Sir Mohan Lal
Karma is a short story written by the well-known Indian writer Khushwant Singh. The story was published in 1950; however the setting takes place during the 1920-30’s, when India was colonized by the British Empire. The heart of the story is the main character Sir Mohan Lal. He is a middle-aged Native Indian, and belongs to the upper class. He is a very arrogant and complacent man, yet extremely conscious about the image he wants to transmit towards the public and the kind of people he wants to appeal (the British). He worships the British culture deeply. In every fashion he tries to emulate them by wearing their clothes, speaking their language, reading their newspaper and using their products. He hungers for the verification on his manners and English-like demeanor. For example, long before getting on the train he had strategically planned out, how to gain the Englishmen’s attention. His job as a vizier and barrister also entails him to convene with a lot of Englishmen and follow the certain manners he acquired from his five years abroad. On the contrary to Sir Lal’s adoration for the British culture, he abhors his own origin and wants to distance himself as far from it as possible. He has a contemptuous attitude towards all Indians and their culture. He absolutely loathes everything about them and strongly believes that all of them are “inefficient”, “dirty”, and “indifferent”. Unfortunately Sir Lal is married to Lachmi who is the complete opposite of him. She is uneducated and unacquainted with the British culture and customs. She portrays the typical Indian, has the mannerisms of an ordinary Indian village woman and follows the Indian culture and manners. Because of Lachmi’s lack of knowledge and class Sir Lal does not desire her company and rather keep her at an arm’s length. This form of separation/detachment does not only apply out in public but also inside their house. Not only do they sleep in separate bedrooms, but on two entirely different floors. Sir Lal finds his unattractive and repulsive and only sees her as an opportunity to produce an heir, which he at the end also gave up on. The relationship between Sir Lal and Lachmi illustrates two different aspects. On one hand their relationship exemplifies the correlation between India and the British Empire. On the other hand, it represents an internal conflict in Sir Lal. Sir Lal has the mindset of the British Empire. His way of thinking demonstrates the influence of the English forces inside an Indian’s mind. The sentiment of the English culture being superior compared to others. His wife, Lachmi, validates the Indian culture through the eyes of the British Empire. Yet Lachmi also embodies Sir Lal’s inner Indian, which he has kept neglecting. He wants to avoid being associated with his heritage, being ashamed and revolted by his country. This also hits him at the end of the story, when he is thrown out of the train, by the people he is impersonating.