On Alien Soil by Sundara Ramaswamy
1. The narrator goes to Bulawayo from Salisbury, 6000 miles away from India. When he reaches the station, he picks up his baggage and gets down. Then he hears a voice from behind: “Saar, are you not from Tamil Nadu?”. It is none other than the Tamilian porter Raju Naidoo. Thus the narrator comes across the Tamilian.
2. In the story “On Alien Soil” by Sundara Ramaswamy, the speaker feels distress and remorse when he learns about the miserable plight of the Indians living in Africa. From Nair and the porter Raju Naidoo, the speaker hears all about the cruel treatment meted out to the Indians by the Whites. Nair’s words are full of bitterness. So much sorrow is stagnant in the eyes of Raju Naidoo. All these things fill the narrator’s mind with uncontrollable distress and helplessness.
3. Naidoo is a Tamilian who has gone to Africa in search of a job. For twenty years he worked in tobacco farms. Then he became a railway porter. He has suffered cruel treatment from the hands of the foreigners. He is presently married to a kaffiri woman with two children. He is unable to save a single penny. His ultimate dream in life is to come back to India and die on Indian soil.
4. When the narrator is sitting in a Gujarati’s shop, a kaffiri woman comes there and asks for four yards of black cloth. The Gujarati measures out the cloth and when the woman pleads for more, he allows half a yard more. When the narrator asks the Gujarati about this later, he reveals that he measured out three yards instead of four and then gave half a yard extra. The narrator concludes that this is how the Gujaratis manage to live in two-storey houses.
5. Nair is the owner of a beedi shop in Africa. He has taken a lot of beating after going there. He is married to a kaffiri woman with five children. According to Raju Naidoo, Nair is an odd person, a tough guy. But he is a good man. His words are full of unbounded bitterness. He is the only Tamilian out there in Bulawayo who reads the newspaper. When the narrator reaches there, Nair offers him a tea and takes no money for it.
6. Naidoo’s ultimate wish is to go back to India, find a job there and die on Indian soil, so that his soul will rest in peace.
Copyright © Manu Mangattu, Assistant Professor, Department of English, SGC Aruvithura
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