Except for the extraordinary Marabar Caves, located in the hills some twenty miles away, the Indian city of Chandrapore is unremarkable; it stretches shabbily along the Ganges River, and only the upper rise of the city, where the English live, is beautiful. One evening in Chandrapore Dr. Aziz rides his bicycle to the home of his friend Hamidullah. There, Aziz smokes a hookah while Hamidullah and Mahmoud Ali debate whether it is possible to be friends with an Englishman. After a short chat with Hamidullah's wife, a distant aunt of Aziz, they go to the table, and the servants bring them dinner. Aziz quotes poetry, to the delight of the other guests, but is called away by a servant of the British Civil Surgeon, Callendar. .
Aziz is angry at the presumptuousness of the call, and angry about the colonialist net England has thrown over India. Nevertheless he rides to Callendar's house, but his tire goes flat and he is forced to take a tonga. When he reaches the house, Callendar is out, and has not left a message; and two English ladies take his tonga, stranding him. Aziz leaves a message, then walks back into the town. He goes to a mosque near the all-white Chandrapore Club, and meets an old English lady, Mrs. Moore. He chastises her for being in the mosque, but is impressed to learn that she remembered to take off her shoes. Aziz escorts Mrs. Moore to the club, and learns that she has two sons (one of whom is the City Magistrate of Chandrapore) and one daughter, just like Aziz himself. The little doctor is pleased to have met an Englishwoman who is both kind and sympathetic.
At the club, Mrs. Moore ignores the performance of Cousin Kate and goes into the billiard room, where she joins her traveling companion, Adela Quested, who will probably--though not certainly--marry Mrs. Moore's son Ronny, the Magistrate. Adela and Mrs. Moore have hoped for adventure, and they talk about the frustrating difficulties of seeing the real India, when all the English people they meet only want to do English things and introduce them to other English people.