Finished Reading Untouchable by Raj Anand Mulk
‘Untouchable’ follows a day in the life of Bakha, an 18 year old Bhangi (low caste) boy. Written by Mulk Raj Anand in 1935, the fictional story is set in the outcastes’ colony outside of an unnamed town in British India. The story is narrated by Bakha who is a hard working boy who never disobeys his father despite his repugnance for him and his lifestyle. Bakha had been caught by the glamor of the ‘white man’s’ life. The British, or ‘Tommies’ as Bakha called them, treated him with respect despite his caste. He tries to use their culture as an escape vent from the oppression he faces because of his caste. The simplest way for Bakha to imitate the Tommies was through ‘fashun’, “by which he understood the art of wearing trousers, breeches, coat, puttees, boots, etc.. “. Bakha is trying to rise above his caste by westernizing, yet he receives insults from his friends about his dress. They chide him for dressing like a sahib and trying to appear to be something he is not. However, it seems to be the only way he can remove himself from his caste. This book was very well written and kept my attention throughout.
One thing I am sure after reading this book is that, caste system has not changed a bit in India from since 1935. The problems which Bakha’s sister faces when fetching water are the same even today. Which is really sad. Recent TV Show Satyamev Jayate has dedicated an episode titled ‘Dignity for All – Casteism and Untouchability’, where clipping from ‘India Untouched’, a documentary by Stalin. K was screened. This was an eye opener for me. I always thought that Casteism in India resided only in the inner sanctum of families and was shown out only in marriages. I was shocked to see how low caste people are physically, mentally and verbally abused in their daily life even today. Clippings of this documentary resembled much to that of the happenings in this novel.
The novel ends with an epiphany of Bakha thru the speech of Gandhi. In his speech Gandhi says that Hinduism does not support caste, which is a lie. The documentary named above, clearly shows quotes from Manu, which supports Castesim. (Don’t forget that this is the prime reason Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with hundreds of his followers) Even-though Gandhi tried his best to eradicate caste system in India thru ahimsa or non-violence, I don’t think he has done a good job. I am suspicious now about non-violent way to achieve equality for all in this country, because for the past 100 years this method did not work. I don’t think this is going to work in the future.