Prof. Sudhakar Das

Prof. Sudhakar Das
Dept. of English, Khaira College, Khaira, Balasore, Odisha,

Manoj Das is the most prolific Indian writer in English, widely popular for his delightful exquisite stories, He is a master story-teller and a perfect craftsman. His stories are marked by a rare delicate beauty and subtlety. They are a comment on in life and situation.

Satire and humour are dominant features of Manoj Das’s stories, satire generally ridicules an object with a view to having amendment of vices and correction of taste, M.H. Abrams says, Satire is the literary art of diminishing a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking towards it attitudes of amusement, contempt, indignation or

Manoj Das’s satire is mild, inoffensive, yet highly effective, His satire is neither condemnatory nor contemptuous. It is a mixture of sympathy and amusement; it is Horatian, witty, urbane and tolerant. It is a sort of wry amusement rather than indignation at the spectacle of human folly, frivolity, pretentiousness and hypocrisy.

Humour is pure amusement which creates laughter. The Penguin English Dictionary defines humour as the capacity for seeing the funny side of things; cheerful and good tempered amusement. The objective of humour is to rest and relax mind. Humour sweetens the heart and takes away the melancholy. The essence of humour is human kindliness.

Manoj Das’s humour is pure, lively, intoxicating and artistic in nature. It has a saving grace. His humour is much more than a laughter producing power. It is a presence, the animating and scintillating force, a pervading influence throughout his creation. Beneath the perennial patina of amused humour, he looks for internal truth in everyday circumstances.

Let us throw light on some major stories of Manoj Das containing satiric and humorous elements. His story ‘Mystery of the Missing Cap’ is a mild satire on a minister’s visit to an Indian village. The egoistic and pretentious man is made a helpless butt, a mockery in the story when the monkey is presented as” the noble man” who steals the Gandhian cap of the boastful minister to preserve it as a sacred memento. The recog­nition of this reality dashes all the illusions of the facetious Minister of Fishery and fine Arts, Babu Virkishore who was invited by his flatterer, P.R.O., Moharana, an aspirant for a seat in the state Assembly. The surprised minister mumbled,

” Er…. er………… is not this one the very cap taken away by the nobleman ?”

And something most fantastic came out of the dry lips of Sri Moharana who seemed to be on the verge of collapsing” Yes, yes, this is the nobleman.”

‘Sharma and the Wonderful Lump’ is a brilliant piece of satire on a society that thrives on a pack of false values and ideals. Sharma, “the aboo purusa” had gone to America to liquidate an abnormal growth of flesh on his head (the aboo) by surgical operation. But instead of operation he was exploited by the Americans as a medical wonder to extract money. The media persons featured him in the TV to serve their own ends. When Sharma came out of the TV house, American Miss Marylin came running to greet him :” You looked so majestic like the Moghul with his crown.” Even Sharma was reduced to a joker by consenting to the dehumanizing conditions of M/s Eagle Hats who proposed to plan for him ” a lasting career……… by stationing him at the entrance of their main show room.”

‘Statue-breakers are coming’ is a superb satire. Here the story writer satirises Yameswar Gupta, a self conceited hypocrite who thinks himself as “the illustrious son of India.” Hiding his identity he says,” Guptaji is not a local celebrity. He is famous all through cape to Mount,” This statement is really ludicrous. A statue is generally erected as a mark of honour and commemoration of a great man’s service and sacrifice for the country. But Yameswar Gupta is the architect of the making and breaking his statue to earn reputation as a national leader. Through this eccentricity the writer satirises not only Yameswar Gupta’s statue- mania, hypocrisy but also modern man’s narcissus complex and craze for fame.

In ‘Operation Bride’ the writer criticises the funny and fantastic attitude of the surgeons and officials and their perversion of values and sensibility. The wandering prince of a kingdom saw a lovely girl, the woodcutter’s daughter in the forest and de­sired to marry her. The king and his minister wanted to carve a perfect royal bride out of the woodcutter’s daughter as she was uncivilized. Though the girl was a perfect beauty, the specialists in their drunken foolishness designed to replace this loving gift of nature by the artificial plastic surgery. In the name of perfection they produced only distortion by reducing her to a bride sans soul. When the prince saw her, he immediately collapsed, because what he saw was not his dream girl, but a scarecrow.

‘He who Rode the Tiger’ is a fine piece of satire. It is a sheer display of man’s pseudo vanity and arrogance. One day, a tiger was caught in the orchard of king. Start­ing from Kotwal to the minister everybody boasted that they could ride the tiger as their ancestors had done so. But in reality nobody did it. Finally the king declared that he should ride it. But as he was fat, the young prince would ride on his behalf. The foolish king forced his unwilling son to do so as a sign of glory. As a result the tiger carried the prince to the mid-forest to devour him. Thus the innocent prince was crucified due to the blunder committed by his father, the proud king.

‘Creatures of Conscience’ presents a good deal of humour. David Caxton, an octogenarian who thought that he could very well be young, his having grown old was nothing but a dream. One day, seeing a pair of lovers seated on the corner of the bench, David caxton was reminded of his own affairs with Miss Jimi Biscuitwalla. Of course, Jimi dimissed his proposal for marriage saying,” My father is a patron of the school where you teach. One nasty word from him and the management is sure to chuck you out…. You are good at football. Continue to be so.”

Mr. David continued with football. But stimulated by a theoretical urge he wrote to Miss Jim at Bombay:” It is alright if we cannot marry for technical reasons, but will you please tell me if I can expect you to love me.” The humour here is witty, delicate and pure.

In The Dusky Hour’ the humour issues forth from Aunty Roopwati – a lady full of contradictions which ultimately make her ridiculous. Though Aunty Roopwati agreed to marry Jagdishji for his personal morality, she rejected him smartly on the first night of their marriage.

After he had made her comfortably reclined on the bed, what he opened with no less respect was a medium size canvas bag containing three essays written by him self.At little past midnight he finished reading the first essay on “socio-economic benefits of the proposed prohibition. By 2 A.M. he had been able to finish reading ‘Reflections on the Benefits of Adult Education’. Thereafter he had just readout the title of his third composition ‘The Question of celibacy in Married Life,’ when the bride exclaimed,” What a pity, the lamp is running out of oil!”

“Is that so? Let me fetch some more.” said Jagdishji.” Is that really neces­sary? Why not let your knowledge lights us as long as possible?” She asked and snatching away all the three essays let them burn leaf by leaf.

The passage here is replete with sparkling humour.

In” The Submerged Valley” the humour is sober, subdued and delicate. The writer presents an amusing account of the funny hero Abolkara (the disobedient fellow)

“Serious villagers had tried to harness him to some constructive activity. One had introduced him to the spinning wheel. He found the act of turning the wheel good fun when done for its own sake, but not for spinning. An affluent farmer commissioned him to guard a pile of paddy An hour later people saw Lord Shivas bull lying where the paddy had been, ruminating with eyes closed, while the young man entertained it with a post-banquet song.”

The Crocodile’s Lady’ is no less humorous. In the story Sombhu Das, the money lender, began to explain to Dr. Batstone, the evil nature of the ghost:

“Will you believe, Sahib, that was my cousin, my very own father’s own mater­nal uncle’s own son-in-law’s own nephew ? And had I not done everything for him, from sharing own pillow with him to doing half the shopping for his marriage? Yet this treacherous brother-in-law of mine, I mean his ghost, chose to harass me out of all the millions and billions of people of my village, within a week of his death ? Who does not know that for a whole year…..I never stepped out of my house at night even at the most violent call of nature?”

The humour here is bucolic and original.

‘Bhola grandpa and the Tiger’ is a masterpiece of humour. Bhola-grandpa was an extremely simple and forgetful man. One afternoon Bhola-grandpa while young was found sprawling on their veranda with his tongue stretched out. Finding him in such a horrible condition people took him for dead. What actually had happened is this: “An hour ago someone had broached to him a proposal for his wedding. Modesty had made him stretch out his tongue. He had just forgotten to withdraw it while asleep.”

The humour reaches its climax when the ninety five year Bhola-grandpa closed his eyes forever and his eighty year-old wife moaned,” The old man must have forgot­ten to breathe.”

Manoj Das is more a humorist than a satirist. His humour is witty, genial, pure and lively. His primary purpose is to enlighten the unpleasant core of the human affairs and situations. Through his criticism of human follies and foibles, he pleads for the sanity and humanity that will ultimately preserve man’s true nature and essential good­ness.

Works Cited –

1.Samal, Dr. Sarbeswar, Manoj Das -A critical study, Kitab Mahal, Cuttack, Odisha,1997

2.Mishra, Dr. Soubhagya Kumar. Manoj Das As a story Writer, The Ultra ,sept- oct, 1973

3.Raja Dr. P Indian sensibility and the fiction of Manoj Das-Indian English writing, 1987 Ed. by R.K. singh, Bahri publications pvt. ltd.

4. Iyengar, K.R.S. stories of Rural India, The Hindu,25 Aug, 1986

About Manoj Das

For thousands of men, women and children of the past two or three generations, Manoj Das has been the very synonym of light and delight, whose writings in Odia and English inspire in his countless readers faith in the purpose of life and also open up concealed horizons of confidence and compassion in humanity a dire need today.