The Gram Vendor
The gram vendor is a street vendor who first calls Suno's attention to the park as a place of study. The gram vendor is described as having "a crippled arm that hung out of his shirt sleeve like a leg of mutton dangling on a hook. His face was scarred as though he had been dragged out of some terrible accident.’’
Suno is the narrator of the story. He is a young man whose entire family is continually pressuring him to study for a major exam which will determine his future educational track. Suno is extremely irritated and distracted by every noise and interruption caused by his family as he sits in his room trying to study. In exasperation, Suno leaves his house to try studying in a cafe; but both the cafe proprietor and the waiter insist on talking to him. Giving up on the cafe, Suno wanders into the local park, where many young men such as himself are studying, or attempting to study, for similar exams. From then on, Suno returns to the park to do his studying. One day he sees a scene which he later thinks of as a "vision'': a very sickly young woman is lying with her head on the lap of an older man; the two are so absorbed in one another that they do not notice anything around them. Something about this "vision" inspires a transformation in Suno. He decides not to take the exams after all, not to succumb to the pressure of his family, but to approach life as a "search" rather than a "race."
Suno's father, like the other members of his family, is seen as someone who both pressures him continually to study for his exam and who distracts him from his studies by listening to the radio news in six different languages.
Suno mentions his mother primarily as one of several family members who continually pressure him to study for his exam, yet she is continually making noise, primarily from her cooking, or interrupting him to give him milk with sugar in it.
Young Woman on the Park Bench
One day while in the park, Suno comes across a young woman lying on a park bench with her head resting in the lap of an older man. He describes what he later thinks of as his "vision'' in the following terms: ‘‘She was a Muslim, wrapped in a black borkha.. .I saw her face. It lay bared, in the black folds of her borkha, like a flower, wax-white and composed, like a Persian lily or a tobacco flower at night. She was young. Very young, very pale, beautiful with a beauty I had never come across even in a dream.’’ Although he never sees this woman again, Suno is inspired by the sight of her, his "vision," to seek out a different path in life from that which his family had been forcing him onto.