My Own My Native Land by Khushwant Singh
In My Own My Native Land by Khushwant Singh we have the theme of pride, bureaucracy, authority and corruption. Taken from his The Portrait of a Lady collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed male narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Singh may be exploring the theme of pride. The narrator while finishing his last drink on the ship feels so much pride about returning to India that he recites a poem. This may be significant as it is possible that Singh is suggesting that the narrator not only has pride in India but also is glad to be home after four years away. It is good to be home in the narrator’s eyes. Regardless of the troubles he faces with custom officials. After four years away there is excitement in the narrator’s eyes.
It is through these custom officials that Singh explores the theme of bureaucracy and authority. No matter what the narrator does he is unable to please either the male or female official. They want forms filled out and in reality they themselves are as unprepared as the narrator when it comes to processing the narrator’s application. This may be significant as it may be a case that Singh is making fun of authority. To highlight to the reader the fact that authority figures may not necessarily know how to do things in a proper fashion. At no stage in the story is the reader comfortable with the abilities of the customs officials. Regardless of their sex. Which might also be important as Singh is deliberately not discriminating between the sexes, further suggesting that authority figures do not know what they are doing.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The champagne that the narrator is drinking can be seen to represent another world. A world in whereby the narrator has to leave in order to reach his final destination, India. The two custom officials may symbolise the inadequacies of bureaucracy. The fact that the narrator has so much luggage and needs private transport to leave the dock could suggest that he is a man of importance. Something that the customs officials do not recognise.
The end of the story is interesting as Singh appears to be exploring the theme of corruption. Through the introduction of the inspector and his advice to the narrator the reader can see that the inspector is not suitable for his job. Though he does take practical measures to help the narrator. This too may be important as it is possible that the inspector knows how ridiculous bureaucracy can be. Holding a person back from their destination (in life). While being more practical the inspector ensures that things run smoothly. Though as mentioned he is corrupt in nature. Which may be the point that Singh is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that regardless of who is in authority they are open to the rules being broken. In order for things to run smoothly. It may be corrupt but it is efficient and things do end up running smoothly for the narrator.