The Lost Child
By Mulk Raj Anand
About the Author
Image Reference: apnaorg.com
Mulk Raj Anand was a prominent Indian author of novels, short stories, and critical essays in English. He was born on December 12, 1905 in Peshawar, India (now in Pakistan). He was the son of a coppersmith. Anand graduated with honours in 1924 from Punjab University in Lahore and pursued additional studies at the University of Cambridge and at University College in London.
Anand first gained wide recognition for his novels Untouchable (1935) and Coolie (1936), both of which examined the problems of poverty in Indian society. In 1945 he returned to Bombay (now Mumbai) to campaign for national reforms. He wrote other novels and short-storries and also edited numerous magazines and journals. He is known for his realistic and sympathetic portrayal of the poor in India. He is considered a founder of the English-language Indian novel. He died on September 28, 2004 in Pune, India.
Text Reference: Britannica.com
In this story, a child goes to see the village fair in the company of his father and mother. He is attracted by different things in the fair. He asks his parents again and again to buy him something or the other. But they don’t buy anything for him. By chance, the child gets separated from his parents. He starts to run here and there shouting for his parents. A kind man sees him. He tries to console the child. He takes him to different shops. But the child goes on weeping. Now he has lost interest in everything. He only cries, “I want my mother, I want my father!”
The story is based on the theme of close bond that children share with their parents. The lost child forgets all about his desires and yearns deeply for his parents when he fails to find them. Everything else loses its significance and the only thing that matters is his wish to be reunited with his parents.
It was the festival of spring. A large number of men, women and children were going to see the village fair. They were dressed in new clothes. They were in a happy mood. A child was also going with his parents to the fair. He was very happy. He was attracted by various things. He lagged behind again and again. His parents called him to come along. The child ran and joined his parents.
The child wished to buy a toy from a toy shop. But his father stared at him with his red eyes. There was a mustard field on the way. The boy saw a beautiful butterfly in the field. He tried to catch it. His parents again called him. After sometime, the child’s parents rested under a banyan tree near the well. The child began to gather the fallen petals.
At last, they reached the fair. The child saw a sweet-seller. He desired to have some burfi. But he knew that his father would not buy it for him. He would call him greedy. So he did not press his demand. He then wished to enjoy a juggler’s tricks. He also wanted to have balloons and flowers. But he knew that his parents would not agree to his demands. So he moved on along with them.
Then the child saw a ’roundabout’. He wished to enjoy a ride on that roundabout. He called his patents. But there was no reply. He turned back. His parents were nowhere to be seen. His heart was filled with fear. He started weeping. He ran about crying, “Mother, father.” He looked everywhere in the fair. But he could not find them anywhere. A kind man lifted him up in his arms. He tried to console the child. The man took him to the flower-seller, balloon-seller, juggler and the joy-ride. But the child had lost interest in everything. He went on crying, “I want my mother, I want my father!”
The Lost Child: The ‘lost child’ is the main character in the story. He is innocent and happy by nature. He walks joyfully to the fair and plays with everything that comes his way including insects and worms. He is obedient and follows his parents’ instructions without any grudge. He is cheerful and does not throw tantrums when they refuse to buy him things. In fact, he is very intelligent because half the time he does not even wait for their refusal, for he already scares him. After getting lost, he does not get tempted or consoled by the very things that he had longed for earlier from his parents. This child wins reader’s love and admiration for his innocence and purity.
The Parents: The parents of the child provide safety and security to their son that is essential for every human being. The father appears to be a bit stricter than the mother but together they make the perfect support system for their child. On a deeper level, their refusal may be seen as an attempt to instill discipline in their child. Their concern for the little boy can be seen from the constant reminders that they give him whenever he lags behind. The mother’s efforts to divert the child’s attention to other things show that she has immense patience and love for her son. Thus, the parents impress the reader with their affection and concern for their little boy.
The Kind man: The kind man represents people, who from the crowd are inherently good-natured. He rescues the lost child and saves him from getting trampled. He sincerely tries to find his parents because he is mature enough to understand their plight at having lost their son. He is soft-hearted because he cannot bear to see the child suffer. He tries to console him by offering him the things that are usually loved by children. This also shows that he must be a family man with children of his own. He understands children’s behaviour and is patient with the child when he refuses all the things offered by him. The helpful man thus reassures the reader that general goodness is still alive in human beings.
Q1. What are the things the child sees on his way to the fair? Why does he lag behind?
Ans. The child sees the following things on his way to the fair.
(a) He sees a shop of toys.
(b) He sees a flowering mustard field.
(c) He sees dragon flies and butterflies fluttering their wings.
(d) He is also attracted by the insects and worms.
(e) When he enters the grove he sees doves which are cooing.
(f) He sees huge crowds of people going to the fair.
(g) He also comes across a sweetmeat seller selling sweets like burfi and gulabjamun.
(h) A little further he sees a flower seller who is selling a garland of gulmohar.
(i) Walking ahead, he sees a man selling rainbow colour balloons.
(j) He also sees a snake charmer who stands playing a flute to a snake.
(k) Finally, before losing track of his parents he sees a roundabout swing.
The child keeps lagging behind his parents on the way to the fair. His parents constantly call him so that he doesn’t lag behind. This is because the child is fascinated by all the things he sees on his way. At times, he stops to be able to buy toys and at other times he stops to admire the beauty of the nature – collecting flowers, catching butterflies.
Q2. In the fair he wants many things. What are they? Why does he move on without waiting for an answer?
Ans. The child wants many things in the fair. They are toys, balloons, sweets, garland of gulmohar, a ride in the roundabout etc. The boy moved on without waiting for an answer because he knew that his request would be denied at each step.
Q3. When does he realize that he has lost his way? How have his anxiety and insecurity been described?
Ans. He realises that he has lost his way when he reaches the roundabout and stops to observe it moving in full swing, with men, women and children enjoying themselves on it. When he turns to his parents to ask for permission to go on the rounds, he finds them nowhere. He looks all around but there was no sign of them. A full, deep cry rose within his dry throat and he ran from where he stood, crying out in real fear “Mother, Father.” Tears rolled down from his eyes. Panic-stricken, he ran from one side to the other, in all directions, knowing not where to go. His yellow turban came untied and his clothes became muddy.
Q4. Why does the lost child lose interest in the things that he had wanted earlier?
Ans. The lost child loses interest in the things that he had wanted earlier because he was panic stricken on being separated from his parents. He forgets all about his desires and yearns deeply for his parents when he fails to find them. Everything loses its significance and the only thing that matters is his wish to be reunited with his parents.
Q5. What do you think happens in the end? Does the child find his parents?
Ans. In the end, a kind man lifts him up in his arms. He tries to console the child and takes him to the flower-seller, balloon-seller, juggler and the joy-ride. But the child has lost interest in everything. He goes on crying, “I want my mother, I want my father!”
The kind man who tries to console the little boy by offering him various things at the fair, may have also asked him for some description of his parents and helped him to be reunited with them.
Additional Short Answer Type Questions
Q. Parents were in a hurry to reach the fair but the child was delaying them. How?
Ans. The child was getting tempted by the many distractions on way to the fair. Sometimes he would stop by the toy shops while at other times he would start running after butterflies. The parents had to pause frequently and call him to walk beside them.
Q. How did the child’s father react on hearing the child say, “I want that toy.”?
Ans. The child was used to his parents’, especially his father’s habit of refusing him anything that he desired to have. Yet when he dared to express his desire to have a toy, his father looked at him red-eyed like a tyrant.
Q. How can you say that the child was scared of his father?
Ans. The child was tempted by many things but he asked for them only in slow murmurs. This shows that he was scared of his father and could not express his demands as rightfully as some other children do.
Q. How did the mother distract the child’s mind from the toy seller?
Ans. The child’s mother drew his attention to the flowering mustard field to distract his mind from the toy seller. Here he saw colourful dragon-flies with gaudy purple wings, black bee and butterflies. He gazed at them as they flew in the air.
Q. How did the child enjoy the beauty of nature on his way to the fair?
Ans. On his way to the fair, the child saw a flowering mustard field. He stopped there to watch the little insects and worms that were coming out from their hiding places. He then tried to gather the petals of falling flowers and ran gaily in circles around a banyan tree.
Q. What happened when the little child entered the grove? How did he enjoy there?
Ans. When the little child entered the grove, a shower of young flowers fell upon him. He forgot all about his parents and began to gather the petals. Then he heard the cooing of doves and he ran excitedly to his parents, dropping the flowers he had gathered.
Q. Why didn’t the child wait for an answer after he had pleaded for sweets?
Ans. The child’s mouth watered at the sight of his favourite sweet ‘burfi’. He murmured slowly asking for one but didn’t wait for an answer because he knew his parents would refuse and call him greedy.
Q. What plea did the child finally make to his parents? Was his plea heard?
Ans. The child finally pleaded his parents to let him go on a ride on the roundabout. Sadly, this plea was not heard because his parents weren’t standing behind him at that time. He had been separated from them and hence they could not hear him.
Q. The fair lost all its charm and attraction for the child. When did this happen?
Ans. Finally tempted by the sight of the roundabout in motion, the child failed to keep pace with his parents and got separated. This separation filled him with panic and he lost interest in the fair.
Q. How did the child realise that his parents were not with him? What was his immediate reaction?
Ans. On not getting any reply to his bold request for a ride on a roundabout, the child turned back and noticed that his parents were not there. He realised at this moment that he had got lost. Filled with fear and panic, he ran wailing in all directions calling aloud for his parents.
Q. What happened when the lost child reached the temple door?
Ans. On reaching the temple door, the lost child got caught between the legs of the crowd that was jostling with each other to get into the shrine. The child got knocked down and would have got trampled if the ‘kind man’ had not rescued him after hearing his loud cry.
Q. Who rescued the lost child? What did he offer to buy?
Ans. A kind man in the shrine heard the child’s cry and lifted him in his arms. To pacify the wailing child, he offered to buy all those things that he had asked for from his parents – horse ride, a multi-coloured balloon, garland, snake-charmer’s show, and a sweetmeat.
Q. What do you think happens in the end? Does the child find his parents?
Ans. The lost child was fortunate enough to have been picked up by a kind and affectionate soul. This man must have gone out of his way to trace the lost child’s mother and father and succeeded in reuniting him with his parents.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q. Write a note on the theme of the story ‘The Lost Child’.
Ans. The story The Lost Child’ is based on child psychology. A child is curious by nature. He is attracted by beautiful things. He wishes to possess everything which looks attractive. However, he takes interest in these things only when he is in the company of his parents. But when he is lost, these things lose their charm for him. In this story, a child goes to a fair with his parents. He is attracted by different things. He wishes to buy balloons, sweets and garlands of gulmohur. He wishes to enjoy a ride in the roundabout. But suddenly he finds that his parents are missing. Now he starts weeping. A kind man tries to console him. He offers to buy him a number of things. But the child goes on weeping. He wants only his parents.
Q. The man who had rescued the child was compassionate and kind. Discuss.
Ans. The man who had rescued the child had a heart full of goodness. He did not ignore the painful shrieks of the boy calling for his parents. Risking his own safety, he bent down in the crowd to rescue the child from getting trampled. He forgot his own purpose of visiting the shrine did his best to comfort and soothe the scared boy. He talked to him very kindly and inquired about his parents. When he did not get any response from the child, he did not lose patience. Instead he tried to make him feel at ease by offering him the little things that children love. The man sincerely tried to pacify the child so that he could help him to find his parents. His character thus reflects the human values of kindness, compassion, care and love.
Q. Compare the child’s behaviour before and after he lost his parents.
Ans. Before losing his parents, the child is in a happy, cheerful and playful mood. He gets attracted to many things on the way but follows his parents’ call whenever they ask him to. He is amazed by the beauty of nature and enjoys it in his innocent way. He feels secure in the presence of his parents and so he does not even wait for their response when he demands things from them.
However, on getting separated, he is filled with fear and panic. He cries inconsolably and gets lost in a large crowd of people all around. He refuses to accept even those things that he had wanted a little while ago. Everything else loses value in his eyes in the absence of his parents. His laughter and happiness is replaced by insecurity and fear.