Go Back
Author: Mulk Raj Anand

Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9780143027805
Pages: 160
Add to Booklist
Bookmark and Share
Untouchable, published in 1935, deals with India’s caste system. Almost 80 years later, the problem still exists in contemporary India.

The story is about Bakha, the protagonist, who is a 18 year old sweeper and toilet cleaner. Bakha is a young and attractive man but is not accepted in the society because he belongs to the lowest of the lower class. His occupation of cleaning toilet makes him an outcast. He is often insulted by people, he is forced to beg for food, is not allowed to touch higher-class Hindus, cannot enter temples and must follows their orders. He tries to dress like Englishmen in hopes that this westernization would rid him of this burden of casteism, but his friends humiliate him for dressing like a sahib to try and be what he is not.

Untouchable describes a day of great difficulty for Bakha. He accidentally touches a upper-caste Hindu and gets slapped for having ‘polluted’ the man. Later on in the day, as he cleans a lady’s gutter, though she gives him food, she throws it on him. Unfortunately, Bakha sister gets molested by a priest on that very day. And Bakha gets blamed for injuring a young boy after a hockey match. As his day goes on, it gets from bad to worse. Finally, Untouchable tells us how Bakha’s father throws him out of the house. Bakha becomes frustrated and tries to find why he has to lead such a miserable and tragic life. He learns about Christianity and about the ways of Mahatma Gandhi. As the plot thickens, Barkha comes to an surprising conclusion.

Untouchable was inspired by the author’s own experiences. His aunt was treated as an outcast in his own family because she had food with a Muslim and later committed suicide. Anand himself had gotten injured after a hockey match and was carried home by a boy of the lower caste. Instead of thanking him, Anand’s mother had beaten up the boy. The book is written in lucid and simple language. This controversial piece of literature established the author as one of India’s leading English writers.
Other books by the same author