Velutha’s fear of the caste system enforced barriers between him and Ammu that remained pertinent throughout their relationship. On their first encounter, when Ammu approaches Velutha and lays her body against his, he stands stoic, frozen by fear, shivering “Partly with terror.
Partly with aching desire” (316). Fear of the Touchables had been drilled into Velutha until it became an innate part of his nature, which he carried wherever he went. This causes him to pause and freeze in terror in the face of a person who could set him free, because even though “his body was prepared to take the bait”, his mind carried the barriers of social hierarchies with him. Even when they have intercourse, Velutha’s fear of the consequences of this relationship is so strong that it contaminates an otherwise perfect expression of freedom;”Biology designed the dance. Terror timed it.” (317).
Even though, the act of sex itself was a demonstration of rebellion against the persecution of the caste system, it did not eradicate the prevalence of fear within Velutha. Velutha’s fear was so prevalent that it didn’t just haunt him; it controlled and “timed” his actions. He fed his fear with uncertainties about the consequences of his actions and his belief in the caste system, to the point where he created a barrier between himself and freedom. When Velutha finally gave in to his yearnings and had intercourse with Ammu for the first time, he “sailed on her waters”, and when “he had touched the deepest depths of her, with a sobbing, shuddering sigh, he drowned” (318). The ocean used to describe Ammu is symbolic of fear, in the sense that Velutha is surrounded by it and cannot escape.
Fear made Velutha realize how much he desired Ammu and how far he was willing to go to be with her, binding it intrinsically to his desire. While Ammu’s fear stemmed from Velutha while he lived, his death catalyzed Estha and Rahel’s fear of abandonment and insecurity. After Velutha died, Rahel claims that “He left behind a Hole in the Universe, through which darkness poured like liquid tar” and her mother followed, leaving her and her brother behind “with no moorings, in a place with no foundation” (Roy 182).