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Mulk Raj’s every man walks among us

By December 14, 2018No Comments

Source : The Tribune   –   Shiv Sethi


THE fair of life is beautiful to a child as long as he is under the protective umbrella of his parents. Mulk Raj Anand, a towering legend of English writing, born on December 12, 1905, artistically conveys this idea in his short story, The Lost Child. Anand belongs to the clan of those progressive Indian writers who wielded his pen in English with an inimitable ease and grace. It was the time when India was poised to herald a great transition. His contemporaries like Munshi Premchand and Faiz Ahmad Faiz also held the fort of the progressive movement of the writers with great elan in Hindi and Urdu. Mulk Raj chose to express his deep angst in English. His novels Coolie and Untouchable set an entire generation of educated Indians thinking about India’s social evils perpetuated in the name of religion and tradition. These novels and short stories brought into sharp focus the dehumanising contradictions within colonised Indian society. Through his writings he revealed that in addition to the foreign colonialism of Britain there existed layers of colonialism within our society. This internal colonialism stood in the way of India’s transition to a modern civil society.

Exposing the overarching divide between the British and a colonised India, he reveals an Indian society creating its own layers of colonisers, thereby rendering the fledgling Indian nationalism an extremely problematic concept.

Mulk Raj was deeply rooted in his times. Unlike most writers who chose to wallow in their own joys and grief, he became the voice of the common people and thus he poignantly delineated their everyday trails and tribulations. Through the immortal portrayal of Bakha, a sweeper, he has stood steadfast for an egalitarian society. Untouchable lays bare the hypocritical Nehruvian idea of a socialist state. Mulk Raj’s art has never been for the sake of art. It is for the sake of life. He believed that every writer has a social responsibility and a social conscience. If an artist chooses to stay in an ivory tower and celebrates only his personal pains and pleasures, he will not be able to immortalise his art.

On the occasion of his 113th birth anniversary, I am engrossed in reading his Lajvanti, an anthology of short stories. Each character resonates with me as his every man and woman is one among us. Certainly, shrill voices like Mulk Raj’s can never be quietened and no threat of guns can make such spunky souls leave the battlefield.

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