Anand Mulloo: Watch Them Go Down
Mulloo’s novel is set among the poor farm workers who came from India to work in Mauritius. The workers are very much exploited by the farm owners. This is the story of their resistance to this exploitation. At the beginning of the story, Bajee Ingley is ill but wants to go to work, as it is his last day of work. He is first planning to milk his own cow. His son, Harry, however, was awoken during the night and heard rustlers trying to steal the cow. He failed to stop them and was knocked unconscious for his pains. Harry, like everyone else, has to work on the estate under the cruel supervision of Prasad, the strong and vicious overseer. Harry himself is strong and it is obvious that there will be a physical showdown between these two men. The thieves not only took the Pingleys’ cow but also, apparently, items belonging to the estate and Harry is punished for this theft. However, to Harry’s surprise, the owners, Pierre and Paul Garot, offer him a piece of land, apparently on favourable terms, as well as offering him a job as overseer. He is suspicious that he is being tricked but accepts anyway. However, when he goes to find his father to tell him, he has disappeared and there is evidence of foul play.
During much of the novel we have learned that, unlike his father, Harry has stood up to authority and exploitation and now he feels the need to do so even more strongly. As he is very strong and has managed to beat other exploiters he wonders how he can beat Prasad and the Garots. Meanwhile, we follow his planned marriage. His parents are eager for him to marry and, as he is of Indian descent, wish to choose his future wife for him. They settle on Rupa, daughter of Prasad. He is reluctant as he feels people will think he married her to curry favour with her father. He becomes even more reluctant when he meets Rupa, who is so obnoxious that even her mother condemns her. Eventually, his brother-in-law, Nareni, suggests Meera, the daughter of Pundit Dharam. Harry is very much attracted to Meera and, more particularly, admires the Pundit, who wishes to make Harry one of his disciples. The Pundit is part of a group that aims to go round villages and work against illiteracy and poverty and which is allied with the Socialists, who wish to create a union for the workers, which is illegal in Mauritius. Harry is soon working with this group, while investigating the death of his father and the identity of the thieves.
Much of the novel follows Harry’s marital issues but the key issue is the rising discontent and then outward rebellion of the farm workers, the reaction of the farm owners and the authorities, and Harry’s investigations. As he is a strong, intelligent and determined man, you know pretty well how Harry’s life will turn out but Mulloo tells a good tale of the attempt to free the workers from vicious exploitation.
First published in 1967 by Mauritius Writers’ Association