This story is fairly complex. It revolves around two brothers, Chidam and Dukhiram. Both are agricultural laborers, who after a particularly challenging day come home. They live with their two wives. Chidam's wife, Chandara, is young, quite pretty and very meticulous about her appearance and the overall presence that she represents. In contrast, Dukhiram's wife, Radha, is slovenly, unkempt and older. When asking for food, Dukhiram is angered by Radha's flippant responses that mock him. In a fit of rage, he kills Radha. As the village landlord enters the home on an unrelated issue after the murder has been committed, Chidam has a plan: He convinces his wife, Chandara, to take responsibility for the murder of the other wife as an accident. His thinking would be that this lie would allow his brother to live and would allow him to be able to get his wife out afterwards. This transformation of the truth ends up complicating matters, when Chandara decides to assume complete responsibility for the murder as a way to punish her husband. In this process, Chidam realizes that he is trapped in being able to tell the truth because of the web in which he is trapped. Even when each brother seeks to confess, and to tell their own version of truth, the court does not acknowledge it because of the confession offered by Chandara. At the end of the story, Chandara refuses to see Chidam as she is executed for the murder. The theme of the story explores the elusive notion of truth and the contingency of situations, identifying the changing order of traditionalist society in the modern setting.
Punishment" begins in an Indian village, where brothers Dukhiram and Chidam work. They spend their entire day working too hard to even take a break for lunch. They return home to their two wives, Radha and Chandara (Radha is married to Dukhiram, and Chandara is married to Chidam). The two women had been fighting all day, and when Dukhiram asks his wife, Radha, to bring him food, she yells at him and a fight ensues. Dukhiram takes a knife and kills her. A few minutes later, the landlord stops by the house to remind the family that their rent is late. Chidam breaks down in tears and tells his landlord that his wife, Chandara, has killed Radha. This is a lie, but he tells it because he thinks it will be easier to save his wife than his brother from trouble. The police came and questioned the family. Chidam had asked Chandara to take the blame for the murder. Chandara is silent, and because Chidam and she had been fighting, she agrees. When the police question her, she tells them she murdered Radha. Her husband begins to interject at her responses to the police, but they quiet him. What Chandara tells the police is not what she was instructed to: she makes herself look like she had no reason to attack Radha, and she plays the part as if she deserves to be jailed and hanged. The police take her to jail, and the judge orders a formal trial. Witnesses come forth to try to tell the truth, but no story is as compelling as Chandara's. The judge finds her guilty. While she is on her way to be hanged, she tells the Civil Surgeon that she does not wish to see her husband. She instead asks to see her mother, and her last words to Chidam are, "To hell with him."
"Punishment" tells the tale of women being tired of their husbands' rule over them. When given orders, a woman tired of being bossed around snaps back, which ultimately gets her killed. This part of the story outlines the power Indian men had over women. Chandara's determination to die rather than have to be married to Chidam illustrates the freeing of Indian women from oppression.