Essay: ‘Karma’ – Kushwant Singh

Karma is a short story about the relationships between men and women, and the things that separates them. We hear about the view of the Indian society, and India’s former colonial power England. After India became independent again a new Indian culture needed to rise, and this wasn’t easy.
The short story ‘Karma’, written by Kushwant Singh in 1950, has captured this frustration whether the Indians should embrace the British culture or rediscover their own culture.
In the short story we follow Sir Mohan Lal, a very rich and powerfull man. The population is very distinguished, and the difference between rich and poor is enormous. The Indian society it is segregated in castes, which is different social classes. The population is therefor, treated unequal, and not everyone have the chance to become something else.

Many places in India the men suppress the women. In the short story we are introduced to an Indian man and his wife where the man is “the master”.
The main character is Sir Mohan Lal. He is a very well cared man, who appearance means a lot to, He describes himself as a ‘distinguished, efficient ‘ even handsome’ man. Mohan Lal is a very unusual native Indian. He doesn’t see himself as being an Indian, and feels superior to all Indians although he is one himself. He even feels superior to his own wife, Lachmi, who is also a native Indian
He gets his clothes imported from ‘Savile row’, he is overall a man that likes to be serviced. He got a lot of waiters around him to make him feel comfortable. He is fascinated be the English society, and has lived in London for five years witch has ben ‘worth far more than the forty five in India’. He has been studying at University of Oxford, and there he had learned to converse like an Englishman, however his wife cannot speak English. His life is very lavishly, compared to the many other Indian citizens, and is very controversial.

Sir Mohan Lal’s wife does not mean a lot to him. He only uses her to satisfy him, and she is characterized just as the waiters. ‘I am with my master, brother’ says Lachmi to a bearer. This indicates that the sex roles are determined, and Lachmi is less worth than Sir Mohan himself. Even though they are separated in the train, and they sleep in different bedrooms, they are still married. But that doesn’t stop Sir Mohan from calling Lachmi ‘obese, old and smelling of sweat and raw onion’. Lachmi is despite as a typical Indian woman, how impress the Indian culture and enjoys the food and she even dresses as an Indian women.
A possible reason why his view of Lachmi and other Indians are so hateful and negative could be that they are in his way and he does not think he is one of them. He wants to have a better status and he can’t have that with them in his life, or so he thinks.

When sir Mohan meets the English soldiers, he is very polite. Sir Mohan has thought of ways to start a conversation with other Englishmen, but it would never occur to him to start a conversation with an Indian stranger.
But his good behavior have no effect on the soldier, they treat him as being dirt.
It is clear that Mr. Mohan is disappointed about the situation. He feels powerless, and maybe a little humiliated. He loses his otherwise so great fascination for England. The soldiers of the story is metaphorically India’s symbol of England, it is important that they were good role models, and appeared as acceptable men who would help India’s citizens. The story takes place in India, but is referred constantly to English society as the target for the Indian community.

The main focus in the short story is Sir Mohan Lal’s development, how he acts and what he thinks. The author has chosen to write a long piece of just about Sir Mohan Lal wife, Lachmi. In this story Lachmi represent Indian culture and create a contrast to Sir Mohan Lal so it shows clear how much different he is from other Indians.
What happens on the train changes everything for Mohan, the soldiers treat him as being a worthless Indian, and he gets kicked out of the train.. He is treated as a worthless nigger and kicked out of the train by two British soldiers. Englishmen, whom he admired and looked like his straight men, had turned his back on him. His world turns around and he refused. Not only the British but also of his wife, leaving the train. And the title of “Karma” can refer to just that. Sir Mohan Lal has rejected his Indian culture and instead tried to be something he was not. And when he is rejected, the Indian culture rejects him. Karma is a Buddhist term used to explain how actions will affect your life after you have been reborn. And when Sir Mohan Lal rejected by the two British soldiers, he wants to start his life over again. But the new life will be influenced by his past actions in the way that he may never get to see his wife again, and Indians from the place where he lives, will reject his attempt to make things right again. And it may end with Sir Mohan Lal has gone from a fine Englishman to a person, the lowest in society do not even want to pay the least attention to.

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