Untouchable

ISBN: 0140183957
ISBN 13: 9780140183955
By: Mulk Raj Anand E.M. Forster

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About this book

Bakha is a young man, proud and even attractive, yet none the less he is an outcast in India's caste system: an Untouchable. This novel describes a day in the life of Bakha, sweeper and toilet-cleaner, as he searches for a meaning to the tragic existence he has been born into - and comes to an unexpected conclusion.

Reader's Thoughts

Mystery231

Amazing.. That's all I can say after reading this book. Perhaps it's the fact that our main character is a teenage boy is the fact that I can relate. SPOILER ALERT.As I read the book, I feel a complete sense of sympathy towards our character - Bakha (it's funny when i read this cuz it sounded like baka which is "idiot" in japanese). He simply leads a normal life yet he is tortured by everyone he meets within his home. We can see that he really means no harm and tries his best to avoid conflicts yet no one accepts him because of his title - a sweeper. It really shows us how insensitive we are to people around us because we think we know it all from their title. Well, we don't. This doesn't only apply for people with low castes but for generous, intelligent or rich people. We won't get to understand people unless we really take the time to understand them. The ending was just beautiful.. the entry of Mahatma Gandhi was simply dazzling. You gotta give credit to the author for including a special guest! Not even I would've expected that. SPOILER ALERT ENDAfter your first read, you may wanna read it again. I know i want to!

Ratna

This book is a rare glimpse into the Hindu society of India before 1950's. A graphic tale of a social evil that will forever prick the collective conscience of our country. The story of an eventful day in the life of Bakha; an untouchable, someone living at the fringes of the Hindu society.Bakha is a young man with zest for life, yet struggling as a latrine cleaner. A profession that places him among the lower most rung of Hindu hierarchy. On this eventful day everything that could go wrong goes wrong for Bakha. Despite a tough morning at the latrines, he gets slapped for touching a high caste Hindu. He receives no food for his work. He is blamed for things he is not responsible. Just as he wonders about his life’s condition he encounters three different personalities and their remedies for untouchability. A Christian missionary that cannot convince him about who Christ is, Mahatma Gandhi who says all Indians are equal, and a modernist poet who feels all that is needed to solve untouchability is a mere flush-system !!! Just as dusk falls he returns home with a hope that a change of times is ahead.So graphic is Anand's story telling that the book felt like a bad-dream from start till the end. A must read for all Indians for there are lessons in the book that are relevant even today!!!!

Chris

A short read, but an insight into the day and life of a lower caste boy.

Manish Kumar

Well, the book is quite good as far as the narrative of the pain through which the outcastes suffer is concerned. As novel was published in 1935 so it best depicts the situations of that time. The protagonist Bakha is shown to be ready to revolt against uppercaste people but his father and other people discourage him rather encouraging. The priest tormenting Bakha, the lady who threw the bread at him from fourth floor, Mrs. Hutchinson who scolds him with the words like Bhangis and Chamar and the priest who tries to molest his sister Sohini, all represents a society where outcastes used to be treated in a very inhumane manner. Bakha shouting on road like 'sweeper coming' on to alert people not to touch him depicts the humiliation which outcastes had to suffer. Priest who finds even touching to outcastes as getting defiled , when attempts to assault Sohini sexually clearly shows the hypocricy of the society.Even some sweet words of Havildar Charat Singh make Bakha forget the humiliation through which he suffered throughout the day, clearly shows the desire of the outcastes to get love and affection as well as human treatment from other people. When he lifts the son of a Brahmin lady,in his arms, whose son was injured, he is humiliated by the lady.Writer Mulk Raj Anand wants to bring about the solution to the problem and the solution he suggests is to either get converted to christianity, which he supports the least or to take scientific steps like use of flush and better way of life to uplift the cadre of outcastes. Overall novel deals with the issue deeply and depicts the situation of the period(around 1935) by making characters in novel as symbols.The only weakness in the novel is the use of complex words in almost every passage. Secondly the writer seemed to translate from Hindi to English many a times for example we have a general abuse in Hindi and that is 'saala' the writer writes 'brother in law' instead of writing the abuse directly. Of course as I am used to study R. K Narayan , my favorite Indian english fiction writer, I found this kind of use a bit irritating. But overall the novel is worthy to be read and is a must-read to understand the society of 19's era. This was the first novel of Mulk Raj Anand. It is also the first novel of Mulk Raj Anand which I read but it has inspired me to study his other novels as well.

Nurul

the reality is always harsh to believe

Autumn

A day in the life of an untouchable in India.

Sankrutyayan

After being connected to R.K.Narayan's portrayal of simple,naive characters of South India. It was not so hard to droop a little in the hierarchy of Indian class system. The characters were so alive as all the swear words and proverbs were directly translated into English. Narrator took so small of a gesture and molded it into a significant thing to contemplate about. He wants us to notice how there will be considerable amount of good and bad in every person. This has been justified when Bakha looked down onto the leper-beggars with revulsion or as the author says 'with sadistic delight' as they were wailing and seemed to him despicable. It has been always this way, that in the hierarchy even though a lower caste suffers the discrimination from higher classes, that lower caste never stop despising for the lowlier castes. That is how this grand design of class system had been portrayed since time immemorial and thus they follow blindly.

Rachel Rueckert

This book started off really well, but for whatever reason as it went along it seemed more and more unreal to me. In Mulk Raj Anand’s defense, talking about the caste system and untouchability in India is no easy subject to write about so that a Western audience could comprehend, but I think he just missed the mark. I cannot imagine this world because I feel like it does not exist (in the book, I have no doubt that it did and may still exist in present India or that these instances he describes happened frequently). Maybe it was the compilation of all of the bad things that happened to our main character, Bakha, in one single day that made it so unbelievable to me, but aside from this complaint, let’s look at some other things I took home from reading Untouchable. Since I am currently in India, the topic is already very fascinating for me. I wonder how the modern India looks and how caste functions. It may not look how it did when Anand published this almost a hundred years ago, but I can’t help but think about it when I walk down around town and see someone sweeping the street. Who is he? Does he have to do that? Who pays him? What is his life like? These are all things I might have easily overlooked if I had not read this book. I am left with more questions, which is always a good thing. Of course there were also little insights I had not been familiar with in terms of what untouchability looked like—that they could not draw water from the public wells without someone to give it to them, that they had to warn others of their approach, needed to beg door to door for food, etc. One thing that I think Anand did a good job doing was making Bakha a real person. His fascination with the “Tommys” and the upper caste also made him complex, especially once we get the take home message from the poet at the end of the book. Bakha was not dehumanized through pity or anything like that. He had real thoughts and real feelings, even if the situations he found himself in seemed and his reactions to them felt a bit out there, like it was the first time in his life he realized he was an untouchable. One way that people often refer to the caste system is that it is fatalistic, and that everyone has accepted where they have fit in because of bad karma in a previous life. This book, as E.M. Forster says in his introduction, shatters that illusion and shows that the Dalits, the Untouchables, are not all just content with their lot in life and long for better circumstances. I think the obvious message that Anand wants us to take from this book is that it is Gandhi and not Christianity or Western thought that would be able to change India for the better by abolishing untouchability. This was clear in the juxtaposition to the silly Salvation Army missionary and the messiah figure, Gandhi. Anand’s hopes and dreams for what Gandhi could do for India were not hidden, and in a large degree I think he is right. Real change and improvement needs to come from within. I might be a little too nitpicky with the writing. This is a short but informational read and I would recommend it, even if it would not be caught among my favorite books in the world.

Book Wormy

Untouchable Mulk Raj Anand������������Penguin Paperback 157 pagesUntouchable is the story of a day in the life of Bakha a member of the Hindu caste of Untouchables. Bakha is a sweeper which means he cleans the streets and latrines so that the "clean" Hindus do not have to worry about there own waste.Because touching Bakha would make a Hindu "polluted" he must announce his presence at all times by calling out sweeper coming, so that the other castes can avoid him.As a caste Untouchables are not allowed to get their own water for fear of "polluting" wells and rivers, when they buy anything the shop keepers sprinkle water on their money before touching it to purify it and whatever they purchase is not handed to them but put at an acceptable distance for them to pick up.Our day with Bakha is full of events some good and others decidedly bad, we are shown how it feels to be born into a system that you can never escape and how that shapes your character and your behaviour. We are also given insights into how Mahatma Ghandi is trying to change India and how the idea of progress and machines means more to the Untouchables than the prosperity they could bring means to India as a whole.An interesting insight into developing India and the problems that fast her "lowest" people, which ends with a hopeful message about positive change and how it may be implemented.I would highly recommend people read this book, for a mere 157 pages it is certainly all encompassing and heartfelt.

Mandeep Kalra

A short and generally well-written book that took me much longer to finish than it should have. Mulk Raj Anand traces the travails of Bakha a bhangi (sweeper) over the course of a day. Subjected to constant abuse, humiliation, and injustice, only the hardest of readers will not sympathize with the plight of Bakha and his fellow untouchables. Anand gets much right with this social protest novel but he sacrifices character development and some of the literary value of his debut work in order to further his political message. I understand that, especially since this novel was published in 1935 because even though strides still need to be made to improve the position of the Dalits (untouchables) in present-day India, they are in many ways better off now than they were in 1935. But as a result of Anand's vociferous preaching, his novel feels dated whereas the best literature feels timeless. I thought the strongest part of Anand's work was the last section where he identifies three potential solutions to Bakha's problems: Christ, Gandhi, and the machine (flush system). As a student of Modern South Asia, I quickly identified evidence for arguments made by such eminent scholars of South Asia as Bernard Cohn and Shahid Amin. I only wish Anand had spent more time with this fascinating and important section. This section about the potential solutions to Bakha's plight was wrapped up in less than 40 pages. In contrast, Anand elaborated upon the daily humiliations of the untouchables for over 100 pages. Detailing the suffering of the untouchables is necessary but it became a bit too repetitive. A better balance between the two sections would have strengthened the novel immensely.

Jayesh Naithani

A day in the life of Bakha the Jemadar (sweeper), and an untouchable. The heart of the book is about the social stigma of untouchability affecting India during the 1930s - the period when this book was written and also the time setting for the story as well. I only remember hearing and reading about the phenomenon of untouchability in Hindu society, when growing up in India during the 70s and early 80s. It still exists to a certain extent in parts of India, or at least spoken about, as I have heard mention of it conversation with others in my family. Gandhiji is attributed to saying in this book - ‘the fault does not lie in the Hindu religion, but in those who profess it’. I couldn’t agree any more.A short story, and a brief glimpse in the life of an untouchable. A difficult issue simply, sometimes touchingly, described in this story by Mulk Raj Anand, one of the first English writing Indian authors.

Radhika

A thought provoking wonderful prose by Mr Mulk Raj Anand. Untouchability is so deep rooted in the Indian society that we can still see the effects of it on the fringes of modern India. On the face of it everyone acts that they do not discriminate, but where do we go with a century of psyche and conditioned mind that lived in the society where caste system is still rampant.Change is coming but slowly and that is what I liked about this book, the author was able to bring out the subject and show how change comes surely but subtly even in the mind of the victim in this book Bakha, the son of a sweeper and is form the lowest rung of caste system in India, in times where septic systems were not available and humans who were considered to be born in the lowest rung of caste pyramid, had to do these menial jobs. Bakha, Rakha and their sister were treated badly by society, but they had all the yearnings and desires and ambitions of youngsters of their times. They were born in the era where Gandhiji was trying to bring change to untouchability and its vivid description makes our minds weep for the injustices meted out by one human to the other.

Suhasini Srihari

Mulk Raj Anand has used simple english to ask an effective question through the narration of a story. The text probes the readers to question as who were the actual tyrants, the British or our very own people who were socalled 'upper-caste'? The protagonist, Baku encounters various injustuce done to him and he is the depiction of the whole race of the then called 'lower-caste' people. It was a nice read overall!

Kelly

Slice-of-life vignettes can be good or bad, mostly depending on how much you get drawn into the character. In Untouchable, we see one day's worth of one 18-year-old Untouchable's experiences in Gandhi-era India. And I at least got totally drawn in. Bakha is a sweeper--someone who cleans latrines among other things--and considered the lowest of the low, where even the other Untouchables shun him. For the most part he accepts this as a part of life. After all, that's how he was raised. But several things happen that make him question the justness of his station, and it makes for compelling reading. The first two-thirds of the book is all about him going about his work and errands, musing on various ideas. The last third gets more political, as he encounters a missionary and then a rally featuring Gandhi. His reaction to Gandhi's speech could make him appear simple (he didn't understand large parts of the speech and the talk of those around him), if it weren't for the fact that we already know him to be as complex as anybody else, if a bit more naive. The story would be good with almost anyone in his position, but it's especially poignant because he is in the in-between place, still a child but on the verge of being fully grown up. Even he recognizes this, beating himself up over the fact that he is afraid to do something that he fearlessly did as a child. Overall, I found the book to be a very good and pretty quick read, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in India or social class. I was a little surprised at the number of low ratings. Perhaps people need to cut the book some slack for when it was written. It was edgy and bold at the time, even if we're more informed about the Indian caste system nowadays.

Radhika

I have written a book review on this book.Can find it on my blog- silentlywescream.blogspot.comHope that helps :)

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