“Ever since he had worked in the British barracks Bakha had been ashamed of the Indian way of performing ablutions, all that gargling and spitting, because he knew the Tommies disliked it. He remembered so well the Tommies’ familiar abuse of the natives: ‘Kala admi zamin par hagne wala’ (black man you who relieve yourself on the ground). But he himself had been ashamed at the sight of Tommies running naked to their tub baths. ‘Disgraceful,’ he had said to himself. They were, however, sahibs.”
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. 18-19. Print.
What I find interesting about this is the level of seeming hypocrisy that can be found in his feelings towards the caste system. On one hand he looks up to and wants to emulate the Tommies, while on the other, he still has a level of disgust for their behaviors. Taking this idea even further, while he seems to want to abandon the ideas of a horrid caste system, he acknowledges the Tommies position in a form of globalized caste system (being sahibs, masters over the Indian people). Therefore, it doesn’t appear that he so much wants to abandon the idea of castes completely, but that he wants to move up the ladder to a more civilized level of a more globalized caste system.
“So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as hecould in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances” (11).
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.
“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.”