Cargo from Singapore by Manohar Malgonkar
In Cargo from Singapore by Manohar Malgonkar we have the theme of revenge, trust, betrayal, greed, control, freedom, loyalty, appearance and power. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Malgonkar may be exploring the theme of revenge. The narrator is upset over how he has been treated by customs on his arrival to Calcutta. He knows that Mathrani has tipped of the customs officers about the possibility that he is attempting to smuggle some goods into India. So upset is the narrator that when he gets the opportunity to exact revenge on Mathrani he grabs the opportunity with both hands. If anything the narrator would have been better to follow his instinct of not trusting Mathrani rather than taking the sail boat to Calcutta. Though it is noticeable that the narrator does not judge a person by their appearance. Even though Walter Arnold had warned the narrator about Mathrani. It might also be important that the freedom that the narrator felt in Singapore is not the same as how he feels when he arrives in Calcutta. It is as though the narrator has no control over his destiny and he must wait to satisfy the customs officers.
This may be important as Malgonkar may be suggesting that with freedom comes a price. Though the narrator was only held up for twenty four hours he still nonetheless had to endure the inconvenience of being searched by the customs officers. It is also possible that even though the narrator does not trust Mathrani he still feels betrayed by him. Their agreement was a simple one but due to Mathrani’s greed things eventually got complicated for the narrator. Without his knowledge Mathrani is being paid by the customs officers for information that might lead to the arrest of smugglers. It is also possible that Malgonkar is suggesting that should a person follow a dream, as the narrator does, there may be a price to pay and the dream itself can turn into a nightmare. Though some critics might feel as though the narrator’s inconvenience is minor the point to remember might be the fact that the narrator did not like what Mathrani did to him. Any sense of control and freedom that the narrator had was taken away from him. If anything it was something that the narrator was not prepared to let go of. Allowing Mathrani to take advantage of him.
There also seems to be a battle of wills at play with neither man backing down. Mathrani driven by greed informs the customs officers of the possibility that the narrator might be smuggling goods. While the narrator is driven by his inability to let go of what Mathrani has done to him and his desire to exact revenge. Walter Arnold’s character is also interesting as he is the complete opposite to Mathrani. He can be trusted, he is honest and he has the narrator’s best interests at heart. Malgonkar possibly using Arnold’s character to highlight to the reader how strong the connection between two former comrades really is. Arnold also offers the narrator a job at the radio station. Something which would further emphasis the fact that Arnold has the narrator’s best interests at heart. It is also through Arnold’s character that the narrator learns he has been betrayed by Mathrani and it is through Arnold that the narrator becomes aware of Mathrani’s plans to journey to India. If anything Arnold is exceptionally loyal to the narrator. Something that is in contrast to Mathrani’s character when it comes to his engagement with the narrator.
The end of the story is also interesting if not ironic. Mathrani is used to informing customs of potential smugglers but the table has been turned on him by the narrator. It is as though the narrator takes the power that Mathrani had previously had over him and by exacting revenge takes control of the situation for himself. Something that provides the narrator with great satisfaction. He knows that he has gotten the better of Mathrani and that Mathrani will be going to prison. Though it has taken the narrator a year to exact revenge. He has managed to do so. Thanks to the information that has been provided to him by Walter Arnold. It may also be a case that Malgonkar is suggesting that the narrator feels guilt-free over his actions and that he is only repaying Mathrani for what Mathrani has done to him. With the reality being that the narrator due to his nature was never going to let Mathrani away with what he had done to him. Mathrani may have considered himself to be a powerful man yet at the end of the story he is powerless. He has been beaten by the narrator who had simply wished to follow a boyhood ambition.