Sharmaji by Anjana Appachana
In Sharmaji by Anjana Appachana we have the theme of conflict, tradition, modernity, disillusion and escape. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Appachana may be exploring the theme of conflict. Sharma is late for work and is being questioned by Mahesh. What is interesting about the initial conflict is that fact that though Sharma is in the wrong (again) he defends himself with a lie which may leave some readers to suspect that Sharma is prepared to lie rather than tell the truth when it comes to any difficulties that he might incur in work. What is also interesting is that while Sharma is talking to Miss Das he tells her about the award he won for his work twenty years ago. This may be important as it would appear that this is the only award that Sharma has ever received in work. Yet to him it is a milestone to be proud of despite the passing of time and the fact that nobody remembers Sharma receiving the award. If anything it soon becomes clear to the reader as the story progresses that Sharma is not only a lazy employee but he is also not dedicated to his work. In reality he expects to be paid for doing nothing. Something which some critics might suggest is ridiculous.
There is also an element of tradition versus modernity in the story. Gupta is looking for a wife or at least his parents are looking for a wife for him based upon the information given to them by an astrologer. Also Sharma saves money (fifty rupees a month) for his daughters’ dowry. It is as though neither Gupta nor Sharma’s daughters have a real say in who they will marry. Something which is in contradiction to Miss Das’ relationship with her husband. Not only has she decided upon continuing to work but she still retains her maiden name. Seeing no point in taking her husband’s name. If anything Sharma and Miss Das take a different approach when it comes to life. With Sharma following a more traditional route. It is also noticeable that despite being paid to work throughout the story Sharma does no work. He spends his time in the canteen with Gupta or in his manager or Miss Das’ office. At no stage is Sharma productive. Though Sharma may disagree and consider his day to be a success due to the fact that he has done no work and will still get paid.
Throughout the story there is as sense that Sharma is using his ability to tell a story (or to lie) to get what he wants. He believes that if he bombards a person with information about his own goodness he will be able to continue as he does. Something which is difficult not to believe particularly when Sharma has his conversation with Miss Das. He turns the conversation around from it being about him to being about her. If anything Sharma is attempting to flatter Miss Das in order that he will not be punished and if he is punished that the punishment will not be too extreme. His conflict with his manager is also interesting as he goes on the attack just as he did with Mahesh. As mentioned Sharma is not afraid to lie in order that the status quo remains. He also believes in the power of the trade union in work which if anything is as questionable as Sharma and his activities.
The end of the story is interesting as the reader sees just how disillusioned Sharma is with his job. He has been a clerk for twenty-five years and rather than keep his head down. When he gets back to his desk he begins to write poetry. It is as though Sharma has a constant need to escape from the environment he finds himself in. Something which may be understandable to some readers considering that Sharma has never been promoted. He may have seen others like Mahesh come into the company and be given roles that would be considered to be more responsible than Sharma’s role in the company. It is for this reason that the reader does not suspect that Sharma will change his ways. He feels as though he has nothing to lose. However the reality may be very different. The fact that Sharma was handed a charge sheet is something which should be taken seriously. Even if Sharma himself refuses to do so. Should Sharma not change his ways he may well find himself unemployed. He might find that his manager and Miss Das can only be charmed so much before they take action which will directly affect Sharma’s livelihood.