Aspects of Role of Chance and Fate in The Novel Coolie

Also Read

Munoo: A Victim of Cruelties

      The life of Munoo from beginning to the end is a real tale of suffering. He inherited poverty and squalor from his exploited father. Throughout the novel we see him as a passive victim of society. To quote a critic “Munoo never did anything, things always happened to him” seems applicable to Munoo. He is a passive character from one role to another in his entire career. To quote Saros Cowasjee “Munoo is a passive character he does not act, but is acted upon by society”. He is ignorant of the world of rogues. He then is the victim of their cruelties. There is a spirit of submissiveness in his nature and resultantly he is beaten from pillar to post, and he accepts his fate stoically. However, to some extent, he tries to express his revolt and self-assertion but then realising his position he keeps himself inoffensive. The point becomes more clear, if his career is examined in detail.

Compelled to Earn His Livelihood

      Munoo is contented in the idyllic life of his native village inspite of the ill-treatment by his uncle and aunt. He has also heard of his parents’ condition. The harrowing memories of his father and mother and the ill-treatment of his uncle and aunt compelled him to go to the city and earn his living. His uncle and aunt have no sympathy for the boy and he is taken to the city by his uncle at the early age of fourteen. On the way to Sham Nagar his uncle does not allow him to take any rest even after covering ten miles of distance. His feet are blistered and he is tired and exhausted and ready to fall, but still he walks with the long steps of his uncle at quicker pace following his command and obedience without showing any protest or revolt. He simply says ‘My feet hurt me’. At last he manages to reach the city and meets his fate in the service of Babu Nathoo Ram, the Sub-Accountant of Imperial Bank, Sham Nagar. His wife, Bibi Uttam Kaur in always uncompromising and unsympathetic to the boy. While in service in his house, he is maltreated, abused and beaten, when he goes to complain it to his uncle, he shows no sympathy towards him. Instead he beats him mercilessly. He then comes back to his uncle and showing his protest towards them he runs away from his master’s house. Though he is excited with anger he does not expose it in anyway. But he has hatred for his uncle and he even wants to kill him.

Munoo: A Dumb Driven Cattle (Dull Headed Person)

      Munoo works in the home of Babu Nathoo Ram as a boy servant. He is employed on the wages of three rupees per month. From the first day of his joining, he is overworked and unfed and humiliated on the second day before all the members of the house. But he could not voice anything and abuses, beatings and humiliation became the routine of his daily life. He goes on tolerating them without any protest or revolt against anyone. The humility in his character, obedience towards his uncle and to a certain extent poverty hampers him to react or take any outward action showing defiance. When he gets tired of the suffering, he goes to his uncle with his miseries, but even his uncle pays no heed to him. When this suffering and humiliation is intolerable, he manages to escape from Sham Nagar. He does not assert himself he does not speak out, and he keeps quiet in terror. Munoo and the few boys of his age endured suffering and humiliation, as far as their positions in the society made it necessary.

Chance and Fate in His Life

      Chance and fate plays a pivotal role in Munoo’s life. He drifts along entirely at the mercy of chance and accident. It is his fate that he meets Prabha Dayal and Ganpat, and they bring him and employ him as a labourer in their pickle-factory where he passively endures insults, abuses and beatings by Ganpat on one hand and he receives love and affection of Prabha and his wife, Parbati on the other. When Prabha is ruined by the treachery of Ganpat, he being obliged to his master tries his best to earn an honest penny to help and works as a coolie. Had his master not been ruined, he would have not have worked as a coolie. So this is nothing but it is an action of his fate, and he allows himself to be pushed out of the grain market by the other coolies, and he is scared away from the Railway Station by the police, because the former does not hold licence to act as a coolie.

      This is a matter of chance that he is brought to Bombay by the elephant driver and he becomes friends with him. The Bombay phase of his life was most agonising for him. Here he also comes across with his fate and he meets with an accident by Mrs. Mainwaring’s car and she takes him to her house in Simla and appoints him her page-cum rickshaw-puller.

His Acceptance to His Lot

      Chance and Fate make their presence felt in the life of Munoo and he acts accordingly and there is no conscious will or effort to determine his own course of action or to resist the suggestions of others, and thus he determines his own destiny and his own liberation. Munoo has a keen desire to go to Bombay but this happened by a chance suggestion thrown out by another coolie.

      Moreover, at every turn of the road he is confronted by someone who helps him and determines his future course of action, and he accepts it all passively. As he comes out of Victoria Station, he happens to meet Hari and his family on the way Hari then takes him to Sir George White’s Cotton Mill, and he agrees to work there. He lives with Hari and his family and works and shares his feelings with them.

His Unscheduled Destination

      Munoo’s passive acceptance continues upto the last moments of his life. When the strike of the labourers starts, a Hindu-Muslim riot breaks out and situation starts worsening. Ratan asks him to return to his hut and he then drifts along in the highways and by-ways of Bombay without any conscious purpose or fixed destination. He lacks prudence so he does not act himself but he is acted upon. When Ratan asks him that they will go to Piari Jan, a whore to see tamasha, he does not disagree and accepts his proposal passively While in service at Mrs. Mainwaring she makes him her boy-servant and exploits him sexually and also makes him her rickshaw-puller and he attends his memsahib without any sense of dis-agreement inspite of other coolies’ suggestions to leave her service since his health is deteriorating day by day due to overwork. He takes no care of his health and passively accepts his lot, knowing well that the hard work of rickshaw puller in a difficult hill terrain is sapping his energy and driving him to death.

Reasons for His Passivity

      After the detailed examination of his character in every kind of role he plays, it is, of course, right to consider him as a passive
character. By and large he is a helpless victim of the cruelties of the world. The question arises why this is so? Who accounts for it? Indian fatalism. No, this is not the right answer, for Anand is not a fatalist and through all his works he emphasised the doctrine of karm (action). He is of the opinion that the poor must speak themselves for their right, for it is only then they can improve their lot, otherwise the capitalist can exploit them in several crooked ways and hence, they can take their lives. Anand wants the freedom of speech. Munoo does not assert himself perhaps he knows that he is being oppressed by the so-called mighty people without any fault of his. If he raises his voice against those, could he survive? Ratan is dismissed from his service. What is his fault? He has just raised his voice against the barbaric attitude of the foreman of the factory. After all, Anand does not disagree with the view of self-assertion and he willingly respects mass opinions for their well-being. To quote C.D. Narasimhaiah “Sheer survival must be looked upon as a triumph of the spirit, the very will to live must be reckoned a strength.” In a capitalistic society Munoo and others like him, have no other option open except resignedly accept their lot. The lot of Prabha even speaks so. He has also been a coolie like Munoo before he becomes a factory owner. But in the face of the colonial capitalist machinery of oppression and injustice, he feels bound to accept his lot. Munoo and others like him, find no freedom of choice. It is an admitted fact that “The plight of Munoo and his kind is the direct result of British rule and the Industrial Revolution. They introduced without paying sufficient heed to social reforms. Munoo’s position in life raises the question of freedom in a capitalistic society. As Anand sees it, freedom to Munoo, as to millions of others, means no more than being beaten from pillar to post”.

University Questions

To what extent the statement is true that Munoo is a passive character? Discuss with reference to the novel Coolie.
What are various aspects of the role of Chance and Fate in the novel Coolie.
‘Munoo never did Anything, things always happened to him’. To what extent the view is true? Comment on this statement.

Previous Post Next Post