The Refugee by K.A. Abbas
In The Refugee by K.A. Abbas we have the theme of conflict, independence, loyalty, pride, resilience and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Abbas may be exploring the theme of conflict. Maanji is forced to leave her home in Rawalpindi even though she would rather stay where she is. However things take a turn for the worse when there are killings in Rawalpindi. A sight that Maanji has never seen before and which shocks her. Leaving her with only one option but to travel to Bombay and live with her son. The setting of the story may also be important (partitioning of India 1947) as violence was widespread at the time and many innocent people like Maanji got caught up in the violence. Where once Maanji lived a prosperous life she now lives as a refugee in Bombay. No longer does she have the land she once had or the servants she once had. She is confined to a one room home with her husband and son. It is also interesting that the tailor remains loyal to Maanji despite the risks he could face by doing so. Just as Maanji is disturbed by what is happening in Rawalpindi so too is the tailor.
There is also a sense that despite her circumstances Maanji takes great pride in what she does in life. Though she may not be as wealthy as she once was. She still changes and improves the living arrangements of her son’s home. Making sure that it looks and feels like a home. This may be important as it suggests that Maanji may be not only accepting the circumstances she finds herself in but that she is beginning to let go of the wrong doing that has occurred in Rawalpindi. If anything Maanji will not be defeated by the circumstances she finds herself in. She appears to be able to rise above the conflict and continue on with her life to the best of her ability. However it is noticeable that at times Maanji can long for Rawalpindi and get upset. Something that would be very natural for a refugee to do. To long for their home again. Particularly if they did not want to leave their home in the first place. The fact that Maanji adapts so well to her new environment might be important as this would suggest that she is resilient and has the ability to be independent.
It may also be significant that Maanji is in complete control of her life and her family’s life while she is living in Bombay. She takes charge which would further suggest to the reader that Maanji is resilient. There is also an element of sadness in the story when Maanji realises that she has no option but to move to Bombay. She will miss her neighbours more than anything and there is a sense that Maanji cannot understand how ordinary people. With no interest in politics. Have got involved in the turmoil that is occurring. This may be important as Maanji is not the only one who has to abandon her home due to the partitioning of India. The country carved up by politicians based on religious divisions. Where Maanji has not judged a neighbour due to their religious beliefs. She herself is being judged by her religious beliefs and as such is forced to move to Bombay. Something which may highlight to the reader the possibility of animosity between separate religious groups.
An animosity that is noticeable when one of Maanji’s neighbours (and horse) is killed because of his religious ethnicity. Maanji is so shocked by the killing that she knows that she herself for her own safety has to move to Bombay. A place that is alien to her but which she tries her best to not only adapt to but to make her home. It might also be important to remember that Maanji has no real alternative but to move to Bombay. Such is the way that India was been partitioned. An individual’s life totally changed by politicians because of religious hostilities and differences within India. If anything Maanji (and her husband) are innocent victims of their circumstances. As too were millions of other Indians. However it is noticeable that Maanji is not bitter nor does she hold any animosity towards the government. Again Maanji appears to accept the circumstances she finds herself in even if at times it can be difficult. Particularly when she thinks of her life in Rawalpindi. Though what is really noticeable about Maanji’s circumstances is how blunt the transition from Rawalpindi to Bombay was. Apart from a few personal belongings Maanji had to leave everything she worked for behind. Forced to start her life afresh in Bombay without the securities she had in Rawalpindi. Something that would have been the same for many refugees during the partitioning of India.