Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand Summary

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand Summary

 Mulk Raj Anand Untouchable Summary

Part I (Pages 11 to 17)

The Outcastes’ Colony

The outcastes’ colony was a group of
mud walled houses situated outside the town and was inhabited by washermen, the
leather workers and the scavengers of Bulandshahr. The houses are cluster
together in two rows, under the shadow of the town and the cantonment, but
outside their boundaries and separate from them. A brook ran near the lane with
crystal clear waters now soiled by the dirt and filth of the public latrines
situated about it, the odour of the hides and skins of the dead carcasses left
to dry on its banks, dung of donkeys, sheep, horses, cows and buffaloes heaped
up to be made into fuel cakes.



The absence of a drainage system had,
through the rains of various seasons, made a quarter of marsh which gave out
the most offensive smell and hardly fit for human dwelling. Bakha, who inhabits
one of the one roomed houses is a scavenger and is, therefore, subjected to
clean three rows of latrines which lined the extreme end of the colony, by the
brook-side. Bakha is distinguished from typical scavengers because of longer
association with the army barracks and it has acquainted him with the way the
British Tommies live. Bakha becomes an anglophile. His passion for the English
fashion is outstanding and a rare phenomenon amongst the untouchables. He
sleeps on the floor and covers himself with a blanket because he considers it
his insult to use an Indian quilt. He nurses and cherishes his every desire for
exotic English articles and English dress.

Part II (Pages 17-25)

A Morning with Bakha

“Ohe, Bakhya ! Ohe Bakhya ! Ohe scoundrel
of a sweeper’s son! Come and clean a latrine for me!”
Bakha is rudely awakened
the morning to resume his routine work. He is sincere and punctual his work
though his father, Lakha is always scolding him. He treats with least affection
and after his mother’s demise his father become more ego-centric and egoist,
Bakha’s mother used to be compassionate, over-indulging. During his mother’s
life Bakha never realizes any of his wishes unfulfilled.

Havildar Charat Singh complains, “Why
aren’t the latrines clean, Ohe rogue of a Bakha ? There is not one fit to go near.
I have walked all round. Do you know you are responsible for my piles ! I
caught the contagion sitting on one of those dirty latrines !”
He is generous,
magnanimous and easy to placate.

Bakha is very efficient and
proficient at his work. Anand says “He looked intelligent, even sensitive with
a sort of dignity that does not belong to the ordinary scavenger who is a rule
uncouth and unclean.”
Further Anand appreciates, “It was perhaps his absorption
in his task that gave him that look of distinction, or his exotic dress however
loose and ill-fitting, that lifted him above his odorous world.” Charat
Singh gives a brand new hockey stick to Bakha. It comes as an unexpected boon
and renders him elated. Bakha does not like Hindu rituals and noisy ablution
for they appear superficial and hackneyed. The Tommies detest them. Bakha feels
the warmth and comfort in the exotic woollen clothes he was wearing. Although
he insists to remain in bed but he cannot resist work that is his first
priority.



Part III (Pages 25-35)

The Well and the Thirsty Untouchables

Bakha finishes
his morning shift of work and comes back home. He is hungry and thirsty for he
has not eaten anything since morning. Sohini
tries hard to lit the fire but the wet fuel fails her. She realises that there
is no water. She balances the pitcher and goes to the well of the caste Hindus
where she counts on the chance of some gentleman taking pity on her and giving
her the water she needed. The untouchables crowd round the well. They are in
desperate need of water. But they can’t dare drawing water from the well
because they can foresee the consequences of this act of pollution. Anand
writes,

“So the outcastes had to wait for
chance to bring some caste Hindu to the well, for luck to decide that he was
kind, for Fate to ordain that he had time to get their pitchers filled with
water. They crowded round the well, congested the space below its high brick
platform, morning, noon and night, joining their hands in servile humility to
every passer-by; cursing their fate, and bemoaning their lot, if they were
refused the help they wanted; praying, beseeching, and blessing, if some
generous soul condescended to listen them, or to help them.”

Fortunately a caste Hindu priest
approach He is suffering from chronic constipation. He wants to himself of this
trouble by drawing water from the well. He draws water and pours it into
Sohini’s pitcher because her sylph-like form, well-rounded hips and globular
breasts appeal to his prurient a Sohini comes back with water. Lakha scolds her
for being lot pays no heed to her father’s invectives. She prepares to
breakfast and serves to her insistent brothers, Bakha and Rakha and her father
who has least resistance to hunger. Bakha leaves to do the work which his
father instructs him to do in his stead.



Part IV (Pages 35-47) &

Part V (Pages 47-60)

Bakha Proceeds to the Town

Bakha comes out of his house and
proceeds to the town out of his colony. He is in playful mood and rather
jovial. He begins to sing to himself. He stops when he realises that he is
being watched by Ram Charan and Chota. He felt abashed at being seen absorbed
in singing to himself. They always made a butt of him, ridiculing the weight of
his body, the shape of his clothes, his gait, which was a bit like an
elephant’s, on account of his heavy, swaying buttocks, a bit like a tiger’s,
lithe and supple’. Bakha is informed that Ram Charan’s sister is going to be
married. Chota persuades him to work. But he declines making an excuse that he
has a lot of work to do and that his father is ill. He is then asked to
participate in a game of hockey the afternoon and he concedes. The two sons of
burra babu are to bring extra hockey sticks. But the outcaste children do not
have any hockey sticks of their own.

Bakha shows a strong yearning for
learning alphabets of English and in order to learn alphabets he makes a
bargain with the elder son of the burra babu. He agrees to pay him an anna.
Bakha proceeds and buys a packet of cigarettes from the betel shop. But Bakha
is much humiliated by the shop owner. He joins his hand and begs to know where
he could put a coin to pay for a packet of ‘Red Lamp’. The shopkeeper points a
spot on the board near him. Reaching the main street, Bakha looks at the
various articles displayed in shop’s windows. He buys some cheap sweets because
he cannot afford expensive ones. He is relishing sweets and munching playfully,
moves on, carefree and absorbed his fancy about English lesson. But very soon
his fancy prove be short-lived, unreal and illusion as caste Hindu begins to
him and accuses him of polluting, Bakha apologizes but the callous caste Hindu
does not melt. He slaps Bakha and spoils his rendering unfit to eat.

Bakha tends to be angry but he soon to realize
that he is an outcaste therefore he has to shout and announce his approach when
he moves on a public road. Dan his turban again and proceeds announcing his
approach. Bakha comes across a bull. The Hindus are touching the animal
reverently. The bull is emitting foul smell and excreting dung on the road. Bakha
thinks and he is puzzled over the hypocrisy of the Hindu tradition that is more
generous to an animal than to an outcaste.

Part VI (Pages 60-83)

The Massive Temple

Bakha now reaches the temple, a
colossal, huge turreted structure of massive stone and carved masonry, the
florid exuberance of whose detailed and intricate decorations strikes a strong
kind of awe into his being ‘Ram, Ram, Sri, Sri Hari, Narayan, Sri Krishna,’
many people chant the names of various deities and enter the temple. He has a
strong desire to view inside the temple but he is not allowed entrance because
his presence is believed to defile it. He begins to sweep the courtyard. The
work of cleaning or sweeping the courtyard is strenuous but it is less tiring
and contemptuous. He collects the rubbish and puts them aside and set them on
fire. His temptation to view the deities grows intense and stronger. He is
unable to resist it. He moves on and stumbles for a moment, regains his balance
but soon he is close enough to peer inside the temple. He sees two priests
performing Hindu rituals. The awe is overwhelming. Anand portrays, 

“Bakha
was profoundly moved. He was affected by rhythm of the song. His blood coursed
along the balanced melodic line to the final note of strength with such vigour
that his hands joined unconsciously, and his head hung in the worship of the
unknown god.”

Hullabaloo

An outcry and hullabaloo raise,
“polluted ! polluted ! polluted !”. The commotion renders him
completely unnerved. His eyes are covered with darkness. He cannot see
anything. His tongue and throat are parched. He wants to utter a cry, a cry of
fear, but his – falls him. He opens his mouth wide to speak. It is of no use.
Beads of sweat covered his forehead. He tries to raise himself me awkward
attitude of prostration but his limbs have no strength left in them. For a
second he was as if dead.



Sohin is
molested by Pundit Kali Nath as
Sohini herself reports, “He-e- e- just teased me. And then when I was bending
down to work he came and held me by my breast”
. Bakha becomes angry like storm
to punish the Brahmin dog but in the mean time Sohini arrests his progress by
dragging hard at the lapel of his overcoat. His eyes flared wild and red, and
his teeth ground o the challenge ‘I could show you what that Brahmin dog has
done!’
But relaxes when he is assured by his sister that her modesty is not ravished.
He offers himself to go in stead of Sohini to collect bread.

Affront

Bakha does not realize the work of
collecting bread an congenial; he realises it rather hostile. One generous
old-lady him a chapati but another proves to be hostile and heaps affronts and
invectives on him for trespassing the prohibited zone. Balch is tired. He takes
a brief nap, leaving against a door. But he is scolded for exploiting a luxury
of a caste Hindu door. He is asked to vacate the place immediately. On the
other hand the lady is too generous to an overfed Sadhu. Bakha, being
frustrated and disappointed returned home. Bakha’s father turns indifferent to
his agonizing experience of collecting bread. Bakha gets a fresh task of
collecting bread.

Bakha and His Apathetic Father

Bakha narrates everything to his
father. He tells him about the humiliating experiences of collecting bread. But
his apathetic father does not sympathise with him. Lakha holds him responsible
for Bakha’s being slapped by a caste Hindu for alleged pollution. He suggests
Bakha that an outcaste is obliged to announce his approach Although Lakha’s
advice is bitter to Bakha, but he is pragmatic. He narrates the callousness of
a caste-Hindu physician who once refuses to give medicine to Rakha while he is
in critical condition. Bakha vicariously feels the trauma of a father whose son
is dying because of a physician’s apathy.

Rakha and His Family at Meals

The insufficient food Bakha brings is
supplemented by a basketful of scraps of bread and other articles of food which
Rakha fetches from English mess. They share them together as opposed to caste
Hindu’s may of eating from separate plates. The soggy bread left by some sepoy is
nauseating. Bakha feels vomiting. Anyhow he controls. Bakha quits from meal
very quickly and it is surprising to Lakha. Bakha makes an excuse that he is
going to Ram Charan’s house where he has been invited to his sister’s wedding:

Part VII (Pages 83-96) &

Part VIII (Pages 96-103)

Ram Charan’s Sister & Her Wedding

Bakha, punctuated by a profound
reason, is going to Ram Charan’s house although he is unwanted and uninvited
guest at his sister’s wedding. Bakha once shared a juvenile game of marriage
with the bride. Later she grows into a voluptuous young beauty that renders Bakha
erotic. He is desperate to have a glance of the bride. Ram Charan calls Bakha
to condescend sweets but he does not show much interest in sweet as it is
expected by Ram Charan. Bakha quits the wedding party and along with his friend
he moves towards the hills. Later, he segregates from them because he loves to
be alone at the moment. He needs none’s company. He becomes nostalgic and
reminiscent of his childhood and his distinguished character in mock battles.
Ultimately he lays flat on the bank of a pool to relieve himself of the
persistent nostalgia. There he is traced by his friends. His friends read his
melancholy manifest from his face and insist to share his distress and tragedy
with them. He narrates heart-rending attempt of sexual assault made on his sister
by a hypocrite priest Pundit Kali Nath. They sympathise with him and pledge to
abide by him.

Part IX (Pages 103-111), Part X
(Pages 111-115), Part XI

(Pages 115-125)

Much Coveted and Promised Gift

Bakha has now to go to the quarter of
the Havildar who has promised to give the much coveted hockey-stick. He goes by
the side of the regimental quarter guard. The typical hat of Havildar hangs on
the wall. The hat seems to be an exotic element and all boys are craving to
possess it. But its significance still remains a mystery for them. Bakha knocks
at the door and call the man out. Bakha takes a little liberty with Havildar
because he is well aware of his sympathy and generosity. He responds to Bakha
very politely and asks him to fetch some live charcoals for his hookah. Bakha
deems it as a sign of honour because he does not show any touchability complex.
So he does obey cheerfully. The Havildar gives him tea in his own pot. It is a
rare example of generosity and magnanimity among the caste Hindus.

Bakha is overwhelmed and makes a
pledge to serve him whenever the man requires him. Bakha receives a brand new
hockey stick from Charat Singh with an immense sense of gratitude. Lakha does
also try the hockey stick, Bakha, with his Trends, arrives, Babu’s son do
arrive too. Teams are selected. They play with enthusiasm and display talents
precociously. The game upsets and a chaos emerges Bakha scores a goal but the
rival goal keeper gets frustrated and out of frustration hits Bakha on the leg.
Soon there is anarchy in the playground. Babu’s younger son sets injured. Bakha
gathers the child in his arm and rushes to his house.

To his dismay, Bakha is abused and
accused of polluting a caste Hindu child in stead of showing his gratefulness.
It is an excruciating experience because Bakha does help the child for he
considers it his human obligation. He has no lust for material rewards. He is
always misunderstood, underestimated and discarded by the caste Hindus except
Havildar Charat Singh who admires his essence.

Part XII (Pages 125-131)

The Ultimate Affliction

There is no end to Bakha’s miseries
yet. He rebukes him for his insincerity and carelessness in duty. Rakha, in his
brother’s absence, goes to clean latrines. He feels elated and self-righteous
arrogance. Bakha inclines to work but Rakha refuses to give the broom to him
and the father commands Bakha not to touch the broom. He compels to leave the
house instantly. Bakha is quite unable to manage the situation. He is
disheartened. He cannot tolerate this fresh humiliation and at once quits the
house. It is not a new experience for him. He is used to such humiliations.
Bakha becomes cynical about Rakha for he might have poisoned his father’s ear.

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