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CHAPTER 6: Amongst the people
Siddhartha visits Kamaswami who asks him whether he is in need of a job. When Siddhartha says he is seeking work, the merchant asks him his qualities. Siddhartha says that he can think, he can fast, and he can wait. The merchant is surprised at his response, for he thinks that these assets are of no use. He then asks Siddhartha whether he can read and write. When Siddhartha says yes, he is satisfied and invites him to be his guest in his house. Siddhartha is given clothes, shoes, and splendid meals.
Kamaswami tries to teach Siddhartha about business. He shows him the accounts and the goods in the warehouses. Siddhartha endeavors to learn the business and tries his best, but it does not stir his heart. At times Siddhartha hears a voice within him, so soft and gentle that he can hardly hear it. It tells him that business dealings are all a game. Sometimes Siddhartha is afraid of these thoughts and wishes that he could enjoy business activities instead of feeling like an onlooker. He does, however, remember Kamala's advice and is never rude towards the merchant.
Siddhartha visits Kamala daily, dressed in fine clothes and shoes. He soon starts bringing presents to her. In exchange, Kamala teaches him the art of love; Siddhartha becomes her lover, friend, and pupil. He learns from her, talks to her, and exchanges advice with her.
On the advice of a friend, Kamaswami agrees to make Siddhartha a sort of partner in business wherein he is entitled to one third of the profits and liable for one-third of the losses; still his heart is not in what he does. Business only matters to him as long as it helps him fulfill Kamala's wants; it is merely a means to gain her favors. Siddhartha feels that people are wasting their entire lives on trivial pursuits after money, small pleasures, and meaningless honors.
Siddhartha talks to Kamala about Gotama, telling of his tremendous respect for him. Kamala smiles when she hears him speak about the Buddha. She feels that he still has Samana thoughts and says this is why Siddhartha does not love her. Kamala says that he is the best lover she has ever had and she would like to bear his child when she is older.
This chapter, in which Siddhartha mixes with real people, is appropriately set in the house of Kamaswami, the rich merchant who is the means through which Siddhartha is initiated into the ways of the world. When Siddhartha and Kamaswami talk, the merchant is amazed that Siddhartha says that he has no possessions and has never been in need of any material things. In spite of Siddhartha's naivete and lack of knowledge about the business world, Kamaswami hires him because he can read and write well and is obviously intelligent and capable of learning. Kamaswami invites him to stay at his house.
Kamaswami is an important character in Siddhartha's development, for he teaches him about the material things in life. In Hindu, Kama is the god of desire and swami means "master." In truth, this merchant is the master of desire, for he embodies all that is material and hedonistic in life. By offering Siddhartha a business opportunity, he allows the young man to participate in a side of life he has never known. Because of his job, he can purchase gifts for Kamala, which leads to his becoming her pupil in the art of lovemaking.
The chapter describes Siddhartha immersing himself in the dual world of business and world of the senses. Yet for all his sexual experimenting with Kamala and his business transactions through Kamaswami, Siddhartha still feels distanced from the people around him. He sees them as child-like and lacking awareness and judges that they follow vain pursuits. Gotama still proves to be the example of peace within oneself for which Siddhartha strives.
Even though Kamala and Siddhartha admire and respect each other, they are not able to love each other even though she says that she would like to have his child when she gets older. Kamala is too materialistic to experience true love; and Siddhartha is too unsure of himself. This lack of love on both sides will be the cause of their anguish in future chapters.