The Serang of Ranaganji - A Short Summary

During the British rule in India, the ship Ranaganji was sailing from Liverpool to Calcutta.  The author who is also the ship’s doctor noticed an upper-class lady named Jope Smith making derogatory remarks about Hassan, the Indian serang.  He was short, thick and ugly.  But when smallpox was reported on board, it was Hassan who came forward to assist the doctor selflessly. 

The captain had asked the doctor to keep it a secret as the news would create panic among the passengers.  So they isolated the patients in a temporary shelter.  With silent efficiency and dedication, Hassan looked after the patients.  When two of the patients died he gave them a sea burial after reciting a short passage from Ramayana. 

During their time together the doctor learned about the human qualities of Hassan.  He had no greed for money or worldly possessions.  He was happy with what he had.  He had genuine sympathy for the sufferings of others.  He was also very courageous.  In the isolation tent the doctor had firsthand experience of the unparalleled human qualities of Hassan.  

When the ship anchored off Colombo the sick men were taken to hospital.  Some were full of running sores but Hassan carried them in his own hands.

Finally, the ship reached Calcutta.  Again, Jope Smith appeared.  She noticed Hassan unloading the baggage and asked the doctor where they had hidden him during the voyage.  Was there a special cage for him?  Having known the nobility of the serang the author replied that it was a cage, but strangely all animals were outside.


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