Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand - Chapter 3 Summary

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      While Munoo was travelling by the train he met the passengers like Seth Prabha Dayal who ran a pickle factory in Daulatpur and Ganpat, the Seth's partner. As the train neared the station, one of the passengers dragged out his bundle which had been placed below the seat and along with that Munoo also was pulled out. Prabha Dayal who was childless thought this to be an auspicious find. He felt a secret affinity with poor Munoo for he himself hailed from the hills of Kangra. They decided to take Munoo with them, and employ him as an errand-boy to help Tulsi and other servants. When they reached home, Prabha Dayal’s wife took the boy in her arms and patted him on his forehead. The boy had a sumptuous meal as he was offered sherbet, rice, dal and vegetables and other dishes in Prabha Dayal’s house.

Munoo’s Experiences in Cat-Killers’ Lane

      Munoo came to the Cat-Killer's Lane in Daulatpur where the pickle factory of Prabha Dayal was situated and he lived in an adjoining home. Munoo thought that he had got a sympathetic employer. Prabha Dayal’s wife asked him to have a bath, and offered him nutritious food. Munoo was indeed, well received in the house of Mr. Prabha Dayal. Munoo had a sound sleep when he had the wholesome meal. When he got up, Prabha Dayal asked him to look at the factory Munoo was lifted through the window over the wall into the factory by a worker named Maharaja. Munoo moved around the factory, getting in the way of other workers, and narrowly escaping from injuries many times. He stumbled at every step due to darkness. There were caverns cauldrons, and ovens all over the place. As he was wandering through the caverns, a light coloured, good looking boy working in the factory shouted out to him. And he snapped with a sharp and sudden anger. Ganpat explained that the boy named Bonga was deaf and dumb and asking him to sit down. Munoo was reassured and at ease now and strayed in the direction of the hovels and narrowly escaped being scared because a boy was emptying a huge cauldron of hot water into a ditch. Munoo learnt that he was making some essence. Munoo was made to sit on a dirty four-legged stool. He came to know that Ganpat was a cruel and hard hearted man.

      Prabha Dayal took the boy round to the shops and show him to the clients to whom he would be delivering goods. Prabha Dayal introduced Munoo here as a new boy who would come to deliver essences to them. Munoo saw electric lights for the first time. By now they moved by the side of tailoring shop and a jeweller's shop and many other shops. After that they reached the temple where people were offering sweets and other things before the effigies. He found Daulatpur is a very wonderful city He recalled that it was founded by Maharaja Daulat Singh. As they were coming back from the city, Munoo was lagging behind, he rushed to his master and caught hold of his finger.

      Next morning Munoo was woken up by Tulsi. He was asked to sift the ashes from the cinders in the ovens and he began the job with alacrity. He burnt his hand while doing this job. He was then asked to use rusted tin to do it when he had heaped the cinders on one side and pushed his hand through the ashes, he felt them to be soft and just then he was asked for light the fire. Ganpat beat his servants and kicked Maharaja for not starting the work on time.

      By this time the fire-places had been lighted and thick smoke was emitting from them. The wife of Rai Bahadur Sir Todar Mal, a lawyer and member of the City Municipal Committee abused Prabha Dayal and asked him to come out. She said that the smoke had blackened her home. Her son Ram Nath also joined his mother and threatened the factory owner. Ganpat retorted rudely. Ram Nath beat Ganpat and made him fall into the gutter. The fight had also thrown Munoo into the mud between two barrels and the other workers had also been thrown about and they received scratches. After that the quarrels came to an end and all the workers returned to their work.

Sir Todar Mal: His Complaint

      The government had appointed Todarmal public prosecutor in recognition of his services. He had contributed the amount of twenty thousands rupees to the viceroy's fund. He had been awarded the title of Rai Bahadur and the title of knight commander of the Indian empire for his loyalty and devotion to the cause of the British administration and his contribution to the cause of war respectively The Rai Bahadur decided to do all he could against his neighbours, which included asking the landlords to turn them out the factory walls and making an official complaint to the public health officer Dr. Edward Majoribanks, an Englishman. He wrote a letter to the officer lodging the complaint in which he described himself as the Englishman's most faithful servant. On the letter of Rai Bahadur being ignored Rai Bahadur full of anger reached to the public health officer. The health officer casually mentioned that he could not answer his letter because he was away playing cricket for the Gymkhana at Lahore. However, he said that he would visit the spot right then. They came there by his new Ford Car. The heat of the place made Dr. Marjoribanks sweat uncomfortably. He talked to the proprietor of the factory and went away. Prabha Dayal out of panic decided to appease the lady by offering her some pots of jam and pickle.

      The gifts had really changed the mood of lady Todar Mal and she told her husband that they need not take any notice of their low-born neighbours and hence, the Health Officer took no further action on the complaint lodged against Prabha Dayal.

The Life of Munoo in the Factory

      Now Munoo got used to life in the primitive factory. He had to work from early in the morning to late in the night in a very uncongenial atmosphere. He was accompanied by his colleagues — Maharaja, Bonga, Tulsi and other workers worked hard in the factory Prabha Dyal and his wife were very considerate to Munoo and he was fed well. But he was afraid of Ganpat. They felt some relief when he was away to secure orders, but the fear that he might return any moment kept them on tenterhook. Munoo did not laugh and talk when he was at Babu’s house. When he was in continued fear of Ganpat. He was possessed by moods of extreme melancholy in the mornings, dark feelings of self-distrust and brooding, sinking feeling which oppressed his heart and expressed itself in his nervous, agitated manner. He felt he could neither face anyone nor talk to anyone in the mornings, least of all his master and mistress, that he would break down if they said a kind word to him or looked at him tenderly He thought that the only thing that relieved these fits of depression was the silent comradeship which existed between him and the other workers.

      The workers had a very good time only when Ganpat was away for some pieces of work. They sang and played jokes on one another. It was during such times that Munoo combed his hair and tried to make his hair curly and decent like the hair of Doctor Babu at Sham Nagar. His hair got a very fine shape and could easily be parted, but as soon as Ganpat arrived on the spot, he brushed the parting aside so that he may get no chance to ridicule and abuse him. In the summer he had to work in the dark underworld of the factory; which was full of smoke and intense heat of blazing furnaces. Munoo had to work relentlessly for hours. He hardly had sufficient sleep and rest, but in the winter it was more bearable to work. When Ganpat was away he could warm himself by the oven-fire. He had no danger of any smoke in winter days but in the summer he was afraid of a monstrous python, he had seen it with a flowing beard sitting over the fuel in a deeper chamber of the grotto facing the ovens. The coming of spring made Munoo a happy man. There were baskets and baskets full of unripe mangoes. He would have his fill of mangoes when the goat-face, Ganpat went outside. He ate mangoes with all taste and pleasure whether they were ripe or unripe, and hence he suffered from sore eyes and high temperature. He was sick for a few days. His mistress nursed him with great care and affection Munoo could never forget the love and affection he got from her and during his worst days the memory comforted him. After he had recovered from his illness, various tonics were given to him and every one treated him with kindness and love and it was ensured that the boy did the minimum work. This was made possible by the fact that Ganpat was away on a tour.

Ganpat Turns out to be Fraud

      Ganpat made a long tour to collect the outstanding due from various customers in Jalandhar and other cities. He was very late to approach, therefore, Prabha Dayal was in desperate need of money, he borrowed five hundred rupees from Toder Mal, and some lesser amounts from one or two others parties. He knew that the firm owed about two thousand rupees, and that the debt would be repaid as soon as his parter returned. When he came he began bullying the boys even more than before. He was more intolerant and abusive than before. Munoo could sense that there was something wrong with him, though Munoo’s intuition told him that Ganpat had a guilty conscience. The fact that he had collected about eight hundred rupees, but he had wasted it all over a dancing girl. Ganpat saw that Munoo had suspected him, and so he looked for an opportunity to thrash him. Ganpat soon got the opportunity he saw Munoo carrying two jars of jams to Lady Toder Mal. Ganpat slapped Munoo mercilessly Prabha Dayal came to his rescue and asked Ganpat if he had given the jam to Lady Todarmal by his orders. He told him that he owed her five hundred rupees, and asked for the money he had collected from their customers. Ganpat flew into rage and replied that he had brought about fifty rupees. Prabha Dayal said that about thousand rupees were due to them. Ganpat said that he had collected only three hundred rupees and he had kept two hundred and fifty rupees for himself as his share of last year’s profit. Prabha Dayal was all humility, but Ganpat continued abusing and crushing him, and ultimately walked out of the factory leaving his parter in the lurch. Ganpat became very suspicious of him on his sudden change of attitude towards him.

Prabha Dayal in Loss.

      Ganpat set up his pickle making and essence brewing factory with the fifty rupees he had saved. He was a most cunning person and therefore he succeeded in spreading rumour that Prabha Dayal was bankrupt and his factory was running under a heavy loss. Thus, he won the goodwill of Prabha’s clients and obtained goods on credit. Soon Prabha’s creditors flocked in large numbers to demand the money he owed them. Hence Prabha experienced a major set back.

      One morning when Prabha was suffering from fever, a large number of his creditors came to his home and asked him to pay them. Prabha was at the other end of the house, and so he could not hear them. The creditors were abusing and cursing Prabha Dayal and Lady Todar Mal joined in no time. Ram Nath, the son of Lady Todar Mal who was a sub-inspector of police arrived with the English Inspector of Police and a few policemen. Poor Prabha Dayal running with fever came outside and he was taken to the Kotwali where he was beaten black and blue. However, Prabha was released after sometime since there was no warrant against him, and also no case was lodged against him. Now Prabha had lost his credit in the market and he was reduced to bankruptcy. Still he was resolved to pay back his creditors. Prabha sent Maharaja and Bonga to call Ganpat to resolve the matter but he abused them, and also compelled them to work in his factory. Munoo and Tulsi decided to go to the grain market to earn something and thus contribute to their master in the hour of crisis.

Munoo in Grain Market as a Coolie

      Munoo and Tulsi with their purpose in mind arrived in the grain market. Tulsi was able to obtain the work of coolie and was able to earn a mere pittance. Munoo also got the work of the same nature but inspite of all his effort he was unable to carry the sacks of grain with the fear that he would get him out from the job of a coolie. Here he was excited to see the mixing of all people of different religion and their working together. He had seen many Hindu hill coolie together, but he had never seen so many Kashmiri Mohammedan labourers or Sikh coolies mixed up. He bought a pot full of mutton curry with swollen bread at a Mohammedan cook-shop one day when he went out to run an errand, because his mouth felt the smell of the spicy stuff. He concealed himself from the sight of any Hindu who could recognise him. He himself felt no guilt in violating the prevailing custom, except the guilt of having tasted a dish which the Mohammedans cooked better than the Hindu. He came to realise the fact that the religion did not matter. He observed that the acceptance of hookah and water wore a test, surely the coolie had no religion. When Munoo got tired of this job, he preferred to go to the vegetable market.

Munoo Employed in the Vegetable Maket

      Munoo had heard that he had not to lift heavy weight in the village market and good ways were to be had there. He came to the village market and worked day after day while his colleague Tulsi worked in the grain market. Their total earnings were never more than eight annas a day, and Munoo’s share reached not more than two annas a day. There were swarms of coolies about and he was lucky to earn two annas a day.

      Meanwhile, Prabha, recovered from fever and selling the factory came to Daulatpur as a coolie, and now he left the city with only a trunk and a bed which he had with him.

      Tulsi was to go with him upto Pathankot, and Munoo was to stay back in Daulatpur. At the time of parting Munoo was given a rupee by his master and suggested him to sleep in the home. It was a moving scene and Munoo could never forget it.

Religious Phoneyness

      Munoo was in the favour of saving rupees as long as he could, so he went to the temple of Bhagat Har Das, where food was offered free of cost. He was shocked to know the hypocrisy and corruption widespread in temples of India. Munoo saw a Swami with a long beard talking to an old man and his daughter-in-law. He touched Swami’s feet and requested him to teach him to seek God.

      The Swami asked him to lift up the basket of offerings and follow him with the two woman. When they reached his room, Munoo saw the Swami embracing the young woman. Munoo stared at the man. The scales fell from his eyes and revealed the voluptuary where he had been the saint. His heart beat with shame.

Munoo at the Railway Station and the Mall Road

      Munoo came to the railway station early in the morning to work there as a coolie. But the policeman drove him away from the Railway station since he had no licenses for a coolie. He ran away in terror and reached the Mall Road, boarded with English shops and banglows on both sides. He was fascinated to see a series of enlarged photographs of beautiful Angrezi women and children and uniformed men, hung by shining brass plates outside a door. He past part two Indians dressed in English clothes and wondered whether one needed money or education to become a sahib. But now he walked on in sheer delight at the elegance of clear-cut buildings, the polished surfaces of black, blue and fawn-coloured motor-cars, gigs and phaetons which passed, without raising any dust on the metal road, at a speed which created the illusion of a quicker rhythm in his body.

Munoo and Elephant-Trainer

      Munoo was attracted by the beating of a drum, advertising the circus of Tara Bai and the marvelous shows which were to be enjoyed in the town. Munoo succeeded in striking an equation with an elephant-trainer to see the circus through a hole in the tent. He was also able to obtain odd jobs for the circusman for which he was paid. He was also able to get food through the kindness of elephant-trainer. He was also persuaded to take him to Bombay for he had yearned earlier to go, because he had heard from some coolies of Daulatpur that there were good wages for work in Bombay. Infact, he dreamt of earning a lot of money there to be able to go abroad. At night he was hidden in some compartment of the circus train and came to Bombay Munoo was very grateful to the elephant trainer for his kind help.

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