Ananta, a coppersmith, returns to his home town of Amritsar after having worked in the more industrialised cities of Bombay and Ahmedabad. Like most people of his craft, he has difficulty making a living as the introduction of machines is throwing the craftsmen out of work. The coppersmiths face both destitution and a break up of their whole society based on age-old traditions and customs.
Yet, Ananta can see both the utility and the inevitability of the machines and the need for the coppersmiths to band together so that power of the machine could offer a new life for those whom it threatens. But unsettled, tense and suspicious as the coppersmiths are, a spark of demagogy culminates in violence and wanton destruction which ends in sudden, unexpected tragedy.
The Big Heart is a memorable work. It is passionate, earthy and urgent. It’s also timeless in that it is an evocative story of the churn and roil that change and modernity always create in their wake. In Ananta, Mulk Raj Anand gives us an unforgettable character. He is virile and passionate, brave, strong and tender, of large appetites yet caring and generous of spirit. Though unlettered, Ananta intuitively grasps that the conflict created by the coming of the machines can only be resolved by a spirit of understanding and accommodation on all sides. Thus a big heart alone can help society meet the existential challenge that change throws up, especially for those less pre- pared for it. Equally, Anand draws a vivid portrait of the Punjab and its people — his language infused with the clamour, sights and smells of the land.