The story Karma illustrates the famous proverb "Pride Cross Before a Fall". It is the story of an arrogant person who feels bad about his culture, lifestyle etc. He is reluctant to his wife because she is an ordinary woman who is unable to impart foreign culture into her life.
Mohan Lal was a middle aged man who worked in the British Raj. He was ashamed to be an Indian and hence he tried to speak in English or in Anglicized Hindustani and to dress as if a high ranked British official. He used to fill the cross word puzzles of newspapers, which he did for showing his immense knowledge in English. His wife Lachmi was a traditional Indian woman and due to these differences they were not having a sweet married life.
The important event occurs in a journey of Mohan Lal and Lachmi in a train. Mohan Lal made her sit in the general compartment and arranged his seat in first class compartment which was meant for British. There he saw two British soldiers who tried to abuse him. When the arrogant Mohan Lal tried to oppose, he was thrown out of the train. He could only look through the rails on the moving train.
Sir Mohan Lal - An arrogant middle aged man
Lachmi - An ordinary Indian woman. She’s the wife of Mohan Lal
Two British soldiers.
Tone and style of narration
Karma presents a relevant topic in the typical humorous way of Khushwant Singh. Style of narration used by the author is third person which add to the beauty of the story.
In the story Karma i.e. fate the discomfiture (defeat) of the Anglicised Sir Mohan Lal is skilfully brought out .He is culturally enslaved by the British way of life; travels in first class; looks forward to talk with the English in the Oxford accent. Whereas his uneducated wife Lakshmi, who lives world apart, travels by interclass. Sir Mohan Lal occupies his first class reserve berth but too uncivilized British soldiers call him ‘nigger’ and throw him out of the compartment .The irony of the situation is skillfully presented and also the uncivilized way in which the British treated the Indians in pre-independent India. The title Karma is symbolical. It means you will get the fruits of yours deeds. The author ridicules the slavish imitation of English manners, which has led to snobbery in a class of people in our country.
If he has his own vice, he has its correlative virtue. Every mind should be allowed to make its own statement in action, and its balance will appear. It may be true that moral-seekers are apt to find Khushwant Singh's "Karma" a little too predictable, even simplistic.(1) For them, Sir Mohan Lal's is just another story of pride that goes before a fall. In its widely understood sense, "karma" is "the sum total of the ethical consequences of a person's good and bad actions . . . that is held in Hinduism and Buddhism to determine his specific destiny in his next existence" ("Karma"). On this count, Lal's sin of pride is punished when two British soldiers throw him out of a first-class compartment. His wife's karma, it would seem, enables her to have a safe and comfortable journey in a ladies' compartment. The nemesis itself is part of [Lal's] "Karma," the unexpected turn of his fate and, is also the inevitable outcome of his actions and thoughts. The title "Karma" has thus a double meaning: the inevitable nemesis and also the ironical turn of the wheel of fate.
Words such as "inevitable" and "fate" not only oversimplify but misconstrue the Law of Karma in Indian thought. Karma brings its own reward, which may not, after all, be particularly destructive or unhappy for the sufferer. For Mohan Lal is no mere victim of his karma; he is also its agent. His karma, like ours, implies both freedom and necessity.
If Lal's karma counts for anything, it ought to bring him this realization, the first necessary step toward self-realization. His "education," in this sense, begins as two British soldiers confront him in the first-class compartment with rudeness and abuse. Bill and Jim now become his tutors in necessity, in his own land. They speak both English and Hindustani, the languages of Lal's past freedom and present necessity. And, for once, Jim speaks more than he knows when he switches codes for the benefit of this "native" before him: "Janta -- Reserved. Army -- Fauz . . . ". Literally, Janta would be, "Do you know/realize [what you are doing]?' Who else but a "Tommy" would dare ask Sir Mohan from Oxford whether he "knows"? But what do they know? The British soldiers, we are told, "knew better than to trust their inebriated ears”. Out go Lal's "possessions" and the pride that holds them all: his suitcase, thermos flask, briefcase, bedding, The Times, and, finally, himself Lal finds this "preposterous" , the original meaning of which he must have known even in his calamity. He is not likely to have realized, however, that his karma decides the order in divesting him of his possessions, the order, that is, of what should go before and what after. Bill and Jim, mere players in this karmic farce, pause again: "It did sound like English, but it was too much of the King's for them". The truth of it, or rather the pity of the truth of it all, as nearly always in Khushwant Singh, breaks past the discipline of irony.
Poor learner that he is, Lal protests in English. Was it, again, his "well-bred manners" that prevented him from giving it back to them in Hindustani? One can't tell. Sir Mohan's Oxford accent notwithstanding, karma has its way. As Lal lands miserably on the platform, his "feet . . . glued to the earth", and at a loss for words, his real education might well have begun and ended at once.