Kanai is self-centered and believes that his way of thinking about the world is far superior to how the locals think, especially at the start of the book. Kanai finds himself comfortable in a society that rewards his class status and gender, and though he feels twinges of guilt at using these to his advantage, he pushes through. He speaks to Piya overconfidently when he first meets her, certain that her foreignness allows him to be condescending and smug. Piya regards him as self-satisfied and full of casual self-importance (8), but with a crucial glimmer of irony (12).
Kanai frequently views others as little more than additions of his own life and decisions. He tries to act on his crush on Piya through most of the book, his efforts go unnoticed because of his pattern of handling Piya as if she is a prize to be won. During his first glimpse of Piya he states that, Among a crowd of college girls on Kolkatas Park Street she might not have looked entirely out of place, but here, against the sooty backdrop of the commuter station at Dhakuria, the neatly composed androgyny of her appearance seemed out of place, almost exotic.
(3) This quote also sets up Kanais sexual desire for Piya and his tendency to judge others swiftly and conclusively.
Over the progression of the book, he experiences a conversion in which he starts to see himself not as the center of the universe, but as simply one planet in orbit. His uncles journal, in which Nirmal describes the events on Morichjhapi, emphasizes for Kanai the fragility of life and just how much of an impact his privilege has secluded him from the experiences of poor, rural Indians.
When he is left alone on an island and encounters a tiger, Kanai has a life-changing experience. Kanai is obligated to become aware of his own superiority when he and Fokir stop on the isolated island of Garjontola, where Fokir discovers fresh tiger tracks. Absent is his usual expression of buoyant confidence (273). Here, Kanai trips and lands in the dirt, resulting in him losing his temper. In this moment Kanai comes to the realization that individuals like him are one of the key explanations in why those that are less fortunate, such as Fokir, aren’t favored or payed attention to. After this, he sees a tiger. Nature and the tiger have come to a conclusion about Kanai, and he is established as inadequate.
His terror is so great upon seeing the tiger that he actually loses the ability to form language and instead, feels as though his unspeakable knowledge of how terrifying the tiger is far more powerful than spoken language. Because words are just air, Kanai-babu When the wind blows on the water, you see ripples and waves, but the real river lies beneath, unseen and unheard. (214) Moyna draws a comparison between the hidden depths of the water and the hidden depths of human beings. Humans may talk, but their words are meaningless unless they match a persons soul. At this moment when Kanai sees the tiger he understands that words are not everything. This may be the reason that Fokir and Piya develop their unearthly bond. Without words to lie, divert, or beat around the bush, they are required to communicate with their true selves. In contrast, Kanai often used his words to manipulate those around him in the past.
After this, Kanai’s self-importance diminishes. He has been cruel to Piya and Fokir, blinded by self-confidence and unable to see where he does not belong and what he does not know. After the events of the storm, Kanai returns to New Delhi, quits his job, and spends his days recreating his uncles lost journal, destroyed by the storm. His experiences on Lusibari and with Piya and Fokir have forever altered his main concerns and he recognizes a new sense of self, one focused on others. Nilima explains in the epilogue that following these events on his trip, Kanai decided to restructure his business so he could take more time off and spend time in Lusibari.