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Vaikom Muhammed Basheer was a Malayalam-language writer from India. He was a novelist and short story writer, as well as a writer, humanist, and freedom fighter. He became well-known for his down-to-earth writing style. His works have been translated into English as well as a number of Indian languages.
The story ‘Oru Manushyan’ emphasizes the importance of human values in understanding and assisting other humans in strange circumstances. The author tells a story about individuals who are harsh and live in a huge city. He lived in the city, where he taught English to migrant workers.
When translated into English, ‘Oru Manushyan’ means ‘A Man,’ and the title refers to a man who comes to the speaker’s rescue when he is in a place 1,500 miles away from home. The speaker is unfamiliar with the area and does not speak the native language. He is fluent in English and Hindi, but very few people in the area speak any of these languages. The location is a large city in a mountain valley. The crime rate is high because individuals are ruthless and willing to do everything for money. They serve in banks, mills, and commercial institutions as soldiers, money lenders, and watchmen.
People want to learn English so they can write addresses in English at the post office, therefore the speaker, who lives in a small room, teaches English to migrant laborers from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. If they have to hire someone else to do it, they must pay anything from one to four annas. To save the costs of morning tea and midday meal, the speaker, who earns very little, sleeps all day and wakes up at four o’clock in the evening.
He goes to a bustling restaurant for dinner one evening, and when it comes time to pay the eleven annas bill, he notices that his purse, which contains his life’s savings of fourteen rupees, is missing. However, the restaurant owner believes the speaker is trying to deceive him and threatens to rip out his eyes. None of the other customers at the restaurant appear to be helpful either.
The speaker begs the owner to keep his coat as a security deposit. The owner, however, chortles (laughs loudly) and demands that the speaker take off his coat, shirt, and shoes. Then he demands that the speaker remove even his trousers, the speaker begs for mercy, stating that he has nothing inside. This just draws further amusement, so the restaurant owner, along with the other fifty people there, forces the speaker to strip down even more, mockingly saying, “There must be something inside.”
The speaker, finally accepting his fate, begins unbuttoning his trousers while visualizing himself naked in front of others. A blue-eyed, fair-complexioned, six-foot tall man with a red turban and white pants intervenes at this moment and offers to pay the owner the money owing. He asks the speaker to accompany him, but when the speaker inquires about his name, he responds that he does not have one. When the speaker claims ‘Mercy’ must be his name, he remains silent and continues walking until they reach a deserted bridge. After ensuring that no one is in the vicinity, the stranger pulls out five wallets and asks the speaker which one is his.
He warns the speaker to go without looking around and not to tell anyone that he has seen the man. He hands over the wallet, which the speaker has identified as his, along with the money, and leaves, wishing the speaker God’s protection. The speaker, for one, prays that God would bless the stranger.
It is evident that the man who helps the speaker is the pickpocket who has taken the speaker’s wallet, as well as four other wallets. Though the speaker expresses gratitude to the individual, the circumstance poses a number of ethical problems. Can the pickpocket be considered a good man? Following one line of reasoning, we can conclude that he can be. He would have had a lot of joy watching the speaker get humiliated, knowing well well that the speaker is telling the truth, if he had been completely cold-hearted.
The different ethical problems all converge to the same conclusion, that we cannot sit in judgment of others’ actions. No case may be judged only on the basis of a single viewpoint. There are a variety of options. The man – ‘Oru Manushyan’ – is clearly a person with some compassion in his heart, and the speaker will always remember him as his compassionate saviour, despite the fact that he is a criminal.
The author demonstrates how, in the right circumstances, even a pickpocket may become a compassionate person. The plot emphasizes the actual expression of human ideals. Kindness is a virtue that can touch even the most hardened of hearts!