1. The Lost Child Introduction


The Lost Child

By Mulk Raj Anand

The Lost Child Introduction

The Lost Child tells the storey of a small child who becomes disoriented while attending a fair. He had gone to the fair with his parents, but he loses them when he becomes engrossed in looking at a roundabout swing. The storey emphasises the child's bond of love and affection with his parents. Prior to losing them, he had been demanding various items such as sweets, balloons, flowers, swings, and so on. He is picked up by a stranger after he loses them. The stranger tries to calm the child down by offering him everything he had demanded from his parents, but the child no longer wants them. He prioritises his parents.

The Lost Child Summary

It was the spring season. The villagers emerged from their homes, dressed brightly, and made their way to the fair. A child, accompanied by his parents, was very excited and happy to be going to the fair. He was drawn to the toy and candy stalls. His father became enraged, but his mother calmed him down and diverted his attention to other things. The child moved forward but lagged behind because his eyes were caught by something every now and then.

As they moved forward, the child expressed an interest in the various items on the stalls. When he saw sweets with gold and silver leaves, his mouth watered. He wanted his favourite burfi but knew his parents would say no because he was greedy, so he walked ahead. Then he saw beautiful Gulmohar garlands but didn't ask for them, then he saw balloons but knew his parents would deny him because he was too old to play with balloons, so he walked away.

He then came across a snake charmer and a roundabout swing. To his surprise, there was no response when he stopped to ask his parents for permission to use the swing. Neither his father nor mother were present. The child now realised he was lost. He looked everywhere but couldn't find them. The place was suffocatingly crowded. He became terrified, but then a kind-hearted man picked him up in his arms and consoled the bitterly weeping child. He invited him on a joyride, but the child sobbed, "I want my father, I want my mother." The man offered him candy, balloons, and a garland, but the child continued to sob, "I want my father, I want my mother."

The Lost Child Lesson Explanation

IT was the festival of spring. From the wintry shades of narrow lanes and alleys emerged a gaily clad humanity. Some walked, some rode on horses, others sat, being carried in bamboo and bullock carts. One little boy ran between his father’s legs, brimming over with life and laughter.

wintry shades of narrow lanes and alleys: in the winter season, the narrow lanes were full of shade.

  • Emerged: came out
  • Brimming over: to be full of something

The storey takes place in the springtime. Because the winter season had just ended, everyone came out of their homes. They were upbeat now that the bitter cold had passed. People were transported by foot, horses, bamboo carts, and bullock carts. A small child and his parents accompanied him. He ran around excitedly, frequently colliding with his father's legs. He was brimming with energy, excitement, and laughter.

“Come, child, come,” called his parents, as he lagged behind, fascinated by the toys in the shops that lined the way.

  • Lagged behind: was left behind
  • Fascinated by: attracted to
  • Lined the way: were set up along the way.

The child was attracted to the toys on display at the various stalls. When he was left behind, his parents would call him and ask him to accompany them.

He hurried towards his parents, his feet obedient to their call, his eyes still lingering on the receding toys. As he came to where they had stopped to wait for him, he could not suppress the desire of his heart, even though he well knew the old, cold stare of refusal in their eyes.

  • Lingering: lasting for a long time
  • Receding: left behind as he walked ahead
  • Suppress: put an end to
  • Cold: without any feelings, emotions

The child was obedient and would walk towards them when called, but his gaze was drawn to the toys he desired. As he approached them, he couldn't stop himself from buying a toy. He was used to the reactions they would give. He knew they'd stare at him, indicating their refusal to buy him the toy. The child was aware of their emotionless stares at him.

“I want that toy,” he pleaded.

The child was unable to control his desire any longer. He said that he wanted to buy the toy.

His father looked at him red-eyed, in his familiar tyrant’s way.

  • Tyrant: a cruel and oppressive ruler

The father's face turned bright red with rage. He regarded the child as if he were a cruel ruler attempting to oppress him.

His mother, melted by the free spirit of the day was tender and, giving him her finger to hold, said, “Look, child, what is before you!”

  • Melted: became tender and loving

Because of her cheerful mood, the mother became emotional. She gently guided the child to a location by giving him her finger to hold. She requested that he look at what was in front of him.

It was a flowering mustard-field, pale like melting gold as it swept across miles and miles of even land. A group of dragonflies were bustling about on their gaudy purple wings, intercepting the flight of a lone black bee or butterfly in search of sweetness from the flowers. The child followed them in the air with his gaze, till one of them would still its wings and rest, and he would try to catch it. But it would go fluttering, flapping, up into the air, when he had almost caught it in his hands. Then his mother gave a cautionary call: “Come, child, come, come on to the footpath.”

  • Pale: dull, colorless
  • Gaudy: extremely bright and showy

A vast field was covered in bright yellow mustard flowers. They appeared to be flowing gold streams and were widespread. A swarm of dragonflies, black bees, and butterflies buzzed around the flowers, sucking the nectar. As they flew around, the child looked at them. He tried to catch them when one of them sat somewhere, but the tiny creatures flew away the next time. As they began walking down the path, his mother called out to him.

He ran towards his parents gaily and walked abreast of them for a while, being, however, soon left behind, attracted by the little insects and worms along the footpath that were teeming out from their hiding places to enjoy the sunshine.

  • Abreast: side by side and facing the same way
  • Teeming out: to pour or empty out

The kid dashed towards his parents. He walked alongside them, but after a few steps, he came to a halt to observe the insects emerging from the soil. Once again, the child was abandoned.

“Come, child, come!” his parents called from the shade of a grove where they had seated themselves on the edge of a well. He ran towards them.

  • Grove: a small wood or group of trees

His parents called. They sat in the shade of the trees, next to a well. The child fastened and rejoined his parents.

A shower of young flowers fell upon the child as he entered the grove, and, forgetting his parents, he began to gather the raining petals in his hands. But lo! he heard the cooing of doves and ran towards his parents, shouting, “The dove! The dove!” The raining petals dropped from his forgotten hands.

A shower of flowers greeted the child as he entered the shady forested area. He forgot about his parents and began collecting fallen petals. He was surprised to hear doves cooing and excited to see them. He began chasing the birds, and the petals fell from his hand as a result. (This demonstrates that as the child's attention was drawn to the next thing, he forgot what he had been doing previously.)

“Come, child, come!” they called to the child, who had now gone running in wild capers round the banyan tree, and gathering him up they took the narrow, winding footpath which led to the fair through the mustard fields.

  • Capers: a playful skipping movement

The parents summoned the child who was running and playing in the nearby of a banyan tree. They lifted him and walked down a narrow, twisting lane that crossed the mustard fields and brought them to the fair.

As they neared the village the child could see many other footpaths full of throngs, converging to the whirlpool of the fair, and felt at once repelled and fascinated by the confusion of the world he was entering.

  • Throngs: huge crowds
  • Converging: gathering

As they approached the fair, the child noticed large crowds of people walking in all directions. The dense crowd scared him and he took a step back, but the next thing he knew, he was drawn to the mind-boggling crowd of humanity.

A sweetmeat seller hawked, “gulab-jaman, rasagulla, burfi, jalebi,” at the corner of the entrance and a crowd pressed round his counter at the foot of an architecture of many coloured sweets, decorated with leaves of silver and gold. The child stared open-eyed and his mouth watered for the burfi that was his favourite sweet. “I want that burfi,” he slowly murmured. But he half knew as he begged that his plea would not be heeded because his parents would say he was greedy. So without waiting for an answer he moved on.

  • Heeded: paid attention to

A sweetmeat vendor had set up shop near the fair's entrance, on one of the fair's corners. He was selling gulab jamun, rasgulla, burfi, and jalebi, among other things. The sweets were displayed at various heights and were covered in gold and silver foils. When he saw his favourite burfi, the boy's mouth watered. He expressed his desire to obtain one in hushed tones, knowing that his request would be denied by his parents. They'd say he was greedy for the burfi. He walked further because he did not expect his demand to be met.

A flower-seller hawked, “A garland of Gulmohar, a garland of Gulmohar!” The child seemed irresistibly drawn. He went towards the basket where the flowers lay heaped and half murmured, “I want that garland.” But he well knew his parents would refuse to buy him those flowers because they would say that they were cheap. So, without waiting for an answer, he moved on.

The following stall was that of a flower vendor. He announced that he was selling Gulmohar flower garlands. One of those piqued the child's interest. He walked over to the basket of lowers and expressed his desire for one in hushed tones, knowing that his request would not be met. They would refuse to buy him flowers because they were too cheap. Again, the boy proceeded without waiting for a response from his parents.

A man stood holding a pole with yellow, red, green and purple balloons flying from it. The child was simply carried away by the rainbow glory of their silken colors and he was filled with an overwhelming desire to possess them all. But he well knew his parents would never buy him the balloons because they would say he was too old to play with such toys. So he walked on further.

  • Overwhelming: a very strong emotion

The child then came across a balloon vendor who was selling balloons in various rainbow colours. The boy was drawn to the bright colours of the balloons and wanted to collect them all. He was aware that his parents would refuse to purchase balloons for him on the grounds that he was too old to play with them. As a result, the child walked a little further.

A snake-charmer stood playing a flute to a snake which coiled itself in a basket, its head raised in a graceful bend like the neck of a swan, while the music stole into its invisible ears like the gentle rippling of an invisible waterfall. The child went towards the snake-charmer. But, knowing his parents had forbidden him to hear such coarse music as the snake-charmer played, he proceeded farther.

  • Forbidden: not allowed
  • Coarse: unpleasant

Then he came to a halt in front of a snake charmer who was playing the flute and the snake was twisting its neck in time to the music. The snake had wrapped itself in a basket and poked its head out. Like a swan, it bowed and moved its neck gracefully. Because it swayed its neck in a similar manner, it appeared that the music of the flute was heard by the snake's invisible ears and created the effect of a waterfall on it. The boy approached the snake charmer, but because his parents had warned him to avoid the unpleasant music played by such men, he continued walking.

There was a roundabout in full swing. Men, women and children, carried away in a whirling motion, shrieked and cried with dizzy laughter. The child watched them intently and then he made a bold request: “I want to go on the roundabout, please, Father, Mother.”

He then noticed the roundabout swing. It was packed with men, women, and children who were having a good time. The boy observed the people on the roundabout and then bravely expressed his desire to ride on the roundabout.

There was no reply. He turned to look at his parents. They were not there, ahead of him. He turned to look on either side. They were not there. He looked behind. There was no sign of them.

He turned to face his parents when they did not respond. He noticed that they were nowhere to be found. He looked around and behind him, but he couldn't find his parents.

A full, deep cry rose within his dry throat and with a sudden jerk of his body he ran from where he stood, crying in real fear, “Mother, Father.” Tears rolled down from his eyes, hot and fierce; his flushed face was convulsed with fear. Panic-stricken, he ran to one side first, then to the other, hither and thither in all directions, knowing not where to go. “Mother, Father,” he wailed. His yellow turban came untied and his clothes became muddy.

  • Hither and thither: here and there

The boy screamed, jerked his body, and ran around, calling out for his parents. He was terrified, and tears streamed down his cheeks. His turban opened and his clothes became muddy as he wailed and ran around.

Having run to and fro in a rage of running for a while, he stood defeated, his cries suppressed into sobs. At little distances on the green grass he could see, through his filmy eyes, men and women talking. He tried to look intently among the patches of bright yellow clothes, but there was no sign of his father and mother among these people, who seemed to laugh and talk just for the sake of laughing and talking.

  • Intently: carefully

He eventually gave up. Mild sobs replaced the loud cries. He noticed some people standing and talking and wondered if his parents were among them. People's laughter and conversations were meaningless to the child. He was just looking for his parents.

He ran quickly again, this time to a shrine to which people seemed to be crowding. Every little inch of space here was congested with men, but he ran through people’s legs, his little sob lingering: “Mother, Father!” Near the entrance to the temple, however, the crowd became very thick: men jostled each other, heavy men, with flashing, murderous eyes and hefty shoulders. The poor child struggled to thrust a way between their feet but, knocked to and fro by their brutal movements, he might have been trampled underfoot, had he not shrieked at the highest pitch of his voice, “Father, Mother!” A man in the surging crowd heard his cry and, stooping with great difficulty, lifted him up in his arms.

  • Congested: full of
  • Hefty: large and heavy
  • Thrust: push
  • Knocked: hit
  • Brutal: harsh, rough
  • Trampled: crushed
  • Surging: powerful

The boy dashed towards a temple that was crowded with people. He ran through men's legs, yelling for his parents. As he approached the temple's entrance, the crowd pushed against him. The boy was terrified of huge strong men who stared at people with murderous eyes and pushed them with their massive shoulders. If a man in the crowd had not heard the boy's cries, he would have been crushed under the feet of the men. He helped the child up.

“How did you get here, child? Whose baby are you?” the man asked as he steered clear of the mass. The child wept more bitterly than ever now and only cried, “I want my mother, I want my father!”

As the man helped the child out of the crowd, he inquired about how he reached  here and the names of his parents. The boy sobbed even more and stated repeatedly that he wished to see his parents.

  • Soothe: relax, comfort

By taking the child to the roundabout swing, the man attempted to calm him down. He offered him a ride, but the child screamed and sobbed that he missed his parents.

The man headed towards the place where the snake-charmer still played on the flute to the swaying cobra. “Listen to that nice music, child!” he pleaded. But the child shut his ears with his fingers and shouted his double-pitched strain: “I want my mother, I want my father!” The man took him near the balloons, thinking the bright colours of the balloons would distract the child’s attention and quieten him. “Would you like a rainbow coloured balloon?” he persuasively asked. The child turned his eyes from the flying balloons and just sobbed, “I want my mother, I want my father!”

  • Pleaded: requested
  • Double – pitched strain: usage of a lot of force

The man began walking back along the same path that the child had taken. As a result, he took the child to the snake charmer. He requested that he listen to the pleasant music being played by the snake – charmer. The child covered his ears with his fingers and screamed angrily, "I want my parents!" The man led the child to the brightly coloured balloons, hoping that seeing them would cheer him up. He offered the child a balloon, but he turned away and wept for his father.

The man, still trying to make the child happy, bore him to the gate where the flower-seller sat. “Look! Can you smell those nice flowers, child! Would you like a garland to put round your neck?”

  • Bore: carried

The man attempted to make the child happy by taking him to the flower vendor. He invited him to smell the flowers and offered him a garland.

The child turned his nose away from the basket and reiterated his sob, “I want my mother, I want my father!”

  • Reiterated: repeated

The child refused to smell the flowers he had wanted to buy earlier because his priority at the time was to find his parents.

Thinking to humour his disconsolate charge by a gift of sweets, the man took him to the counter of the sweet shop. “What sweets would you like, child?” he asked. The child turned his face from the sweet shop and only sobbed, “I want my mother, I want my father!”

  • Disconsolate: very unhappy and unable to be comforted
  • Charge: a person or thing entrusted to the care of someone

Finally, the man took him to a sweet meat vendor and offered to buy him sweets. Nonetheless, the child desired his parents rather than his favourite sweet.

About the Author

Mulk Raj Anand (born December 12, 1905 in Peshawar, India [now in Pakistan]—died September 28, 2004, Pune), was a prominent Indian author of novels, short stories, and critical essays in English, best known for his realistic and sympathetic portrayal of India's poor. He is regarded as the father of the English-language Indian novel.