Karma is a short story written by Kushwant Singh in 1950 and later published in 1989 in “Singh’s The Collected Stories”. The short story takes place in India during British colonial rule.
The main character in the short story is Sir Mohan Lal, an Indian man who acts British because he is ashamed of his own culture. India’s former colonial history affected the development of Indian culture as well as shape Indian society.
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The short story takes place on a train and a railway station in India. We see how there is a distinct difference in social classes between the Indians and the British.
The train is divided into first-class and second-class sections, with most of the Indians sitting in the second-class section.
We first get introduced to Sir Mohan when he is looking at himself in the mirror. Sir Mohan criticizes the mirror, saying, “You are so very much like everything else in this country, inefficient, dirty, indifferent.” (Line 6).
The mirror is a symbol of the Indian culture, which Sir Mohan dislikes and tries to distance himself from. When Sir Mohan looks at his reflection in the mirror, he says, “You are a bit of all right, old chap.
Distinguished, efficient - even handsome.” (Line 9). Sir Mohan sees himself as a representation of the British culture, something he sees as superior to Indian culture.
This shows us how highly Sir Mohan thinks of the sophisticated British culture and how he tries to distance himself from the “dirty” Indian culture.
In contrast, Sir Mohan does not even sit with his wife since she is very much Indian and therefore Sir Mohan distances himself from her on the train, so he can appear more sophisticated. His wife, Lachmi is described as obese and smelling of sweat and raw onion.