A concise Introduction to Indo- english Fictions With Specific Representation of Khushwant Singh’s Delhi as an Incredible and Atypical Blend of History and Romance : a meticulous Exploration Dr. Pawan Kumar Sharma



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A Concise Introduction to Indo- English Fictions With Specific Representation of Khushwant Singh’s Delhi as an Incredible and Atypical Blend of History and Romance : A Meticulous Exploration
Dr. Pawan Kumar Sharma, Assistant Professor

Seth G.B. Podar College, Nawalgarh, Rajasthan

E-mail: pawankmr937@gmail.com

Mob: 09950261775


Abstract: Khushwant Singh (1915-2014) was one of the noted Indian novelists and his striking novel Delhi (1990) is aptly regarded as a rare amalgamation of history and romance. The present paper perilously presents the penetrative and philosophical observation of Singh about Delhi. Through the present novel, he presents vivid pictures of various roads, lane and historical places of Delhi in their real names, forms and features. Apart from this, the paper also throws light on picturisation of history commencing from Mugal period of Zahiruddin Babar and ending to the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The novel sometimes appears to be a fine travelogue. The historical events narrated in the different chapters of the novel are seen nicely wrapped up with sex and romances. The narrator’s, being himself the novelist, sexual encounter with the Bhagmati, a “hijras” (hermaphrodite), creates a sinister feeling among the readers. Thus Khushwant Singh’s novel, Delhi attempts to clear the views of its readers about that state and setting of Delhi at that period and the novelist has been quite successful in that.

Keywords: History, Romance, Seduction, Contemporary Literature, Social Vision.
Indian Novel in English from its humble beginning with Banking Chandra Chatterjee’s Rajmohan’s wife in 1864 has come to an age where it can vie with the British and the American novel in style, technique and narrative. A peep into the past one hundred forty-three years history of Indian novel in English reveals the central pre-occupations of the novelists with the segments of history and historical events, like the Gandhian movements for freedom, partition, creation of Bangladesh, trauma of riots. Such novelists associate themselves with a particular phase of history to refresh our memories of the bygone days. In this regard Gunter Grass’ attaches great importance to this function of a creative writer. He points out that “Literature must refresh memories.”

The early writings of the literature consist mostly of essays, pamphlets, poems, etc., Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s Precepts of Jesus (1920) shows his mastery on the language. Henry Derozio’s The Fakir of Jungheera was a good endeavour on Indian theme by a European. Aru Dutt, Toru Dutt and Romesh Chunder Dutt, rendered their significant contribution to the literature. The literature further enriched by the great writers Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sri Anurobindo followed by other great writers such as Tilak, Motilal Nehru, Ranade, Gokhale, Sarojini Naidu and others. But there writings were confined at the level of prose, poetry and essays.

The early novels in the literature were S.K.Ghose’s The Prince of Destiny (1909) and S.K. Mitra’s Hindupur (1909) on historical theme. These novels were basically romantic in nature and there was hardly any actual event of history. After a long gap, some other historical novels appeared on the literary scene of India, such as A.S. Panchapakesa’s Baladity (1930) and Ram Narayan’s The Tigress of the Harem (1933). The concurrent trend of writing historical romances soon got affected by the feelings of nationalism awaken by the social and political consciousness sweeping all over the country. The national movements headed by Mahatma Gandhi influenced entire Indian political scenario and common folk of India. Indians, irrespective of social stratification, were influenced by him. The noted critic M.K.Naik called it “a whirlwind” which swept the social and political situations of India.

The literary scenario between 1920-1950 was dominated by novels based on social and political themes. During the period of 1950-1970, a new generation of writers, such as Raja Rao, R.K.Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Kamla Markandiya, Nayantara Sahgal, Anita Desai, and many others were trying their creative geniuses on unlimited and unrestricted themes. Mulk Raj Anand and Bhabani Bhattacharya wrote mostly on the themes of social criticism and political emancipation and their works were dedicated to India’s necessity of freedom from imperialism and authoritarianism in the conduct of Hinduism. R.K.Narayan, Raja Rao and Sudhir Ghose presented social, religious and mythological traditions in their novels. Anita Desai and Nayan Tara Sahgal preferred to write on psychological and social tension existing in the society. The novelists like R.K.Narayan, Ruth Prawer Jhabwala, Arun Joshi etc. opted their characters from urban middle class people. Their novels present lively pictures of middle class people. In the course of their presentation, they expose the vanity, snobbery, sentimentality, pretentiousness, hypocrisy, corruption and various evils of society. The present generation of Indo-English writers, namely, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry, V.S.Naipaul,Vikram Chandra, Bharti Mukherjee, Amitabh Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Sobha De, Kiran Desai, Chitra Banerjee, Amit Chaudhary, Divya Karuni and others are writing on various themes and earning world-wide reputation for Indo-English literature.

The credit goes to Mulk Raj Anand , Raja Rao and R.K.Narayan, called a trilogy of Indo-English literature, who ushered a new era in the field of Indian writing in English. Mulk Raj Anand highlighted the pains and predicaments of downtrodden people through his novels Two Leaves and a Bud (1937), Coolie (1936), The Untouchable (1935) and The Village (1939)

Raja Rao has contributed Indo-English literature by his novels Kanthapura (1936), The Serpent and the Rope (1960), The Cat and Shakespeare (1965), Comrade Kirillov (1967) and The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988). Each novel is a great work of art having definite plot, simple structure, lucid language and high philosophy. His novels portray Gandhian period, presenting nationalism and social awakening during the period.

R.K. Narayan and Bhabani Bhattacharya have also enriched Indian English writing with their artistic compositions. R.K. Narayan, a South Indian, has the credit of several remarkable novels. Narayan is the only author of Indo-English literature whose literary career is spread over 60 years from 1935 to 1999, showing his tremendous stamina and vast creative genius. Bhabani Bhattacharya writes under the influences of “Gandhian thoughts”, with a difference of themes from predecessors. His novels highlight the situations confronting day-do-day life of common people.

The ‘third generation’ of Indo-English novelists, such as Salman Rushide, Chaman Nahal, Sasthi Bratta, Shashi Despande, Arun Joshi, Balachandra Rajan, Anand Lall, Saros Cowasjee, Vikram Seth, Kamla Das, Arundhti Roy, V.S.Naipaul, etc., are earning international fame by their creative writings.

Khushwant Singh (1915-2014) is a versatile genius who ranks among the top of the India’s men of letters who earned international reputation as a creative writers. His achievements as a novelists short-story writer, historian, essayist, journalist and editor of various reputed newspapers and magazines such as The Illustrated Weekly, are enough to establish him in the world of Indo-English Fiction and also to prove his versatility in the field of creative writing. He has written remarkable novels, a number of short stories, a concise history of Sikhs, biographies of Sikh leaders and articles revealing his literary abilities as found in the writings of most of the significant Indian writers. Khushwants Singh’s comic presentation, perspicacious exploration of real people and places, revelation of historical events proves his keen interest in contemporary man and the society where he lived.

Khushwant Singh’s personality could develop by the achievements as a journalist and a writer of Indo-English literature. The novel Mano Majra (Train to Pakistan) earned for him the ‘Grove India Fiction Prize’ in 1956 as well as international recognition, although he had already achieved reputation as a writer by his remarkable collection of short stories, Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories published for the first time in 1950. His second novel, although it was not as successful as the first was, I shall not Hear the Nightingale is as well as the social milieu of pre-independence days. The novel may be a fine documentation of youth’s temperament and the predicament of Indian officers serving the Crown facing dilemma of sowing legal loyalty with British Raj country during the period. He has also two more collection of short stories, The Voice of God and other Stories (1957) and A Bride for the Sahib and other Stories (1967), showing his literary abilities for quality in writing and literary form. His third novel, Delhi (1990), is a historical novel on Delhi. The novel presents the minute historical details ranging from Mugal period to the days of independence. His next novel, The Company of Woman (1999), is the presentation of an account of innumerable sexual encounter of his protagonist. The novel conveys an ironical message to its readers to avoid unsafe and unrestricted sexual encounter with unknown partners as it may fetch a deadly disease called AIDS.

At his early age, Khushwant Singh has served for various period as a public relation officer and press attache in Indian diplomatic mission at London and Toronto. He later became the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India in Bombay. As a journalist, he has served leading journals, news magazines and newspapers of India and showing his ability, through astonishing fluency and narrative skills. As a man, he is known for his honesty in expression and dealings in personal life. He draws a fine dividing line between obscurity, pornography and erotica. He binds reader’s attention by his super description of sea from ancient epic ‘Chaturbhani’ (200-350 BC) and also describes ideas on composite Indian women. Khushwant Singh has made artistic compilation of his whole nuggets of information and incidents that could only have happened to him during his wide travels and tours.

Singh’s talent of creative writing emerges from journalism to fiction. His basic quality, which govern his creative talent and characterize the development of his art, lies in his art of creating real people from the common parlance of society. The events of his novels and short stories emerge from the usual happenings of social milieu. The fundament quality of his art is ‘comic’ which makes his literary creations interesting and readable to the readers. The comic in his fiction is apparently linked with social and moral criticism and it emerges from laughter and deeply ingrained social motif. His major novel, Train to Pakistan (1956), has a nice combination of tragedy and comedy. It contains a grim story of individuals and communities influenced greatly by the holocaust of the partition of India. K.R.S. Iyengar is of the view that, “It is a nightmare; the details accumulate to a poisonous mass and numb the sensibilities.”

Khushwant Singh is aware of limitation imposed on him, natural as well as man-made, by the Indo-English writers. He states rightly that there are very few Indian writers whose creative works are published in England or the United States. He further says that “the number of Indian authors published abroad is not more than twenty and the total number of their publication does not exceed on hundred”. He is of the opinion that the Indian writing in English have the monopoly of projecting and interpreting their country to the rest of the world, “and it has certain validity. Khushwant Singh has himself translated a number of Punjabi stories-Land of the Five Rivers and also an Urdu novel, I Take This Women, originally written by another Punjabi Rajendra Singh Bedi, into English. His views, therefore, are not proper when he says, “there are hardly and good English translations of works in Indian languages”.

Indian writers makes explicit explanations and clarifications of Indian manners and mores, edibles and clothes, festivals and rituals, customs and culture with an objective to make foreign reader aware of their peculiarities and implications. These writers are often seen making interpretations and emphasis on the social norms and cultural cult of Indian society in Indo-English fiction for the sake of foreign readers who are often eager to know all about it. For example, Khushwant in I shall not Hear the Nightingale explains as to how an Indian widow has to forget and bury their sexual instincts because of “a thick pack of conventional moralities prescribed for a Hindu widow-religion, charity, gossip about sex, but no sex”. Khushwant is seen highlighting the social oddities and abnormalities in candid manner. His eyes are minute observer of society and even minor events occurring in solitude are not prone to miss his attention. He shows the readers as to how the fake Indian ‘Peer Sahib’ enjoys sexual pleasure by illicit ways and for this he had “to be satisfied with his own devices or occasionally take liberties with little boys sent by their mothers to learn scripture”.

Khushwant Singh’s style of creative writing is substantially influenced by the Punjabi trend of literary writings, where ‘sex’ and ‘violence’ happens to be one of the most favorite themes. Balwant Gargi rightly says, “Violence and sex are the most important characteristics of modern Punjabi literature.” All Punjabi prominent writers, such as Amrita Pritam, Shiv Kumar Batlavi, Kartal Singh Duggal, Khushwant Singh, etc., are influenced by this literary trend. Amrita Pritam deals with the theme of extra-marital love, violent infatuation, intense physical urge, and sexual violence. Shiv Kumar Batlavi, Sahitya Academy Award winner, in his poem Loona presents several sexual images. Another distinguished Punjabi writer Karter Singh Duggal is a rebellious novelist who deals with violence in human nature. The characters in his novel are abnormal neurotic women, perverted priests, perverse teachers and homosexuals. His novel Nail and Flesh (1969) is thematically based on the violent political incidents of 1947, portraying vividly “the tragedy of partition and its disastrous effect on the peaceful pastoral life in the Punjab”. Other prominent novelists in Panjabi literature, such as Jaswant Singh Kanwal, Gurdial Singh, Santok Singh Dhir and Kulwant Singh Kir also deal mainly with violence and sex as their motif and in the course of their presentations, they writes on riots, rapes, abductions, murders, violence and other similar aspects showing readers the fiery passions of rural Punjab. “Obscenity” is another interesting feature of Punjabi literature where words like “legs”, “breasts”, “sex”, etc., are used commonly and unhesitatingly.

Khuswant Singh too forms the part of this virile and realistic tradition of creative writings is Panjabi literature. His novels are also teeming with sex maniac, showing abnormal instincts of sex and violence. His novel I shall not Hear the Nightingale has a ‘Peer Sahib’, who has the “vows of celibacy to which he was committed”, yet sex got the little chance of natural expression. The novel has a Hindu widow, Shunno, who initially feigns a nominal protest at the start by saying: “Na, na, someone will see”, but soon accepts the sexual advances of Peer Sahib. The hero of Delhi is rebellious in appalling his sexual urge and makes sexual encounters with a “hinjras” (hermaphrodite) without any hesitation of social criticism. The hero of the novel teaches readers as to how “girls are easy to seduce when they are ‘sixteen’ then when they are a year or two older”. The Company of Women is fully based on the theme of sex and it presents the voyeuristic view of male and female autonomy and titillating accounts of the innumerable sexual encounters of its protagonist, Mohan Kumar, a successful businessman at Delhi. Violence is another important concern of Khushwant’s novels. A Tran to Pakistan presents the heart rendering scenes of violence in riots of partition, resulting” a thousand of charged corpses sizzling and smoking”. Singh and his friends are charged for committing murder of a police inspector.

The novel begins with a vivid picturisation of Delhi, alleged to be “misused by rough people they have learnt to conceal their seductive charms under a mask of repulsive ugliness” (p. 1). The citizen of Delhi “spit phlegm and bloody betel-juice everywhere the urge overtakes them; they are loud-mouthed, express familiarity with incestuous abuse and scratch their privates while they talk” (p.1). Budh Singh, the watchman of the apartment where hero (narrator) lives, has strong objection about his relation with Bhagmati and so he confides, “everyone is talking about it. They say, take woman, take boy-okay; But a hijda; That is not nice”. (p.6) But the hero remains unaffected by his objections.

Khushwant is keenly aware of the fact that the sexual abuse of minor boys and girls by their near relatives is becoming increasingly common in metropolitan cities and other parts of our country. He states as to how a cabinet has impregnated his daughter-in-law or an Indian staff of an African Embassy was sexually misused and a college lad writes a letter complaining that his step-mother raped him while his father was out of station. The novelist further shamelessly highlights the sexual abuse of “hijdas” by different people; some enjoy them like a woman and some others like a boy unnaturally:

“When men came to expand their lust on ‘hijdas’–it is surprising how many prefer them to women-Bhagmati got more patrons than anyone else in her troupe. She could give herself as a woman; she could give herself as a boy. She also discovered that some men preferred to be treated as women. Though limited in her resources, she learnt how to give them pleasure too. There were no variations of sex that Bhagmati found unnatural or did not enjoy. Despite being the plainest of hijdas, she came to be sought by the old and young, the potent and impotent, by homosexuals, sadists and mascochists”. (p. 30)

The narrator (hero) expresses also his own obnoxious sexual encounter with Bhagmati. He explains “I felt a desire for sex. I tried to put it out of my mind. A sick, scrutffy hijda–how could.... I was aroused. I pulled her beside me fished out a contraceptive from under my pillow and mouthed her. She directed me inside her. It was no different from a woman’s. She smelt of sweet, I avoided her mouth. She pretended to breathe heavily as she were getting worked up. Then sensing my coming to climax she crossed her leges behind my back and began to moan.... She began to play with my nipples–first with her fingers, then with her tongue. She placed her head on my chest and began to stroke my paunch–first with her fingers, then with her tongue. She went on till my reluctance was overcome… with a series of violent heaves she sucked my seed into her in a frenzy of abandon. I lay on top of her–exhausted.” (pp. 40-41)

The hero’s second sexual encounter happens with the Fraulein Irma Weskermanna, a stenographer working in the West German Embassy. He takes with her a dinner at Moti Mahal and a little of wine with her. When he took initiatives, she began to put her face forward to receive a kiss on her bony cheeks. Finally, She succeeds in getting her consent for encounter and comes into her bedroom. She picked up her handbag and hurried into the bathroom and came out draped in a dressing-gown. The hero explains thereafter, “Fraulein Weskerman lay on her back and parrted her things. I entered her without much emotion. She was not a virgin, she was damp but not very excited. All she did was to let out to moan ahh and shut her eyes. We lay interlocked without a word or movement, neither of us seemed to be getting very much out of it. But neither seemed to have the courage to call it off.” (p. 45)

The part four of the novel deals with Musaddi Lal, who belonged to the reign of Sultan Ghiasuddin Balban. His ancestor, he claims proudly, had been scribes in the service of the rulers of Delhi, Raja Anangpal, the Tomar Rajput who built Lal Kot and planted the sacred iron pillars of Vishnu Bhagwan in the middle of the city. They also served Raja Prithvi Raj Chauhan and also Mohammed Ghori. Ram Dulari, the wife of the narrator (Musaddi), was reluctant to have sex with him and whenever he endeavoured, she started to scream. One day Musaddi Lal, however, succeeds to seduce her sulking wife for sex with him. He explains, “under the light of the stars I saw her pale body, the outlines of her rounded breasts and her broad hips. She dried herself with the same sari and wrapped it round her body. She hesitated, not sure which charpoy to go to. I stretched out my hand to her. She took it and let me pull her beside me. My passion was aroused again. She let me remove her damp sari and warm her naked flesh in my embrace. A cry of pain escaped her lips. I knew that I had at long last made Ram Dulari mine. I re-lit the oil lamp and help her wash the stains of blood on the bedsheet. By the time we had finished our bodies were again hungry for each other. So passed the whole night.” (p. 61)

In the part five of the novel, Khushwant ironically satirizes the doctors who are often quite negligent to their duties. When the hero goes for an outing with Bhagmati at the tomb of Sultan Feroze Shah Tughlak, he was attacked by the bees violently. His flesh begins to swell, fingers become too fat to be useful and body tingles all over. He drove fast to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for emergency treatment of bee stings. There is a cluster of patient around the doctor’s table but he is seen engaged in talking on telephone with somebody else. When he speaks in English about complaining to the Health Minister, English works like magic and the doctor starts examining him.

The hero has profound knowledge of history of India. Bhagmati is impressed by his learning. He says as to how Emperor Humayun built a tomb exactly 430 years ago exactly on this day of January, 26, 1530. He informs her that the first city of Delhi, called Indraprasth, was built by the Pandavas. He further explains that the Sher Mandal was in fact a library built by Sher Shah Suri. He tells her as to how Humayun’s father, Babar, going round his son’s sickbed four times prayed to Allah to transfer his son’s illness to him and how Humayun had been restored to health and Babar died a few days later. He says that the Red Fort was built by Shah Jahan, who used to sit on the peacock throne therein. He says as to how Aurangzeb killed his brothers and put his father in prison for throne and destoryed Hindu temples.

The novel sometimes appears to be a travelogue as Khushwant gives exact details of almost all the places and roads of Delhi city. He mentions Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Chandni Chauk, Faiz Bazar, Khari Bawali, Connaught Circus and other important places of Delhi in the novel. Interestingly, he mentions history of the places also attached to them.

Khushwant has an excellent knowledge of the psychology of sex. He says that “girls are easy to seduce when they are sixteen than when they are a year or two older. At sixteen they are unsure of themselves and grateful for any reassurance you can give them about their look or brains–either will do.” (p. 114) He confides his practical experience of seducing a teenager Ms. Georgine, the niece of Carlyle of American Embassy, who had come to Delhi to spend her Christmas vacations. He explains, “any experienced lecher knows that one should not waste words with a teenager because when it comes to real business she gets tongue-tied or can only say ‘No’. It is best to talk to her body with your hands. That excites her to a state of speechless acceptance. I ran my fingures up and down her lower arm. She watched them till goose pimples camp up. Thereafter all I had to do was to put my arm around her waist, drawn her towards me and smother her lips, eyes, nose, ears and neck with kisses. She moaned helplessly. I slipped my hand under her Kamiz and played with her taut nipples. Then I undid her pyjama cord and slipped my fingers between her damp thigs. A little gentle ministration with the hand made her convulse and she climaxed groaning ‘0 God’, she lay still like a human-sized rubber doll. I put my hand on her bosom. She slapped it and pushed it away. She picked up her clothes and went to the bedroom.” (p. 118)

The chapters ten, eleven and twelve give a historical account of Mugal period of Aurangzeb and Nadir Shah. Shah Jahan became Emperor of Hindustan in October 1627. He has four sons–Dara Shikoh, Murad, Shuja and Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb was married to Dilras Bano, the daughter of Shah Nawaz Safawi, at the age of seventeen. “The following year Murad, then only fourteen, married Dilras Bano’s younger sister and so, besides being our brother, he also became brother-in-law of Aurangzeb.” (p. 147) The differences cropped up among the four brothers for the crown when Shah Jahan fell seriously ill. Other members of royal family advised Shuja and Murad not to behave like the descendants of Mugal dynasty foundation of which was laid down by Zahiruddin Babar in 1526 and his two sons Humayun and Kamran. Humanyun took the light out of the eyes of his brother Kamran and sent him off to Mecca to die in order to grab throne. When Akbar succeeded Humayun, he disposed of Kamaran’s son. Likewise Emperor Akbar’s reign was distrubed by the revolt of his beloved son Salim Jahangir who in his return had to keep his own impatient son Khusrau in confinement. (p. 153)

The chapter sixteen gives description of the period of last Emperor Bhadur Shah Zafar. There was a great fighting between the British army and Mugal loyalists. People also supported strongly to the Mugal fighters at every nook and corner of Delhi, “General Bakht Khan fought back valiantly. He was everywhere, at the Sabzi Mandi in the morning, at Mori Gate in the afternoon, at Kashmiri Gate in the evening. After sunset he came to the palace to report. The enemy forced his way into the city. The citizens fought them in every street. Even women and children hurled on the heads of the assailants. Although age has made our bones brittle we mounted our Arab horse Hamdam and went out to encourage our troops. But Allah willed that we would be taught a lesson in humility.” (p. 292)

Queen Victoria died in 1901. When the ship bearing king George and Queen Marry docked in Bombay on 2nd December 1911, the hero and his father reached Delhi in order to have the darshan of their rulers and explore possibilities of getting building contracts. At the age of seventeen, his father decides to get married and a girl of fourteen years was chosen from the neighboring village. When she was eighteen and he was twenty, they borne two sons. The partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905 had angered Hindus who felt that is was designed to further divide Hindu and Muslims and create a Muslim state in East Bengal. Young Bengalis, Hindus and Maharashtrian and some Sikhs vowed to undo the partition and destroyed the British rule. In Bengal bombs were thrown at English officers and some were murdered. In Gujrat an attempt was made on the Life of Lord Minto who had succeeded Lord Curzon as Viceroy. A Punjabi boy studying in London shot and killed Wylic. These incidents compelled Britshers to withdraw their decision of partition of Bengal. Meanwhile, their decision to transfer capital from Calcutta to Delhi was widely welcomed and the only exceptions were some Europeans with their busineses in Calcutta.

Lord Chelmsford was succeeded by a sixty-year old Viceroy, arrived in India in 1921. There were agitations among Sikhs to liberate their gurdwar from hereditary priests. Mahatma Gandhi and his fellow congressmen were demanding self rule in the country. Muslims Moplahs of Malabar were agitating against Hindu moneylenders. Lord Reading diplomatically first invited Gandhi over a cup of tea and a few months thereafter jailed him and other Congress leaders, namely, Motilal Nehru and his son Jawaharlal. These leaders have given a call to boycott the visit of the Prince of Wales. Army was sent to crush the agitation of Muslim Moplahs at Malabar. Lord Reading befriended Indian politicians to know their mind and what kind of men they are. He, however, could not suppress the rising tide of Congress. The congress party swept the polls in 1923 elections and Motilal Nehru became its main spokesman in the Central Assembly. On 23rd March, 1931 Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Rajguru were hanged for committing the murder of an Anglo-Indian sergeant.

The chapter twenty presents painful pictures of partition of India. Majority of the population of Hadali were Mussalmans and rests were Hindus. Hindus and Sikhs were tradesmen and moneylenders. They lent money to the Mussalmans and when they did not return their money with the interest, they were made to pay off by serving them. They used to buy rock salt from the Range and had these fellows take it on their camels to distant cities like Lahore, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar. They sold the salt and bought back tea, sugar, spices and silks to sell in their desert villages. Hindus and Sikhs lived in a brick built houses with buffaloes in their courtyards. The Mussalmans lived in mudhuts and looked after their cattle in exchange for a pot of milk.

Some rumors in the last week of August 1917 of killing Hindus and Sikhs in Rawalpindi and Lahore caused tension in the village. It was heard that Hindus and Sikhs were fleeing eastwards where there were not many Mussalmans. Then it was heard that the Mussalmans had got a country of their own called ‘Pakistan’ and Hadali was in Pakistan. Some elders suggested them to leave Hadali and join other Hindus and Sikhs who were going to Hindustan. But they were reluctant to do so because money was on lent among Mussalmans were yet unrecovered. One day Lachmi, the sister of Ram Rakha was abducted by young Mussalmans and forcibly converted and married to Mussalman young boy. This incident compelled them to leave Hadali. The narrator (Ram Rakha) explains the painful and piquant situation, “we travelled all night and day with hot sand blowing in our faces. We came to Sargodha and found the encampment where thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were waiting to go to India. Our buffaloes were taken away. For many days we lived on stale bread and pickles. Then soldiers came and put us in their trucks. They drove us to Lahore. We passed long lines of people on foot and in bullock cart. Those going our way were Sikhs and Hindus. Those coming from the opposite direction were Musslamans. We saw many Sikhs lying dead on the road with their long hair scattered about and their bearded face covered with flies. We crossed Indo-Pakistan boarder. There were many more corpses along the road. From the shape of their penises I could tell they were Musslamans. There were lots of women and children among the dead.” (p. 325)

The last chapter of the novel gives a vivid and truthful description of killing of Bhindrawala and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the eruption of riot caused by the latter’s assassination in Delhi in 1984. The narrator explains, “The mob is composed of about fifty young boys armed with iron rods. Some have canisters of petrol in their hands. They surrounded the gurudwara and stormed in. They drag out the Bhai and beat him up with their fists and rods”. (p. 388)

He further explains as to how Budh Singh was killed by the rioters in heartless manner, “The young gangesters play a cat and mouse game with him. They take turns prodding Budh Singh in the back with their rods. The old fellow is getting tired. He can’t fight so many men. As he pauses for breath, an iron rod crashes on his shoulder and brings him down. His kirpan falls out of his hand. One fellow picks it up and pokes in his bottom. Two lad pounced on him and pin his arms behind his back. One takes out a pair of scissors and begins to clip off Budh Singh’ beard. Budh Singh spits in his face. The fellow slaps him on the face, catches him by his long hair and cuts off a hunk. They’ve had their fun. They got down to serious business. A boy gets a car tyre, fills its inside rim with petrol and lights. It is a fiery garland. Two boys hold it over Budh Singh and slowly bring it down over his head to his shoulders. Budh Singh screams in agony as he comes down to the ground. The boys laugh and give him the Sikh call of victory; Boley so Nihal:Sat Sri Akal.”(p.391)



To sum up it can be exposed here on the basis of above mentioned analytical study of the novel that it ends giving heart rendering description of Delhi’s 1984 riot killing hundreds and wounding thousands innocent Sikhs. In fact the novel has its peculiar style of its own in which Khushwant presents history of India wrapped up in romance and sex.

References:


  1. Tharoor, Shashi. Bookless in Baghdad: Reflection on Writing and Writers, Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2012 p.3




  1. Naik, M.K. Perspectives on Indian Fiction English, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1984.

  2. Singh, Kumar, Pramod. The Novels of Khushwant Singh: A Critical Evaluation, Book Enclave, 2005

  3. Singh, Khushwant. Delhi (Penguin Books India (P) Limited, New Delhi, 1990).

  4. Singh, Khushwant. Khushwant Singh on Women, Love & Lust,(Books Today, New Delhi,2003)

  5. Singh, Khushwant. Uncertain Liaisons; Sex, Strife and Togetherness in Urban India, 1995.

  6. The Sikhs Today: Their Religion, History, Culture, Customs, and Way of Life. Bombay, Orient Longman, 1959; revised edition, 1964; revised edition, New Delhi, Sangam, 1976, 1985.

  7. Kantak, V.K. The Language of Indian Fiction in English, (Critical Essays on Novelists in English, Dharwar).




  1. Singh. Pramod Kumar. The Novels of Khushwant Singh: A Critical Evaluation, Book Enclave, Jaipur, 2005




  1. Singh.Pramod Kumar. Five contemporary Indian Novelists, (Book Enclave, Jaipur,2001).




  1. Sinha, K.N. Indian Writing in English, (Heritage Publishers, New York, 1972)


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