A House for Mr. Biswas – V.S. Naipaul

A House for Mr. Biswas

There it is, a modest roofed structure in Sikkim Street standing tall amid the perfumed beds of anthurium lilies. New memories of wet earth after the rain, freshly painted picket fences, the sweet flowers of laburnum tree, mixed aromas flouncing through the warm rooms and wind whiffing through the trees telescoping the painful past. A sense of belonging cherished with merited identity-Mr. Mohun Biswas’s house.

I shy away from the postcolonial contemporary third world fiction. Most of them overwhelm me enlightening the crude aspects of economic claustrophobia which my snobbish approach thoughtlessly overlooks. Keeping in mind this criterion, I cautiously pick out the respected genre books anticipating a satisfying comprehension. Naipaul pens a coherent depiction of impoverished dwelling lost between self-identity and rigid ambitions. It is an exasperating yet rewarding life of a simple man who survives the nightmarish surrealism of being born at the devilish midnight hour. Meet Mohun Biswas, the youngest son of a pitiable sugar-cane labourer whose birth was cursed upon by superstitious omen and was destined to be a ruinous disappointment. Mohun’s life churns out be a metaphoric banner for destitution and misfortune. Blamed for his father’s death and the dissolution of the Biswas family, he struggles through every twisted fate of his life trying to find a speck of self-respect, contentment and independence. His marriage in the celebrated Tulsis family is burdensome and intoxicated with him being a mere accessory in his wife’s home. Dutifully carrying on with the mundane obligations, he berates his sympathetic existence. The only shining beacon of hope is a far-fetched dream of buying a house he can call his own. The notion of acquiring an abode becomes an eternal symbol of Mohun’s own existence as a journalist, a father, a husband and moreover a liberated individual.

Naipaul’s vastly elucidated and slow-paced prose underlines quite a few post- colonization inadequacies prevalent in several third world settings till date. Poverty, illiteracy birthing preposterous superstitious dogma, ethnic categorization of class superiority (restricted only to rural infrastructures) and tribulations of pecuniary discrepancies outwitting social hysteria.

Mohun’s tale is heroic in its own humble way. All the man wants in his life is a cozy dwelling without the fear of acerbic prejudices. Some would ridicule on this psychological aspect of obtaining a house. It’s a house, for crying out loud! Why make a big deal of it? For an individual who not only thrives in poverty but is tossed among bizarre quarters of underprivileged hardships; the belief of owning a house becomes deeply satisfying, somewhat a battle in itself. Hear, Hear! To Mohun for making peace with his maddening ordinary living.

4/5****

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