A HORSE AND TWO GOATS
A HORSE AND TWO GOATS
R. K. NARAYAN
The short story A Horse and Two Goats is taken from R. K. Narayan’s collection of short stories A Horse and Two Goats and Other Stories, published in the year 1970. It is set in one of the tiniest villages in India, Kritam. The center of attraction of the story lies in the conversation between Muni, an old man and resident of Kritam and a red-faced American businessman. It is a humorous conversation that shows how each was communicating with the other being ignorant of the other’s language. It is with their troubled communication that R. K. Narayan has tried to explore the conflict between rich and poor as well as between the Indian Culture and the Western Culture.
The story is set in one of the tiniest villages in India, Kritam. The village was so small that it consisted of less than thirty villages and only one of them was built with brick and cement. Muni, the protagonist of the story is an old man who once was a prosperous man and reared a flock of forty goats and sheep but now was left with only two goats and those too were too skinny to sell or eat. In his days of prosperity his wife not only served him salted millet flour but also put in his hand a packed lunch of millet cooked into a ball, which he could swallow or which he could eat with a raw onion at midday while watching his cattle graze. But Muni’s riches is past now. He is left with only two skinny goats and hardly gets anything better to eat than drumstick leaves boiled and salted by his wife. Their only source of income is from his wife’s occasional jobs such as grinding corn in the Big House, or sweeping and scrubbing somewhere.
On the morning of the day on which the story was set Muni rebelled against his monotonous meal of boiled and salted drumstick leaves and demanded his wife to let him chew the drumstick out of sauce. Since Muni’s wife ran short of her store, she sends him to the local shopman to get from him food items on credit. However the shopman refuses to give Muni any further credit and he returns from there empty handed and humiliated. Since there is no food in the house Muni is told by his wife to fast till evening and she sends him away with the goats. Muni soon reaches the outskirts and leaving his goats to meander and graze on the grass near the highway, he sits himself on the pedestal of the horse statue for the rest of the day and watches the lorries and buses passing through, to feel connected to the larger world. As he watches the road and waits for the appropriate time to return home, he noticed a new sort of vehicle coming down at full speed. The vehicle resembled both a motor car and a bus. A red faced foreigner in khaki-clothes gets down from the car and asks Muni if there is any gas station nearby. Muni mistakes the foreigner to be a policeman or a soldier and feels scared. The red faced man suddenly looked up at the clay horse and cried, “Marvellous” in amazement. The American then greets Muni and says, “Namaste! How do you do?”, to which Muni replies in English, “Yes, no”, the only two English words in his vocabulary. He then flatly starts in Tamil : “My name is Muni.” And continues to say that those two goats were his, and no one could challenge it – though their village is full of slanderers those days who will not hesitate to say that what belongs to a man doesn’t belong to him. Confused by Muni’s Tamil speech he takes out his silver cigarette case and offers one to Muni and tells him that he has come from New York. He takes out his wallet and presented Muni his business card. Muni however thinks it to be his arrest warrant and shrinks back. He tries to explain in chaste Tamil his innocence regarding the murder which took place a few weeks ago. A body had been found mutilated thrown under a tamarind tree at the border between Kritam and Kuppam. The American listened attentively though he understood nothing.
However in spite of not understanding each other’s language the two men go on talking. Each speaks about his own self.Neither of them understand the other butbothrespond in their own way.When Muni tells the American that he was not sent to school since he belonged to a low caste, the later understands nothing but laughs heartily. Again when Muni explains the principles of Hinduism to him and that “the Redeemer will come in the shape of a horse, called Kalki”, the foreigner without having the slightest idea of what the former was saying assures him that once brought, he would keep the statue with utmost care in his living room in his house in the USA.
Finally the American shows Muni a hundred-rupee currency note, and Muni laughs to think that the man is asking him for change. But when he saw the red faced man showing some interest in his goats Muni felt he is interested in buying his goats and thought his dreams of building up a small shop is about to be fulfilled. At the end the American believed he had bought the horse statue and Muni returned home happy that at last he was successful in getting rid of his goats for money. Muni came home topresent the money to his wife and told her that he had sold the goats to a foreigner in exchange of money. The American on the other hand with the help of a couple of men detached, “the horse from its pedestal and placed it in his station wagon.” The goats however returned to their home. Seeing them Muni’s wife became suspicious and thus accused Muni of stealing the money.
Clash of Cultures: The most important theme of the story. The clash of East-West culture is represented through the conversation of the conversation of Muni and the red-faced American. Muni, a poor and uneducated villager knows no English but only Tamil, whereas on the other hand the wealthy, educated Americanknows no Tamil but expects Muni to speak English. While Muni is proud to discuss about his village, his religion, his culture, the American is only interested in a business deal with Muni.
The story is given an apt title. The major part of the story is the conversation between Muni and the American. The American gets fascinated by the horse statue and wants to buy itwhile Muni mistakes thinking the foreigner wants to buy his two goats. In the beginning of the story also we see Muni who in his early days had a big flock of goats is left now with only two skinny goats. At the end also we see Muni feels on getting a hundred rupee currency note from the American that he has sold his goats and can now fulfill his dream of building up a small shop. Accordingly he tells his wife also but the two goats return to his house while the American detaches the horse statue from the pedestal with the help of a couple of men and places it in his station wagon. Hence, the title A Horse and Two Goats.