A House for Mr. Biswas

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul Read Free Book Online

Book: A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul Read Free Book Online
Authors: V.S. Naipaul
quite alone.

2. Before the Tulsis
    MR BISWAS could never afterwards say exactly where his father’s hut had stood or where Dhari and the others had dug. He never knew whether anyone found Raghu’s money. It could not have been much, since Raghu earned so little. But the ground did yield treasure. For this was in South Trinidad and the land Bipti had sold so cheaply to Dhari was later found to be rich with oil. And when Mr Biswas was working on a feature article for the magazine section of the
Sunday Sentinel –
RALEIGH’S DREAM COMES TRUE , said the headline, ‘But the Gold is Black. Only the Earth is Yellow. Only the Bush Green’ – when Mr Biswas looked for the place where he had spent his early years he saw nothing but oil derricks and grimy pumps, see-sawing, see-sawing, endlessly, surrounded by red No Smoking notices. His grandparents’ house had also disappeared, and when huts of mud and grass are pulled down they leave no trace. His navel-string, buried on that inauspicious night, and his sixth finger, buried not long after, had turned to dust. The pond had been drained and the whole swamp region was now a garden city of white wooden bungalows with red roofs, cisterns on tall stilts, and neat gardens. The stream where he had watched the black fish had been dammed, diverted into a reservoir, and its winding, irregular bed covered by straight lawns, streets and drives. The world carried no witness to Mr Biswas’s birth and early years.
    As he found at Pagotes.
    ‘How old you is, boy?’ Lal, the teacher at the Canadian Mission school, asked, his small hairy hands fussing with the cylindrical ruler on his roll-book.
    Mr Biswas shrugged and shifted from one bare foot to the other.
    ‘How you people want to get on, eh?’ Lal had been converted to Presbyterianism from a low Hindu caste and held all unconverted Hindus in contempt. As part of this contempt he spoke to them in broken English. ‘Tomorrow I want you to bring your buth certificate. You hear?’
    ‘Buth suttificate?’ Bipti echoed the English words. ‘I don’t have any.’
    ‘Don’t have any, eh?’ Lal said the next day. ‘You people don’t even know how to born, it look like.’
    But they agreed on a plausible date, Lal completed his roll-book record, and Bipti went to consult Tara.
    Tara took Bipti to a solicitor whose office was a tiny wooden shed standing lopsided on eight unfashioned logs. The distemper on its walls had turned to dust. A sign, obviously painted by the man himself, said that F. Z. Ghany was a solicitor, conveyancer and a commissioner of oaths. He didn’t look like all that, sitting on a broken kitchen chair at the door of his shed, bending forward, picking his teeth with a matchstick, his tie hanging perpendicular. Large dusty books were piled on the dusty floor, and on the kitchen table at his back there was a sheet of green blotting-paper, also dusty, on which there was a highly decorated metal contraption which looked like a toy version of the merry-go-round Mr Biswas had seen in the playground at St Joseph on the way to Pagotes. From this toy merry-go-round hung two rubber stamps, and directly below them there was a purple-stained tin. F. Z. Ghany carried the rest of his office equipment in his shirt pocket; it was stiff with pens, pencils, sheets of paper and envelopes. He needed to be able to carry his equipment about; he opened the Pagotes office only on market day, Wednesday; he had other offices, open on other market days, at Tunapuna, Arima, St Joseph and Tacarigua. ‘Just give me three or four dog-case or cuss-case every day,’ he used to say, ‘and I all right, you hear.’
    Seeing the group of three walking Indians file across the plank over the gutter, F. Z. Ghany got up, spat out the matchstick and greeted them with good-humoured scorn.
‘Maharajin, maharajin,
and little boy.’ He made most of his money from Hindus but, as a Muslim, distrusted them.
    They climbed the two steps into his office. It

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