Monday, November 26, 2012

Reader's Diary #904- Khushwant Singh: Karma

Yesterday I stumbled upon a Flavorwire article titled "The 10 Grumpiest Living Authors." Of those that I'd heard of, it was not a surprising list (I'd heard that Maurice Sendak could be a bit on the cantankerous side), but there were some names I'd not heard of before. So, I figured I'd check one of them out today, crossing my fingers that I'd like the story and not suffer the wrath of Khushwant Singh.

I did enjoy "Karma" even if the title does somewhat spoil the surprise. It's about Mohan Lal, an Indian man who fancies himself superior to his other countrymen, even his wife, because he has adopted the language and mannerisms of the British. They are at a train station and after his wife finds her seat in a general compartment, Lal makes his way to the first class compartment, which is the compartment usually frequented by the British. He plans to impress the others with his British knowledge and customs, but they don't exactly give him a chance.

It's hard not to have mixed feelings for Lal. It's tempting to say it was karma and he gets what he deserves for shunning his own culture. But then, it's also tragic that he'd have this sort of cultural loathing. I'm reminded of the comments that I often get when it's revealed that I'm from Newfoundland. "Oh, really? I can't hear any accent!" often said as if this was a compliment. The thing is, I don't know exactly how I lost it. Debbie isn't from Newfoundland. When we met, was I subconsciously ashamed of the way I talked and worked to lose it? I certainly used to have one. And I've met plenty of other Newfoundlanders who've lived away longer than I have yet still speak with a thick accent. A part of me regrets having lost it, but then it'd be silly to try to affect one. Like Madonna's British accent.

Anyway, if Singh believes in karma, how does he feel about his "grumpy" label? 

Getting back to the grumpiest author article. There were no Canadians on the list and I know we're known as such a polite nation, but I'm sure we could come up with a similar list. I haven't met any of these authors but I know Atwood, Davies, Richler, and Mowat have a reputation for crankiness, whether they deserve it or not. Any that you'd add to this list?

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

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