Real Time by Amit Chaudhuri
In Real Time by Amit Chaudhuri we have the theme of discontent, appearance, tradition, selfishness, self-importance and acceptance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Chaudhuri may be exploring the theme of discontent. There is a sense that Mr and Mrs Mitra are unhappy or discontent with one another as they are travelling towards the Talukdar’s home. This discontent is compounded by the fact that Abdul does not know where the Talukdar’s live. It might also be significant that Mr Mitra feels obliged to go to the Talukdar’s home. If anything he seems to be keeping up appearances more than anything else. Though Mr Mitra barely knew Anjali there is a sense that he may not be too interested in following tradition (shraddh ceremony). It is as though he is in attendance in order to be seen by others. To be seen as somebody who has adhered to tradition but may not himself really believe in it. Something that is also noticeable when Mr Mitra doesn’t know as to whether or not to bring flowers to the Talukdar’s home. Even though it would be traditional to do so. It is also noticeable that the only person that Mr Mitra seems to be thinking about while he is in the Talukdar’s home is himself. Which may suggest that Mr Mitra is selfish.
How selfish Mr Mitra might be is noticeable by the fact that he spends less than an hour in the Talukdar’s home with his primary concern being to get home so that he can have dinner. It is the same with Mrs Mitra. Fearful that there will not be a traditional shraddh ceremony she has ensured there will be food available for her when she gets home. Both Mr and Mrs Mitra know that they have to be seen to go to the Talukdar’s home but when there Mr Mitra is more concerned with being able to leave as soon as possible. It is as though modernity is more important to Mr Mitra. He does not seem to have the patience to stay any longer than an hour and adhere to the ritual that is a shraddh ceremony. Though Anjali may have lost her way in life the Mitra’s also don’t seem to feel anything for her. Mr Mitra doesn’t see why Anjali would want to come back (as a crow and as part of tradition). He is looking at life through modern non-religious eyes while the Talukdar’s firmly believe in Hindu tradition.
The fact that Chaudhuri puts the focus on Mr Mitra throughout the story may be important as he may be suggesting that Mr Mitra is an individual who believes in his own self-importance. He forgoes any belief in the benefits of tradition. Though at the same time he knows that he must be seen to participate in order to keep up an appearance and quell any fears that he might have that he will not be accepted by others due to his modern beliefs. It is also noticeable that if something does not interest Mr Mitra he will devote little or no time to it. Which may help explain as to why he and Mrs Mitra spend less than an hour in the Talukdar’s home. The reader is left feeling as though both Mr and Mrs Mitra are just being obliging to the Talukdar’s. They have no real feelings for what has happened Anjali nor does Mr Mitra really believe in the shraddh ceremony.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader gets another insight into just how selfish Mr Mitra is. As soon as he leaves the Talukdar’s home he tells Mrs Mitra that he is ‘ravenous’. Again the reader is left aware that the most important person in Mr Mitra’s life is himself. Even though there was food available at the Talukdar’s home which Mr Mitra could have eaten he choose not to have more than one sandesh. As far as Mr Mitra is concerned he has done his part in adhering to tradition by going to the Talukdar’s home and making an appearance. It doesn’t dawn on him that he has spent less than an hour there. Though the reader is aware that Mr Mitra thinks that is enough time. For Mr Mitra he has done all he has had to do in order to keep up appearances however at the same time it is clear to the reader that Mr Mitra has not committed himself or believed in the tradition of the shraddh ceremony. For him he sees no purpose in it and most likely considers himself to be a modern man who is not swayed by religion. Unlike Mr and Mrs Talukdar who have followed tradition and have had to endure the tragic loss of their daughter. The Talukdar’s accept there is a process or tradition that must be followed. Yet the Mitra’s particularly Mr Mitra think differently.