Introduction to the Story- Karma

Date of Composition: “Karma’, a short story by Khushwant Singh, was published in 1989 in Singh’s The Collected Stories

Theme: The theme of Karma’ illustrates an age-old proverb: “Pride Comes Before a Fall”. It is about a person with shallow thoughts and affected style. He always sneers at his own culture. He is even reluctant to mix with his wife because she just as an average Indian woman, is unable to follow a foreign culture blindly. Hence such a man has to suffer at the end of the story. The man is paid back in his own coin as if it was providence.

Characters in the Story and their Short Description:

1. Sir Mohan LalA self-important and pretentious middle aged man
2. LachmiAn ordinary Indian woman; She happens to be the wife of Sir Mohan Lal.
3. A bearerHe is carrying out Sir Mohan’s orders for a drink and instals his luggage in the first class coupe.
4. A CoolieHe is found in the railway station carrying the luggage of Lachmi.
5. Two British soldiersThey enter the compartment of ish soldiers Sir Mohan and abuse him, thereafter throwing him out of the compartment.

Plot: The plot of the story is circular. Mohan Lal, a middle-aged man, is a blind follower of British culture and manners. He speaks anglicized Hindustani language, solves crossword puzzles of English newspapers to show off his knowledge of English. He scoffs at everything that is indigenous. He even remains cold to his wife Lachmi as she is just an ordinary Indian woman, and is unwilling to imitate the British customs and manners. On a journey by train, Sir Mohan compels Lachmi to sit in the ordinary ladies’ compartment, but arranges a seat for himself in the first-class compartment. There, two British soldiers enter and abuse Sir Mohan. When he protests, he is thrown out of the train, along with his luggage. Thus, Sir Mohan suffers humiliatio for his delusion at tha end. So, the plot begins with the self-imposed glory of Sir Mohan Lal and ends in his discomfiture and disillusionment.

Diction, Tone and Style: The diction of the short story is simple. The tone is humorous . It is the characteristic of Khushwant Singh’s style. The story is narrated by the author in the third person. This adds to the beauty of the story. The author has mostly used simple sentences and a lucid style to narrate the interesting story. This story reveals the author’s craftsmanship in using ironyboth literal and situational. The title, ‘Karma’, has a double significance-nemesis and irony of fate. In the story Khushwant Singh has used some symbols artistically. The mirror is a symbol of everything Indian and native, inefficient, indifferent and dirty, which Sir Mohan Lal cannot tolerate. Mohan Lal’s suit and tie symbolise his attachment to British aristocracy.

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