Study Guide

Mr. Mehta (a.k.a. Sassur) in Homeless Bird

By Gloria Whelan

Mr. Mehta (a.k.a. Sassur)

Koly's father-in-law is a tricky dude. Not in a slick way—there's really nothing too slick about this guy—we mean he's a little all over the place. So let's take a look.

On one hand, Mr. Mehta is a total pushover to his wife. He helps cover up his son's illness to get some cash to bankroll a trip to the Ganges for his son, keeping information from Koly's parents that likely would have resulted in them refusing the arranged marriage. And then later, once Hari's dead, Mr. Mehta willingly cheats Koly out of her pension to fund his own daughter's dowry. Again we suspect his wife takes the lead and he follows.

But on the other hand, Mr. Mehta helps Koly learn how to read and lets her keep a poetry book that Hari loved. And he does these things despite knowing his wife won't approve in the least. So what's up with that? Our best guess is that Mr. Mehta feels badly about how his family's used Koly, manipulating her life for their own ends. So when she asks him to teach her to read, he readily obliges. It's the least he can do.

And then there's how Mr. Mehta dies. He tells Koly, "'One day I will walk off across the fields, and you will see no more of me'" (7.2), and while there's some poetry to this, the thing is that this is kind of exactly what happens, minus the fields. Seemingly fired from his job (for not keeping up with technology), Mr. Mehta comes home one day, goes to his room, and dies. After feeling useless at work and lonely at home with both of his children gone, it almost seems like he chooses to die in this moment. Which by our count, means his death is one of the few times Mr. Mehta does what he wants.

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