Coolie: by Mulk Raj Anand - Summary

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      Coolie is the second great political novel, published in 1936. It narrates the adventures of Munoo, an orphan hill-boy who is hardly fourteen years of age living with his uncle Day ar am and aunt Gujri, and content in the idyllic surroundings of his native village, Bilaspur, inspite of their ill-treatment. He is forced to go to town to earn his livelihood, and arrives at the house of the sub-accountant of the Imperial Bank, Shamnagar. He is ill-treated by a shrewish and vindictive wife of babu Nathoo Ram, Bibiji, and only Chota Babu, Nathuram’s younger brother is kind to him. Being tortured in the house, he runs away from there and relieves himself at his second employer Prabha Dayal’s. house as worker in his pickle factory. But he is also ill-treated by Prabha’s co-partner, Ganpat. But unfortunately his master is ruined by the dishonesty of Ganpat. He is again forced to leave Daulatpur forever. He started his work as a coolie, but faced tough competion from other coolies. He reaches the Railway Station to work as a coolie, but he is scared away from there because he has no licence.

      From this struggle he is rescued by an elephant-driver, and he is helped by him to reach Bombay In Bombay he meets with a vagrant family—Hari and his wife Lakshmi, and he becomes a worker in a cotton mill with them. He earns his bread in a worst working, conditions, living in a dilapidated and insanitary pavement. He grows a good friendship with Ratan who descends him into the Red light district, and witnesses a labour strike and Hindu-Muslim riots which are perhaps engineered by the factory bosses to break an impending strike. Last but not the least, he is knocked down by the car of an. Anglo-Indian woman Mrs. Mainswaring who brings him back to Simla from Bombay and he is appointed as a page-cum-rickshaw puller. It has been hinted that she uses him sexually. By and large, overwork brings illness and he dies of tuberculosis.

      Munoo is a universal character, symbolising suffering and misery of the poor and exploited masses of India. Thus, the suffering of Munoo, a coolie, attains epic dimensions, and infact, a universal significance.

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