The story line of Sold is far too common in the world: girl grows up in rural society, girl gets manipulated into the human trafficking industry by someone she knows, girl ends up in a brothel in another country where she is exploited until she escapes. (Except the escape part doesn't always happen in real life.)
What is missing from this super-short version: how and why it happens, and the effects of human trafficking on one individual. A slightly longer version can fill in some of these gaps:
Lakshmi has lived twelve of her years in a small village on a mountaintop in Nepal. She has a goat, Tali, a baby brother (no name), a mother (Ama) whom she loves dearly, and a stepfather whom she thinks is a good-for-nothing waste of space because he does no work and gambles all the time. Lakshmi has hopes and dreams for her future: she wants to continue to be the number one girl in her class at school, and she wants to earn money as a maid in the city like her friend Gita so her family won't be so poor.
But disaster strikes. The rains wash all the rice away, which means that Lakshmi and her family are hungrier and poorer than ever. As a result of their poverty her stepfather tells Lakshmi that she will go work in the city—and he arranges for a relative stranger (Auntie Bimla) to take her there. Money is exchanged between the stepfather and Auntie Bimla, and the two women set out on their journey.
While traveling, Lakshmi sees a world she never comprehended when she was living on her mountaintop in Nepal. Even though she sees debilitating poverty, she is still filled with excitement for her future. Eventually Lakshmi and Bimla meet Uncle Husband, who takes Lakshmi across the border and to a place called Happiness House. Once there, Uncle Husband and a woman named Mumtaz exchange money, and Lakshmi is taken to a small room.
Confused and with instincts screaming, Lakshmi is taken to a room where a man tries to rape her; finally, she realizes what kind of "work" she is expected to do. Although Lakshmi flees her attacker, Mumtaz corners her in the small room and explains the new world order: Lakshmi has been sold to Happiness House, a brothel which Mumtaz runs. Now she must have sex with men to pay off the money Mumtaz used to buy her. When Lakshmi refuses, Mumtaz locks her in the small room, beats her daily, and starves her. And when Lakshmi still refuses, Mumtaz drugs her and has a man rape her.
After that initial violation, Lakshmi remains in the small room for an indeterminate time. Each night, she is drugged to service the brothel's customers. Finally, Mumtaz tells her that she can join the rest of the girls in the house.
Lakshmi tries to adjust to her life at Happiness House, but she is desperately homesick and struggles to cope. Shahanna, also from Nepal, takes Lakshmi under her wing. In bits and pieces, Lakshmi learns about the other girls at the house.
Shilpa grew up in the sex trade industry; she serves as Mumtaz's right hand and spies for the cruel brothel owner. Monica is the most aggressive of the girls in the house. Anita tried to escape but was caught and beaten so badly that her face is disfigured. Pushpa is an older woman whose husband died—she has two young children, Harish and Jeena, who also live in the house. When Harish catches Lakshmi looking at his school book one day and offers to teach her Hindi, a cautious friendship blossoms between the two. Life slowly becomes less awful.
The tentative equilibrium Lakshmi builds for herself crumbles when her newfound friends gradually leave the brothel. Now Lakshmi has only Anita and Harish's storybook to keep her balanced, and she sinks into despair.
After Shilpa reveals to Lakshmi that none of the money Lakshmi makes is sent to her family in Nepal, Lakshmi snaps. She gives an American's business card to a street boy who has always been kind to her, and waits for another American to appear. When one does show up at the brothel, the two make plans for Lakshmi's escape. After Lakshmi waits for days, the American comes with non-corrupt policemen. Lakshmi, who is fourteen years old, leaves her friend Anita, walks to the American man, and tells him her name and age.
A Tin Roof
- Lakshmi and her mother, Ama, inspect the thatch room of their hut in Nepal.
- Because thatch allows rain through, Lakshmi wants a tin roof, which implies wealth and prosperity.
- Ama refuses Lakshmi's request to go to the city to earn money; instead, Lakshmi needs to stay in school.
- Lakshmi's stepfather eyes her the way he looks at the cucumbers in the garden—like she's got a price tag. He would prefer to spend money made from selling the cucumbers on things for himself.
Before Gita Left
- Lakshmi remembers playing with her friend Gita before Gita went to work as a maid for a wealthy woman in the city.
- One of Lakshmi's memories includes that of Krishna, a "boy with sleepy cat eyes, the one I am promised to in marriage" (2.BeforeGita.3).
- Because of the money Gita earns as a maid, her family has nicer things in their hut, like pots and glasses.
- But Lakshmi still misses her friend.
The New Student
- Lakshmi's goat Tali thinks that Lakshmi's her mom, so Lakshmi tries to teach her things like how to scrub a floor and how to carry water up from the village spring.
- One day, Tali follows Lakshmi to school and peers in the window while the teacher talks.
- Lakshmi looks at her mother and thinks about all she does for the family.
- During the day, Ama carries her basket up and down the mountain; at night, she tries to please her stepfather.
- Even though the goddess to whom Lakshmi's community prays is considered beautiful, Lakshmi thinks her mother is more beautiful because of the responsibility she carries.
The Difference between a Son and a Daughter
- One of Lakshmi's stepfather's arms is crippled because it was broken as a child.
- Even though most men work for a living in factories, the stepfather drinks tea and plays cards with the old men of the village instead.
- Ama insists that having a man is better than no man, especially since the stepfather married her after her husband died.
- Lakshmi hears her stepfather compare having a daughter to having a goat—good for the things you can get from it, but not worth missing when it's gone.
Beyond the Himalayas
- Lakshmi describes where her home is located a.k.a. the Himalayan mountains.
- At dawn the village remains in shadow; at midday the stepped fields are full of women working; in the evening flowers close and open; and at night the air is full of smoke and cooking scents.
- Lakshmi wonders what is beyond her home.
- At Lakshmi's school, her "moonfaced teacher" keeps track of days on a calendar (7.Calendar.1).
- The way Lakshmi keeps track of days is different, though: she tracks the work women do and the sorrows they experience.
- In the winter women go hungry so their children can eat, and despite this sacrifice, the children may die of fever.
- In the dry months women collect animal scat to use as fire fuel, and children die of a coughing disease.
- In rainy months, women repair their hut walls and try to stretch their food, and children die because they can't get to a doctor.
- And in the cool months women make special food and beer for the men, and they drink a special drink to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant so that they won't have to watch more of their children die.
- Ama tells Lakshmi that she is thirty-one and Lakshmi is thirteen.
- Lakshmi learns that her mother had four miscarriages before her baby brother was born.
- Lakshmi names her cucumbers because of their personalities and what they look like; she treats "them all as my children" (9.Confession.6).
- When Lakshmi rises for the day, she realizes that she has begun her menstrual cycle.
- Ama is thrilled and makes arrangements for Lakshmi to go into the traditional confinement of the community.
- During confinement, Lakshmi has to stay out of sight for a week, and the best place to do this is the goat shed.
- Ama tells Lakshmi that she will tell her everything she needs to know about being a woman later that night.
Everything I Need to Know
- Childhood is over, Ama tells Lakshmi.
- As a woman, Lakshmi must follow these rules: cover yourself with a shawl, don't look men in the eye, don't be alone with a man, don't look at growing gourds during your period or they will rot.
- Once Lakshmi is married, she can eat only after her husband is full, and she must fulfill his sexual needs.
- If Lakshmi bears a son, she must breastfeed him until he is four, but a daughter should be breastfed only for a season so that she can try for a son as soon as possible.
- Lakshmi asks Ama why "must women suffer so?" (11.EverythingINeedtoKnow.10), and Ama says that this is the way it has always been.
Waiting and Watching
- Lakshmi remains in the goat shed for a week and daydreams about her life with Krishna.
- She has watched him win a footrace, play a joke on the teacher, and smoke his first cigarette.
- Even though he seems shy when he passes her, Lakshmi thinks he's been watching her too.
Announcing the Dry Season
- The wind blows up from the plains and makes the air dusty, hot, and dry.
Fifty Days without Rain
- Lakshmi's cucumbers are wilting, and she and her mother make many trips to the village spring to bring up water for their rice paddy.
- Her stepfather does nothing.
- The village decides they will ration water to the people, and Ama and Lakshmi use dirt to clean their pots instead of water.
Sixty Days without Rain
- The rice plants are withering, and the wind takes them down the mountain.
- Tali the goat is thirsty.
- Lakshmi's baby brother cries, but he doesn't have any tears.
- The rice plants continue to wilt in the paddy, and Ama makes an offering to the goddess, praying for rain.
- Lakshmi's stepfather says that if the rains don't arrive, Ama will have to sell her earrings, which she has been saving to give to Lakshmi on the day of Lakshmi's wedding.
- Any other time, Ama would say never, but this time, she says "Maybe tomorrow" (17.MaybeTomorrow.8).
What Is Missing
- Lakshmi notices her stepfather is gone when she comes back from the village spring.
- When she goes to water her cucumbers, they're all gone. She realizes her stepfather took them to Bajai Sita, "the old trader woman" in the village, and sold them to get money for gambling (18.WhatIsMissing.5).
- Her guess is confirmed when Ama avoids her eyes as they go get water from the spring for the rice plants.
When the Rain Came
- The rain finally arrives, and Lakshmi feels joy.
- Tali drinks to her heart's content.
- Lakshmi is able to cry without revealing her tears because the rain hides them.
- The roof is leaking, and Ama collects rainwater in pots and pitcher around their hut.
- The dripping roof makes Lakshmi's baby brother laugh, and so Ama laughs; her joy sounds strange to Lakshmi.
- After Lakshmi's stepfather goes to gamble, Ama makes a small tin of popcorn for her and Lakshmi to share.
- As they share the treat, Ama smokes a cigarette she stole from her husband.
- They discuss what to do after the rain stops: first, give thanks for the rain; next, patch the roof.
- Ama considers what they will do with the money they earn from their rice crop this year, and she and Lakshmi think of all the maybes and hopes they have.
- They don't talk about the fact that they won't have money left for any luxuries after they pay for their rent and for the rice and for the cooking oil they need and for the stepfather's gambling losses.
What the Monsoon Does
- Even though it doesn't rain all the time during the monsoon, the rain does both the plants and the villagers good.
Too Much of a Good Thing
- It has been raining for eight days.
Trying to Remember
- Because the rain is destroying the thatch roof, Ama and Lakshmi have to repair it constantly.
- Village women say that this rainy season is the worst in years.
- Lakshmi tries to remember the dry days when they prayed for rain.
What Disaster Sounds Like
- The rain is so strong it saturates the ground that holds the rice paddy to the side of the mountain. The ground becomes unstable, the wall disintegrates, and the rice plants are washed down the mountain after the wall.
- Lakshmi knows that "we have lost everything" (25.WhatDisaster.2).
- Lakshmi tries to save some of the rice plants, but it's hopeless.
- She looks at Gita's father's rice paddy below theirs and thinks about how he didn't spend his time in the teashop—no, he spent his time working to make sure his rice paddy would survive the monsoon.
- Lakshmi's unsure if her stomach is rumbling with hunger or jealousy.
The Price of a Loan
- After Lakshmi's stepfather has been gone for more than a week, she wonders whether he's run away, even though he said he was going to get a loan from his brother.
- Ama has been gone all day, and when Lakshmi sees her climb the mountain to their hut, she notices that both Ama's earrings and the "proud set of her head" are missing (27.ThePriceofaLoan.6).
How Long This Will Last
- People arrive at Lakshmi and Ama's hut. First the landlord comes for rent, then Gita's uncle comes for a loan repayment, then the headman's wife asks for the full amount of the loan she gave them plus interest.
- They eat well for the first time in months that night, but Lakshmi wonders how long the money Ama got for her earrings will last and if her stepfather will return.
- Lakshmi sees a strange man with a coat and hat climbing toward their hut and becomes afraid; she hides inside.
- Ama realizes it's her husband, who has gambled what they have on new things for himself—yet she insists to Lakshmi that a man like this "is better than no man at all" (29.Stranger.8).
Festival of Lights
- The festival lasts several days, and with special religious rituals taking place each day.
- On the third day of the festival, they clean their homes to prepare for the goddess Lakshmi, who brings wealth and blessings to those who deserve it and whom the main character is named after.
- Lakshmi makes a lei of flowers for Tali and puts it around the goat's neck, but Tali throws the flowers to the ground and eats them.
An Auspicious Night
- The huts and houses of the village are lit with tiny lanterns to bring the goddess Lakshmi—and good fortune—to them.
- Lakshmi's stepfather takes the rest of Ama's money from her earrings to go gambling, and because this is Lakshmi's favorite night, she decides to believe that he will return with more than he left with.
- Ama sends Lakshmi to run with the children, though Lakshmi insists she's not a child anymore—Ama says that for tonight, Lakshmi is.
- Lakshmi finishes a sweet by a fire and is approached by woman from the city.
- The city woman says that city girls have sweets daily, pretty dresses, and an easy life. When Lakshmi asks if the city woman is a maid, the woman laughs and asks Lakshmi if she wants to come to the city with her.
- Uncertain, Lakshmi runs back to Ama, a bit afraid of this woman who smells of "possibility" (33.Possibility.10).
- Lakshmi and Ama awaken in the night to Lakshmi's stepfather on a motorcycle, which he won from his gambling.
- Annoyed, Lakshmi listens to her mother and realizes that the motorcycle will help them find their way out of debt and poverty.
The Next Day
- The stepfather cleans his motorcycle and takes it to the teashop.
- The stepfather returns from the teashop without the motorcycle, his city coat, or his hat.
- Ama turns away so she doesn't "shame him" once he enters the hut (36.Nightfall.2).
A Tiny Earthquake
- Ama is late to rise the next morning, and Lakshmi takes control of the morning chores.
- When Lakshmi finds Ama crying behind Tali's shed, she asks why—and Ama says that her husband, Lakshmi's stepfather, has decided that Lakshmi must go to the city and earn money as a maid.
- Despite her shock, Lakshmi knows she needs to be strong for Ama and assures her mother she will send the money home—enough for a tin roof.
- Pardon Shmoop for a moment, please. We need to find a tissue because there seems to be a little something in our eye… either that or someone's chopping onions nearby.
- The city, Ama says, has very different rules from the village rules—clean different things with different rags; get up early and go to bed late; don't eat until the owners of the house have gone to bed; keep money inside your shirt; stay behind your employer in the market; pray daily.
- Ama is proud of Lakshmi and hopes for a visit from her in the future.
- Lakshmi's stepfather brings her to Bajai Sita's store and tells Bajai Sita that Lakshmi is meant to go work in the city.
- When Bajai Sita asks if Lakshmi will do what she is told, Lakshmi asserts that she will, and the woman from the festival comes out to look at Lakshmi.
- The city woman and Lakshmi's stepfather barter for Lakshmi. The city woman says that she is only worth five hundred rupees because "she has no hips" (39.ATrade.15).
- Lakshmi thinks that she's strong, and what do her hips matter anyway?
- They settle on a price of eight hundred rupees, and Bajai Sita tells Lakshmi that she must obey the city woman for her family to get the money.
- Lakshmi's stepfather uses some of the money to pay for things for himself, but Lakshmi puts a sweater for Ama, a coat for her baby brother, and bottle of soda into the basket he is filling.
- Even though he's angry about it, he tolerates her behavior because, as Lakshmi says, "today, I am no mere girl" (39.ATrade.30).
A Second Look
- Auntie—the city woman—and Lakshmi leave the store, and Lakshmi sees Krishna, the boy to whom she was promised.
- Though Lakshmi wants to tell him where she is going, Auntie says that she shouldn't look back.
- Lakshmi obeys, but when they reach the edge of her village, she looks back one last time.
- Auntie insists that Lakshmi walk ahead of her, and she throws a handful of small rocks at Lakshmi's legs to keep her moving.
A New World
- During their day-long walk, Lakshmi has seen three villages and many things she's never seen before.
- Lakshmi tries to remember each place they pass through, but it all looks the same after a while.
- In the changing sights, she knows there's one constant: the swallow-tailed peak which was her home gets smaller as they walk away from it, but she thinks it will always be there to help her back home.
What I Carry
- Ama has packed things for Lakshmi to take with her, but Lakshmi takes her memories of her goat, her brother, and her mother in her head.
- "My bundle is light. My burden is heavy" (43.WhatICarry.3), she says.
Questions and Answers
- Auntie and Lakshmi have been walking for two and a half days, and during a rest stop, Lakshmi asks about what the city is like.
- Auntie says that Lakshmi will have to see for herself.
- Although Lakshmi has many questions, she asks about movies, and the Auntie smiles, revealing black teeth. Lakshmi smiles back, but she's beginning to be a little afraid of Auntie.
- So are we, Lakshmi, so are we.
An Inauspicious Start
- In the ninth village, Auntie climbs into the front of a truck and Lakshmi gets into the back of it with chickens and cucumbers. It's the first time Lakshmi has seen a truck.
- Lakshmi finds it joyful at first, then she gets carsick and throws up, but she doesn't care because no one saw her.
- After several hours of travel, the truck Lakshmi is riding in is joined by other trucks, and the road is "all madness and noise" (46.TheCity.1).
- As Lakshmi travels in the back of the truck, she looks at everything she can about the city and what is next to each other. She sees sights both familiar and unfamiliar, and she wonders what will happen to her next.
On the Bus
- Auntie and Lakshmi switch vehicles from the truck to a bus, and Lakshmi learns the difference between cars, trucks, and buses.
- Lakshmi looks out the window of the bus at the sights and sees another bus coming toward her—she thinks the two will crash into one another, but as they pass instead, she realizes that things are different in the city.
- Even though there is chaos in the city, Lakshmi starts to see an order to it. She thinks that if she studies it, she'll be all right.
Seeing a Girl with a Long Black Braid
- Lakshmi looks for Gita but can't find her.
- The bus has left the city, and Lakshmi realizes that she can no longer see the mountain peak that was her home.
- They travel all night, and the people on the bus sleep.
- When Lakshmi asks Auntie why they left the city, Auntie says that they're going to a bigger city.
- This worries Lakshmi because she's not sure which city Gita is in.
- Lakshmi and Auntie get to a house with several rooms. Auntie tells Lakshmi to take off her clothes and gives Lakshmi a new pink dress and shoes.
- The only shoes Lakshmi has ever worn were sandals when her real father was alive, but she puts the shoes on anyway.
- The shoes pinch her feet, and she has to rush to keep up with Auntie.
- Auntie speaks to a man in a language Lakshmi doesn't understand—they are talking about Lakshmi.
- The man asks Auntie a question, and Auntie answers with the number twelve. The man then asks Lakshmi in her own language, and Lakshmi says she is thirteen, causing the man to turn and slap Auntie across the face.
- The man and Auntie barter until they come to an agreement and the man gives Auntie money.
- Lakshmi doesn't know what they have decided, but she knows that it's "nearly enough money to buy a water buffalo" (53.Numbers.9).
- Auntie leaves Lakshmi with the man, and he gives her a sweet.
- When he talks to Lakshmi, she realizes that Auntie's name is Bimla; he tells her that they will see her Auntie Bimla after they cross the border.
- The man explains to Lakshmi that he will be like her uncle, but she has to call him husband; Lakshmi says that she understands why, but she really doesn't.
- Uncle Husband explains that the border is dangerous and the people guarding it will try to take Lakshmi from Uncle Husband and Auntie Bimla.
- Lakshmi doesn't really understand—she is confused and grateful and afraid all at the same time.
Crossing the Border
- To cross the border, Lakshmi and Uncle Husband travel in a rickshaw; at the border they wait in a long line.
- Uncle Husband gives Lakshmi a sweet, and then they are at the border, which is guarded by men with guns.
- After Uncle Husband gives the border man a piece of paper, the man asks Lakshmi if Uncle Husband is indeed her husband. She says he is, and they cross over.
- Because Lakshmi told the border man what he wanted to hear, Uncle Husband gives her a bunch of sweets.
- Lakshmi wants to ask him how to send the sweets back to Ama, but she'll wait until he's in a good mood again.
- Lakshmi and Uncle Husband are on a train. While Uncle Husband sleeps, Lakshmi writes in her notebook about the strange things she's seen: electricity, cell phones, photographs, language.
- Because they are now in India, Uncle Husband warns Lakshmi not to talk to anyone because they will realize she's from the mountains and try to "take advantage" (57.Train.6) of her.
- Lakshmi writes some Indian words in her journal and continues watching the scenery go by.
One Hundred Rotis
- At a train stop, people gather to buy roti—a kind of bread—from a man with a grill.
- When Uncle Husband returns with a roti for Lakshmi, she is grateful for his presence in the strange world she has traveled to.
- At a second train stop, men and women separate as they leave the train. Uncle Husband warns Lakshmi not to try to escape—otherwise her family will never get any money.
- Once Lakshmi joins the women, she realizes that they are simply lifting their skirts and urinating where they stand.
- Because there is nothing else for her to do, Lakshmi copies them, but gets a small part of her dress wet because she is not used to these strange ways. Then she feels ashamed.
- When Lakshmi walks back to the train, she sees a crowd of men yelling at a girl about her own age whose head has been shaved. One man throws gravel at her.
- Lakshmi runs over to Uncle Husband and asks what's happening, and he explains that this girl tried to run way from her husband, an old man.
- Because Lakshmi doesn't understand, Uncle Husband explains that the shaved head indicates the girl is a disgraced woman and that "if she does run off again, no one will help her" (60.Disgraced.10).
A City of the Dead
- As the train rolls to a stop, Lakshmi looks out the window for golden roofs, but sees only huts with roofs of metal, paper, plastic… but not gold.
- There are no movie stars, no exotic trees, just rows of sleeping people dressed in rags.
- When Lakshmi gets off the train, she has to stay close to Uncle Husband, and the air is thick with smoke and dust. She is afraid of the city and of the people—she thinks they all look like the dead.
Walking in the City
- Lakshmi finds it difficult to walk in her shoes because she's not used to them, and she stares at all the sights of the city.
- She sees naked children, stray dogs, and people begging for food,
- One man uses force to make his water buffalo move faster, and Lakshmi, in the same moment, feels Uncle Husband press "his fist into my back to make me go faster" (62.WalkingintheCity.5).
- At last they arrive in front of a metal gate locked with a heavy chain; Uncle Husband takes Lakshmi inside as she asks if Auntie Bimla will be at the house.
- Inside the house, Uncle Husband tells Lakshmi that it is called Happiness House and that a woman named Auntie Mumtaz will explain everything to her.
- As Lakshmi looks around, she sees girls wearing colorful dresses, earrings, and makeup. She wonders if they are movie stars.
Ten Thousand Rupees
- A woman comes to greet Lakshmi and Uncle Husband, and she looks like an aging bird: a weak body of a girl and an aged face.
- She goes to get a woman who has a fat mango face. Uncle Husband pushes Lakshmi toward the woman, who asks him how much. After bartering with one another, the woman takes a notebook from inside her dress and writes down ten thousand rupees.
- Once the price is decided, the bird girl takes Lakshmi away from Uncle Husband to a small room upstairs.
- Inside the room, Lakshmi realizes that Auntie Mumtaz is her mistress, and then she thinks of all the things that her family will buy with the money she sends home.
- As she thinks, the bird girl locks Lakshmi in her room.
In This Room
- Lakshmi sees a light, posters of movie stars, a bed, and iron bars on the windows. She tries to picture home, but her "thoughts spin like the palm frond machine" (65.IntThisRoom.4).
- Finally, lost in her thoughts, she falls asleep after four days of travelling.
- Once she awakens it takes a few moments for Lakshmi to remember that she is no longer in the mountains with her family.
- Disappointed in what the city has provided for her, she tries to fall asleep and dream of home.
- Two girls come and unlock the door to take Lakshmi to another room—one girl is pretty with brown skin, and the other has a disfigured face. They take Lakshmi to another room where other girls are.
- The women are all watching TV, which Lakshmi has never seen before. She thinks that TV will make this city better than she originally thought
A City Girl
- The fat woman, Mumtaz, comes into the room and asks the two girls who got Lakshmi from her room questions. Then she pinches Lakshmi's arm and leaves.
- Next the two girls clean Lakshmi. They wash her face, brush her hair, paint her nails, and put makeup on her.
- When Lakshmi sees her reflection in the mirror, she smiles at herself uncertainly, thinking that she looks like a fancy city girl.
- When Mumtaz asks if Lakshmi is ready to work, Lakshmi nods and follows Mumtaz upstairs to a small room where an old man lies on a bed.
- Across the hall, Lakshmi hears animal sounds that make her nervous.
- As Mumtaz and the old man talk, the grunting stops, and a man walks into the hallway, zipping up his pants.
- Lakshmi gets the feeling that something is not right.
- Even though the old man asks her to come to him, Lakshmi refuses. Suddenly Mumtaz grabs Lakshmi and throws her onto the bed next to the old man, who kisses her.
- Held immobile by the weight of him, Lakshmi can't stop the old man from forcing his way between her legs, but when he kisses her, she bites his tongue and escapes.
- Lakshmi runs back to her room and starts to pull her mountain clothes out of her bundle.
- As Lakshmi cleans her face, the dark-skinned girl enters the room—Lakshmi says that she's going home, that the whole thing was a mistake.
- Mumtaz arrives at Lakshmi's room, and Lakshmi says she's going to go home. Mumtaz laughs and asks Lakshmi how she will get there, if she has money, if she speaks the language.
- As Lakshmi tries to hold herself together, Mumtaz explains to her that she bought Lakshmi for ten thousand rupees and that Lakshmi will take men to her room and do what they want to pay off her debt.
- When Lakshmi tries to protest using Auntie Bimla's words, Mumtaz says that Auntie Bimla works for her.
- Shahanna, the dark-skinned girl, gives Mumtaz scissors, and Mumtaz cuts Lakshmi's hair.
- Once Lakshmi sees her reflection in the mirror, she sees a disgraced woman. Mumtaz assures her that if anyone sees her with a shaved head, they will bring her right back to the Happiness House.
- When Mumtaz and Shahanna leave the room, Lakshmi gives in to her anger, but she doesn't cry.
Three Days and Three Nights
- Lakshmi watches the world pass by through her barred window, but none of the passersby look up at her.
- Every day, twice a day, Mumtaz comes and beats Lakshmi; every night, Lakshmi dreams of home.
- Because Mumtaz notices that Lakshmi is injured from her beatings, she hits Lakshmi on the bottoms of her feet instead.
- When Mumtaz unlocks the door and sees that Lakshmi is covered in markings from the beatings, she asks Lakshmi if she'll be with men.
- Lakshmi refuses, so Mumtaz says she'll starve Lakshmi until she gives up.
- Lakshmi isn't afraid of hunger, though—she knows all about it from her experiences growing up in the mountains.
What I Don't Do
- Lakshmi tries not to pay attention to food that passes by her window or is cooked in the house. Even when Mumtaz tempts her, she refuses.
After Five Days
- This entire chapter is just one sentence: "After five days of no food and water I don't even dream" (75.AfterFiveDays.1).
A Cup of Tea
- Hearing the snick of the lock to her room, Lakshmi thinks that Mumtaz has arrived to beat her; instead it is Shahanna with a cup of tea.
- Shahanna says that Mumtaz will let Lakshmi live if she submits, and that it's not so bad in Happiness House, because in the city, she would be treated horribly.
- Yet Lakshmi still refuses.
- Shahanna says that if Lakshmi continues to refuse, Mumtaz will sell her to another brothel.
- As Shahanna leaves, Lakshmi wants to ask her to stay, but she has learned from the city people how to hide her emotions.
After Shahanna's Visit
- Lakshmi loses track of the days that she is locked in her room with no visitors and no nourishment.
- One day Mumtaz announces that she's going to allow Lakshmi to live, but Lakshmi wonders what will come next for her.
A Cup of Lassi
- The aging bird girl gives Lakshmi a yogurt drink (lassi), which Lakshmi drinks.
- After she drinks it though, she feels odd, like she has double vision. Her limbs become heavy, sounds blur… and Lakshmi understands that the lassi was drugged.
Lucky to Be with Habib
- A man comes to Lakshmi's room.
- She tries to push him away, but he gets on top of her, talking about how lucky she is to be with him for her first time.
- Habib rapes her. Unable to fight back because she is drugged, Lakshmi hears the sound of someone weeping and realizes it's her.
One of Them
- Lakshmi wakes up with no idea of how much time has passed. She sees herself in the mirror, with her makeup on again, and thinks that she has become "one of them" (81.OneofThem.5).
- For days Lakshmi has a stream of visitors come to her room, and "some are real. Some are not" (82.Twilight.1).
- Each night she is given a drugged cup of lassi to make her compliant for the men who come to her room, and each morning Shahanna gives her a cup of water and pity.
- Lakshmi imagines that other people come to her room as well: her stepfather, Baija Sita, and Auntie Bimla.
- Because reality is confusing her and too terrible to deal with, Lakshmi decides to think that all the men are a nightmare and not real.
- Lakshmi hurts from her repeated rapes. She prays that her hurt will stop, but she also comes to the conclusion that no one hears her—not even the deities she supposedly believes in.
- Sometimes when she's alone, Lakshmi unwraps her old bundle of clothes and breathes in the smell of home.
- "Then I can get by. Until the next twilight." (84.BetweenTwilights.3).
What You Hear
- Lakshmi describes what she hears before and as she is violated: the sounds of a man getting undressed, and then sounds from outside the room.
- If she works at it, she hears nothing at all.
The Danger of Protection
- Shahanna comes to Lakshmi's room bringing tea, food, and a condom, which she says must be kept secret.
- Shahanna says that Lakshmi should ask the men to use the condom so that she can avoid disease. If the men refuse, Shahanna says, Lakshmi shouldn't insist or Mumtaz will beat her until she is near death.
A Bucket of Water
- Even though Lakshmi has a bucket of water by her bed and washes often, she can't rid herself of the men from her body.
- From her window Lakshmi realizes the season has changed. Since she is continually given drugged lassi, she doesn't know how many men she has been with or how much they pay.
- However, Lakshmi thinks that each time a man comes, her debt to Mumtaz decreases.
A Handful of Fog
- Lakshmi remembers parts of home. At first they came to her without her asking, but now they are difficult to remember.
- So Lakshmi practices remembering home every day.
- One memory, though, that she can't forget is her mother's face wanting a tin roof.
- It's both difficult to hold on to the memories and impossible to keep them from sweeping her away.
- Mumtaz comes to Lakshmi's room and tells her that because she is no longer a virgin, she doesn't command a high price.
- Lakshmi asks if she can go.
- Mumtaz says that Lakshmi can go once she has paid off the twenty thousand rupees Mumtaz paid for her. Yet Lakshmi remembers that she was bought for ten thousand rupees, and she realizes that Mumtaz is lying to her.
- This lie is the thing that makes Lakshmi's eyes fill with tears for the first time since Habib.
- When Lakshmi tries to protest the lie, Mumtaz threatens her with the leather strap. So Lakshmi listens as Mumtaz explains that Lakshmi will join the other girls, share a bedroom, and have relative freedom in the house.
- Then Mumtaz threatens Lakshmi once more and tells her to go because she needs the room.
- As Lakshmi gathers her belongings, the aging bird girl comes in with another young girl.
- Limping toward the door for the first time in weeks, Lakshmi watches the frightened new girl enter her old room.
What Is Normal
- The aging bird girl takes Lakshmi to the kitchen, where she sees a brightly colored scene of girls talking and laughing.
- Overwhelmed, Lakshmi sits on the floor and eats what Shahanna puts in front of her.
- Shahanna pulls Lakshmi to her feet and takes her to watch TV. As the women laugh and lead their lives, Lakshmi wonders how it is so normal for them.
In My New Room
- There is a bedroom with four beds separated by sheets hanging from the ceiling, and Shahanna explains that when Lakshmi has a customer, she uses the sheets to shield her from view.
- Six girls share the room: Anita, whose face is disfigured; Pushpa, who coughs; Pushpa's two children, one a toddler, one about eight years old; Lakshmi; and Shahanna.
- Shahanna explains that Anita is from the same place as Lakshmi and Shahanna: Nepal.
- Pushpa, though, came to work for Mumtaz after her husband died.
Meeting the David Beckham Boy
- A boy, about eight, comes in and kisses Pushpa and tickles his sister Jeena—he is wearing a David Beckham shirt, which he is pretty proud of.
- As Shahanna says it's time to get ready for the customers, the David Beckham boy get a kite and runs out of the house.
- Lakshmi wonders what the freedom of the city is like.
Everything I Need to Know Now
- Shahanna explains what Lakshmi needs to know about the house. As a member of the Happiness House, Lakshmi should remember these rules: try to get the customers to choose her, tell them she's twelve instead of her real age, do whatever the customer asks, wash herself after a customer leaves.
- If a customer likes her, he may give her a sweet or tip her; Lakshmi should keep these for herself so that Mumtaz doesn't take them.
- When a government woman comes with condoms, take some—but don't let Shilpa, the aging bird girl, see them because she spies for Mumtaz.
- When Americans try to trick Lakshmi to run away, don't be tricked by them and go with them because they will just shame her.
- Lakshmi should learn several tricks with her shawl as well.
- Anita says that there is another way to use a shawl and explains that Mumtaz found the new girl that replaced Lakshmi hanging from the ceiling the morning before.
- Pushpa's cough is bad, so the girls take turns playing with her daughter Jeena.
- Jeena isn't the only baby at the Happiness House, and the women there borrow money from Mumtaz to take care of them.
- When Lakshmi asks why, Shahanna says that they "all need to pretend" to live (96.Pretending.5). Mumtaz allows this to happen because she knows that once women have children, they will stay in the house for good.
- Even so, Lakshmi asks why women don't prevent the babies from coming, and Shahanna explains that the babies are the only family the girls at the house will have.
- So each morning, the children go off to school and function like normal children in the city; each evening, though, it is harder to pretend because of what their mothers do.
- They may look different, but they are all the same to Lakshmi.
- After overhearing a conversation between two customers, Lakshmi realizes that the price of her body is same as the price of a bottle of soda from Bajai Sita's store.
- When Lakshmi lived in her village and went to school, she learned how to do math: add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
- So she tries to figure out how long it will take her to be free of Mumtaz.
- However, Shahanna says that Lakshmi is calculating it all wrong. Half of the price of a girl goes to Mumtaz, and Lakshmi must pay for her own food and housing, as well as the shot to prevent pregnancy.
- After recalculating, Lakshmi realizes that she is "already buried alive" (98.Mathematics.9).
- The boldest girl, Monica, gets the most customers. One night she tells Lakshmi that she can teach her tricks to get customers to pay more—afraid, Lakshmi doesn't say anything as Monica says that she's almost done paying her debt to Mumtaz.
- When a man comes into the room and chooses Monica, Lakshmi feels strangely disappointed that the man didn't choose her.
An Ordinary Boy
- Because she's been watching the David Beckham boy, Lakshmi realizes that he does things that make him just an ordinary boy: goes to school, does homework, watches TV.
- Yet she still finds that she hates him sometimes for these ordinary things and for the freedom he has.
- And then she hates herself for having the emotions she has.
What Is Missing Now
- Lakshmi has become used to certain aspects of the house, but when she tries to smell her home in the mountain in her bundle of clothes, it's gone.
Stealing from the David Beckham Boy
- Every afternoon, the David Beckham boy runs errands for the girls of the house; every evening, he gets stuff for customers. He saves the money he earns in a tin trunk.
- When he's out of the house in the afternoons, Lakshmi steals his storybook and pretends that she is in school again.
- Lakshmi asks Shahanna why Anita always frowns, and Shahanna explains that one time Anita escaped, and the goondas caught her and beat her with a metal pipe. (Goondas are the men who work for Mumtaz.)
- To operate the TV, Anita uses a remote control, and Shahanna explains to Lakshmi how this contraption works.
- If Mumtaz has a headache, Anita mutes the volume of the TV.
- This information leads Lakshmi to pretend that her life is a TV show, that she has a button to mute the noises and another one to make her disappear (103.RemoteControl.3).
- Lost in her thoughts, Lakshmi is caught by the David Beckham boy with his book.
- When he offers the book back to her, she runs away.
- Now she hates him because she has been caught wishing for something more and because he looked at her with pity.
- One night Lakshmi notices Mumtaz giving money to a man in a uniform before Shilpa chases her away.
- Shahanna explains that the man is a policeman. Police are supposed to stop people like Mumtaz, but instead they accept bribes to look "the other way" (106.Police.6).
- Lakshmi wonders about the morality of the city and doesn't understand how it can be so corrupt.
No Ordinary Boy, After All
- Each afternoon, Lakshmi watches the David Beckham boy come home from school and practice soccer with whatever he can kick.
- Because he is concentrating, he doesn't notice the older boys approach him. They taunt him and call his mother a bad name, but he just walks away.
Something Else I Know About the David Beckham Boy
- When the David Beckham boy kisses his mom, he checks for fever because Mumtaz told Pushpa that if the fever returns, they will have to leave the Happiness House.
- As Lakshmi calculates her debt, the David Beckham boy comes in and asks if she wants him to teach her to read the words in his book.
- Lakshmi says yes, and when he is gone she thinks about "how long it has been since a tomorrow meant anything to me" (109.Yes.7). Yay for a little something to look forward to, right?
What I Learned Today
- The David Beckham boy teaches Lakshmi that there are two languages used in India: Hindi (which isn't too different from Lakshmi's home language) and English.
- Lakshmi learns a few words in Hindi.
- Lakshmi learns more Hindi words from the David Beckham boy, whose real name is Harish. She also learns how to say her name, where she is from, and how old she is.
- Because the TV isn't working, Monica tells the story of a movie.
- Curious, Lakshmi asks Shahanna how Monica and Shilpa know about movies, and Shahanna explains that Shilpa (the aging bird girl) is here because she wants to be and because her mother was in the business—it's a family thing.
- Monica won't run off, Shahanna says, because she has a child in her village, and if she runs, Mumtaz will take the child, hurt it, and sell it to a beggar.
- Lakshmi thinks about how ugly the world is.
The Street Boy
- The street boy sells tea to the girls and asks Lakshmi why she doesn't buy his tea in her native language.
- Too shy and ashamed, she flees.
What I Learned Today
- Lakshmi's notebook is almost full, and Shahanna warns her to hide the notebook from Mumtaz and Shilpa, who will lock Lakshmi up again if they know about it.
- When Lakshmi notices Shilpa buying a bottle of alcohol from the street boy, Shilpa spits at her.
- Shahanna explains that Shilpa likes the drink because her own mother gave it to her when she was young.
How Are You Today?
- Harish and Lakshmi exchange pleasantries, and Lakshmi likes the words even if they're not true.
A Strange Vocabulary
- Soon Harish is teaching Lakshmi American words from a new book that he got from an American. He says that the American lady who teaches him on Saturdays is nice and that Americans are not evil, like Mumtaz and Anita say.
- Lakshmi thinks that America is an unusual place.
Don't Cross the Cook
- Lakshmi learns a new phrase, and to help her Harish pantomimes the cook that works at the house—Harish laughs, and then Lakshmi laughs.
- Laughter, for her, is strange, but not difficult.
An Accidental Kindness
- A man comes to Lakshmi's room who is different from the rest—instead of using her, he holds her.
- Slowly Lakshmi allows her true self to give in to being held. And she holds him back.
- The man says thank you. Lakshmi wants to say it back, but she thinks it doesn't encompass her gratitude.
Am I Pretty?
- After the hugging man leaves, Lakshmi wonders if her real self is pretty. She decides it doesn't matter because no one will ever want her.
- Lakshmi tries not to count how many days the hugging man has been gone.
- Monica has a temper, but she can also be kind. Once when she and Lakshmi watch TV together, Monica explains that she is paying for things for her daughter and family.
- Lakshmi says that she is buying a roof for her family.
- With these images in mind, Monica thinks that when both girls return to their families, they will be honored and thanked.
- Harish gives Lakshmi a pencil that "smells of lead and rubber. And possibility." (123.AGift.2).
- Surprised, Lakshmi cries. Even though she has endured horrible hardships at the Happiness House, she is "undone by the simple kindness" (123.AGift.7).
Something for the David Beckham Boy
- In return for the pencil, Lakshmi offers him a soccer ball made from her old clothes from her village.
- Harish leaves with the ball after a quick thank you, and Lakshmi watches as a part of her leaves the prison where she is kept.
Still Not Counting
- Lakshmi decides the hugging man is not going to return.
When Monica Left
- Before she leaves, Monica gives away her things; Lakshmi hides because she is jealous of her departure.
- Harish is late coming home, and he teaches Lakshmi the word sorry.
The Cost of a Cure
- Lakshmi is ill, sweating and dreaming of people who are no longer in her life; she alternates between both fever and chills.
- After Harish feels her forehead, he gets Mumtaz, who accuses Lakshmi of faking it—then asks her if she's been washing.
- Lakshmi loses track of space and time. She dreams of people caring for her, of escaping the house.
- When she awakens, Mumtaz gives her a couple pills, and Lakshmi loves her for caring for her.
- After Lakshmi swallows the pills, Mumtaz adds the cost of the medicine to Lakshmi's debt.
An Old Woman
- When Lakshmi looks in the mirror a few days later, she sees an old empty corpse. To the mirror, she says her name, her birthplace, and how old she is: thirteen.
The Living Dead
- Monica returns to the Happiness House because her family begged her not to return and disgrace them, even though the money she sent paid for her father's operation. Her family told her daughter that Monica was dead.
- Pushpa cannot work. She has been sick for three days, and when Mumtaz tells her to work, she coughs up blood.
- Mumtaz tells her that she's of no more use, and Pushpa asks for mercy—Mumtaz asks Pushpa to sell Jeena, Pushpa's daughter, to her.
- Once Pushpa understands, she utters a sound full of emotion—a sound beyond words.
What Despair Looks Like
- That afternoon, Pushpa sits in despair. She tells Jeena that Mumtaz won't take her.
- When Harish comes home from school, happy and flushed, he sees his mother and starts to pack his things.
A World Too Small
- Pushpa and Harish pack their things. Harish and Lakshmi are similar in their sadness.
- When Lakshmi asks where they will go, Harish says that he will ask his American teacher, but that he will need to make money for them to live.
- After he gives Lakshmi the American storybook, Lakshmi tells him that she is sorry.
- No one says her name now that Harish is gone. Lakshmi repeats the words to herself so that she remembers them, but she also thinks that she's now fourteen.
- Lakshmi feels that, without Harish, she cannot smile.
Instead of Harish
- Monica shows up in the room where Lakshmi stays and gives Lakshmi an old rag doll because she recognizes Lakshmi's sorrow.
- Lakshmi understands that somehow, Monica still sleeps with this doll despite her perceived sexual aggression.
A Strange Customer
- A customer comes in with pale skin and Lakshmi realizes that he is American.
- Even though he tries to engage Lakshmi in conversation in her native language (he asks her name and her age), she doesn't speak.
- In the bedroom Lakshmi shares, the man asks if Lakshmi is being kept against her will, and she thinks that she lost her will long ago.
- The man asks if Lakshmi wants to leave, and she shakes her head no because she remembers Anita's story about Americans.
- The man says that he can take her to a place that she doesn't have to be with men; Lakshmi pretends that she doesn't understand.
- So instead the man gives her a small white card with some American words and a bird in flight on it.
A Small Danger
- Lakshmi studies the card the stranger left for her and hides it because she knows that she will be beaten for having it.
- One evening Lakshmi tells Shahanna about her American customer, and Shahanna is suspicious of the man, reminding Lakshmi of her debt, the goondas, and Anita's belief about Americans.
- But Lakshmi isn't convinced.
- Shahanna asks if Lakshmi will go with him and if she will take Shahanna with her when she leaves.
- Lakshmi is a little scared of the strength of her friend, but also scared of Mumtaz and of leaving Happiness House
- When rolling blackouts arrive in the city, Lakshmi thinks it's the end of the world… and wishes that it were.
- As Lakshmi looks for Monica to give her the doll back, Shilpa tells her that she's on the street now.
- When Lakshmi asks why, Shilpa explains that Monica has the virus (which has no cure) and is of no use to Mumtaz anymore.
The Street Boy
- Lakshmi has been watching the street boy and noticing his kindnesses.
- When he comes today, he tries to offer her tea, but Lakshmi is saving her money for her freedom.
- Men come to the door in the afternoon and one yells that they are police.
- The girls scatter and Anita grabs Lakshmi, who is frozen, and takes her to a secret hiding place under the sink in the kitchen.
- In their hiding place, Anita and Lakshmi hear men searching for them. They hear angry voices and chaos, but eventually the house becomes quiet.
- The destruction of the house is severe: the TV is broken, food is on the floor, the room Lakshmi stays in is in pieces.
- And Shahanna has disappeared.
- The girls gather in the TV room. Anita thinks the Americans are responsible for the raid, and Shilpa thinks it's the police because sometimes "they take a girl when Mumtaz falls behind in her payment" (144.Aftermath.3).
- Mumtaz arrives and tells the girls to clean up the house and get to work.
- Anita says the peanut vendor saw the whole thing and told the cook who told Anita: the Americans took Shahanna.
- Shilpa says it was the police, and she heard it from a regular customer who is also a police officer.
- Leaving the room, Lakshmi feels as if Shahanna's fate is her fault.
- Mumtaz says the girls must take Shahanna's customers in addition to their own. All Lakshmi wants to do, though, is read the American storybook Harish left her.
- So Mumtaz just sends men to Lakshmi's room.
- Lakshmi sees a rat take a crust of bread that is her breakfast.
All I Have Left
- Anita comes to Lakshmi crying and says that Mumtaz will sell Lakshmi to another brothel if Lakshmi doesn't work and join the other girls.
- Yet all Lakshmi wants to do is read the American book.
- Suddenly Lakshmi feels a slap: Anita has hit her. And Lakshmi realizes that Anita is all she has left.
- So Lakshmi lets Anita get her out of bed and put makeup on her.
A Hiding Place
- Anita calls to Lakshmi from a closet in the hallway and shows her how they can lock themselves in the next time there is a raid.
- Another American comes to the brothel. Lakshmi hands him the white card the first American gave her, but he disregards it.
- And Lakshmi realizes that he is not a good American.
- Lakshmi pours over her notebooks and how much she owes Mumtaz—she thinks she will have paid her debt in a year.
Just a Cup of Tea
- The street boy gives Lakshmi a cup of tea.
- Even though it's against the rules to talk to Mumtaz, Lakshmi goes into Mumtaz's office and gives her the calculations in her notebook.
- Mumtaz tells Lakshmi she's forgetting many expenses: shoes, electricity, TV, fans, and interest on the original price. Pretending to make calculations, Mumtaz tells Lakshmi she has five more years in the house.
Any Man, Every Man
- Almost frantically determined, Lakshmi decides that she will be with any man to be free of the Happiness House.
Whatever It Takes
- Lakshmi puts into practice her desire to be free of the house by taking new customers.
- After Lakshmi invites a wealthy man who is clearly Shilpa's customer, Shilpa warns her away from him—but Lakshmi says she won't stay away from him, that she needs the money to escape Mumtaz.
- When Shilpa taunts her for her hopes of freedom, Lakshmi thinks that her belief and hope are necessary to her survival.
- A new girl arrives at the house, and Lakshmi thinks of Mumtaz as a monster. But then, as she realizes the girl's cries sound like the street sounds below, she wonders what she has become.
Passing the Time
- Lakshmi understands why Shilpa might like alcohol, but when she tries to buy a bottle from the street boy, he refuses to sell it to her.
- Instead he leaves her another cup of tea.
- When Lakshmi sees Shilpa with a customer, she thinks about what Shilpa said about Mumtaz—that Lakshmi shouldn't believe her.
- Lakshmi knows Shilpa is Mumtaz's spy and wonders if Shilpa knows something Lakshmi doesn't.
- The street boy gives Lakshmi a soda, and she asks why.
- Embarrassed, he says that they're both alone in the city. They open the soda and drink it together.
- When Shilpa calls him, the boy tells Lakshmi that he can get other things for her because he knows everyone.
- When the street boy comes, his face looks bruised and beaten. He says his boss beats him if he doesn't have enough money by the end of the day.
- Lakshmi tells him to return the next day and decides to borrow money from Mumtaz.
- Lakshmi tells Shilpa that she wants to borrow forty rupees, and Shilpa calls her stupid.
- After Lakshmi says that her family won't miss a few rupees, Shilpa laughs and tells Lakshmi that her family gets no money—all the money from the customers goes to Mumtaz.
- As Lakshmi covers her ears, Shilpa says that Mumtaz will work Lakshmi until she is used up and then throw her into the street.
- Lakshmi doesn't want to hear it because if Shilpa's right, everything that has happened at the Happiness House "was for nothing" (162.Revelation.9).
A Kind of Sickness
- For a few days, Lakshmi feels sick from the information she learned from Shilpa. She decides to give the street boy the card from the first American.
- The street boy explains that his boss is giving his route to someone else.
- Lakshmi throws her arms around him, ignoring the laughter from the other girls, because she whispers to him and gives him the card from the American.
- The new street boy isn't like the other boy, and Lakshmi realizes that she never knew the name of the first street boy.
Not New Girl Anymore
- When Lakshmi looks at the girls around the table, she realizes that—other than Anita—she is the longest working girl at Happiness House.
- Lakshmi hears coughing and thinks at first that it's Pushpa but then realizes that it's Anita.
- A third American comes to the house, different from the first or second American.
- Unsure of herself, Lakshmi goes to the man, and he follows her.
- Like the first American, he shakes her hand and asks her for her name and age.
- Afraid, Lakshmi doesn't respond, but the man takes out a camera and takes her picture, assuring her that he won't tell Mumtaz.
- He shows Lakshmi her image on the camera and asks if she wants to leave.
- Lakshmi doesn't know whether or not to trust him or her experience with the drunken American or Anita's stories.
- Seeing her trepidation, he shows her pictures of a shelter and clean girls in school.
- Lakshmi wants to keep him here longer, so she takes out the American storybook Harish gave her and shares her few American words with him.
- Even though she's uncertain, Lakshmi smiles at the man.
- The American tells Lakshmi that Mumtaz can't force her to be with men, but Lakshmi thinks he doesn't know about the beatings, or the goondas, or the locks.
- Still the American says that he will come back for Lakshmi.
- Yet Lakshmi doesn't know what to believe, because she believed Auntie Bimla and Uncle Husband and that the money she made was going to her family—and these all turned out to be lies. She is afraid of believing.
- She closes her eyes, and when she opens them, the American is still there. Lakshmi decides that she wants to go to the clean place.
- When he returns, the American says, Lakshmi must go with him quickly. He says goodbye, and Lakshmi wonders if he was really there at all.
- When no one watches, Lakshmi packs for the clean place.
- She plans to take gifts from her friends, her old skirt, and her notebook; she plans to leave everything else behind.
Two Kinds of Stupidity
- After three days of waiting with no sign of the American, Lakshmi thinks she was stupid to believe in him… and stupid to keep believing in him.
Forgetting How to Forget
- In her time at the Happiness House, Lakshmi has learned to be with men and forget the rapes. But now she has images of the clean place in her mind, so each rape feels like a fresh violation.
Playing the Fool
- It has been five days since the American came, and Lakshmi thinks she's a fool to keep waiting.
A Kind of Illness
- Lakshmi feels that hope is worse than a fever, that it is cruel, and that it will kill her.
- When she hears the grinding of spices in a pestle, Lakshmi understands it can sometimes mean spicy food and sometimes mean a punishment for a girl who has disobeyed Mumtaz.
- The cook, who is grinding the spices, says that one of the girls has crossed Mumtaz.
- Lakshmi, afraid that Mumtaz found out about her, begins to tremble and sweat, though she doesn't show this to Mumtaz when Mumtaz enters the room.
- Mumtaz takes a stick, rolls it in chili powder, and Lakshmi falls to the floor, crying, to kiss her feet. But Mumtaz just kicks her and leaves the room.
- Anita tells Lakshmi that the new girl is the one in trouble because she accepted a gift from a customer.
- Still afraid and on the floor, Lakshmi closes her eyes, and when she opens them, Mumtaz's foot is right by her face.
- Even though Mumtaz thinks Lakshmi acted guilty, even though she steps on Lakshmi's head so hard that Lakshmi almost passes out, Lakshmi utters no cry or word.
- Finally Mumtaz drags Lakshmi to her feet and asks if she's done something wrong—Lakshmi looks her in the eye and says she hasn't.
- After Mumtaz leaves, Lakshmi realizes that her earring has torn through her earlobe and thinks that she would do anything to leave Happiness House.
The Words Harish Taught Me
- Late at night—in the very early morning—the police come.
- Anita grabs Lakshmi to go to their hiding place, but Lakshmi waits. She hears a man saying that he's here for a girl, and she hears Mumtaz lie and say there are no young girls there.
- When Lakshmi realizes the voice belongs to the third American, the one who said he would come for her, she tells Anita that he is a good man, that she's going to go with him. But Anita thinks it's a trick.
- Lakshmi is paralyzed—she can't leave but she can't stay. Anita tries one last time to get Lakshmi into the closet, but Lakshmi refuses.
- Slowly Lakshmi moves to the stairs, hearing the American calling for her, but she finds she can't say anything.
- Once she hears sounds that the American is leaving, something changes and Lakshmi runs downstairs to him.
- She sees Mumtaz, two policemen holding her back. She sees the American. She sees an American lady from the American's pictures.
- And she says her name, where she is, and how old she is: fourteen.