Essay: Singh’s “Karma”

Once, during the British Empire’s peaking point, it stretched across barely the whole world. One of the British Empires greatest colonies was the Asian country, India. From 1858 to 1947, India was one of the biggest British colonies. When India finally got their independence in 1947, the country was not the same as it was, when the British conquered it in 1858. The British left the Indian country, and thereby they left the Indians to live on their own, but the time under British control, made it difficult for the Indian country to stand on its own, so creating a new India and a new Indian culture, was not going to be easy. The short story “Karma”, written by Khushwant Singh, and is about an Indian man, who acts like he is British, which creates a conflict with the ‘real’ British people.

The main character in the short story, is Sir Mohan Lal, who is a well educated, Indian man. Because of the five years he have spend at Oxford university in England, he feels like he is sort of raised above the rest of the Indian people. He hates his own country and all the Indian things, and his five years at Oxford in England, means a lot more to him, than his past in India. He is even ashamed of his Indian wife, and he does very rarely want to speak with her. He sees himself as something very special, and his way of showing that, to the rest of India, is through reading British papers, being well dressed, etc.. His ways of showing India, that he is not like the rest of the Indian people, makes himself very happy and they help him raise his self-esteem. All he wants is to be seen equal to the British people, but he can never change what he really is, even though he wants to so badly.
Sir Mohan Lal’s wife Lady Mohan Lal, Lives and acts like an Indian woman, contrary to her husband Sir Mohan Lal. She spits and chews betel saliva, which both things are very Indian. She is not well dressed, like her husband, but she still feels equal to him. Although she is married to Sir Mohan Lal, she do not have anybody to talk to at home, because her husband will not speak to her, and when they travel, they sit in separate parts of the train, because he does not want her to sit in the first-class part with him.

The separation between Sir Mohan Lal and his wife, is leading to the setting in the story.

The setting in the story, is on a train in India. It is a crowded train, and Sir Mohan Lal sits in the first-class of the train, which is why many in the story speak English. Because India has been a British colony, talking English, is seen as something that belongs to the higher social class in India. Which is exactly what Sir Mohan Lal wants to been seen as, in India. The way, sir Mohan Lal is seeing himself, is an opportunity to talk about the main theme.
The main theme in the text, is karma. It is what the whole turning point of the story is about, and it is “the message” of the text. Two minor themes in the story, are culture, and accepting who you are. It is after all, those two thing that you can say, is sort of the reason karma hits Sir Mohan Lal – which is the title of the short story.

The reason the title for this short story is “Karma”, is because karma is what this story is really about. Karma means that what you do, comes back to you. That means, that if you f.eks. behave badly, like sir Mohan Lal did, then something bad will happen to you. In Sir Mohan Lal’s case, he gets thrown off the train by two British soldiers, because he acts like he is not Indian and sees himself as better than his own people. Because he acts self-satisfied and demeaning towards others, karma makes sure something bad happens to him, and contrary to him, karma sort of reward Lady Mohan Lal, by letting her stay on the train, since she has not been behaving badly like Sir Mohan Lal.

In the end, Sir Mohan Lal gets thrown of the train by the two British military men, because the British military men, sees through Sir Mohan Lal’s British look, and treat him like a normal lower class Indian, and there for they throw him off the train, because they think he should not be in the finer part of the train. You might say that he get treated for what he is, which is an Indian, even though he tries so hard to be something else. Then he can never escape what he really is. He will forever be an Indian, and even though he acts like a posh British man, he can never really become that.

Source: Essay UK - http://xbmm43.com/essays/english-literature/essay-singhs-karma/


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