It is easy to recognize that the miseries and sufferings faced by Napalm’s irritations have natural conformity with the experiences Of people all over the world, living in an alien land dominated by a colonized society. Their experience is different from the untold sufferings and thwarted desires imposed by a powerful Fate or Providence which one finds in Hardy s novels. Rather, Napalm’s works show the natural process of a man’s life, which is the fusion of both happiness and sorrow, rough and sublime.
Literary critic Manning Ender Sings has drawn attention to the fact that None of the [Novelist’s] figures are allowed authenticity or a place in the landscape he inhabits. Indeed, Napalm sees a necessarily fleeting and absurd wish in them to cross barriers erected by the limitations of colonized culture that in the end can only lead to a falsity of purpose, supplemented or aggravated by a consciousness of unimportance. (236) The main element of Napalm’s work is the colonial society of the West Indies built on slavery and exploitation and the crudest of materialism with no political or cultural identity.
This particular theme extends from G. Airmails at Event Grove to Nonhuman Bias at Greengage and is even transposed to South London where Mr.. Stone holds up the image so that it stands for the mono plight of the entire human state – loneliness and helplessness set against a sterile world. Napalm’s world is the world of the helpless nomadic migrants making an escape route from Africa or India to the West Indies, then to England and back again. One observes that even after three hundred long years, there is no society and no system of values in which these characters can take root.
It is against such an indistinct and dissolving background that they try to seize upon something to give them permanence so as to arrest the flux in their lives. Mr.. Basis’s desire for a house, Ganges Armchair’s uncompromising sire for success through the goals of education and religion, Ralph Sing’s writing of his memoir in order to put his life in order, Mr.. Stone’s scheme for the aged, Willie Chanson’s shuttling from one country to another and his sexual exploits with various women, are nothing but the attempts to escape the inevitable.
So, the disappointment, frustration and disillusionment that become inevitable for Ganges Airmails in Mystic Masseur, Mr.. Nonhuman Bias in House for Mr.. Bias, Mr.. Stone in Mr.. Stone and the Knights Companion, Ralph Sings in Mimic Men and Willie Somerset Chandler in Half a Life to name a striking few, are recorded by the author in a detached and analytical manner making him a powerful exponent of the Third World reality. Writing about his world, Napalm once remarked, “l begin with myself, this man, this time; I begin from all that and try to investigate it. Ray to understand it. I try to arrive at some degree of self-knowledge and it is the kind of knowledge that cannot deny any aspect of the truth”(7). Autobiography, thus, provides the raw material for all of Napalm’s novels. At the same time, Napalm also acts as a sensitive ironies. He distances reality room facts and character from action and presents his characters as individuals. Thus Ganges, Bias and Ralph Sings are not as much revealed through their actions but are projected through the action of an unveiling irony, which implies both detachment and sympathy.
In Napalm’s fiction, individuals are presented as prisoners of their own egoism. His protagonists are all intensely self-centered and self-enclosed individuals who resist the reciprocity of other human beings and are therefore inclined to be distrustful and even paranoid. This chapter attempts to analyses the minds of a handful of Napalm’s harassers who bear a close resemblance to their creator. They also lay bare his anger and frustration against the Third World societies and simultaneously share his hopes and aspirations for the unfortunate people who live an uprooted, meaningless life in them.
Only in Napalm’s fiction, can one easily encounter people like Ganges, Ralph Sings, and Willie Chandler who live discontented half-lives in their homelands and flee in search of newer pastures at the first opportunity. The background of his novels are the West Indian colonies, though in Mr.. Stone and the Knights Companion, Napalm shifts his locale to England and also exposes the myth about England being the land Of milk and honey. Like the author, all his characters run away to the metropolitan centre, only to experience greater discontentment.
Napalm focuses on the lives of particular individuals in Miguel Street which incidentally gives way to a broader focus on the East Indian Community, as a whole, in his first published novel Mystic Masseur. Distinguished by its alienation from the larger society, the community of Mystic Masseur, shows the socio-cultural openness to other cultural influences, which is typical of the African communities in the West Indies. The novel takes place entirely within an East Indian community in transition from feudalism to capitalism.
The text examines Ganges Armchair’s progress to prominence from masseur to mystic and to the position of an MOB (Member of the British Empire), one of the highest honors a colonial subject could hope to achieve. Mystic Masseur is a novel written primarily to illustrate a thesis with the characters chosen to support a comic but intellectual framework. It is an account of a typical aspirant to power and prestige, finally gravitating to politics as the supreme possibility. Napalm emphasizes Gannet’s assertiveness of character and his alertness to opportunity, indicative of a greater sensitivity to his environment.
Ganges dominates easily in an environment that is mostly lethargic and easy-going. He is the prototype of Napalm’s instinctively successful men, who know when to move on. Napalm has no personal political commitment as a traveling writer but he has a first-hand experience of the nature of political twists and turns in the Third World countries. The knowledge offers him a unique opportunity to model the characters of this novel after such aspirations in politics. The kook’s charm also lies in its autobiographical elements in that its lead character Ganges echoes Napalm himself as a struggling writer dreaming of writing books.
Mystic Masseur is set in Port of Spain in the rural area of Trinidad where the Indians lived and worked. It is a comic study of life in Trinidad in the face of the postcolonial rise of politics that smacks of self-deception and centers on the meteoric rise and metamorphosis of Ganges, the protagonist. Pundit Ganges Airmails of Event Grove starts off as a teacher, tries to become a masseur in the family tradition and goes on to become a well-known psychic ND faith-healer. The Hindu community in Trinidad considers him their leader and elects him to the Legislative Council.
He is finally honored with an MOB and travels to London as a colonial Statesman changing his name to G. Ramsey Mir. The author takes delight in depicting the character of Ganges and does it with gusto and vividness. The advent of the western institution of democracy with its noble humanism and liberalism also creates the required political hero, but in the context of the Trinidad world, what transfigures out of it is only an anti-hero. Underlying the surface comedy lies a deep sense of rut which Napalm and several thinkers like him may have felt, as they viewed the tragedy being enacted in their own home-lands.
At the Government Training College for teachers in Port of Spain, Ganges ” was taught many important subjects and from time to time he practiced on little classes from schools nearby. He learned to write on a black board (23). Within a few words, Napalm quietly ridicules three topics – the courses taken in the colleges of education, black board training and the improbability that practicing on small select classes will groom teachers. A few pages later, e once again mocks the reality of local education through Gannet’s words: “If you leave the boys alone, they leave you alone” (25).
Napalm’s Ganges is an opportunist, whose central motif in life is to bring success to himself by defrauding others, though not in any sinister way. His ultimate prosperity as a politician is humorously grounded in his early failures as a masseur and mystic. As a writer, his works instead of being informative or inspiring appear to be a clever means of exploiting a credulous populace. The boy-narrator in the novel, is also the biographer of Ganges and writes bout him with timely comments and juxtaposition and humorous deflation.
Napalm uses him to reveal, very cleverly, the absurdity of a society that has pronounced Ganges a hero. The narrator is an intelligent observer. If he frequently appears to be going along with the accepted views of Ganges, it is not because he is taken in, but because he is delighted and intrigued by the fraudulent hero. As such, he explores the whole situation with his tongue- inched manner and does not hesitate to convey the full flavor of his delight. It is the pose of Napalm himself who invariably relishes the contradictions he IS exposing.
Strangely enough, all the qualities of Ganges, the hero, are not really virtuous or heroic but they are the most indispensable and strictly suitable for any individual to succeed in the Caribbean society during the transitional period between the disappearance of the older values and the appearance of a new cultural loyalty and standard. One is able to observe that there is obviously a physical and intellectual poverty in the midst of plenty. At the same time Ganges is not presented as a mere trickster hero, clever enough and unscrupulous enough to turn his back on all moral standards.
He s shown as perfectly attuned to his times. He is a hero because the contradictions of his society are expressed and heightened in himself. He wins the readers’ sympathy because he is not an outright fake and there are some genuine human qualities in him that deserve commendation. Generosity is evident in his treatment of Ramona, his father-in-law. In spite of the quarrels between them, Ganges treats Ramona hospitably, which warms Allele’s heart towards him: Ella had tears in her eyes. ‘Man, is the second time in my life you make me feel proud of you’.
She leaned on him. He didn’t push her away. The first time was with the boy and the cloud. NOW is with pa’. (202 -3) In his autobiography entitled Years of Guilt, Ganges writes that his marriage to Ella was preordained, a work of fate which he knew but never questioned: “I had always, considered it as settled that was going to marry his daughter. I never questioned it. It all seemed preordained” (46). However, the boy narrators account of what actually happened shows that Ganges accepts the proposal only after Ramona has revealed the exact worth of his property.
Ganges obviously achieves success by exercising his wit and intelligence. He thus tricks Ramona who deliberately tries to avoid giving a dowry and manages to extract a sizeable dowry from him. A typical colonized Trinidad Indian, Ramona exhibits a tendency similar to the people who are victims of “Cultural Schizophrenia” (Cognitional 130)-the tendency to legitimate their actions in either cultural frame to suit the demands of the situation. This is how Ramona attempts to avoid the traditional Kedgeree-eating ceremony during Gannet’s marriage in order to escape from paying the dowry.
He tells Ganges: ‘Is the Shame, Sahib’s, that eating me up. You know how with these Hindu deeding everybody does know how much the boy get from the girl father… Everybody go see what I give you, and they go say, “Look, Ramona marrying off his second and best daughter to a boy with a college education, and this is all the man giving”. Is that what eating me up, Sahib’s. I know that for you, educated and reading books night and day, it wouldn’t mean much, but for me, Sahib’s, what about my character and sense values? ‘. (51) Ramona thus cunningly denounces the dowry system using modern education as a ploy.
The same Ramona, a little earlier, had denounced education as an evil too: “Education, Sahib’s, is one hell of a thing. When you is a poor illiterate man like me, all sort of people does want to take advantage on you” (50). However, one knows that it is only one of his ploys to avoid paying dowry to Ganges. He foolishly hopes that Ganges being educated and modern in his views might forgo dowry and free him from paying the amount. But Ganges dashes his hopes by turning the tables on him. As Gannet’s fortune rises, he is forced to make compromises that lead him to stray from the path of virtue.
Both circumstances as well as pressures from the people around him, whose fortunes are tied to his own, egg him on. Thus he is forced to commercialism his profession. He first opens a restaurant, then takes over the taxi business from Ramona. Berry prospers as he makes a considerable profit through the sale of land when the land values rise in Event Grove due to Ganges, the pundit’s, popularity. Up to this point, however, Ganges has made no major compromise with his basic integrity. But his fall happens when he becomes the president Of the Hindu Association by defeating Nary, his opponent, in a carefully planned maneuver.
From this point onwards Maniple’s satire assumes such sharpness that by the ND of the novel all sympathy towards Ganges is more or less withdrawn though Napalm allows his pet hero to win it back in the end. After becoming the President of the Hindu Association, Ganges contests the general elections of the island and fights, as the narrator ironically says, “the cleanest election campaign in Trinidad history/’ (199). Since Ganges understands people of his land inside out, Ender Sings his opponent, even with the glamour of his Oxford degree, stands no chance against him.
As an M. L. C, Ganges frequently stages walkouts and becomes the most popular man in Trinidad but has not yet come into the notice of the colonial office, which in its reports dismisses him as “an irresponsible agitator (214). However, when Ganges, unable to quell the strike in the sugar estates, pins the blame on the communists, his own party, and also declares his determination to fight against them, the colonial office begins to take notice of him. Its reports now describe Ganges as ” an important political leader’ (219).
Soon, he is made the representative of the British colonial rule and this finally fetches him the title of M. B. E. When SUccess comes to Ganges, he begins to see that advances can in fact be made and accomplished only with correctly thought-out and energetically executed plans. From this point onwards, his success grows and is manifested symbolically by the acquisition of western goods and products. His house expands, he moves into business ventures related to his success as a pundit and finally, the triumph of western civilization manifests itself in the installation of a refrigerator in his house full of Coca-Cola.
His path to Westernizes culminates in the acquisition of the more striking name of G. Armadas Mir. Gannet’s character and attitude to life change drastically from the primitive West Indian to the sophisticated Western. By this time, Ganges has traveled far on the road to ‘whiteness’, and his final rejection of his society comes with the change of his name to G. Ramsey Mir. Gannet’s transformation into a capitalist and mimic man is now complete. Another Megalomania. Equally interesting It made is aspect obvious of Gannet’s he character hastens to meet Mr.. Stewart.
The enthusiastic English man claiming to be a Kashmir Hindu, dresses like an Indian mendicant and is lost in his rosy vision Of Hinduism. It is he who transforms Ganges into a mystic. ” You must write your thoughts”, Mr.. Stewart said. “They may help other people. You know, I felt all along that was going to meet someone like you” (41 Ganges is overwhelmed and reciprocates to their relationship by dedicating his autobiography to Stewart of Chester/Friend and Counselor/of many years” (42). “Lord The absurdity of the whole issue can be appreciated when one remembers that Ganges had met the English man only twice before.
The novelist exposes Gannet’s literary pretensions too. He presents Ganges as sick with self-love and given to tall talking. For example, his conversation with his wife, “How much book I buy last week, Ella? “, asked Ganges, to which his wife replied: “Only three, man. But they was big books, big big books. Six to seven inches altogether” (15). Writing is the only means Ganges has for imposing some sense into his chaotic world, though at that point in his development he does not grasp the implications.
The acts of writing and reading open up a new world of thought for Ganges and increase his understanding of his own world. It is because he had to know about the past before he can investigate and explore the present that he develops an interest in practical psychology and in Hindu philosophy. He understands that an understanding of English Empiricism and Hindu toothpaste becomes indispensable for his future undertakings. The mythology of the East is combined with that of the West as Ganges attempts to save the life of Hector, an African boy who believes that a cloud is following him.
Ganges converts his bedroom into a study in which he places a picture of goddess Alkalis in a prominent place. Below the Goddess, he places a candle and burns camphor and incense. Thus he allows the tenets of Hinduism and Christianity to merge. The combined strengths of both worlds are used to exorcise the demon from Hector, so that the child can become psychologically liberated. Thus, in one bold stroke, Ganges makes a final break with his feudal past by liberating a young boy from the crippling superstitions Of the past.
After this he promptly acquires his new name G. R. Mir, Sees. , a symbol of his new identity. Mystic Masseur presents the picture of the West Indian society, its crises and challenges in a systematic way. As M. K. Nazi points out, “Napalm’s main aim in Mystic Masseur seems to be to exploit the comic absurdity in the lives of the transplanted Indians in the West Indies” (1-2). So he makes his protagonist bring together the symbols and knowledge of the various cultures of Trinidad Hindu, Moslem, and Christian, modern and traditional.
Ganges even uses English, local dialect, Hindi and a smattering of Spanish, according to circumstances. He is the hero of the people, an example of the people especially Traditions of the Indian Diaspora, remaking themselves, in ways that are necessarily crude, brutal and comic. Yet Ganges wins sympathy because he is not an outright fake. There are some gene nine human qualities in him that deserve commendation. For example, his attitude to religion. It can also be traced to Hinduism tolerant stance: He was no bigot. He took as much interest in Christianity and Islam as in Hinduism.
In the Shrine, the old bedroom, he had pictures of Mary and Jesus next to Krishna and Vishnu; a crescent and Star represented iconoclastic Islam. ‘All the same God’, he said. Christians liked him, Muslims liked him, and Hindus willing as ever to risk prayers to new gods, didn’t object. (139) The blend of the East and the West in Ganges makes him ” a sharp character”. In Middle passage, Napalm observes: “Trinidad had always admired the ‘Sharp Character’, who, like the sixteenth century Picaroon of Spanish literature, arrives and triumphs by his wits in a place where it is felt that all eminence is arrived at by crookedness (78).