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Lit.2 Karma by Khushwant Singh

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Lit.2 Karma by Khushwant Singh

  1. 1. KARMA Khushwant Singh
  2. 2. KHUSHWANT SINGHBorn on Feb. 2, 1915- March 20, 2014 Indian novelist, lawyer, journalist, politician Born and raised in Hadali, Punjab (now in Pakistan) Studied law at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and King’s College London Married to Kawal Malik
  3. 3. After working as a lawyer in Lahore Court for 8 years, he joined the Indian Foreign Service upon the Independence of India from British Empire in 1947. Appointed journalist in the All India Radio (1951) Moved to the Department of Mass Communications of UNESCO at Paris (1956) Best known for his trenchant secularism, humour, sarcasm and an abiding love of poetry (literary career)
  4. 4. Served as the editor of several literary and news magazines, as well as two newspapers (1970’s and 1980’s) Bet. 1980-1986, served as Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India Decorated with the Padma Bhushan (1974) but he returned the award in 1984 in protest against Operation Blue Star in which the Indian Army raided Amritsar. In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the 2nd highest civilian award in India.
  5. 5. "Karma" is a story written by Indian writer Khushwant Singh. It was originally published in 1989 in Singh's The Collected Stories. Karma is about an Indian "Gentleman" who tries to adopt upper class English culture and lifestyle such as speaking the "Queen's English", and about his relation with his wife etc.
  6. 6. THE CHARACTE RSMohan Lal Mohan Lal is one of the main characters in the short story. His characterization is done both directly by the narrator, his wife and himself, and indirectly through his actions and attitude.
  7. 7. Outer characterization Mohan Lal is a middle-aged Indian man, educated in England, who works as a lawyer and a vizier in his native country (p. 179, l. 28) Inner characterization The defining personality trait of Mohan Lal is his arrogance which can be identified based on his attitude towards Indians and his wife. He treats his wife with indifference and superiority. While waiting for the train, the two of them never speak.
  8. 8. Lachmi Lachmi is Mohan Lal’s wife and the second important character in the story. Her presence in the short story helps emphasize Mohan’s arrogance through contrast, as the woman is very different from her husband, being a typically Indian wife. Outer characterization The first contrast between the two characters is in terms of physical appearance. While Mohan Lal is clean and dresses like a westerner, his wife is dressed in a dirty traditional sari: Inner characterization When it comes to the woman’s personality, her main traits are her modesty as she knows where she belongs in the Indian society, and her carelessness with regards to everything around her.
  9. 9. The bearer and the coolie The bearer and the coolie are secondary characters and they are only briefly sketched in the short story. The English soldiers The English soldiers are also secondary characters, but they function as ‘instruments’ of karma in the short story. Their discriminating and aggressive attitudes teach Mohan Lal a lesson about
  10. 10. SETTI NGThe short story “Karma” by Kushwant Singh is set somewhere in India, in a railway station. Though we do not know the exact time setting of the narrative, the presence of the English soldiers and the date when the short story was written (1950) indicate the action might be set sometime before India’s independence.
  11. 11. Physical setting The elements of the physical setting are the railway station waiting room, the train platform and the train compartments. The waiting room for the first class is only depicted from Mohan Lal’s perspective, which focuses on the poorly made Indian mirror:
  12. 12. Social setting The social setting of the short story is more important than the physical one, which only helps present the former. The story depicts a class Indian society, in which both women and lower- class Indians are treated in a different way. Lachmi travels in a special compartment for women and not with her husband in his first-class coupe. The bearer and the porter are servant labourers and treated as such:
  13. 13.  It is a first class waiting room at the railway station. Sir Mohan Lal is found standing before the mirror. The mirror is worn-out and partly broken. He hates the mirror as he hates everything of India. But he admires his own appearance. He looks perfectly like a sahib. The train is yet to come. He calls the bearer and orders a drink.
  14. 14. Outside the waiting room, Lachmi, his wife is sitting on a small grey steel trunk. She is chewing a betel leaf. She is a traditional Indian woman and is commonly dressed. She requests a coolie to carry her luggage to the end of the platform. She will get into the inter-class woman compartment. She is not allowed to accompany her husband in the first class compartment, because her husband is a high government official, a barrister
  15. 15. He will meet many officials in the compartment. But Lachmi cannot speak English and does not know their ways. Obviously, she cannot travel with her husband. She hardly enjoys the company of her husband. He visits her rarely at night. Then Lachmi plays the role of a passive partner. They have no child.  The train arrives at the platform. Lachmi enters the inter-class compartment. It is almost empty. She prepares some betel-leaves and starts chewing one.
  16. 16.  There is a lot of noise. Passengers are jostling on the platform. Sir Mohan Lal totally detests them. He is calm and quiet. He is still enjoying his drink. He has spent five years in Oxford University. He strictly follows the manners of the English. He rarely speaks Hindustani. He speaks in English with a foreign accent. He can talk on any subject like a cultured Englishman. Indeed, he always feels at home with the English. He expects some Englishmen as co-passengers. In that case it will be an enjoyable journey for him. But he shows no sign of urge to talk to the English like most of the Indians. He pretends to read The Times. He has already his Balliol tie. He orders whisky. And lastly, he opens his gold cigarette case full of English cigarettes. He knows well that all these things will automatically arrest the attention of the Englishmen. Now he recalls his five-year glorious life of England. He loves everything of the country. Even the prostitutes of England are more charming to him than his wife Lachmi.
  17. 17.  However, Sir Mohan enters his reserved first class coupe. It is empty and so he is sad. He begins to read The Times. Just then two English soldiers appear. They are looking for a suitable compartment. Sir Mohan is ready to welcome them. The two soldiers ultimately choose Sir Mohan’s compartment. But they order him to get out from the compartment. Though it is reserved, the soldiers do not care for it. Sir Mohan protests mildly. His royal English, sahib like appearance and The Times come of no use. The soldiers throw all the belongings of Sir Mohan out of the train. Finally they push him out of the train. The train quickly passes the station leaving him on the platform. His wife, totally unaware of his condition, chews the betel leaves, spits and sends a jet of red dribble flying across like a dart.
  18. 18. THE FEATURE S The word karma is a Sanskrit one and literally means destiny. It also has a Hindu theological idea, but it has been used as the title of the story only to speak about the identity crisis of a person who blindly imitates the western culture and fashion under the impact of British colonialism in India.  Irony forms one of the basic characteristics in Khushwant Singh’s style of writing. The consequence of Sir Mohan’s babu-culture is ironical. The irony lies in the fact that he is neither a British nor an Indian. He has no real identity. He himself has lost it. Khushwant Singh has portrayed a deep ironical view of the world around him through this story.
  19. 19.  Mohan Lal and Lachmi are totally opposite characters though they are couple to each other. Mohan Lal is a blind follower of the English culture, whereas his wife Lachmi is a typical Indian woman. Finally, Mohan Lal loses his identity, but Lachmi has no such crisis.  Through this story, Khushwant Singh warns us against our false belief in foreign excellence. It teaches us not to cut our roots off with our own soil, men and civilization. Otherwise, we are sure to face humiliation and tragic doom.  The story shows Khushwant Sing’s art of presenting the psychological aspects of human beings nicely. His power to study of man is as remarkable here as the glamour of his linguistic style to present them vividly.
  20. 20. THE MESBrute versus Refined The story revolves around the contrast between brute, visceral behaviour, and an educated, refined attitude. Mohan Lal represents the refined man. Though an Indian, he has been educated in Oxford and has acquired the English manners and the English dress code. Even if he returned to India and had been living there most of his life, he stubbornly continues to conform to British etiquette.
  21. 21. Power and Symbols The theme of power and symbols is more subtly explored by the author. At a first sight, the story seems a very simple account of a man receiving a karmic lesson for his arrogance. However, at a closer look, the text has a lot of hidden symbolism. Motifs: arrogance, discrimination and class The themes of the short story are enhanced by several motifs. The story shows that refinement leads to arrogance. Mohan Lal acts arrogantly towards his wife and fellow countrymen because he sees himself as an educated gentleman, a citizen of the British Empire. But the English soldiers also act arrogantly, even if they are not educated, for the simple reason that they were born English and India is a colony.
  22. 22. The story Karma illustrates the famous proverb "Pride Comes Before a Fall". It is the story of an arrogant person who feels bad about his country's culture, lifestyle etc. He is condescending to his wife because she is an ordinary woman unable to appreciate his aristocratic English culture The Theme: Imitation of foreign culture Unhappy married life Contrast of culture and life-style Aristocracy and patriotism
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