Masterji by Ruskin Bond
In Masterji by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of respect, compassion, corruption, fraud, kindness and acceptance. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of respect. There is no doubting that the narrator despite the passing of time has respect for Mr Khushal even though he is handcuffed to a policeman. Time has not eroded the feelings of compassion that the narrator has for Khushal. Something that is clear to the reader by way of Khushal’s treatment of the narrator. Despite not knowing any Hindi the narrator still passes his exam. This may be important as it suggests that Khushal is a kind and compassionate man. Understanding that not every child he teaches will match the grade required to pass an examination. However on the other hand Khushal is committing fraud and also profiting from it. Nonetheless it is difficult to dislike Khushal who comes across as a decent man who only wants the best for his students. Even if it is attained by him committing fraud. If anything Khushal is a likeable rogue who does not appear to have the ability to hurt anyone.
Though some critics might suggest that Khushal is morally corrupt it might be important to remember that Khushal does actually care for his students. Something that is noticeable by the fact he does not take any money from the students who cannot afford it. They still manage to pass their exams. Thanks to Khushal’s forged certificates. In reality Khushal can see the best in everyone and is just helping those who struggle along in life. He wants the best for each of his students and knows how important passing their exams is. If anything Khushal does not wish for any of his students to fall by the wayside just because they are unable to pass an examination. He cares too much to let a student fail. The fact that Khushal taught his students Punjabi rather than Hindi is also significant as if suggests that Khushal himself was only too willing to commit fraud and deceive others. Though his heart may have been in the right place it is important to remember that Khushal is a guilty man and has to pay the price for his crime.
A price that will be very heavy and most likely result in Khushal being unable to teach any other students. Though this is not necessarily something that Khushal has thought out. He believes his liberty will be restored quickly when the reality is actually much different. In all likelihood Khushal is going to prison and may spend several years behind bars considering that he has been corrupt and committing fraud for over twenty years. Though again it is difficult to dislike Khushal because of his charity towards others and his ability to laugh at the situation he finds himself in. Which may surprise some readers. If anything he laughs off the seriousness of his offences. The reader fully aware that a judge in court will not find the matter so humorous. In reality Khushal for his kindness is going to lose his freedom. Something that simply doesn’t dawn on Khushal. Who believes the matter of his forging certificates to be a trivial matter. Again a judge will not see this to be the case.
There may also be some readers who may think that Khushal has cheated other students out of places in employment or in college by forging so many certificates and this is something which may not be disproven. Khushal may indeed have affected the lives of students who did pass their examinations. Khushal’s actions could also be seen to be disrespectful of authority. He has taken a position of power and profited by it. Though again he only took what others could afford to give him. So any charges of greed are difficult to level at Khushal. Who really just wanted to see his students prosper in life and for them not to be judged because they may have failed an examination. Khushal might believe that life is too short to cast judgement on others, particularly children, who are only starting out in life. It is better to help the child, no matter if it involves corruption, than to see the child discarded and ostracised by society because they may have failed one examination. The reality is that Khushal believed he was genuinely helping the children whose certificates he forged.