Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand - Chapter 5 Summary

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Mrs. Mainwaring: Her Life and Character

      Mrs. Mainwaring’s attitude towards the hero (Munoo) caught the attention of the readers in a real sense. She was an Anglo-Indian, and her maiden name was May. She wanted to be considered a “pukka white”, and she went to England so that her dusky complexion might be changed into white complexion. She fell in love with a German photographer and married him. May also indulged in several illicit relations. She re-married and divorced many times. She married an Englishman named Guy Mainwaring, who was much younger than herself.

      She was always prevailing upon her husband and they went to spend their honeymoon in England. He took six months leave for spending their life in England. She gave birth to a baby child of a darker hue than Guy expected. At the end of Guy’s leave, May insisted that she wanted to stay in England in order to look after the Children. Her husband left for India alone to join his duty. Still she had come back to India to join her husband and she had taken a flat on rent near Annandale at Shimla to spend her summer days. Thus it was that she came to Shimla with Munoo. She made him her domestic servant, her rickshaw puller, and the novelist on the other hand hinted something else about the purpose of keeping him for her a help. It might be a case of exploiting Munoo sexually, as per her nature is concerned, the novelist says: “She became a bitch to all the dogs that prowled round her bungalow”. This became truly a fact as she made Munoo quite comfortable, and fed him well and treated him kindly and sympathetically. Munoo contemplated her with a restrained wonder, sufficiently exciting to thrill him till the marrow of his bones.

Munoo in Simla

      Mrs. Mainwaring brought Munoo in an unconscious position when he was knocked down by her car. When he regained his consciousness, he found himself in a car. She took care of him kindly The journey to Kalka which took three days seemed to be more comfortable. But the road from Kalka to Shimla seemed to him to be a miracle as it belted the zigzag courses of mountains and rocks. The sight of the baby railway which seemed to move extremely slowly yet somehow kept pace with the car wonder-struck him. Munoo was reminded of the houses on the mountain of his native place. Munoo was greatly attracted to see the bazaar in Solan and wished to have a market like that in his native village. Munoo felt a sense of dignity when he was driven down to Annandale in a rickshaw pulled by coolies.

Munoo: The Rickshaw Puller

      Munoo was the faithful servant of Mrs. Mainwaring. But it was not explained what his duty was in the house of Lady Mainwaring. However, he used to set the breakfast tray under the supervision of Ala Dad Khan and take it. Munoo swept the sitting room and the veranda while she and her daughter would take tea. She would watch him as he did his work completely self-absorbed.

      The flexible limbs and his brisk movement aroused passion in the lady’s heart and she thought there was no harm surrender her body to the boy. She called him to her side and asked him to wash his hands and come back to her so that she could file his nails. She looked at him with a wild flutter in her eyes and took a long time in manicuring his hands. She exclaimed that he was a beautiful boy who needed a wife. She held his hand all the time and her coquettish movements aroused passion in Munoo and he could not control himself. He fell at her feet crying and kissing equally. She pushed him away saying that he must go to do his work.

      The lady had hired three coolies to pull the rickshaw whenever memsahib wanted to go out for shopping or for social visit. She got the fourth coolie Munoo as her permanent rickshaw puller. The task of pulling the rickshaw put a severe strain on his lungs. He coughed frequently and often blood came out with his spittle. His face was becoming pale day by day The novelist expressed a view that Munoo’s condition was more the result of sexual excess than that of the strain of pulling the rickshaw. As a head of the coolies suggested Munoo to leave the lady’s service

‘No, we are saying it for your good’; said the head coolie.
You should leave her service. You have to attend on her and also drive this rickshaw.’

Munoo kept silence.

Munoo’s silence revealed the secrecy of intimacy between him and Mrs. Mainwaring. Hence his job came to light that he was more as her attendant than as a rickshaw puller.

Munoo Fell ill

      Munoo had a fever after the first day he was engaged as a rickshaw-puller. One night he was returning from his work he had high fever and he felt weak and exhausted. His body ached and his hands were shivering. Ala Dad Khan watched him and he told his condition to the mem sahib. The lady was much concerned and maternal instinct in her was aroused. He was then treated by an eminent doctor named Major Merchant, the health officer of Simla. The doctor had no idea about the lady and even he could not pronounce her name correctly However, the occasion made them acquainted with each other and she invited him to a drink. The doctor was also invited to tea on the other day Munoo spent the night in the bunglow under the proper care of Mrs. Mainwaring. She pressed his head and massaged his body. After some days he recovered from illness and resumed his work because of the gratitude he felt to memsahib for her kind help and co-operation.

Dr. Merchant: Mrs. Mainwaring and Her Love to India

      Since Dr. Merchant’s - first visit to check up Munoo’s fever in Mrs. Mainwaring’s house he was a frequent visitor. He was a young and handsome man but Munoo did not like his frequent visits. Memsahib hardly passed her evenings without him. They dined together and went for shopping or on social visits. Munoo had to pull rickshaw carrying both of them. Thus, Mrs. Mainwaring passed a very pleasure some life with the doctor. She loved India most because everything was found here cheaply. She even got many servants to look after the household and they provide whatever she required at any time. There were many magnificent hotels, dance halls, nightclubs and cinemas which show latest Hollywood ‘releases’ even before London. In India one person could be the member of two or three clubs and drink endless cocktails even at other’s expense. The people could smoke cigarettes by the dozen because there was no tobacco tax and a tin of players cost only one rupee. She even could not enjoy all these amenities of pleasurable existence. However, all was not smooth sailing for she had been refused admission to the Union Jack Club and she was conscious of vague perturbation in her soul.

Munoo’s State of Happiness and Sorrow

      It was the happiest moment for Munoo to push the rickshaw along the Mall with his mistress sitting in beautiful clothes. She gave him special attention while he was pulling the rickshaw. He became quite happy when memsahib asked him to slow down by the shop and she fixed her eyes on the rich silks hanging in the Benares silk shop, the wonderful necklaces in the curio shop, the silver cutlery in messrs. Munoo was also fascinated to see perkins and he contemplated the wonderful array of things displayed in the windows. He was enjoying this moment of happiness inspite of his hard labour of rickshaw pulling. He was also suffering from the consumptive disease for a long time. He coughed incessantly and often spat out blood but he was concealing it from his mistress and Ala Dad the Khansama and others in the family. Once the lady had an outing at Mashobra. Major Merchant was also there. Munoo became much elated to have the same food, which the memsahib was served there.

      The other coolies on the other hand, played jokes with Munoo and made fun of his memsahib’s character. Mohan, the other coolie remarked that Munoo was the victim of consumptive disease. Munoo, however, Quring the last three years had sometimes wished he were dead, that he felt his end of life, though he did not wish to die, for he wrote a letter to Ratan describing his present situation in the hope of getting his advice. He thought if Ratan was dead he himself would not mind dying, and if he were alive, he would come to his help without fail.

Mohan’s Presence

      One day, Munoo was sent with a letter by Major Merchant to one Mrs. Das, by the time he came back, it was raining torrentially. The wet weather continued for several days and his condition further worsened during this period. One evening, Munoo visited the basti of the rickshaw pullers to consult Mohan, one of the rickshaw pullers. He found that the coolies lived in crowded huts and the rooms were suffocating with smoke. They were celebrating the onset of the rainy season by making pancakes. Munoo found from their conversations that coolies had a wretched life and they were running under debt. Mohan advised them they should go back and work on their land. Mohan went inside the hut and brought a packet of fruits for Munoo and advised him to eat a lot of fruits, avoid sweets, and go to bed early.

      There was a dance party organised by the Viceroy in the locality Munoo was full of verb and vigour to enjoy the dance, and therefore, he pulled the rickshaw in which his memsahib and Major Merchant sat in full enthusiasm. He was fascinated to observe the fashionable dressed sahibs and memsahibs and the dazzling lights. The coolies and servants were passing criticism after whole thing. The coolies could peep into the dancing hall occasionally but the dance seemed to them to be strangely stiff. The coming of a few padres created some amusement among the coolies, for they had never thought that the long-robed priests with huge beards would like to go to dance. Here again the novelist smelt hypocrisy prevails out in the society after the scene of embracing the young lady by a swami. There is also a problem of caste-system in the society, one of the coolies stated that the great people had a caste system more rigid than ours. Any English woman whose husband earned twelve hundred rupees a month would not leave any curds at the house of a woman whose husband earned five hundred. Moreover, a woman whose husband earned five hundred rupees a month looked upon the women whose husband earns less than five hundred. These Englishmen were wearing tight trousers seeking to flirt with other men’s wives. They had their tea at Davico’s and while we starved, commented coolies and servants one another.

Munoo’s Last Days and Demise

      Munoo had a fit of coughing with a mouthful of blood, caught the attention of Mohan. Mohan cursed him for he had not informed about his illness to his memsahib. Mohan at once came to know that Munoo was attacked by consumption and that his condition was very serious. He carried him home at once. Mrs. Mainwaring showed a lot of concern. Major Merchant attended to him, and he pronounced the case to be a severe one. So, he was removed to a hospital on the slopes of Chotta Simla. Memsahib always paid visits to the poor boy and offered him fruits and flowers.

      She regretted that she had over-worked the boy and ultimately it fed to his worst condition so far. Major Sahib cautioned the memsahib not to have any sexual-intercourse with Munoo, the reason being she would also have to be segregated one day Munoo felt many haemorrhages, and he was terribly frightened. In the meantime, he received a letter from Ratan in which he was asked to come to Bombay for he had a job for him in the trade union. Munoo’s zest for returning to Bombay and to have a job there made him feel stronger everyday However, after a few days he had another haemorrhage. He was treated then. However, his condition worsened day by day and he expected that he would soon die. But he had another spell of good health for a few days and he was restoring his hopes again. However; nobody can avert the inevitable. Munoo one day in the early hours of night breathed his last.

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