Two Leaves and A Bud: Novel by Mulk Raj Anand - Summary

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      Two Leaves and A Bud is a dramatic novel, published in 1937, in which the novelist describes the wretched plight of workers on the tea-plantations of Assam, workers who have to pluck, “two leaves and a bud”, day in and day out.

      Gangu is the central figure in the novel, he is by profession a farmer who is middle aged, working on his field in a village near Hoshiarpur in Punjab. He is tempted by the false promises of a tout, and leaves for Assam with his wife Sajani and his children Leila and Buddhu to work on the Machpherson Tea Estate in Assam leaving his native village. Soon he comes to know that the promises made to him were entirely false, it seemed that the world of a tea-plantation were like a prison house. “I suppose it was in our kismet. But at home it was like a prison and here it is slightly worse...First water; afterwords mire. This prison has no bars, but it is nevertheless an unbreakable jail. The chowkidars keep guard over the plantation, and they bring you back if you should run......”

      Sajani dies of Malaria and Gangu like other coolies felt plantation life is but a progression from today’s bad to the worse of tomorrow There were discontent among the coolies and one day they break into open. Two loose women started quarrelling, and Reggie, the Assistant Manager takes a strict action and some coolies are injured. Croft-Cooke makes an appeal to resolve the matter but of no avail. The coolies decide to agitate, and the plantation splits into two camps, with a few dissidents in both of them. The planters meet with aerial assistance, and the use of force bring the coolie-demonstrators into their senses. And no sympathy is shown towards them.

      The governor is to visit, and in his greater glory a tiger-hunt is stage-managed. But Reggie is not at all satisfied within and also hated by the coolies. He, out of mad lent attempts to assault Leila, as she is leisurely plucking tea leaves alone. As she runs away she is followed by bim to her house, and his father intervenes to rescue her but maddened by frustration and tear, he kills Gangu who is in front of him. A trial follows, the tea-planter is brought to court, but Mr. Justice Mowberley agreeing to the majority view of the white man, acquits him of the charge of murder.

      Thus, we see the injustice of the British Raj, and the misery and suffering of Indian masses in the novel. In the other words, the major theme of the novel is the economic exploitation of the workers by the colonialists, or the capitalists. The novelist is of the view—“It is perhaps better written, and technically it is more complex than Untouchable or Coolie, because I tried to evoke in it the varying moods of the beautiful Eastern Indian landscape and felt the passions with an intensity which I was writing as thinly veiled fiction. But I confess, that, as I got into the book, I was biased in favour of my Indian characters and tended to caricature the Englishmen and English-women who play such a vital part in this book.”

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