because the lady and her daughter had gold bangles, which they are so expensive. Hari saw a fisherman coming out of the sea and he saw everyone with his or her money buying fish so he got upset and angry because he was unable to feed his family. And they got a new dog named Pinto.
This chapter shows us how this anguished family is trying to find innumerable solutions to move a step forward and get out of the poverty and the hunger that surrounds them. They suffer each day more than the previous one. Lila and Hari are the ones who are paying the negligence and the lax of their father. It starts with all of the villagers are waiting Biju’s boat to be built. Everyone is appalled about Biju; they all think he’s a smuggler. The de Silvas came to the village and stayed at their holiday house in Thul. So to gain money, Hari helped them and worked for them and also with the help of Lila, they swept and cleaned their house and their car, probably they made most of the hard work.
They felt bad and offended by the disparity and the inequality of their lives; even Pinto the dog felt the same. Mr de Silva gave Hari hope that he could help him by giving him a job but then again he broke his word and his promise. So Hari went to take a look on the factory but to his disappointment, he couldn’t see except the debris of the factory before it was even built. Then he meets a man from Bombay who tells him a lot about the factory and how he could gain a job by learning about the chemicals.
Unwillingly and reluctantly, Lila found her mother worse than what she had been and realized that something was wrong, it turns out that she got a very high fever. The younger girls ran to the house next door to ask their neighbor Hira-bhai if she could help their mother but instead she sent them the magic man to help on getting the evil spirits away. That night, their mother was in bed and their father was out drinking toddy as usual. Brusquely, one of the three drunken brothers who lived in the neighbouring grove came and asked Lila about her father and where had he been and also about their money and its place. But Lila was surprised and she replied by “we don’t have any money” which he thinks is a joke and kept laughing on them and threatening her that he would kill her father and the dog Pinto. For their good, Hira came and shouted at him that what he’s doing is inappropriate and that a drunkard man like him should stay in a corner hiding from the people and keep on drinking this toddy.
As action was needed in this family and that no one else in it fit to act, Hari was the one who should take this action and do something worth the hard work to help his lovable family. Biju’s boat was nearly ready to go out onto the wide open sea until a strange man came and told him, unfortunately, that this boat with the engine and the deep-freeze is useless because factories will be built in this village and fishing will be so hard. All the villagers were really depressed because of the bad news; that they won’t have any work in these factories, so there was a man named Adarkar, from Alibagh, kept encouraging the villagers to go to Bombay to meet the Minister Sahib to end the government from taking their land, Hari found it an opportunity; to go to Bombay and also to be with the villagers and stop the building of the factories. Hari went to get some ice for his sick mother, when he got back he found his sisters crying because their dog Pinto had been poisoned and the girls are strongly believing that it was one of the brothers from next door who had threated to kill their dog if their dad did not pay him for the toddy.
Chapter 5 and 6:
Hari didn’t know that Biju’s boat was ready to be launched as he was away with the men of the village who had gone to Bombay to make an agreement about not having to lose their land and to stop building these factories which will be useless to the villagers because they won’t take a chance to have jobs there. At Thul, Biju’s boat was waiting for the tide to come up and launch the boat but before that happened Biju’s wife had decorated the boat in bright colors and colorful patterns. The tide that Biju was waiting for didn’t come up high enough to launch the boat so they were told to do it manually so they kept trying again and again. They were trying for many days and it finally launched in to the water. Hari was so far away from Thul that he forgot all about the boat Tal Pari. Hari was on his way to Rewas and he was waiting by the high way for about an hour when he realized he had missed the bus. When Hari reached Rewas they had to take a 14-kilometer boat trip to Bombay. Let down at the Rewas pier, the boy was astonished to find it teeming with people, he hadn’t thought so many would be going to Bombay. Despite the exhaustion of the people from Alibagh, all the way from Rewas to Bombay, the farmers and the fishermen shouted and sang.
They were all in high spirits. Adarkar had to shout continually to remind them why they were going to Bombay. Unfortunately, there was no one else from Thul in in his boat, it was full of strangers from other villages along the coast, and he sat listening to them, feeling very tired and thirsty and very afraid of the journey he had undertaken without thinking at all, simply because he had been upset and angry and simply could not bear to live another day in Thul in the old way. He had to make the break he had been thinking about for so long. He thought of turning back, but once in Bombay, he would have to stay, work and earn a living. Was he really ready for that? He felt unsure.
While the people from Alibagh walked in the streets, another procession passed directly in front of theirs so they had to stop and wait till it wound past them. Then, a man named Sayyid, not a political leader, from Bombay who really cared for the villagers kept warning them about the factories that will be built in Thul. At home, Lila, Bela and Kamal carried their mother and needed Hari and Pinto. The children kept wondering about Hari’s place. Bela and Kamal went to bring some ice for their mother as she was sick, while walking the saw Mina, Lila’s friend, she told them about the men who went to Bombay as that includes Hari who went with them.
Hari wondered around the black horse for several hours. He got very hungry and thirsty. He saw a man sitting in front of a grey building selling coconuts. When he asked for the price he was shocked as he takes them from his village for free. Once he drank some and ate some coconuts he felt better. He was having a nice talk to the man while other people came so he had to leave. Hari was getting scared now because he had no one here with him. He went down a street and sat on the grass under some trees watching football players playing. After a while he could smell the sea and the fish and ran to the seaside. He was very homesick. It was nearly afternoon. Later he went to see Sahib. Sahib was the people who came from Bombay and Hari had served that family when they came for a holiday to Thul. The family wasn’t there.
A man called Hira Lal helped Hari around Bombay. He was a watchman for seabird for 12 years. Hira Lal’s friend Jagu ran a cheap restaurant so he took him there. Jagu, who was serving his customers with bread and a watery curry of lentils on tin plates, glanced at Hari and handed him a plate of food without a word. Hari was so hungry. When Jagu waved his hand and indicated that he should lie down on one of the long wooden benches to sleep after the last customers had left, Hari did so at once and although the bench was hard and the noise and the light from the street came streaming in, he slept at once, and soundly.
Hari had been so tired and weak that first night that he had not really been aware of the place in which he found himself. This restaurant was the worst one he ever been to. The ones back at home were better than this one. It was very dirty and didn’t have any specialties. The next morning Hari got handed some food without asking and told the man he didn’t have any money to pay for the meals. So he asked to work here and the man accepted. He went to take out some garbage and saw a man sitting across the road. They talked for a while. After Hari asked the man where the post office was, the man gave him some money to go and get a post card. He wrote to his mother telling her he was fine. Back at home Lila watched the de Silvas going into their house. They were going to stay for a full fortnight.
Lila asked the Mr. de Silva if he could take her mother to the hospital because she was getting worse and she will pay for the medication by working for them. Mr de Silva had arranged everything because when they arrived two men took their mother straight away to quickly look at her. The doctor came and examined Lila’s mother who had not moved or spoken. Mr de Silva took Lila home without her mother and said he would bring her back in a few days. Her father got angry because she took her mother away without asking him. So the drunkard didn’t come back for a few days as he went to his wife. The mother was suffering from bad anemia. She thought of Hari with tears running down her face. She wiped them away quickly so her mother didn’t see her crying. The post card came to them. They were very happy. Lila asked about Hari when she tumbled out of the car.
For Hari, the work wasn’t easy in that firelit kitchen of the Sri Krishna Eating House that seemed to grow hotter and hotter and never to cool down even at night. Jagu kept his promise of paying Hari a rupee a day which came to seven rupees a week, good wages for a young by new to the work and Hari was grateful for it. Since he also got the meals for free, he took the advantage by saving the earning money to his family. The old watchmender, who had stayed late to finish some work on a watch he had promised to have ready, had come over to him after pulling down the steel shutter over his shop. He offered to Hari to go to the park that he could sleep there. Hari was always to be grateful to the old watchmender, Mr. Panwallah, for this advice for the park changed his life and made it easier to endure. The park was watched over by a policeman in khaki, who wanted to take Hari off to the police station.
The policeman waved his baton over Hari’s head and was about to bring it down with a crack when an old gentleman who happened to be walking by, tapping his walking stick before him, stopped and spoke to the policeman. After that, the policeman greeted his every night he entered the park so Hari felt safe and even quite grand to have a policeman guard him while he slept. Every morning, this man came to the park and gave food to the pigeons. Besides, there was an old woman in a widow’s white sari who brought a bag of flour to the park and sprinkled this flour on every ant hill along the paths. Hari watched her and kept thinking that he certainly wouldn’t have spent his money on feeding birds and ants; he had his family to think of and was saving every rupee he earned for them. The young boy wished he had given his family his address after all so that they could write and send him news of home. Happily, Jagu seemed pleased with Hari. Mr. Panwallah told Hari that he could pay him a little by helping him for two hours a day after taking the permission from Jagu.
Fortunately, Hari became an apprentice watchmender and saw it was possible to have a future. The watchmender told Hari that by the time the monsoon is over, he’ll be mending watches on his own. Coming back to Thul; the visitor Sayyid Ali Sahib who was to stay at Mon Repos through the monsoon arrived in this village the day before the de Silvas left, Lila and her sisters didn’t become aware of his presence immediately. He was polite and quiet and gave no trouble at all since he came. From the kindness of Mr. de Silva, he told Lila that he’s going to stop in Alibagh to give her drunkard father some money to keep him going till the mother is well and they can come back. The doctor thinks he can send the mother home at Diwali. By taking the earnings at the end of the month from the visitor, Lila was very happy and bought food to her family so she hoped the gentleman would stay on and on so that she could continue to earn money.
The monsoon is coming; the first and most important sentence in this chapter. As the kindest and most helpful man, Mr. Panwallah asked Jagu for a day off for Hari to take him to a promenade and bought him a coconut, the boy felt as if he’s a child once again. The tenth of June, it came storming out of the sea; there was rain like a great sheet being flung upon the city. It was a holiday for most of the people but for Hari and the two boys in the kitchen, it wasn’t because every single person seemed to be in a holiday come to the Sri Krishna Eating House so the boys had to work. With the prodigious amount of rain, Hari noticed that he couldn’t sleep in the park on any night during the monsoon. Sadly, Mr. Panwallah became sick so Hari couldn’t go to the watch shop nor the park; he was locked at Jagu’s restaurant as he felt as a prisoner. One day, Jagu felt that Hari was ill so he invited him to take him home; the boy was grateful for the invitation and wanted to go anywhere just to be safe and feel relieved. Jagu was renting a shack in a zopadpatti and he felt lucky having it because Bombay didn’t have enough flats for the people who came to work in this crowded city.
They reached Jagu’s house, it was poor and there wasn’t a place for Hari so Jagu offered that he could sleep on a bench that hadn’t anything on it. Jagu’s woman kept shouting because she hadn’t enough food for Hari and didn’t accept that he could stay with them. Hari told Jagu that he’d go back to the shop after leaving the dispensary because the woman is tired and had enough from the children and the sickness of her baby. Unfortunately, Hari heard that fisher boats sank in the sea and fishermen are feared dead and that was all in Alibagh; his land.
The author kept describing the conditions of Alibagh and Bombay while the season of the monsoon came and all the streets and the cities were wet from the rain. The family’s father gave up toddy and drank only hookah and tobacco. Lila went every week to see her mother brighter day by day. Thul was destroyed from the storm, the coastguards found few boats and also few men were being saved. By this time, Biju was so proud of his engine boat and kept praising it. At the end of this miserable and tough chapter for the characters of the story, the three sisters sat together, thinking of their brother and wondering of the time of his return.
Passing by tough and hard days in Bombay and coming back to Thul, Hari wanted really badly to go back to his village where his family stayed. Mr. Panwallah kept telling him that the ferry doesn’t travel to Rewas in the rainy season and that he should wait till the rains are over. Despite his will for going back home soon, he’ll gain more money and when this kind man gets stronger, he’ll soon be back at the shop to teach him more about watchmending, then he can go back and set up as the village watchmender. With the illness of Mr. Panwallah, the shop was shut down. Hari finally got the watchmender’s address and went to see him. Here he sat on a broken cane chair looking white and frail but still alive and improving. His neighbours were afraid he would have to be taken to the hospital but he looked so weak that they decided to let him stay in his own bed and took turns at bringing him meals and hot drinks. They had all been relieved when he recovered but insisted he stay at home and rest till the rainy weather was over. Hari sat sipping tea and telling Mr. Panwallah all about his village Thul.
As he listened to him, he kept encouraging him that the Coconut Day is coming soon then he can catch a ferry home. He kept warning and notifying him that he shouldn’t left his family with his sick mother and his drunkard father. But Hari had his own reasons of leaving Thul and his poor family. This kind, honest, polite and gentle man kept proposing him solutions and cheering Hari up and inspiring him of the positive things that could ever happen and that nothing is impossible, everything could happen anywhere and with anyone. And also he explained for this innocent boy the wheel of life, and as he said the wheel turned again as Mr. Panwallah had said it would, and things got better just as earlier they had got worse. The rain slowed, Mr. Panwallah came back to open his shop; Hari had to spend more time helping him and less and less time in the eating house and of course after taking the permission from Jagu, as he didn’t seem to mind.
The servant who had helped Hari by offering him a job, told him that the de Silvas are back, but he didn’t, after all, go up the hill to the tall block of flats where this rich family lived. After then, Hari told Jagu that he’s leaving after the rains are over which is really soon. But Jagu asked Hari to stay till Diwali and he couldn’t refuse because Jagu had been so good to him, had given him food and shelter and saved his life. After the days passed with Hari’s new work as a watchmender, he gained a prodigious amount of money; from his point of view. Finally, the Coconut Day came, even before the rains were properly over. It no longer poured day and night as during the monsoon.
Hari and Mr. Panwallah were among the people who streamed down to Chowpatty, the beach Hari had taken for a fairground when he saw it on his first day in Bombay. The city boys including Hari kept fighting for a green coconut, Mr. Panwallah was astonished and shocked and kept laughing at the same time. Hari began to feel ashamed and looked around for a beggar to whom he could give the coconut. As the watchmender was laughing, he told Hari that he wouldn’t worry about him anymore.
Happily, Hari came back to Thul by bus not by ferry. Jagu and Mr. Panwallah having bought him a ticket jointly for the bus. Mr. Panwallah had said goodbye to him at the shop door; quietly slipping him another ten rupee note as a farewell present. While Jagu had taken the morning off from work to accompany him to the bus depot and see him on to the right bus. Again and again, he had to promise to be careful, to send a postcard as soon as he reached Thul and to keep in touch with Jagu. He felt a transformation on his way back and also in Thul. When he arrived to his village and saw his sisters, he couldn’t bear the happiness he had felt. Lila knew he would come as she prepared sweets for him.
Hari wanted to ask a hundred questions about everything, but he followed Lila into the house. Hari and his sisters kept talking together and he told her everything had happened in Bombay as well as she told him everything had happened with her mother and Mr. de Silva. He gave them their presents and they talked about their future full of dreams. Hari had an idea to start a poultry farm in their field. And that it will be the first one in Thul. But long ago, Old Sabu had one but it failed because there was no one to buy anything as the entire village was poor.
The last chapter:
It was the Diwali morning; Hari left his sisters to their preparations and set off down the village road to catch a bus to Alibagh. As he saw his friend Ramu and they went together there. They kept talking about the factories and he was shocked that the villagers couldn’t stop the government of building these factories. But also, the thought of the poultry farm made him feel cheerful and optimistic. Then they were in Alibagh; Hari got off Ramu’s bicycle and went in search of sugar toys for his sisters and after that he went to the hospital to get his mother. He met his father there. They came back to Thul with his mother but for one condition to bring her back every month for a check-up. Lila, Bela and Kamal had everything ready by the time they arrived home. All the family sat together, the children played and ran, they had the best time of their lives. They came back to the house and they say around their mother so that she tells them the story of this day.
The day after Diwali was the Hindu New Year’s Day when every house in the village was decorated with fresh garlands of mango leaves and marigolds, every shop opened a new ledger at a special ceremony and prayers were said to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, in the hope that she would bless them in the coming new year. So that what this family had done, except Hari that had nothing to do so he decided to visit the sahib up at the house. They sat together and he kept talking with of the birds and their freedom. Then Hari remembered that he was the man who had spoken to the crowds at the Black Horse in Bombay. The only reason this man loved the birds and cared so much about them is that they are the last free creatures on earth. Everything else has been captured and tamed and enslaves even we, the humans.
Hari left the birdwatcher because he thought he had forgotten him after a long time of talking together and the fall of Sayyid. One day, a shout came brusquely that went up at the far end of the beach and was passed back through the crowds on the dunes. Someone shouted “Biju’s cart – Biju’s bullocks – Biju’s won. After all, he had helped to rescue the drowning fishermen. That great storm had brought all the fishermen closer together, they had realized how much they depended on each other and needed each other, and the seemed to be celebrating this closeness day. The sisters and their brother stood up in front of the beautiful sea, watching and observing its magnificence. As the beginning was being repeated and they saw women praying to the rock on the sea and one of them is their recovered mother.