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


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


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

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.


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.

Shubham Dabas

I'll remember this book for the insights it gave me into the problem of untouchablity. Also for the great pity that Anand evokes for his protagonist. Otherwise, purely as a novel, I didn't like it much. The book itself was short but still it seemed stretched, the descriptions were, many times, tardy and often Anand's over use of adjectives was irritating. The story ran for just one day in the life of Bakha the sweeper. All those incidents, of great importance in Bakha's life, being compressed in just one day gave the book an unrealistic feel. I don't know what conclusions Anand wanted us to draw from it but he seemed to give preference to the solutions given by a orthodox Hindu man over the views of a western educated scholar, which I didn't like at all.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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

sampath krishna

To me, this book represents the beginning of creative writing by Indian authors in english. I still have to read english literature by Indian authors predating this work.Mulk Raj Anand, very lucidly and vividly, describes a day in the life of an untouchable sweeper named Bakha. The myriad of emotions experienced by Bakha in a day is cleverly used to give a window into the lives of untouchables in pre-independent Indian villages. The author deftly describes how the innocent curiosity and confidence of a child, born into the lowest caste of the stratified Hindu society, is battered and shattered by stark realization of the oxymoronic need and disgust displayed by the higher castes, as he grows older. The inculcation of submissiveness, servility and unworthiness in him by the shunning society, which results in the feeling of overwhelming gratitude at the slightest display of attention or fortuitousness, crushes the innate confidence to pursue life to the fullest. This, however, does not suppress the dreams and desires of even the, supposedly, scum of the society.The author weaves into the story the political unrest in pre-independent India. The deifying expectations of political, economical, cultural and spiritual emancipation by the rural masses from the nation's leaders is beautifully depicted. He, artfully, puts in perspective what the potential of national unity and modernization holds for the lowest strata of Indian society.The story shows the impression of British government, it's representatives and even the Crusaders on the lower castes. The unfounded, yet, intentionally cast, feeling of inferiority and servility on the Indian masse by the deigning British Raj is very evident.I enjoyed reading this book. A great window into the past!


A day in the life of an untouchable in India.


I have been reading this book for past one year and finished it only today. Reading in between the time when I finished other books and was getting a new one, I had to recall whatever happened till the pages I had read. so we can conclude that this book didn't leave much of an impression on my mind or memory. anyways I read it because I wanted to read a book by Mulk raj Anand and moreover the topic seemed quite a different one than the usual ones. It talks about a day in the life of an untouchable and how he actually sees the world treating himself and finds his answers afetr all the problems he goes through. We all have bad days and we all look for answers to the big problems we face and how world treats us whether as being a women, being poor, being uneducated, being out of place, being unclued to the topic being discussed or being lonely or like being untouchable. and we all get over it - find some logic or reason to how this happened and learn to cope with it just like Bhakha in this book. So read on because we all are liek Bhakha but in our different social sections or zones.

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