~~ To a better world - Untouchable - Book review~~
‘Untouchable’ is the first novel by Mulk Raj Anand. A classic! A novel which imprint a character sketch in our heart and then spell out some solutions too for the poignant states of affairs…Simply excellent!!!
(Cast system should go. It is over 60 years of independence and at least half of Indians are carrying the burdens of slavery in the name of casts. When will the government have the courage to abort the casts?? Untouchability - the problem still prevails especially in the central belt of India. If you notice, Maoism only spread in these states where the emotionally enslaved people are ready to go any extend to get freedom. If there is Maoism, the soil for it was watered by the cast system. Cast system should go.) Read Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable to see the sad sate of affairs!
‘Untouchable’ is the story from the life of of 18 year old Bakha, who lives in the pre independence era, as a Bhangi (one who clean toilets). Bakha is not weak, where he is `strong and able-bodied`. He is all enthusiastic and has his own set of dreams. His dreams vary from to dress like a ‘Tommie’ (Englishmen) in ‘fashun’ to play Hockey. However, his limited means and the circumstances force him to literally beg for the food and get humiliated in each turn of the road. The ‘dirty’ nature of their work pulls down‘bhangi’s to the last of the table of casts. They were not permitted even to take water from a well and had to wait for hours for the mercy of the upper caste. The food will be given to them by throwing and if they touch anybody by accident they will be punished. Even if they are ready to pay, nobody will teach them. The upper class however doesn’t find this untouchability when they molest their teen girls. It is a typical day in the life of the Bhangi, mixed with hunger, hope, small pleasures, insults and set backs. Add to all the problems, they have no right to protest or express their emotions!!
Deprived of hope and Fed up with humiliations, Bakha have a difficult day. Like in the story of good Samaritan, 3 options are placed in front of Bakha. First, a Christian missionary,who invite him to join Christianity so that the untouchability based on the caste can be removed. The second option he considers is the idea of sacrifice from Mahatma Gandhi, who came there to preach against the discrimination to the lower caste. The third option he considers as a solution to the entire problem is a flush system.
Mulk Raj Anand considers that the caste system can only prevail with the job one carries and the easy way to remove it is to upgrade the work environment and bring dignity to each work. We have no right to downgrade any work. The novel simply shows a way to solve two problems still lingers India. 1. Sanitation. (No need of explanation for this problem, if one travel by train in early morning or walk in a rainy day through the roads of a not so clean Indian metro…) 2. Castism.
The novel simply shook our conscience. The author criticizes the social injustice with his powerful words. He rips apart the hypocrisy of the powerful. Meaninglessness of worship and its uselessness when it is not practiced is stressed. The book is also a small reminder of ignorance of strength by the lower caste and the need for moral rejuvenation. Above all, ‘any social revolution should be practical’ is another message the book manages to convey.
On a larger canvas, the author must have viewed the untouchable living in all of us. Citizens deprived of rights and burdens with obligations. The hurdle we have to overtake and how the knowledge, civilization and technology can make a better world. However, I wish to believe that the obvious is the intended. We don’t have to imagine for the sake of it where the obvious give a handful of duty and responsibility.
There is another strong message I felt from the novel. Most of the problems of India were self created. The British could rule India only because the masses were not seriously disturbed by their presence. In the novel, the protagonist is not fearful of the British. This view only reiterates the conclusion that political freedom alone will not solve human misery.
‘Untouchable’ is a reminder for us to be aware of the unsolved questions. The message from this book, written in pre-independent era is still valid. The story is heart touching and the message is convincing. Recommended!!