Rama Rao has spent five years building a comfortable life for his family by investing a small inheritance into a gramophone company. Through this income, he has built a small bungalow, is able to send his children to a "fashionable nursery school" where they have many friends, and is able to pay both a cook and a servant to assist his wife.
Everything suddenly changes when Rama Rao's investment collapses; the gramophone company sinks when a bank in Lahore crashes. Suddenly, Rama Rao has no income and must make significant life changes. His children are sent to public school, and the servant and cook are dismissed. Rama Rao then moves his family to a cheaper and smaller house and rents out their bungalow for additional income.
Rama Rao grows desperate to meet the needs of his family. He sends out numerous applications every day and walks around tirelessly in search of employment. At every turn, he is met with rejection and is forced to return home each day to meet the "anxious" faces of his family.
As money continues to dwindle, Rama Rao's anxiety increases. When he sees a crossword puzzle contest in a journal called The Captain, he believes that he has found his chance to make the money he needs. He begins ignoring his family completely, focusing solely on solving each week's puzzle with the award-winning answers. Each week, he grows more dismayed when the winners' names are announced and his own is not on the list.
Rama Rao becomes quarrelsome with his wife, and his nerves are "wrecked" in frustration and desperation. After one final loss, he feels "all the losses, disappointments, and frustrations of ... life [coming] down on him with renewed force." He is so desperate that he decides to commit suicide.
As fate would have it, the train Rama Rao had been awaiting for his suicide plans is delayed, saving his life. This provides an inspirational catalyst that renews his hope for living.