The Concept of Labour in The Novel Coolie

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      The subject matter in the well-known of Anand’s novels is the working life and the plight of the protagonist, as the same here in Coolie. In other words, the labour is the underlying factor in his novels. The Marxist conception of labour—labour as the specific human activity which distinguishes mankind from the super animals is relevant in this regard. In course of rendering labour man confronts nature to have an existence of his life. Thus, work is the most important activity through which useful objects are produced. In fact, on the basis of labour, human beings controls nature for the best of his life if man continues to develop his means of production through working in a perfect manner for his best of living. Labour is, infact, the eternal and natural condition of human life. It is most independent form any specific form of life. It is free activity of man, for its objectives are not only determined by nature but also by man himself. Therefore, labour implies self-realization of man or an act of real freedom. Labour is the part of the society though its form differs according to the forms of society in which it is being performed. On the other hand, labour is a mental activity as well as physical one. It is a matter of great concern that, antagonism develops between these forms in most societies from then till now. The government does not have soft corner for the poor and the down trodden and therefore, they are the victim of capitalist powers in the country Their wretched conditions are shown in the novel Coolie. The poor people are alone expected to do manual labour, while the mental labour goes in the hand of the privileged.

Estrangement of Labour

      Marry is of the opinion that estranged or alienated labour may have different aspects. They have only one thing in common: man’s separation from the product of labour. When the man looses his means of production he is forced to work for the owners who determine which article he has to produce. The man is unable to realise himself through his work and in his products for he has no power to determine the purpose of his activity. He does not have self-realization in his act of production rather they feel suffering, as a loss of his human nature. Infact, alienated labour is the cause of man’s alienation from the species. Being a member of species, man is able to achieve self-realisation as a human being by working upon the material world. The meaning the labour can be called realisation of life of the species. Alienation from the species means alienation of man from man and also from the human nature of his fellow-beings which creates antagonistic classes within a society.

Influences of Feudalism

      The influence of feudalism is caused by alienation of labour in Anand’s novels. Indeed, the subject-matter of most of Anand’s novels is labour but the actual depiction of men at work in his novels is much fewer. All the main characters in Untouchable, The Road, Cow, Coolie, Two Leaves and a Bud and The Big Heart are forced to sell their labour in order to survive, whereas the main characters like Panchi in The Old Woman and the Cow, and Lalu in Village have their own ways to utilize their labours. Bakha in Untouchable, and Bhikhu in The Road, are not permitted to rise in society and thus unable to secure the material means for the sake of their lives in the high handedness of the upper Hindu castes. One of the most important facts is the alienation in the act of production as well as alienation from their fellow men is not the outcome of the economic forces under capitalistic conditions but of non-economic lingering forces of feudalism.

A New Group is Formed

      A new group is formed of those characters in his novels who are forced to sell their labour. They are Munoo, and Hari both in Coolie and Gangu in Two Leaves and a Bud. Hari and Gangu, being failures as a peasant because they are forced to sell their lands to pay back the money they had borrowed from money-lenders at higher rates, and thus they are bound to be labourers. Munoo is not restricted to a single occupation, for he has to work as a domestic servant in the house of Babu Nathoo Ram, as a conscripter worker in a pickle factory as a coolie in the village market carrying loads for smaller wages, a labourer in a cotton factory and lastly as a page-cum-rickshawpuller in the house of an Anglo-Indian lady Mrs. Mainwaring. Hari works as a factory-worker forever and Gangu works on a tea plantation in Assam. The various occupations adopted by these characters held Anand to illustrate the economic and social conditions in India under the British Raj during the early phase of the development of capitalistic enterprise in India. Indian society has to undergo the combined pressure of economic and non-economic force. Anand, with the characters who sell their labour for survival, does not only show his interest in their individual fate but also illustrates the economic and social changes taking place in India under colonial rule and the gradual transformation of a feudal society into a capitalistic one. Thus we observe that Anand’s novels show that he is well aware of the use of narrative writing which reveals man’s essential nature through the individual’s life.

Munoo’s Estrangement

      All those characters who do not have their own means of production and are forced to sell their labour have to face the fate of estrangement or alienation. Munoo is the befitting example of such an enstranged or alienated worker in the novel Coolie. However, the men at work are depicted rather few in his novels, most of them occur in Coolie. As a matter of fact, the novel was written in early 1930s in England where there were so many committed writers depicting the condition of the working class. Munoo is the protagonist whose work is not an isolated act means he does not work for his personal survival, but it is attached with social act. This is the reason that we see that Munoo is always concerned either about the goodness of others—Prabha Dayal, and his wife, Hari and his family or about the way they behave towards him. Munoo meets many people who accept him as he expected to be, such as Sheila, and her uncle Dr. Premchand, Prabha Dayal, and his wife Parbati, and his friend Ratan, and even Mrs. Main waring, the last employer of Munoo. On the other hand, there are some other people like Bibiji and her husband Babu Nathoo Ram, Ganpat, Prabha Dayal’s business co-partner or the foreman of the Cotton Mill. Munoo’s life as a worker is important because it is inseparable from the way of work itself. It is an established fact that labour shapes and influences the human attitudes and relationships, and so it must not be considered entirely free from it.

Munoo’s Life in Sham Nagar

      Munoo is employed as a servant in the house of Babu Nathoo Ram in Sham Nagar and his initiation into the work of selling labour starts from here. As yet Munoo is unaware of social difference which exists between play voluntary labour and alienated labour. He is also unaware of his economic and social position and reacts towards his new tasks experienced in his home village where “to have disciplined his hands to the adequate performance of mental jobs” as Anand says. Munoo has to face so many new impressions that he finds himself unable to distinguish between his duties and the activities he like to do. On the other hand he is neither interested to fulfill his duties properly nor does he miss an opportunity to help or entertain others if he feels that he will make them happy. Munoo is lacking insight to perform his work and there is no effect of his employers on him. We have a detailed description of Nathoo Ram’s household and the curses and complaints of Bibiji are an important back history for Munoo’s working life and by giving more importance to the working condition, Anand clearly puts it that work itself is of less importance for Munoo.

The Relation between the Employee and the Employer

      It is true that Munoo feels himself to be alienated, and it is also equally true that his employer, the Bibiji is herself very much alienated. She is so fastidious that she always tries to take him to task and reminds him of his place as a servant but she more often complains about her own work: “When will I get rest? I slog all day! I can’t even get time to dress or to sit down with the neighbour for a chat or go to the shop”. It clearly seems that the work is to Bibiji a burden because it prevents her from giving her satisfaction. On the other hand, Munoo does not experience the alienating effect of work. He also after sometime, realizes that he has got a low status in the family. He is very much confused about his importance in the society. He asks himself why he is there in the Babu’s house, and he soon gets a reply but it is not really complete — “Because my uncle brought me here to earn my living”. The incompleteness of the ideas he expresses is illustrated in the words of the novelist as “It did not occur to him to ask himself what he was apart from being a servant and why he was a servant”.

Munoo’s Life at Pickle Factory

      There is no doubt that Munoo’s life at pickle factory is more alienated because he seems to be self-employed outwardly As a matter of fact, he is likely to be adopted by the Seth Prabha Dayal, it was absolutely an unpaid labour. On the other hand, the Seth’s partner goads his workers to work quicker as if they were animals and thus Munoo lacks any dignity while working at his factory. The surrounding or working place is also important to be noticed. Thus, ingredients used for the pickling process and the fumes of the fire are causing stench and are resultant in darkness and filthy condition. The workers are seen in a depressing condition. They seem to be old and worn out by work, and they are also found to be more inhuman, because they are damned to spend their lives without any light and air. All the same, Munoo himself is exposed to be an outsider and an observer of the everyday’s happening, at the factory Munoo is seen neither interfering nor establishing any real contact with the workers. He is only found comparing his present experience with those in Bibiji’s household, and it increases his belief in fate. As can be quoted “It is sad that my good luck in finding work so easily should be spoilt by the presence of a cruel man”. Ganpat reminds Munoo of Bibiji, for both of them forced alienated work out of him and both recall his aunt for whom Munoo used to work willingly and with interest.

      In the later section, we come to see that Ganpat himself is alienated of his work in comparison to his hard-working and honest partner Prabha Dayal. Munoo while in service at the pickle factory finds no satisfaction, only the comradeship with the other coolies does give him some solace. The other workers are also alienated of labour, but they are not able to differentiate between labour which is put in out of interest and alienated work which is forced out of them. As Prabha Dayal fails, Munoo finds himself in highly competitive working classes like coolies. Firstly, Munoo fails to get work but for a short time his wit enables him to get more work than the other coolies. Soon, his trick works upon him and he is able to get some lighter work like carrying home the shopping of elderly ladies.

Condition of Indian Labour

      Munoo’s field of working continues to increase all the time and the scope of his work becomes quite vast at the Cotton Mill in Bombay Here Munoo is found as one of the alienated workers in which most of them have surrendered themselves to their fate. The factory workers have been ill-treated and considered as mere animals. The working condition seems to be outwardly better but it is very bad in reality. The stench of cotton and oil and the deafening noise of machinery make the atmosphere heavy and unbearable. The foreman of the Cotton Mill is most tyrannical and exploitative and insulting. The experience of Munoo at the factory is the symbol of alienation of labour which takes place under capitalism. The working conditions of the coolies and their living also help produce alienation between one coolie and another. The instance of this is in the dispassionate reaction of Munoo, when he conies to know that Hari’s son has been injured accidentally Munoo finds in himself failure of sympathy so, he blames himself, for he feels that his heart-strings seem to have contracted. After some efforts, sense of humanity in him is aroused and he stood by his friend, Hari as before and accompanied the child to hospital.

Alienation of Dogmatic Ideology

      The concept of alienated labour is influenced by the Marxian approach. It is really elective and seems to combine ideas taken from widely differing schools of thought. Its reflection is seen in the depiction of the relationship between capital and labour. It is not restricted to the relations between single individuals but between a mass of labourers and their leaders on the one side and capitalists and their underlings on the other. A meeting is held and ‘short-work’ is announced by the factory authority—and it is resultant in a variety of viewpoints. The situation is this that most of the workers want to work under any circumstances because of the problem of unemployment and the situation of hardships and starvation caused by it. The second view point expresses that Ratan and some of the trade union leaders are able to analyse not only the relationship between capital and labour, but also the particular situation, they have to deal. They are successful in gaining the emotions of the masses, and able to experience their sufferings as exploited workers, and finally they win back the support of the majority after the president of trade union gives his approval to work out a compromise between the workers and the management of the mill. Anand seems to be set against this line of approach as the workers at mass level get united in a chorus about the charter of their demands from the management. The charter of their demands has somehow caused considerable difficulty to the employers, so they are able to spread rumour of kidnapping a Hindu child by Mohammedans, and thus, it not only breaks the workers’ movement at a very crucial stage, but also causes much blood-shed.

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