Asst. Prof. of English, Lal Bahadur Shastri Mahavidyalaya, Dharmabada, Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004) was born in a Kshatriya family in Peshawar. After completing his education in India, he went abroad for pursuing higher studies including a doctor of philosophy. He has been conferred upon many prestigious awards like the Padma Bhushan, the International Peace Prize, the Sahitya Academy Award etc. He has been prolific as a novelist, short story writer and critic. Among his novels are Untouchable (1935), Coolie (1936), Two Leaves and a Bud (1937), The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1940), The Sword and the Sickle (1942),

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Lament on the Death of a Master of Arts (1939), The Big Heart (1945), The Private Life of an Indian Prince (1953), The Death of a Hero (1963) and Morning Face (1968). The Barber’s Trade Union and Other Stories (1944) established Anand as a seasoned short story writer. He observed the rudiments of the contemporary orthodox Hindu in toto and tried, through his literary projection, to expose it. Anand, the Emile Zola and the Balzac of Indian Writing in English, is the champion of the underdogs, the suppressed and the deprived in the India society. The thematic corpus of Mulk Raj Anand consists preponderantly of the concerns of the depressed and the underprivileged classes in the Indian society. Anand is often castigated as being a propagandist, rather than a litterateur. His reviewers, however, fail to take stock of his artistic skills. Anand is known more to be a novelist. His short stories have not comparatively received as much critical attention and acclaim. But, the fact is that his short stories, like his novels , also are of equal literary and social significance. Some of his stories really are literary masterpieces and do invite critical attention and appreciation. One of his remarkable short stories is The

Barber’s Trade Union (1944). Unlike others, Mulk Raj Anand’s literary focus is on the very people with whom he frolicked, played right from his childhood, namely, the repressed, the downtrodden, the untouchables in the society. He himself acknowledges in the preface to Two

Page 2 The barber’s Trade union Summary Essay

Leaves and a Bud : “All these heroes as the other men and women who had emerged in my novels and short stories, were dear to me because they were the reflection of real people I had known during my childhood and youth. They were flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood and obsessed me in the way in which certain beings obsess an artist’s soul.

And I was doing no more than what a writer does when he sees to interpret the truth from the realities of life”. Anand very vehemently favours art for the sake of life. Mulk Raj Anand’s concentration has always been on the eradication of social stigmas like casteism, untouchability, unequal social gradation and stratification based on birth. He believes that man should be known by his worth and not by birth. He utilizes art with a view to fulfilling this intent. The social blots have been in the Indian society for ages together. Anand has a deep sense of sympathy for the depressed, their plight and predicament and calls them truly heroic. On one hand he exposes the economic disparity among the Indian people and on the other hits hard against the age-old inhuman, base traditions which rendered these unfortunate sections of the society equal to the savage. This kind of hard stricture is conspicuous both in his novels and short stories as well. Bakha, the protagonist in his debut novel untouchable , Munoo, the protagonist in the novel coolie , like Chandu, the protagonist in the short story under study – The Barber’s SHO D SAMIKSHA AUR MULY ANKA N 21 International Research Journal ISSN-0974-2832

Trade Union , all testify to the atrocities, coercion to which these ill-fated masses are subjected. As mentioned, Chandu , a barber boy, is the protagonist in the short story. He is quite unlike Bakha and Munoo in the sense that both of them are submissive and succumb to circumstances. Chandu is dynamic and by the dint of his candour and ingenuity, he emerges triumphant at the end of the story. He turns out quite capable of penetrating the labyrinth of the hoary inhuman traditions. The story basically depicts the conflict between Chandu and the orthodox, reactionary society, with the former turning out to be victorious and the latter at the receiving end. The theme of the story is the exploitation of the oppressed at the hands of the so – called caste Hindus with a comic touch. Mulk Raj Anand fully concedes dignity to man irrespective of his status. The short story witnesses restitution of dignity to the protagonist robbed by the reactionary. The setting of the novel is typically Indian. The narrator of the story partakes in every single development in the story and has full allegiance to Chandu, his friend, philosopher and guide. Mulk Raj Anand has succeeded in maintaining the humorous vein throughout the story, elevating

Chandu. At the very outset of the story, Mulk Raj Anand wittily mentions –”Among the makers of modern India, Chandu, the barber boy of our village, has a place which will be denied him unless I press for the recognition of his contribution to history”. As we move on, Chandu’s multifarious and realistic character is revealed to us. He is good at reciting poetry, but is bad at mathematics. He is not, however, solely responsible for it. He has to ply his hereditary profession at the behest of his father. His schooling comes to a complete standstill on account of his father’s demise.

At a tender age, Chandu embarks upon fullfledged domestic responsibility. Every morning Chandu has to make errands to the notables in the village for shaving and hair-cutting. All goes well and the set ordered is not disturbed unless Chandu starts going to the Taluka for transacting business. He observes certain novelties there, particularly the rig out of doctor Kalan Khan- a white turban, a white rubber coat and a leather bag in hand. He is uncontrollably fascinated towards the apparel. He has attraction for the medical profession as he has bequeathed some medical tips and snippets from his father.

Chandu’s new attire brings about great clamour and chaos in the village 22 ‘’kks /k leh{ kk VOL. I * ISSUE—16 RNI : RAJBIL/2009/29954 when he approaches the landlord’s house. The landlord, an ideologue of dogmatism and orthodoxy, having seen Chandu in the new robe, mortifies Chandu in the foulest terms. The landlord reprimands calling Chandu –”The son of a pig! Get out ! Get out ! … You will defile my religion”. It is a fact that innocent low –caste people like Chandu are always treated with humiliation for no fault of theirs. Did Chandu commit any blemish or blunder by wearing a dress like doctor Kalan Khan’s ?

The conservative society always prefers injustice and oppression. Chandu is impelled to realize that due to his being a low-caste boy, he is not entitled to such felicity and that he is perpetually harnessed to serve the upper caste society. This is his ineradicable destiny and that he is bound to be in it. The village Sahukar, too, goes one step ahead and deals with Chandu in harshest possible terms –”You little swine, you go on disguising yourself as a clown …” Pandit parmanand, the keeper of the village shrine, also bullies saying –”He is a low caste devil! He is a rogue! ”. Chandu is thoroughly humiliated and exasperated at this treatment. There is a distinct discrepancy between Chandu and Mulk Raj Anand’s other protagonists like Bakha and Munoo. They would have wilted, submitted and succumbed to the circumstance as normal creatures of circumstance would have. But Chandu is entirely unlike them. He is one in hundreds and hundreds in one. He is intent on topsey- turveying everything orthodox. He is representative of the modern man in the modern world. Chandu, insulted and affronted though, instead of giving into the village superiors, adopts a course of action with a view to teaching the idiots a lesson.

His course of action is a course of revolt. He desires to change his fate and fate of his fellow – brothers by way of overcoming his predicament. Despite his being a mere barber boy, he has prowess to outwit and outsmart others. With a view to teaching the orthodox idiots a lesson, he ceases to dance attendance to the village notables and others for shaving and hair –cutting. Instead, he frequents the town for earning. Within a few days, the outcome is easily visible, causing a great problem and inconvenience. Chandu is so shrewd and cunning that he has already had his Verka counterpart in his league.

The result is that the landlord looks hoary and his wife has even threatened to leave him. The Sahukar looks like a leper with the brown tinge of tobacco on his vkS j ew Y;kda u International Research Journal ISSN-0974-2832 moustache. The elders in the village become a stock subject of laughter. Chandu very conveniently succeeds in his plan of non-cooperation. The villagers approach the barber at Verka with a double money offer, but in vain. The villagers reel under the new situation while Chandu makes hey in the town. He summons all the barbers in the purview of seven miles and convinces them that it was high time that all the elders came to them and that they must stop dancing attendance to them. And thus, they launch into “Rajkot District Barber Brothers’ Hairdressing and Shaving Saloon” and thus become the harbinger and herald of the new era of freedom and justice. Chandu’s victory assumes greater significance especially in the backdrop of the orthodox and inhuman traditions in the Indian society. VOL. I * ISSUE— 16 RNI : RAJBIL/2009/29954 His triumph restores sanity to the situation. It is not a win which belongs only to Chandu. It is victory of justice, parity, morality and rejuvenation of human dignity.

In the nineteen thirties, when Mulk Raj Anand penned the story, social stigmas like casteism, untouchability were rampant. The proletariats and the ‘have – nots’ had no human dignity, being rendered to a barbaric and sub-human status. Mulk Raj Anand, as a seasoned story teller, gives the nation a call in time to wake up to the situation and abjure the evil, inhuman customs and traditions preserved for centuries. Mulk Raj Anand, through the story, assumes a need for social justice, particularly for the weaker sections in the society. The story is elevated to an altogether different level with humour being intertwined.

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