Maguni’s Bullock Cart by Godavarish Mohapatra
In Maguni’s Bullock Cart by Godavarish Mohapatra we have the theme of loss, struggle, progress, loyalty and fear. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Mohapatra may be exploring the theme of loss. Maguni has died and those in the town who knew him, which is almost everyone, are mourning his passing. It is as though a part of the town’s history has died such is Maguni’s popularity. It may also be significant that Maguni struggled over the last year of his life. With the arrival of the bus Maguni lost not only trade but his life too. Nobody wanted to travel in his cart when the motorized bus arrived. Which may leave some readers to suggest that progress contributed to Maguni’s death. He could not compete with a motorized bus nor did anyone really want to continue travelling by cart as it was uncomfortable. Progress had arrived in the town and people were happy. With the exception of Maguni.
How much Maguni struggled is noticeable by his intake of food. Due to having no money Maguni resorted to eating every second day or every few days. Which of course is unhealthy but there is nothing that Maguni could have done. He was not a wealthy man who could trade in his bullocks for a motorized car and drive people around the town. The bus inevitably broke Maguni. It may also be significant that Maguni is such an easy character to like. This helps Mohapatra in a way that he is able to engage the reader emotionally. If anything the reader feels attached to Maguni and is committed to hoping that things work out for Maguni. Though inevitably they don’t and Maguni dies due to malnutrition. A sad and avoidable death for any person in this day and age.
There is also a sense that Maguni at the beginning of the bus’ arrival does not understand just how much of a threat the bus is to his livelihood. He in many ways may laugh it off but when the reality sets in and he loses all his customers. Fear sets in and Maguni begins to starve himself because he can’t afford food. His death is one that comes quickly and is directly linked to the motorized bus. It is also interesting that none of Maguni’s customers felt loyal to him, preferring instead to travel in comfort and by bus. It is this lack of loyalty which is the nail in Maguni’s coffin. If his regular customers refuse to travel with him. What chance does he have when it comes to others travelling by cart. Maguni has symbolically hit a brick wall and it has stunned him suddenly. He is not prepared for the arrival of the bus and in reality is no competition to the bus either. There is no hope for Maguni and his cart. He is out of business and unless he buys himself a car, which he can’t afford, he will have no income at all. Such is the mannerisms of progress very few people consider what might happen to those who use more traditional methods when it comes to earning an income.
The end of the story is also interesting as despite the fact that everyone mourns Maguni’s passing. Nobody can see that they may have helped contribute to Maguni’s death by not showing him any loyalty. If some of the customers had forgone the bus and traveled by cart. Maguni would have the money to feed himself and as a result he would not have died. Though unfortunately this is not how others see the situation. The reader suspecting that though the town mourns Maguni’s death. He will like most traditions be soon forgotten. Such is the reaction that people have when it comes to progress. Progress drives people forward, or at least it should, and Maguni is not part of the progress that is happening in Khalikote. He is to be lost in the past and in time. Perhaps in years to come people will further remember him and talk of what he was like. However a newer more mobile generation may not necessarily be interested in Maguni or his cart.