‘Karma’ by Khuswant Singh– questions and answers(L.A.Q.), class 11, WBCHSE

1)’You are a bit of all right, old chap’ – Who is the speaker? Who has been referred to as ‘old chap’? What picture of the person’s character here spoken to is revealed in this line? [1+1+3 = 5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2017]

Ans. The speaker is the mirror of a first-class waiting room in a railway platform.

Sir Mohan Lal has been referred to as ‘old chap’.

Sir Mohan Lal looked at himself in the mirror and grieved for the wretched condition of it. He was sure that it was made in India like other things in the country, inefficient, dirty, and indifferent. But he appeared distinguished, efficient, and handsome. His moustache was neatly trimmed. His suit with the carnation in the buttonhole was bought from Savill Row. He used branded fragrances, Talcum powder, and scented soap. The imaginary conversation with the mirror reflected Sir Mohan Lal’s thoughts and nature i.e. he wanted to copy Englishmen and hated his motherland.

2)Give a brief description of the appearance of Lady Lal? [5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2015, 2018]

Or. “I am only a native woman.” – Give a short estimation of the speaker’s character in the light of the above comment. [Annual Exam 11 – 2022]

Ans. Lady Lal is a simple and native Indian woman. She is short, fat, and in her middle forties. At first, we find her on a railway platform asking for a zenana interclass. She was wearing a dirty white sari with a red border. She put on a diamond nose ring which was glistening. She had several gold bangles on her arms. She loved chewing betel leaves. She was not an agile woman. She ambled for her squat bulky figure. She was fond of gossiping. She did not hesitate to talk with an ordinary coolie or a bearer. From the conversation with the coolie, we came to know that she was illiterate and did not understand English and the ways of aristocracies. So, Lady Lal was not very attractive in her appearance but bore a pure heart.

3) Sketch the character of Sir Mohan Lal. [5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2017]

Ans. Sir Mohan Lal is the protagonist of Khuswant Singh’s short story ‘Karma’. He is an Indian but he admires English culture, manner, dress, and language. Sir Mohan is a vizier and a barrister. He had spent five years in England and had acquired the manners and attitudes of the upper class.

He rarely spoke Hindustani. He hates his own countrymen and considers them as inefficient, dirty, vulgar, and indifferent. He even neglects his wife and her poor relatives. His rich attire, whiskey, The Times, and English cigarettes are the emblems of the aristocracy.

In the end, his arrogance and pretentious behaviour are punished at the hands of his beloved Englishmen. He neither becomes a proper Hindustani nor an Englishman.

4) ‘He was dismayed’ – Who was he? When was he dismayed and why? What did he do then? [1+2+2 = 5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2020]

Ans. Sir Mohan Lal was dismayed.

When he entered the first-class compartment and found it empty, he was dismayed.

He was dismayed because he was expecting Englishmen for accompaniment in the compartment.

He was frustrated and with a sigh, he sat down in a corner beside the window. Then he opened the copy of The Times which he had read several times before.

5) How did Sir Mohan Lal feel when he saw two Englishmen coming towards his coupe? [5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2014]

Ans. Sir Mohan Lal felt delighted when he saw two Englishmen coming towards his coupe. He had always been a great admirer of English culture and language. He felt himself as not less than an Englishman. When he saw the compartment empty, he was disappointed. Now his face lit up to see the two English soldiers. He knew that they were entitled to travel only in the second class. But he decided to talk with the guard to get his consent and welcome them into his compartment.

6) ‘Preposterous, preposterous! he shouted’ – Who shouted and why? What was the result? [1+1+1 = 5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2019]

Ans. Sir Mohan Lal shouted in a livid rage. When the English soldiers flung his suitcase, thermos flask, briefcase, bedding, and The Times one after another on the platform he shouted with great astonishment.

Sir Mohan Lal threatened to have them arrested. They paused for a moment to hear Sir Mohan’s Oxford accent but they did not pay any attention to his words. Jim, an English soldier, struck flat on the face of Mohan Lal. They caught Sir Mohan’s arm and flung him out of the train.

7) Bring out the significance of the title ‘Karma’. [5] [Annual Exam 11 -2016]

Ans. According to Hindu mythology ‘karma’ signifies the reward and punishment of one’s deeds. In the context of the text, Sir Mohan Lal was rightly punished and Lachmi got her reward for their deeds. Though Mohan Lal was an Indian, he hated his countrymen even his wife, and anything that belonged to India. But he liked to copy the British. In the end, he got slapped and ultimately was thrown out of the compartment by the two English soldiers. On the other hand, simple and innocent Lachmi had a safe and comfortable journey. Thus the ‘karma’ precisely acts upon them. Hence, Khuswant Singh aptly named the prose as ‘Karma,

8) Briefly describe the train of Sir Mohan Lal’s thoughts as he sat waiting alone in his first-class compartment. [5] [Annual Exam 11 – 2022]

Ans. Mohan Lal was disappointed to find himself alone in the first-class compartment. As there was no English officer, he thought he missed the possibility to have an impressive conversation with them. He was thinking about how to impress the English man by showing off the Times and his Balliol tie. If they failed, he had the whiskey that never failed with English men. Then he had his handsome gold cigarette filled with English cigarettes. After that, his train of thought moved in another direction. He recalled the glorious memories of five years in England –  grey bags and gowns, sports blazers, missed doubles, the dinners, the nights at Piccadilly etc. He worthed them better than living forty-five years in India.

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