1. Bring out the appropriateness of the title of the story “Karma” by Khushwant Singh.
Ans: According to Hindu scriptures, the word “Karma” signifies a moral judgement that according to your ‘Karma’ i.e. action you will get the prize. This concept gives birth to the well known adage “As you sow, so you reap”. The present story “Karma” narrates the unexpected predicament that the anglicised, highbrow, and tickety-boo Sir Mohan Lal suddenly finds himself in. Khushwant Singh has portrayed the character of Sir Mohan Lal ironically.
His rodomontade is his association with Oxford colleges and its dons, his sojourn in England for five years, rugby matches, mixed doubles, boat-races and nights spent with Picadally harlots. He denigrates everything that is Indian. Even his wife, simple native Lachmi is found to be an object of derision and odium to him as she is unable to fit into his idea of a fashionable wife. He used her only for satisfying his carnal pleasure. In a train journey, where his wife travelled in an ordinary compartment, he had the first class ticket with the hope of good conversation with some British. He was ready to show his foreign culture by his dress, Balliol tie, Times magazine, drinking whisky, foreign cigarettes etc. Seeing two British soldiers he was elated and preparing to welcome them. But to his utter surprise, calling him a ‘nigger’ they not only ill treated him but also threw him out of the train compartment along with his bag and baggages. On the otherhand, the simple and humble Indian lifestyle has gifted Lachmi a comfortable journey without any hindrance in an interclaas Zenana compartment. He finally reached the Christian realisation that mere imitation yielded no fruit. The British whom he admired most became the cause of his nemesis. So, the title stands fully justified marking the theme of the story.
2. ” I am only a native woman” – Who said this? To whom was it said? Describe the speaker’s character in the light of the above comment.
Ans : In the short story “Karma” written by Khushwant Singh, Lachmi, the wife of Sir Mohan Lal said this.
➡️ It was said to the railway coolie who carried her steel trunk and moved down the platform.
➡️ Lachmi is portrayed as a native Indian woman, typically an Indian housewife who usually talks in her native Hindustani language.The character of Lachmi betrays sharp polarity with that of Sir Mohan Lal. By the description of the author, it is clear that she is in her middle forties, fat, fair and short. She wears a dirty white sari with a red border. She is found sitting on a small grey steel trunk and fanning herself with a newspaper. Like most Indian woman, she loves to have a diamond nose ring on one side of her nose and several gold bangles on her arms. She is talkative and frankly speaks with the coolie. She chews betel leaves, eats chapattis with mango pickle. The way she mops her hand in her saree and emits loud belches, manifest her insouciance towards artificial etiquette. Unlike her husband she is not proud of her class. She prefers to travel in interclass Zenana compartment. Her address to the coolie as ‘brother’ and her meek obedience to her husband highlights her naivety. Her husband only meets her in the nocturnal hours only to satisfy his carnal pleasure.But she is still childless. She is not allowed to meet her poor, illiterate relatives. She, however, had no grudge against her husband. She is rather very happy and content with her situation. Finally her sending a jet of red dribble flying across like a dart concludes her apathy for western mannerism as well as so-called sophistication. On top of all she is devoid of any identity crisis unlike her husband. The incarnation of very naturalness and simplicity is a perfect foil to her husband.
Q.3. Narrate the incident in the compartment of Sir Mohan Lal when two English soldiers entered there.
Or, Narrate briefly the man-handling and humiliation of Sir Mohan Lal by two junior English soldiers. [WBCHSE Sample Question]
Or, How did Sir Mohan feel when he saw two Englishmen coming towards his coupe. [WBCHSE XI-2014]
Ans: In the story “Karma” by Khushwant Singh, while the bearer informed Sir Mohan Lal about the installation of the luggage in a first class coupe next to the engine, Sir Mohan Lal entered his reserved compartment calmly with his studied gait. Finding the compartment totally vacant, he was disheartened because he was eagerly waiting for some Englishmen to be his fellow passangers. His face lit up as he came to the sight of Bill and Jim, two English soldiers trudging along and looking for seats. For their accommodation in the same coupe, he even mediated to consult with the guard, if occasion demanded. One of the soldiers found vacant seats in that coupe and called the other. Entering into the compartment, noticing Mr. Lal, one called the other to make him out of the compartment calling him a ‘nigger’ meaning negro or black man. Mohan Lal became astounded and angered due to this derogatory remarks. He mildly protested maintaining his artistic decorum. The soldiers paused at first on hearing him speak English in Oxford accent, but out of their master like pride and racism they threw Sir Mohan’s suitcase, thermos flask, bedding and ‘The Times ‘ — in which he took so much pride. Being livid with rage, he finally threatened to have them arrested. This made the soldiers violent. Jim struck him flat on the face and with the whistle of the train, they flung him out of the train to the platform. He tripped on his bedding and landed on the suitcase, dumbfounded, being humiliated and disillusioned beyond recognition.