Tag Archives: untouchable

Untouchable

“He became the humble, oppressed under-dog that he was by birth, afraid of everything, creeping slowly up, in a curiously hesitant, cringing movement”.

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. 42. Print.

In this moment, you see Bakha’s self doubt of his social class and work. Long years of demeaning and menial work have paid the price on him, leaving physical and emotional burdens. The emotional burden is still present, the self-doubt he always had about climbing up higher. He obviously displays hesitance from years of emotional pains.

Anand: Purpose in Loaded Descriptions

“He had seen her before…the fresh young form whose full breasts with their dark beads of nipples stood out so conspicuously under her muslin shirt, whose innocent look of wonder seemed to stir the only soft chord in his person, hardened by the congenital weakness of his mind, brazened by the authority he exercised over the faithful and devout. And he was inclined to be kind to her.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print. 29.

I’m torn between being appreciative of the sensuality of the writing, and disgusted by the priest‘s objectification of this young woman. Alas, it’s still strikes me as highly impressive, that I’m able to gather so much about this man within a single chunk of text, and not get lost in it’s heavy, if not poetic, sentence construction.

Copying As a Form of Admiration

“So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as hecould in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances” (11).

Source:

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

This refers to Bakha’s desire to be more than solely a member of the untouchable caste.  By copying the wardrobes of those of higher rank than him, both within Indian and British society, Bakha is showing a sense of admiration and urge to be a part of a different group than his own. From the beginning of the work, his family does not understand his reasoning behind this because although he wears the same attire, he is not reaping any rewards from the act regardless.

Hunger For Something More

“Ever since he was a child he had walked past the wooden stall on which lay heaped the scarlet and khaki uniforms discarded or pawned by the Tommies, pith solar topees, peak caps, knives, forks, buttons, old books and other oddments of Anglo-Indian life. And he had hungered for the touch of them. But he had never mustered up courage enough to go up to the keeper of the shop and to ask him the price of anything, lest it should be a price he could not pay and lest the man should find out from his talk that he was a sweeper-boy” (p. 11).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. England: Penguin. 1940. Print.

While only reading the first few pages, this passage stood out to me. It expresses a sense of hope that Bakha wishes for. It is an intense passage that evokes sympathy in the reader.

Vivid Descriptions of Beauty

“The blood in Bakha’s veins tingled with the heat as he stood before it.  His dark face, round and solid and exquisitely well defined, lit with a queer sort of beauty.”  (Anand 20).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. England: Penguin. 1940. Print.

This small passage stood out because this book often takes time to describe how poorly the untouchables are treated and how dirty their living conditions and work are, but here, we are provided with a scene that depicts the actual beauty of the character, in contrast to his lifestyle.

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.