Upper Division Love by Manohar Malgonkar
In Upper Division Love by Manohar Malgonkar we have the theme of aspirations, escape, disillusion, love, self-importance and revenge. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed man the reader realises after reading the story that Malgonkar may be exploring the theme of escape. The narrator is exceptionally fond of Sunderbala. So much so that he has pictures of her on his wall at home. Also on one occasion so awestruck was the narrator that he ended up staring for some time at a picture of Sunderbala on the street. This may be important as Malgonkar may be highlighting the fact that the narrator likes to escape into a dream or fantasy world when it comes to Sunderbala. However it is interesting that when the narrator does get a glimpse into Sunderbala’s real character. He does not like her. This may be significant as Malgonkar may be suggesting that all is not what it seems when it comes to one’s fantasies or dreams. If anything Sunderbala is an unpleasant type of woman considering herself to be more important than she really is. In reality it would appear that Sunderbala has very little time for anybody except for Ramakant.
It is also interesting that narrator while working on the film with Sunderbala becomes disillusioned with her and rather than finding her personality to be attractive realises that Sunderbala is not the person he thought she would be. The characters that Sunderbala plays on screen obviously being different to the real Sunderbala. Something that is noticeable when Sunderbala calls the narrator a beast when he attempts to pull the necklace from her neck. Through no fault of his own the narrator gets blamed by Sunderbala for hurting her and is backed up by Ramakant. It is through this action that the narrator seeks revenge on Sunderbala and Ramakant. It is as though the narrator’s eyes have been opened. Just like the blind man mentioned in the story the narrator can see again and he realises that Sunderbala and Ramakant are in fact not nice people. It is also interesting that the narrator is proud of his efforts when he is working on the film. So proud in fact that he likes to let the reader know of his achievements. This may be important as the narrator has been afforded the opportunity to escape from his lower division job as a clerk and mix with those he considers to be important. However their importance does eventually fade.
It is as though reality knocks on the narrator’s door and he realises that the film industry is not what he thinks it is. Despite this the narrator is not disheartened. If anything he is practical and it for this reason that he seeks revenge on Sunderbala and Ramakant. Though the narrator’s escapades with Ramakant might be considered to be farcical they are still nonetheless effective. He achieves his goal of making sure that Sunderbala does not have the opportunity to sit beside the Minister. With it being clear to the reader that the narrator is taking away Sunderbala’s power over him. Throughout the story there is also a sense that Sunderbala is full of her own self-importance. At no stage does she stop outside the studio to talk to her fans rather she drives straight into the studio and ignores them. Forgetting that her success is due to the fact that her fans worship her. This may be significant as Malgonkar could be attempting to highlight the fact that many actors and actresses are removed from reality. Though it may be a case that they create alternative worlds in their films. They also appear to live their lives as though they live in an alternative world.
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator rather than giving up on his idolatry of film stars shifts his attention to another film star, Shilamati. The reader realising that the energies that the narrator used to focus on Sunderbala will be used instead to pursue Shilamati. Which may leave some to suggest that the narrator himself has learnt nothing about his experience. He continues to place others on a pedestal that they do not deserve to be placed on and in all likelihood the narrator’s feelings will be hurt again. Just as he has been hurt by Sunderbala and Ramakant. It might also be important that the narrator has the ability to shift his attention from one actress to the next as there is a sense that should the narrator become disillusioned with Shilamati as he did with Sunderbala. He will simply find another actress to focus his energies on. Throughout the story the narrator has tried to escape from his own realities. Holding onto his aspirations of greater things. Something that some critics might suggest is very normal for an individual to do. While others might suggest that narrator is attempting to live a fantasy.