Tag Archives: Caste system

Fellow feeling

Shall I take the dust from your feet, O Holy Brahmin ? Oh, Brahmin, Brahmin.” He continued in a sing-song fashion : ” Your days are over, my dear sir, learn that. I should like to see you trying a bit of bossing on us.” (54).

Narayan R.K. “Malgudi Days: Fellow Feeling” . Internet Archive. https://archive.org/stream/astrologersday035473mbp/astrologersday035473mbp_djvu.txt

Narayan is making a statement to the Brahmins who are the upper class within the Indian caste system. He makes the language seem song like especially the message when he state that their days are over. The lower class are finally standing up to the upper class and they are saying that times are changing- it is time for a change to stop bossing them around. Shall I take the dust from your feet O Holy Brahmin is clearly sarcastic since the untouchables are the ones who clean up the dirty work such as latrines etc.

Limits and Representation of Fictional Knowledge

“How a round base can be adjusted on a round top, how a sphere can rest on a sphere is a problem which may be of interest to those who think like Euclid or Archimedes. It never occurred to Sohini to ask herself anything like this as she balanced her pitcher on her head and went to and from her one-roomed home to the steps of the caste-well where she counted on the chance of some gentleman taking pity on her and giving her the water she needed” (23).

The apparent allusion to Greek mathematicians reveals an untapped well of Bakha’s knowledge.  With that being said, it’s obviously not an interjection by Anand.  This reported discourse stays true to the characters fictional intelligence, proposing a comparison that only one character would make, Bakha, who seeks not only superior lifestyle, but superior knowledge.

 

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1935.

The Longing Desire

“He had had glimpses, during his sojourn there, of the life the Tommies lived, sleeping on strange, low canvas beds covered tightly with blankets, eating eggs, drinking tea and wine in tin mugs, going to parade and then walking down to the bazaar with cigarettes in their mouths and small silver-mounted cane in their hands. And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people. He had felt that to put on their clothes made one a sahib too. So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances. He had begged one of Tommy for the gift of a pair of trousers…”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. 11. Print.

As I read the novel, I kept referring back to the beginning because it reveals Bhaka’s true heart and desire to be accepted. Instead of being recognized as one of the “lower members” of the caste system, he longs to be one of the “sahibs” as he wants to dress like them, sleep like them, and eat like them. Whenever he describes his life as one who just cleans toilets and is “untouchable” it shows a hint that he feels miserable and that he desires to live differently away from the caste system that systemizes and singles people out.  He doesn’t want to be treated lower class, he wants to be as equal as the superior people, the “sahibs.”

Bakha the Naïve

And though his job was dirty he remained comparatively clean. He didn’t even soil his sleeves, handling the commodes, sweeping and scrubbing them. ‘A bit superior to his job,’ they always said…

Havildar Charat Singh, who had the Hindu instinct for immaculate cleanliness, was puzzled when he emerged from his painful half an hour in the latrines and caught sight of Bakha. Here was a low-cast man who seemed clean! He became rather self-concious, the prejudice of the ‘twice-born’ high-caste Hindu against stink, even though he saw not the slightest suspicion of it in Bakha, rising into his mind. He smiled complacently. Then, however, he forgot his high caste and the ironic smile on his face became a childlike laugh.

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. 9-10. Print.

Bakha is naïve in that he believes his English appearance and cleanliness will give him respect. This is contrasted with Singh’s high-caste smugness against Bakha’s status. Still, we see that Bakha’s image does make Singh uneasy seeing his clean appearance.