This latest of Narayan’s novels came out in 1967. It is the story of Jagan, a sweet vendor. He is religious-minded and has been considerably influenced by The Gita. He is also a staunch follower of Gandhi and tries to live up to the Gandhian way of life. He wears khadi and spins charkha. However, he is very careful about money and keeps two account books to avoid paying income tax. He is devoted to money and he is also devoted to his twenty-year-old son, Mali. Indeed, it is Mali who is the cause of his undoing. He is a spoiled young man who does not care much for his doting father. One fine morning, he quietly announces his decision to give up his studies so that he may write a novel for a novel competition and win a prize of twenty-five thousand rupees.
Jagan makes the best of a bad bargain, and proudly tells the people that his son is in America. He fondly shows them his letters. But he receives another shock of his life, when in one of his letters his son tells him that he has started taking beef and that they, in India, should follow his example. He receives a further shock when Mali returns home not alone, but with his American wife, Grace. Later, Jagan learns to his great grief that they are not actually married but have been leading an immoral, sinful life.
Jagan is now a frustrated man. First, he brings down the price of sweets and, thus, offends other sweet vendors of Malgudi. Then, he decides to hand over his business to his son, and free himself to lead a retired life in an ashram across the river.