A powerful story by Padma Bhushan Mulk Raj Anand also a recipient of Sahitya Academy Award for his distinguished writings in English language.
The Lost Child is a universal story written in the perspective of Indian village life. Probably such children and such parents exist in every country and in every society. The most peculiar thing about the story is that throughout the narration the child and the parents are not given any names. The child is the representative of universal childhood and the parents are the true advocates of universal paternity disciplining the child under tight vigilance. But despite all checks and restrictions nothing is of greater importance in the life than the bond of true relationship between a child and his parents.
The Lost Child is all about the thrilling as well as frightful experiences of a small child who accompanies his parents to a village fair on the occasion of spring festival.
The passage to the fair is full of gaiety, spectacular sceneries and allurements to stimulate the sense organs of any child anywhere in the world. The child is full of excitement, enthusiasm and curiosity. He is very sensitive about the outside world and gets attracted towards everything that comes in his way. All the village folks are dressed in customary colorful dresses and yellow turbans as it is the spring festival and the child is very excited to see such a huge crowd going in one direction busy in merry making, singing, laughing and enjoying every moment of the event.
On the way he gets tempted towards the beautiful toys and meekly pleads his father to buy them for him but father’s cold stare extinguishes his desire and damps his spirit. He is disheartened but very soon he overcomes his disappointment. His eyes are mesmerized when he beholds the scenic beauty of the flowering mustered fields wavering like the ripples of a river with the gust of wind. He gets very curious when he sees the insects coming out of their holes to enjoy the sunshine. The bustling dragonflies with their gauzy purple wings steal his heart. The world of butterflies, bee hives and small insects arouse his curiosity to the core. He runs frivolously to catch them. But his mother’s cautionary call prevents him from getting that pleasure.
Now he is attracted by the majestic beauty of the grove where an old banyan tree stands sheltering many blossoming trees. The intoxicating perfume of their pollen mingled with soft cool breeze pleases him most and he stands there dumbfounded. A shower of petals falls upon the child and forgetting everything he tries to gather the raining petals. The titillating touch of the soft flowers delights him extremely. The melodious cooing of dove and koel fills his heart with immense pleasure and the sound of flute of a snake charmer hypnotizes him. But his parent’s call pulls him back from his paradise and a little bit disgusted he follows them obediently. His mouth waters for his favorite sweet but his demand goes unheeded. He also suppresses his desire to have the scented garland and colorful balloons as his presumptions regarding the eternal denial of his father for everything based on his past experiences warn him not to yearn for them. Knowing well that his parents will not like him to listen to the coarse music of the flute of the juggler he himself dismisses the idea of stopping there. An under current of disappointment, resentment and frustration runs in the heart of the child as he is denied everything he wants to get. But quite stoically he braves the heartlessness of his parents. After making so many sacrifices he reaches a spot where people are enjoying the ride of a roundabout. Mesmerized he watches the motion of the roundabout intently unaware of the fact that he is separated from his parents. This time the child could not resist his desire to go on the ride. Suppressing all his fears and anticipations he makes a bold request to get on the ride but when he looks back he does not find his parents there to answer him. The child calls them aloud but his calls remain unanswered. He gets confused and panic stricken. In utter bewilderment he runs to and fro to look for them but to no avail. A kind person takes pity on the child and tries to console and comfort him. Just to divert his mind he offers him all of his favorite things he desired most to have previously but all of a sudden they all lose significance for the child. Constantly he goes on crying, ”I want my mother I want my father.” This proves that nothing is of more importance for the child than the protective and caring shelter of his parents.
The language of the story is very rich. Description of the mustered fields and grove is very poetic and vivid. The writer has a deep insight in the psychology of the child. The power of the story lies in the skillful narration of joys and expectations, the tender feelings and excitements, and the fears and misapprehensions of the child’s mind. The story has the element of pathos throughout its narration. The child wins all the sympathy of the readers when his desires and demands remain unfulfilled and in the end he loses his parents too. He becomes truly a lost child.