In Chapter One, we learn that Jagan is a very religious man who offers prayers to Lakshmi every morning. He lives by the adage "Conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self.' When Jagan's cousin questions his faith in the maxim, Jagan merely states that he is only following the advice of sages.
Jagan proudly announces to his cousin that he has just given up salt that very morning. In fact, he proclaims that one 'must eat only natural salt.' Balding, bespectacled and aging, Jagan is fifty-five years old and an enthusiastic follower of Gandhi. He fancies himself living closely by all the precepts taught by the great teacher and Indian philosopher.
Jagan's ascetic lifestyle extends even to the realm of footwear; he will only wear leather sandals made from dying cows, asserting that no living animal should 'have its throat cut for the comfort' of his feet. However, Jagan maintains that his leather tanning activities often created turmoil in his household when his wife was alive; she had never become accustomed to the dreadful smell of the tanning leather.
Even as his cousin goads him, Jagan proudly boasts that he has also discarded sugar from his diet, preferring to ingest honey instead. As for meals, he has given up rice and relies on a little stone-ground wheat, honey, and greens to sustain him. It is obvious at this point that Jagan's cousin enjoys mocking his hypocrisy; after all, Jagan is a vendor of sweets. While he eschews every indulgence in his diet, Jagan is financially sustained by the sugar-loving habits of his customers.
Soon, Jagan's cousin leaves at the counting hour. During this all-important time, Jagan presides like a monarch over the day's earnings and counts up his profits. As the leftover trays are brought in from the front stall, Jagan's kitchen staff approach him to account for the day's business and to discuss what should be done with leftover sweets.
Jagan runs his business as strictly as he lives his austere life; he never permits his cooks to be idle for long. Business is an all-consuming passion for Jagan, and he will make his profits as long as the day lasts. As the chapter ends, we find that Jagan often appropriates a small portion of the day's proceeds for his own. To him, this small sum represents 'an immaculate conception, self-generated, arising out of itself and entitled to survive without reference to any tax.' The day ends when Jagan has finished counting his cash and dismissed the watchman, an ex-Army captain.