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Mulk Raj Anand: Indian-ness in..

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The English language has become to the Indian Subcontinent as a’ reminiscent’ and much prized reward of the British Colonial experience which spans nearly all of the ‘History of India in Becoming a Unified nation’. And it is in the same understanding that one cannot refuse to accept that English as a language has played a pivotal role in igniting the nationalist spirit in the minds of the Indian citizens who were divided on the basis of regional identities. Quoting from the famous essay of A. K. Ramanujan- ‘Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?’ the parable as told by Buddha and reiterated by Ramanujan in the same context goes as follows: “…Once a man was drowning in a sudden flood. Just as he was about to drown, he found a raft. He clung to it, and it carried him safely to dry land. And he was so grateful to the raft that he carried it on his back for the rest of his life”.  Thus, it is agreeable that invasively so, but the English Writing has been the rescuer of the Indian Civilisation after the Partition in 1947 and ever since has become the reflection of the ‘Voice of the (New) Formed Nation’. Amongst all the writings in English the short story form enjoys a special affection amongst the members of the ‘Intelligentsia’ like Mulk Raj Anand to the modern day writers like Salman Rushdie. After all, the short story is an art form staunchly Indian in origin of which the examples are the Vedic texts like the Puranas to the epics like Mahabharata. Yet the paradox remains that Indian short story in English is but a product of Western Influences (M.K.Naik). But remarkably so, even then“English is borrowed into (or imposed on) Indian contexts” (A. K. Ramanujan) which subdues the existence of English as an alien language and makes it all the more “Indian”.  And when issues concerning the Indian Nation form the core of the Writing in English the product is but an expression of the lives of the Indian common folk in a more universally read medium.   Such colourful “Indianism permeates in the diction, idiom and imagery in dialogue” of Mulk Raj Anand. One of the ‘triumvirate’ in the 1930s who established the Indian English Novel, Anand has since then written eleven novels alongside many short stories that reflect on the issues that were prevalent in then India, suitably justifying the Indian English short stories as the “Breath in the Mirror”. The short story: Two Lady Rams (part of the short story collection The Tractor and the Corn Goddess) is typically what Anand defined as “highly developed form of folk tale” that included “psychological understanding of the contemporary period”. The short story comes as a social satire on the “Angrezi Sarkar of India” and highlights the tussle between the colonial subject and the colonial master. The story follows the same theme at two levels, where for one, Lalla Jhinda Ram is the colonial subject to the “department that acted on His Majesty’s Behalf” and the second are the wives, Sukhi and Sakuntala who are the colonial subjects to (the agent of the patriarchal society) i.e. Sir Jhinda. As the story unfolds one can understand the satire that stands to highlight how poorly the ‘colonial master’ governed over its subjects of whom he knew and cared the least. The apparent honour of Knighthood which is cunningly bestowed on Jhinda Ram (mark of his sly ‘sundry’ services to the Empire) and supposed to raise his social status  helps to bring forth this negligence of the British State; and as for the wives the selfish decision of Lalla Jhinda to take the second wife to his investiture ceremony because otherwise she would abstain from entertaining him, shows the lack of regard and respect towards wives that were then treated as mere objects of the household. Another theme shadily addressed in the story is the tuft between on setting modernity and fading traditions. Thus even when Jhinda Ram enjoys a siesta and his mansion had an “English style gol kamara or, living room” he was acquitted to marry two wives on the grounds of Hindu Mitakshara Law and demanded for his wives to dress in a traditional sari for the Ceremony. In all, the household of Jhinda Ram was on the margins of traditional and the cusp of modern. And when the Modern (the Kinghthood) merged with the Traditional (the two wives of Sir Jhinda) (amusingly enough) the Colonial Anxiety is surfaced. It is in the same light that one can imagine the last gravely serious comment “the three staunch pillars” said with respect to Jhinda Ram and the Lady Rams as a drawing its symbolism to the state of the Indian common folk (Jhinda Ram) which struggled to obtain an identity through the modern (Sakuntala) but could not afford to lose the traditional (Sukhi) that had formed the whole truth of their survival. Another facet of the issue of Identity comes through the tussle of Sakuntala and Sukhi both of whom wish to be Lady Ram since the women of colonial India were recognised by the name of their husband, Anand comments on the lack of individual identity of women in marriage and through his female characters attempts to inspire revolution in women to fight for their ‘rights’. The Two Lady Rams runs as a comical account of the day of a shopkeeper’s life who is bestowed the highest honour in British Raj, only to add misery to his life. A misery which does not come from poverty or exploitation (as in the other short stories of Anand) but whose cause is ‘over abundance of undue credibility’. Thus, even when the story is not the whole truth yet it is derived from the truth of the lives of the ‘Indians’. In addition the story places a satire on the ‘sleeping Indian spirit’ and the so called ‘collaborators’ of the British Raj who out of selfish motives served the Colonial Master. By extension, the story therefore, comes with the hidden message of the agony involved in the service of the British than the ‘Homeland’ which came with the loss of one’s integrity and common sense which Jhinda Ram idolises when he seeks the advice of his Chauffeur.