Study Guide

Homeless Bird Lies and Deceit

By Gloria Whelan

Lies and Deceit

While we were alone for a minute, Maa said, "The boy is much younger than they told us, and he is sickly." (1.73)

The Mehtas straight up lie to Koly's family about Hari when arranging the marriage. He's not as old as they promise, and he's way sicker than they claim. Yep, we'd call tuberculosis more serious than the flu. Right away, we're given a glimpse into the Mehtas' lies and manipulation. But don't worry, there's a lot more where this comes from.

"My parents needed money for the doctor and money to take Hari to Varanasi. They believe the Ganges is his last hope. A dowry was the only way they could get the money." (2.31)

Chandra explains the truth to Koly and it is the first time she realizes just how far the lie goes. Before, she figured Hari was a little young and under the weather, but now she knows the Mehtas purposely deceived her parents to get something out of her—a dowry.

I was not introduced as Hari's wife. I believe they took me for his sister. I wondered if Hari's parents were ashamed to admit before this dignified man that they had married so young and so sick a son to get money. (3.15)

Lies, lies, lies. The Mehtas keep the marriage under wraps when they're visiting the Ganges because they know it looks bad. You know what they say: One lie gives birth to another.

Stubbornly I shook my head. I would not give up the earrings. As long as I had them, I could keep my dream of running away. I knew that if I simply refused, Sass would find a way to make me give them up. So I lied. "I have lost them," I said. (5.14)

The Mehtas aren't the only ones who lie. Koly does her fair share of tongue wagging when it comes to her mother-in-law. We should point out that she's trying to protect her special family heirloom (her mom's silver earrings), but she's still lying. So maybe not all lies are created equal?

I was very angry, but not so angry that I would ruin Chandra's happiness. I shook my head. I did not blame Chandra for taking what was rightfully mine, but I knew I would not have done the same to her. I was more determined than ever to keep the silver earrings. They would buy me a railway ticket. (5.20)

Chandra is scared when Koly learns the truth about how her parents are paying for her dowry since Koly has the power to take her pension back. Even though Koly is friends with Chandra, her sis still deceives her here, taking money away for her wedding that is rightfully Koly's. We could argue that Mrs. Mehta is behind the whole thing (cuz she is), but Chandra still goes along with it.

And then she added, with the same sly smile I had seen so much lately, "I have a treat for you. We will stop at Vrindavan on our way to Delhi. It is a holy city with a great many temples. It would be well for us to make a pilgrimage before beginning our new lives." (7.25)

Plotting getting rid of her, Mrs. Mehta tells a bold lie to Koly about her plans. Notice that she has a "sly smile"while doing this—it suggests that Mrs. Mehta doesn't care about deceiving Koly and potentially ruining her life. Tsk tsk, Mrs. M.

I suppose part of me had known all along. The thought had been waiting like a scorpion at the edge of my mind. Now it stung me, and I nearly cried out with the pain. (8.1)

Here's the thing: Mrs. Mehta is so into lying that she's probably always willing to bust out a deception or two in order to get what she wants. Koly's acknowledging that she kind of knows this, but we're still not sure what option she had besides going along with Mrs. Mehta to her brother's house.

The next evening I slipped away to meet Raji. Maa Kamala was very proper and didn't approve of boys and girls mixing except under her watchful eye. Raji was waiting down the road for me. (9.29)

Even Koly lies when it suits her. Now we're not saying that lying about your curfew or going out with a guy is the same as abandoning someone in a foreign city, but it's worth mentioning that she chooses when she to tell the truth… or not.

"That animal, Kajal, was playing a trick on you. The lassi was laced with bhang. You're lucky I was there. The sooner I hand you over to your friend, the better. I'm not a nursemaid to take care of every naïve village girl." (10.52)

When Koly goes to a party and feels funny, a guy there tells her that her drink was drugged—and Koly's shocked someone would be so cruel. After all that time with Mrs. Mehta, she still hasn't figured out that people lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. Perhaps Koly's lying to herself a bit about the ways of the world.

I was angry with Mala and disgusted with her stealing. Yet a part of me was sorry for her. All her beauty and cleverness were wasted. What had happened to her was like the breaking of a fine vase. (11.38)

Koly is ticked at Mala for stealing the bridal veil from Mr. Das, and even more annoyed that her so-called friend made her complicit in the lie as well. Mala is just out for herself and doesn't care who she hurts along the path of getting exactly what she wants.

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