Colonel Hutchinson is the chief of a missionary organization known as the Salvation Army. The major work of his mission is to bring salvation for the poor, the downtrodden and the out-castes by converting them into Christians. He is full of zeal for Christianity. He visits the out-caste colony and talks to the untouchables of God, of Christ and of the Kingdom of Heaven. He tries long to persuade Lakha to become a Christian, but the reply the sweeper always gives him is that the religion which was good for his forefathers is good for him also.
Colonel Hutchinson is of the view that if the missionaries in India wanted to succeed in their efforts, to convert Indians, they should come nearer to the Indians, rather than expect the Indians to come near to them. Hence he started learning Hindustani before he began his work among the natives. He could speak in broken Hindustani. He is also of the view that the missionaries ought to be dressed in the costume of the natives and live among them. He, however, hates untouchability. In his opinion, untouchability from Indian can be abolished by converting all the untouchables into Christians. But this solution is not acceptable to Bakha.
During his Cambridge days, Hutchinson was much different. He was a perfect dandy, “with his well-groomed immaculate bearing, his fine black, upright moustache.” He was a strong man with plenty of hair on his head. He visited the bars and drank wine. The ‘gem-like glistening drops of wine adorned’ his moustache in every charming way. His wife was a bar-maid and had married him after a hot love affair that went for quite some time. When Bakha met him on the autumn day, Hutchinson had turned bald and grey. His moustache was drooping though still busy. He was in a pair of white trousers, a scarlet jacket, a white turban with a red band across it.
The Colonel has a comic touch in him. He uses for himself a high military rank, although he is not a military officer. The way in which he talks to Bakha brings out the comic side of his nature. On his way to church, he starts singing, perhaps because of his joy in the possibility of his bringing an erring soul to the true religion of Christ. Bakha fails to understand what the missionary is talking about. “Who is Yessuth Massih, Sahib,” he asks and the Colonel only sings the following lines:
“Life is found in Jesus,
Only there,’tis offered thee;
Offered without price of money
Tis the gift of God sent free.”
The Colonel sings and sings, yet he is unable to influence Bakha and fails to convert him to Christianity.
Nevertheless, he is a queer mixture of the comic and the serious. The dress he has designed for himself is a funny mixture of English and Indian costumes a pair of white trousers, a scarlet jacket and a white turban with a red band across it. We see his comic side in his senseless singing of the devotional hymns without caring to explain their meaning to Bakha. But he is a devout Christian who is serious in his purport and intentions. He is often seen hiding behind rubbish heaps in wait for some troubled outcaste who would listen in his despair to the gospel of Christ. The Colonel is a loveable but pathetic figure who, in spite of his zeal, has had little success with conversion because of his broken Hindustani, his introspective nature, and a total inability to offer in concrete terms the solace of Christianity. The encounter between Bakha and the missionary is amusing; one drowned in his ecstatic hymn-singing, the other quite oblivious to the message but happy to be in contact with a “sahib” from whom he might extract a pair of cast-off trousers.
His main role in the novel is to offer a solution to the problem of untouchability. The solution in his opinion lays on Christianity. Secondly, the novelist has also displayed through him the gifts of irony and satire.
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