Introduction

In Mulk Raj Anand’s ‘The Barber’s Trade Union’, aspects like status, image, alienation, pride, cleverness, independence, adoration, respect, control, and freedom are explored. The story, which comes from his book of Selected Short Stories, seems to be about class. Chandu is said to be of an inferior caste or social status than the other residents of the town. It’s as if he’s being evaluated simply on the basis of the fact that he and his father both work as barbers.

About the Author

Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004), Assistant. Prof. of English, Lal Bahadur Shastri Mahavidyalaya, Dharmabada, was born into a Kshatriya household in Peshawar. He moved overseas after finishing his schooling in India to pursue higher study, which included a doctorate in philosophy.

Many notable honours have been bestowed upon him, including the Padma Bhushan, the International Peace Prize, and the Sahitya Academy Award. As a novelist, short story writer, and critic, he has been prolific. Untouchable (1935), Coolie (1936), Two Leaves and a Bud (1937), The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1940), and The Sword and the Sickle (1941) are among his works.

Chandu Against The Upper Castes!

Chandu’s intricate personality is accounted in the first section of the text. He is said to be brilliant at reciting poetry but terrible in mathematics. However, he isn’t the only one to blame. At his father’s request, he had to practice his inherited profession. Because of his father’s death, his education came to a full halt.

Chandu takes on full-fledged responsibilities at a young age. Every morning, Chandu runs errands for shaving and hair-cutting for the village’s prominent figures. Everything works smoothly, and the planned routine is not interrupted till Chandu starts doing business in the Taluka. He notices several unusual things there, notably doctor Kalan Khan’s rig—a white turban, a white rubber coat, and a leather bag in hand. He has an uncontrollable fascination to the clothing. He is interested in medicine because his father has left him with some knowledge about medicinal practice.

Chandu’s new outfit creates a lot of bustle and confusion in the community. As he moves closer to the landlord’s residence, the landlord, a staunch and rigid thinker, mortifies Chandu with the evilest words after seeing him in the new robe. Chandu, an innocent low-caste man, was humiliated for no apparent reason. By dressing himself as doctor Kalan Khan, the landlord made it appear as if Chandu had committed a crime. 

Chandu is forced to acknowledge that, as a low-caste lad, he is not entitled to such delight and that he is doomed to serve the upper caste society. This is his unavoidable fate, and he will be a part of it. The village’s Sahukar goes one step further and deals with Chandu in the worst manner imaginable. Instead of giving in to the village authorities, Chandu, who has been humiliated and outraged, takes action to teach the fools a lesson. His line of action is one of resistance. By conquering his circumstances, he wishes to transform his and his other brothers’ fates.

Despite his position as a barber, he possesses the ability to outwit and surpass others. He stops paying service to the village notables and others for shaving and hair-cutting in order to teach the orthodox fools a lesson. Instead, he goes to town to make money. The result was obvious within a few days, producing a great trouble and annoyance. Chandu was so shrewd and clever that he had defeated the barber of Verka, his counterpart.

As a result of all this, the landlord appears sick, and his wife has threatened to leave him. With a dark tint of tobacco on his moustache, the Sahukar resembles a leper. The village elders became a source of amusement. Chandu’s strategy of non-cooperation worked out perfectly.

The residents of Verka approach the barber with a double money offer, but it is rejected. While Chandu attracts everyone in the town, the villagers struggle to reel from the new situation. He gathers all the barbers within a seven-mile radius and persuades them that it was past time for all the seniors to come to them and that they should cease paying them so much attention.

Chandu has taken control of his circumstances by forming a barber’s union and forcing residents of the neighbourhood to come to him rather than have him go to them. Many people may have followed the elders’ advice in the community. Chandu, however, does not. He not only continues to dress as he pleases, but he also pushes the males of the village to follow his norms, rather than doing as the landlord, Sahukar and others have instructed.

Conclusion

Chandu, according to Mulk Raj Anand, is employing his cleverness. Chandu firmly believed that a system that excludes him will not be able to defeat him just because he belongs to a lower caste. Those in the community who are isolating him, Chandu understands, are dependent on him and his skills. The narrator’s connection with Chandu is especially fascinating since he not only respects but also idolizes him. In many aspects, the narrator envies Chandu’s independence when it comes to being able to go into town.