A House for Mr. Biswas

In his novel A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul has created a very lively and realistic atmosphere of ex-patriot Indian community that is living separate from its culture, while trying to live the same cultural atmosphere.

The novel has vividly shown internal conflict and struggle of its protagonist, Mr. Biswas, especially in relation of his in-laws, the Tulsis. Mr. Biswas, a person of humble personal fortunes and limited means was never fully accepted in rather affluent and well-off business class Tulsi family. At the best of their behavior Tulsis merely tolerated Mr. Biswas and Mr. Biswas, on his part found Tulsis an extremely hypocrite and disorganized clan, though he often wondered at the complexity of their huge joint family.

In this context the Christmas celebration in Tulsis holds special significance for both its inhabitants as well as for Mr. Biswas. Mr. Biswas, normally finding the stores of Tulsis very depressing and repulsive, could not ignore the sudden transformation of Tulsis store in places of romance, charm and delight at the time of Christmas.

The stored owed this transformation to assorted goods kept their for sale in Christmas, and presence of these varied, multicolored goods, that included various toys, musical instruments, resplendent show pieces, gift items and scintillating glassware that changed the character of not only the store, but also enlivened the houses of Tulsis and spirits of its members. Christmas always created a series of anticipations and hopes among members of Tulsi clans.

The younger generation engaged itself in colorful decorations, while the ladies of house, although superficially uninterested in this ‘trite’ event, could not help preparing for the occasion, stuffing the lining of children’s pillows with gifts items.

The excitement of Christmas, as described in the novel, peaked on Christmas morning and with sufficient over dose of excitement, it was felt to be over by noon, with everyone’s attention turning to delicacies being prepared in kitchen and children went to sleep with great anticipations for their ‘Santa Clause’ gifts.

The gifts, eventually proved to be very ordinary-an apple, a balloon and a whistle for every child, but as it was a common gift, no one complained and children remained content with their gift, enjoying some excellent lunch and not so excellent dinner. Meanwhile a sharp contrast has been drawn by description of Christmas at barracks, the world of Mr. Biswas, showcasing the great difference of class in even a small ex-patriot community.

“ At the barracks there were no apples, no stockings, no baking of cakes, no churning of ice creams, no refinements to be waited for. It was from the start a day of abandoned eating and drinking and was to end, not with the beating of children, but with the beating of wives.”

There is no wonder then Mr. Biswas felt a kind of fascination for the Christmas celebration taking place at the house of Tulsis.

The following of ‘Doll House’ sharply points at the vast gulf that existed between the world of Mr. Biswas and the world of his in laws. At the time of above described Christmas, Mr. Biswas’ wife Shama was living at her parent’s house along with her two children Savi and Ananad. On the next day of Christmas Mr. Biswas, realizing he had not brought any gift for his children, purchased a splendid doll house ly for his daughter Savi, with whom was he was most attached, and presented it to her when all other children happened to be standing around.

Mr. Biswas had gifted this rather exquisite doll house to his daughter out of purely love and affection, however, in the complex political atmosphere of Tulsis, this gesture was seen particularly offending and humiliating and Mr. Biswas was straightforwardly told of his effrontery by the matriarch of the family.

Meanwhile the situation turned unpleasant as other children at Tulsis were publicly admonished against touching the ‘Doll House’ that was brought just for Savi, in an attempt to ostracize the girl and her mother because they happened to receive an expensive and quality gift that other children did not.