Untouchable is a well-known book by the famous Indian author Mulk Raj Anand. He is noted for his novels, short stories and essays in the English language. He has also been deemed the founder of the English language Indian novels.
He pursued his education at the University of Cambridge. Untouchable is hands down his best-known work ever. His first prose was inspired by Anand’s aunt, who committed suicide because she was banished from her house. Why was she banished, you may ask.
She was banished because she had a meal with a Muslim woman. For context, Mulk Raj Anand belonged to a high-caste family who considered Shudras (Dalits) and Muslims as impure or low caste.
However, Untouchable does not look like a novel written by a high-caste person. It seems like an autobiographical memoir of a Dalit himself. And that’s what differentiates this novel from others.
While reading, you feel as if you are looking at the world from the perspective of a Dalit, and Mulk Raj Anand has done a superb job trying to encapsulate the world from the eyes of a Dalit.
Anand has not only seen but understood and felt the plight of Dalits. It’s a perfect example of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Mulk Raj Anand has proven to be an excellent empath.
Untouchable is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that tells the story of Bakha, an untouchable boy living in colonial India.
Through Bakha’s struggles with poverty, discrimination, and social ostracization Anand illustrates the harsh realities of the caste system and the devastating impact it had on those at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Bakha, the protagonist of the novel, is a toilet cleaner. Before the flush system, there were people who cleaned toilets, most of whom were from the untouchable class.
As I stated, the novel is told in first-person narrative, which allows readers to experience the world through Bakha’s eyes and gain a deeper understanding of his experiences and emotions. Mulk Raj Anand’s writing is evocative and descriptive, and he does an excellent job of bringing the characters and setting to life.
One of the most poignant themes of the novel is the idea of human dignity and the inherent worth of every person, regardless of social status. The novelist illustrates this through the character of Bakha, who is constantly belittled and mistreated because of his untouchable status.
Bakha pleads for food for his family because his greedy father needs nothing but food. Bakha’s father scolds him for not arranging food for the family, while he idles.
Yet, Bakha remains determined to live a life of dignity and respect. Bakha gets happy with the idea that toilet flushes will be introduced, and he won’t be cleaning toilets again.
Untouchable is one of the few fundamental novels that Indian English Literature has to offer. This genre is developing day-to-day, and we have seen a rise in welcoming readers who want to read something new.
Contemporary Indian English literature varies from fantasy to sci-fi and memoirs. But books like Untouchable are the evergreen basic books that define Indian literature. Not just because it was one of the first few Indian English novels to be written but it also introduced Indian society and livelihood to the English novels category.
Untouchable is not just a book; it’s a window into the minds of people living in the colonial era. Mulk Raj Anand tears through the fabric of society and gives us a truthful sight of Indian livelihood. “It was a discord between person and circumstance by which a lion like him [Bakha] lay enmeshed in a net while many a common criminal wore a rajah’s crown. ”(Page 182).
The world sees India as a diverse and cultural country. The world enjoys the moves of Bharatnatyam and Kathak (Indian traditional dances) and fancies the Shahnai and the flute. But Untouchable presents the per contra India, and its society.
This book is an absolute banger and is a must-read for modern classic fans. It puts you in the shoes of a low-caste person and as you turn the pages, you understand the lifestyle and the problems faced by society.
We have seen many videos and read many reports on the lives of low-caste people, but if you really want to experience and wholly grasp the fate of Dalits, you must read this book.
Student of DPS Srinagar, Abdullah is an author of “No Place For Good” and a Fellow Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC). Besides being shortlisted for UNESCO International Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads Photo Contest, he also got an opportunity to recite his poem at Pulitzer’s Fighting Words open mic.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.