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

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.

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.

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!!!!

Debasish Ray Mohapatra

The novel "Untouchable" enunciates the brutality, savagery of society and picture how the upper/higher class of society detest the lower class people for their job profile, uncleanness, poor condition and most importantly for cleaning the dirt. Then the idea emerge in between these lower class people to define themselves as outcast and untouchable . And it compel them to believe that there are no place for their own desire,dream and emotion in this society. Without any doubt Mulk Raj Anand successfully plotted this through Untouchable. And the novel stands out from others because it's not only showing the pity and sympathy towards this class of society but also at the end it comes up with some ideas. The end part of the novel is really disappointing and resistive. Because it looks like, these ideas of the author just blur the whole picture and shroud the truth. At the same time, I can say it'll drag you towards a optimistic thought. So it's difficult to determine the Anand's thought and purpose lie behind this book.First of all Anand raised such an risky and difficult issue to discuss openly in society at that time through a story, he should get appreciation for his job. But at some point it looks like he himself unable to find out the actual remedy of this disease. Though he proposed to take the action against this brutality through this book but suddenly at the end he changed his mind and proposed "we have our own limits. So follow your daily job and be a optimist and believe in future that'll be in your favor." Though he portrait the life of outcast people neatly but Bhaka can not be counted among them. As a person he may be more desirous and dreamer but doesn't have any inner strength to follow them. His satisfaction depends upon other's action. Then how can he follow Mahatma against socity. And if as a person you believe in action then what's the sense of to bring a change in your life from tomorrow not from today. Anand plotted a day of Bhaka's(The protagonist) life and who undoubtedly represent daily life of any people belongs to outcast. Though he was a humble, hardworking and true person his job and caste brought a miserable day for himself. He had to face a lot of abuses and insult of society. He felt dejected, frustrated, worthless and cursed upon his own birth. But at the end of the day he faced three people, with three different ideas(solution) to come over his regrets, to find out the answers of all his questions "Why is he untouchable? Why is he so much unworthy in this society? Who is Narayan and Hari? What about his dream of to live like Sahib and look like Tommies? Will he always live a life of Scavenger? And what is his fault to be part of this untouchable society and not treated as others?". First solution is of Hutchinson "Salvationist missionary: Jesus Christ". Because Jesus treat everyone equally whatever may be your caste. But very soon he bored with this idea because he can not identify who is Jesus and where he live? Also he was afraid of converted himself. Then he confronted with Mahatma Gandhi, who told him it does not matter whether you are a scavenger or brahmin, you should not feel low for your duty and we should treat everyone equally. It means there is no difference between Bhaka(a sweeper) and a priest. Then he listened to a poet "Iqbal Nath Sarshar" who told that a day will come when machine will do the job of scavenger and sweeper. So your job never hinder your existence in this society. And the story comes to an end with the thought of Bhaka that he should follow Mahatma and live a optimistic life as said by the poet that a day will come where he can leave his job to follow his dream and desire.I loved the story but confused at the end.

Nafiza

I read this for this Post-Colonial English Lit class that I am taking and to be honest, I don't know where this book is when it comes to the topic. Anyway, I'll be writing my essay on this book; I haven't yet decided what particular topic it is that I want to focus on specifically but there were a lot of things that were glaringly wrong with this book. And some others that were right. First, the hindi interspersed with the English confused me. I'm familiar with the language and I insist, that the way it is translated is not in fact the way it is used but whatever. No one listens to me. Also, Bakha was highly romanticized. That turned me off straight away. You are talking about an untouchable, give us the gritty details. Do not paint him to be the diamond in the dust. Which is exactly what Anand did. He didn't represent the entire populace of the Untouchables - just this one boy who seemed to be "superior" to others. This is still perpetuating the idea of hierarchy within humanity - just not of the caste kind and it is still wrong. Then the abrupt shift from the village/simplistic tone and language to something out of Bloomsbury. The language shift is jarring and discordant and I understand its intention but its execution is poor and does not make for a smooth reading. I didn't understand the focus of this book and I give it three stars because it made me realize (however much it tried to obfuscate the details with artistry) the dirty details of an Untouchable's life.

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.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

Forget about Batman, Superman or the Hulk. They are all just comic book super heroes. This is the real deal. Enlarge the picture in the book's cover so you can get a good look at him, the photo courtesy of the India Office Library and Records. A flesh and blood Untouchable with god-given superhuman powers. Here are some amazing things he is capable of:1. He can part a throng of people with just the words: "Posh, posh, sweeper coming!" as he comes carrying his broom (cf. Moses with his stick, parting the Red Sea);2. Just by his touch, whether done intentionally or accidentally, another person would become very angry and will call him a dog, a swine, a cock-eyed son of a bow-legged scorpion, an offspring of a pig, and so on;3. With the same touch, even with his smallest finger, he can defile another person so that even if the latter is on his way to an important appointment and is running late, for example, he'll have to go back home to wash and purify himself;4. His powers are carried over also by the inanimate objects he touches. If he's buying something from a store, for example, the vendor will first ask him to put his money on a bowl, which shall then be purified by washing it with water, before the vendor shall handle it;5. He passes on his magical powers to his children; and 6. He can live without hope, be dead inside yet do his predestined chores. Look at him: his bare feet, his shapeless pants, the rags he wears, his cheap turban, his basket where he puts in the dung and dirt he sweeps from the street and collects from latrines. He is not bad-looking, physically, with his athletic built, his height, his finely-shaped nose, full lips--but look at his eyes. A lifeless pair, turned into stone by the misery of his fate. He is the lowest of the low-caste Untouchables of India; street-sweeper, latrine-cleaner, collector of human and animal waste.This is a novel about this superhero named Bakha (quite appropriate: "Baka" in Tagalog is cow, and cows are the holiest of animals in India). But this is more than just a story of a day in his life. This is a novel about a superhero written by another superhero:, Mulk Raj Anand--he who has this other super power called Compassion. He could not have seen Bakha for what he really was, and write about him with controlled fury, if he did not have this divine gift.The most extraordinary feats in human history are achieved not by the strong but by those with Compassion.

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.

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!

Radhika

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

Nan

Explanation of Rating: It clearly tells us about Hindu Scoeity. The language that the author uses is rich and vividly transports the reader to the sadness and dirt surrounding the life of an untouchable, through Bkaka, the main character's life. Reading this book is very intereting and exciting.Recommendation: This book is highly recommended. It engages the reader from the beginning to the end. Also, it contains the harrowing subject which is about untouchables life. It is well written with a bitter,long, after taste about the indignitites that untouchables have endured. Therefore, i recommende this book to people in our school who feel ashame of his or her class now. This book will tell those people that they are lucky and blessed class.Summary: Untouchable follows a day inthe life of Bhaka, an 18year old Bhangi (a Hindu scavenger who belongs to one of the untouchable castes) boy. Written by Mulk Raj Anand in 1935, the fictional story is set in the outcastes' colony outside of an unnamed town during the British occupation. The story is narrated by Bhaka who is a hard working boy. Despite his humiliating lifestyle, Bhaka had worked in the barracks of a British regiment instead of his father. He cleans the latrines and sweeps the streets. The British or "Tommies" as Bhaka called them, treated him with respect, despite his casste. Bhaka is trying to rise above his caste by westernizing himself. He wears trousers, breeches, coat, puttees, boots, ets. Bhaka faces different happenings every single day. For example, He plays hockey with other out caste boys, takes English lessons from Babu, and sometimes argues with his neighbors. Lastely, this book tells us about the importance of family which is seriously necessary to us.Work done by NAN

John

A day in the life of an Untouchable. The writing comes across as a bit stilted, but ultimately Anand seems to think that Ghandi and modernization might help rectify the issues of the underclass in India. In all kind of a strange little book, I'm interested to see what my incredibly smart prof has to say.

Bodhisatta Biswas

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand has to be read in the light of the period in which it is written, not just because it presents a better picture in that case, but also because the simplicity in the language used by Indian authors in English like R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao and Anand can be better understood then. The reader must skim through a biography of M.R. Anand in order to appreciate his point of view and the reason behind his writing the way he does. Untouchable provides an excellent account of the average life of a sweeper, an untouchable, who comes from the lowest rungs of both economic and social order. The novel is relevant even today because though reformation has taken place in the mindset of people due to laws and changing societies, yet a lot needs to be achieved. Rural india is still plagued by prejudices, if not servile fearfulness of the master. That said, where I guess the novel falters is in the translations. Anand, in his attempt at literal translation, fails to impress upon the reader an interesting picture of an event. For example, to address someone as "saala" in colloquial Hindi is not the same as referring to him as "brother in law", which, though the literal translation of the word, does not convey the meaning "saala" does, and should probably have been translated in English swear words. It becomes apparent to the reader that Anand's thought process is in Hindi first, and thereafter the translation takes place, which lends a blandness to the novel.However, one does feel for the sweeper Bakha and his trauma and conflict, through this pen-picture of a day in the life of a sweeper in the pre-independence era. In a way, the novel raises existentialist questions; however, the execution of it could have been crafted better. Way better.

Ajay Gautam

There are two aspects of this book.One is the story of a day in the life of the main character Bakha, the young, Untouchable boy. The story is presented in a good way (if not the best way). Backha goes through the day juggling through different emotions. Sad, Angry, Happy, Depressed and still goes on with his life. I salute him :)Other aspect is the Social System of Untouchability presented in the book.And as surprising as it may sound, it is still in practice after 81 years of the first print of this book. That makes this book as relevant in current times as in 1930.Its a good book with a sad story.

Joseph Sverker

This was an interesting book in terms of its subject, but as another reviewer says, it is very didactic. And also the syle of writing doesn't quite go together with the subject, nor the protagonist. Anand apperas erudite and well read in philosophy and other subjects. It feels like he wants to show this in the book, while the main character would not have those referenses probably. It is the narrator of course, and not the main character who comes out with those thoughts, but it nonetheless takes something away from the authenticity of the narrative.

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