Agastya Sen : The anti hero of Upamanyu Chatterjee

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                   Agastya Sen : The Anti Hero of Upamanyu Chatterjee

By- Vijay Madhukar Khadse, Vol.III Issue-XXIV January 2017

About the Author: 

Vijay Madhukar Khadse is an assist. Prof. Arvi, Dist. Wardha. Maharashtra.

The oxford dictionary defines anti-hero as, “the main character in a story, but one who does not have the qualities of typical hero, and is either more like an ordinary person or is very unpleasant”.  However, in contemporary fiction, we may have anti- hero who cannot be bind in a single definition. An anti hero is a common man whose reaction against social abuses is uncommon. He has no fixed set of mind and dwindles between the new and old, flaw and power. The conventional hero battles for the wellbeing of humanity. But the anti-hero struggles against his personal defects. He is the product of horrible history. He is egoistic and self-centered but some time his strife is for good cause. An anti hero is tough and has physical charm. That’s why he is famous among the readers.

The Anti hero in contemporary fiction is an outcome of established social abuses and the frown against the old outdated traditions. The above description of anti hero is entirely applicable to the protagonists of Upamanyu Chatterjee. Chatterjee as a sensitive author cannot be unconscious to the predicaments of modern life.  His antiheroes are his reaction against the exploitation and atrocity through which a common man undergoes.   Chatterjee has emerged as a dynamic authority in the sphere of Indian novel in English. His paradoxical demonstration of Indian boldness overwhelming the life in big cities like Delhi and Kolkata is surprisingly matchless. His debut novel English, August: An Indian Story is an engrossing saga of strife of western educated Indian youth to assert his own identity. The novel is a cry against the corrupt practices in administrative services of India. However, simultaneously it brings into light the predicaments of isolation and career hunting which are so obvious among today’s   youth. Agastys Sen  an IAS trainee posted in distant and interior region like Madna is an antihero whose efforts to accomplish the spiritual maturity prove to be in vain.  He is a mediocre civil servant and his anti-heroism can be defined in terms of alienation, dissatisfaction with the system and powerlessness to react against the predicament.

Agastya is the spokesman of modern and westernized educated youth.  These youth in their career hunt  have strayed away from the main flow of life.  The unbridgeable communication gap between him and the world around him troubles  Agastya much.  He could not adjust himself with the situations he is placed. He is a stranger in his own country. He stands for Indian youth who have become foreigners being the Indians. The Agastya generation has no morals and ethics that could really represent Indianness. The expression ‘…there is nothing such as absolute honesty, there are only degrees of dishonesty’ (138) undoubtedly projects the immorality of new generation. Agastya has the feeling of dislocation, dreariness, and segregation. He could not get rid of his personal petty problems. Consequently, he fails to fight for the noble cause of serving the destitute and downtrodden.  He thinks,  ‘I don’t look like a bureaucrat, what am I doing here? I should have been a photographer or a maker of ad films, something like that, shallow and urban’ (13). The true problem of Agastya is that he constantly thinks  he is mismatch in native environment. He remains inactive to justify his identity. He has no aim and wants to run away from the problems.  To be aloof from the problems he engages himself in reading of  Marcus Aurelius and the Bhagwad Gita.  However, both the books could not drive away his agitation and exclusive dilemma of mind. He is  Agastya true manifestation of  modern generation with of cultural diversity.  He represents ‘the cola generation – the generation that doesn’t oil its hair’ (47).

The corrupt politics and bureaucracy have brought in the new formats of self-service and self-development. Agastya is a self-absorbed cynic who throws away all the established ethics. The anti heroic characteristics of him become more comprehensive in the context of political and bureaucratic corruption. He continuously feels that he is unfit in the field of administrative services which he achieved after the hard preparation and perspiration. His mind set confirms the disappearance of  traditional concept of from the post modern literature.  The antihero hero has taken the place of established hero fighting for noble cause.   Agastya could not catch the real meaning of his life. He fails to understand that delights in   life comes from the commitment towards life.

Though posted to a higher position in civil services         Agastya looks up on himself as unstable and misplaced and inept to enjoy his position.  The collectorate, circuit house, his colleagues are worthless to him. He is dissatisfied with the modern customs in administrative service which is relentlessly inflicted by its corrupt agents.  He looks back to his life in Delhi to avoid his loneliness in Madna. He is of the view that life in Delhi is a intoxicating journey of drinking, having soft drugs and sex. Even these thoughts cannot free him from the shackles of boredom of life in Madna. The feelings of aggravation and alienation engulf him to the extent that he is about to quit Madna and his job forever. He keenly yearns  to escape from the unconstructiveness of life and indulge into masturbation and marijuana.

Agastya’s job is a deliberate effort by him to accomplish the desire of his father.  Otherwise, he wishes to pamper in eating, drinking and womanizing. We can cite the reasons for anti heroism of Agastya. The world of administration in which Agastya dwells is marred by the dishonesty and wickedness of other dwellers. The frustrated Agastya sees every act of corruption with open eyes but cannot react. He is restless in regards the petty matters of life like food, sex, marijuana, mosquito. His escapism from official duties amplifies his  anti-heroism. The problem of deculturation is at the root of alienation. Accustomed to western culture he is thrown in undeveloped and backward region like Madna. He is a product of British educational system and therefore he is a victim of a mysterious cultural phenomenon which has been absorbed by him in the course of educational training. The family background Agastya makes an anti hero. He was brought up by his aunt and uncle. His father is a Bengali Hindu and mother is a Christian woman. His father permits his son to adopt Hinduism.  The exact motive of his father is to give him identity based on the cultural platform of his religious tradition.


Chatterjee, Upamanyu . English, August: An Indian Story. London: Faber and Faber, 1988.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Oxford: University Press, 2002.

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