Monday, April 6, 2009

Simple living with Mr. Biswas

It was a simple story, and Mohun Biswas was definitely going about his life doing something or the other every time I popped back into his Trinidadian life. I took a while to finish A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul, something pretty rare in my reading adventures. It may have to do with the fact that I was interrupted by other tasks and visits etc. It may also have to do with the fact that while the story is simple and very easy to read, it is also slow, and feels repetitive from time to time.

You do feel for Mohun, the main character, but at times I got tired of his running around. I know that it is different times, and this mundaneness is crucial to this story.

The culture and tradition behind this story is also critical, because without the implied strong family bonds etc. Mr. Biswas would have been able to pursue his dream much faster. And yet, it is these bonds that Mr. Biswas ignored (kinda).

He was a contrast; he was hard-hearted and had strong animosity (rightly so!) toward the Tulsi family, the ones who belittled him. He was also noted as being indifferent toward his children, especially in the early years, but I think that had tot do more with the whole family dynamic and his position in it scheme of things. He was still 'finding his way', I guess. There are some wonderful stories of how Mr. Biswas does become a wonderful dad, in my eyes at least. He did so in his own way - for example. he took his son to the movies, or he was exceptionally proud that his son won the exhibition, he promised him a bicycle when he was low, and mostly I loved how he would make all sorts of things for his son Anand to play with.

The story is all about Mr. Biswas striving for his own house, a simple structure that would house his family and detach him from the hard knots with the Tulsi family.

The details are important, the small actions, the words used (for e.g. two of the young boys were called 'The Gods', implying the level of importance placed on the boys in the Tulsi family), and the way women thought about themselves (for e.g. signs of guilt) or thought about their respective spouses. Some situations grated on my nerves, and yet I know that somewhere, there are still people who think the same way.

MacLean Stomach Powder - no particular reason to mention this, but it kinda stuck in my head because of the number of times Mohun took it. I always had a worried mental bubble when I was on the page that mentioned it because I thought they were building up the case for some terrible disease in the end.


  1. I love V.S.Naipaul's writing. He is a wonderful you mentioned, its the simplicity of his characters that make his stories so compelling.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this story.Thanks for sharing.Btw, nice blog.

  3. Ive read the novel and loved it,the most amazing part about it was the struggle, a dream and the urge for a home of ones own. Though the one he gets is not the best of places one would like to be in but at last it was a space that belonged to him. This novel all brings out the importance of a sense of belonging, if you do not feel that you belong to a certain place it can never be a part of you and would always keep you restless. Its like after coming back from a long journey, you sleep peacefully on your bed, and the comfort is better than any lavish hotel you might have stayed in:)
    Thanks for the great post.You've got a beautiful blog here!Keep up :)

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing , i enjoyed this post..

    Your blog is cute, thanks for the visit to my blog Do come again..

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