Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand Questions and Answers
Q.1. Write a note on the setting of “Untouchable”.
The locale of the novel is Bulasha, a cantonment town in Punjab. Simply, it is confused with Bulundshahar in U. P. Anand’s father was a regimental. He made use of his familiarity with the Head Clerk of Indian Army. He was also, well acquainted with untouchables and Bakha, his playmate. Punjabi background is highlighted in this novel as Anand himself was born in Punjab. So, Punjab plays a vital role in this novel.
Q.2. Comment on the universality of the theme of the novel.
“Untouchable” is a sociological novel and it is concerned with the injustice to which one large part of the Hindu society is subjected by another part of the same society. The novel speaks of the oppressed lives of the untouchables. It not only speaks about Bakha but through him, the novelist has drawn our attention to the plight of untouchables generally. So, Bakha is a universal figure. He is a symbol of the under dog. This is Anand’s habit of studying “The particular through the general.” Oneday. in Bakha’s life means all the days in the lives of all Bakhas, the sweepers.
Q.3. Describe the misery and suffering of the untouchables.
The novel “Untouchable” depicts the misery, suffering, spiritual degradation of the outcasts in India. In the well scene, Sohini has to wait when a high-caste Hindu will pour some water in her pitcher. Bakha is slapped in the market place for touching a man unmindfully. Food is thrown towards him as if he is a dog. He has to walk through the bazar crying “Posh, Posh” to avoid accident. High caste Hindus fear to touch them but Pundit Kali Nath wants to enjoy the touch of Sohini, a Harian girl of beauty. Bakha went to help the little child of a Babu but he is so much hurt by his mother that he comes back like a kicked dog. On the whole the novel revolves round the sociological theme of untouchability prevalent in Hindu society.
Q.4. Write a note on the ironic treatment of the caste Hindus.
The caste Hindus do not allow the untouchables to take water from well, to step into the temples or even to be shadowed by them. All these may pollute them. But, they don’t hesitate to molest Sohini, a beautiful Harijan girl. The man is Pandit Kalinath whom people rally round in the temple. Nothing happens then. The Hindus gargle and spit in the stream and in this way pollute the stream but treat Bakha like dirt who tries to keep cleanliness in society always. Shopkeepers overfeed the priest and cheat the outcastes by charging high prices while the price is constant for a casteHindu. The Hindu women treat them as pariahs but want to be called ‘mother’ by them. All these clearly highlight the essenceless behaviour of the Hindus.
Q.5. Describe Bakha’s modernism.
Bakha is a child of modern India as Dr. Anand calls him. He is fascinated by the European life-style. He wants to look like sahib. He gets a pair of trousers from an Englishman and a pair of boots from a Hindu sepoy. He has bought an overcoat and a blanket by spending ten rupees got as bakhshish. He hates traditional quilts. He smokes the “Red Lamp” cigarettes. The boys call him ‘Pilpali Sahib.’ mockingly as he imitates the Sahibs. He represents Anand’s quest for modernity. He wants to be educated and speak English. He wants to cross the people of his own rank. He knows the romance of going to a school. In these ways, Bakha wants to be modern.
Q.6. Describe Bakha as ideal brother and worthy son.
Bakha is an ideal brother and a responsible son. He loves his sister, Sohini well. When Sohini is molested by Kalinath, he can not tolerate this and wants to take revenge upon the pandit. He wants to make his brother Rakha to be sincere and not to waste time. He respects his father Lakha very much. Though his old father curses Bakha frequently, Bakha does not quarrel with him. Bakha tries his best to obey him. He is a ‘tiger at bay’. He knows to be strict also. Twice he wants to have retaliation against the offenders. But, he proves himself a superb specimen of humanity. Probably God is not with him. Otherwise what he tolerates is unspeakable.
Q.7. How is Bakha victimised to social injustice ?
The insults of High-caste Hindus rankle long in his mind in addition to the perpetual rebukes of his father. He wants to protest this, but his courage fails him. He has to submit to this oppression. He wants to breath in an ethos of freedom but soon he relapses into human servility which he has inherited from his forefathers. He wants to rebel against the caste Hindus who exploit him. Like an angry tiger, he searches Kalinath who wanted to gratify his lust of fire by molesting Shoini. But, Bakha finds himself weak and unable to violate the ancient bars of caste distinction. In his highest moment of strength, the slave in him asserts and he is forced to ruminate over his tragedy just by biting his lips. But, he has to accept his destiny. He eagerly wants an end to untouchability. In Mr. Hutchinson or in Gandhi, he fails to find any solution to this problem. These famous persons fail to promote any faith in his heart. It is only the machine that can bring some relief and a hope of the solution.
Q.8. Comment on Lakha’s ill-temper and peevish nature.
Lakha is a man of ill-temper and peevish nature. It is seen in his treatment of Bakha after the hockey match. Bakha asked his younger brother to do the routine work. The work was done but not by Bakha. Lakha wants it to be done by Bakha. He abuses his son,
“you ran away, you have been away all the afternoon and now you come back. You illegally begotten, have you become a nabab……: You have no care for your father, you go out in the morning and come back in the night. Who is going to do the work at the latrines ?….Won’t you give me rest in my old age ?…… You illegally begotten you pig.”
Lakha even orders Bakha to leave his house and never to return.
Q.9. How is Colonel Hutchinson a lovable cum pathetic figure?
When Bakha is turned out of doors by his father and is in a very despondent mood, he is approached by Colonel Hutchinson of local salvation army. This man too is an outcaste from British residents of the city and driven from home for playing cards and taking wine. He awaits some poor who will listen to the gospel of Christ. But, his pathetic feature is also clear as he can’t converse with the natives in concrete terms. He uses broken Hindustani and message of Christianity cannot reach the people, therefore. The meeting between Bakha and Hutchinson is very amusing. One is lost in the utterance of the ecstatic hymn while the other is happy to be in contact with a “Sahib” from whom he might extract a pair of cost off trousers.
Q.10. Write a note of Mahatma Gandhi as presented in ‘Untouchable’.
Towards the end of the novel, Gandhiji makes a brief appearance. He comes to deliver a speech in the Goal Maidan. Gandhi was a little man swathed in a white shawl with his big protruding ears, expensive forehead, quixotic smile and determined chin. Gandhi was a magical man. The shouting “Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai” was repeated endlessly and died as he raised his hand in benediction. He gives a mass appeal in a single sentence. He had the strange calibre of rally the multicoloured, multi-tongued India to himself. The stage is made for Gandhi to speak. His power lies in what he has come to signify to the common mind. For this reason, Anand devotes many pages to the Gandhi legend and to the audience frenzied reaction of the arrival of the Mahatma as to the speech itself.
Q.11. Write a note on R. N. Bashir, the westernized Mohammedan.
R. N. Bashir appears at the end of the novel. He says that he is Mr. R. N. Bashir, B. A. (Oxon) Bar-at-Law. He called himself in wrong Hindustani ‘Hum desi Sahib’. He is sallow faced and clad in fine clothes, yellow gloves. He is proud of just coming from England. He hates his own country, culture, ways just to imitate foreign culture to the last degree possible. He drinks soda water in place of plain water. His ideas are indebted to English writers. He has read Rousseau, Hobbes, Bentham, J. S. Mill etc. He has no ideas of his own. He is completely westernized in his views. He calls Gandhi a humbug of 4th century B.C. Truly speaking, the personality of Bashir is that of an unintelligent young man. Though he has passed college, he is not properly educated. Otherwise, how can he use unfair words to a God like man Gandhi. He is no match to the poet Iqbal.
Q.12. Introduce the outcastes’ colony.
The outcastes’ colony was situated in an uncongenial place to live in. It was a cluster of mud walled houses, remote both from town and the cantonment. The colony was inhabited by leather workers, washer men, grass cutters, water carriers, barbers and scavengers. The inhabitants were mostly poor who lived in misery and in dirty, unhygienic conditions.
Q.13. Who is Bakha ?
Bakha, the hero of ‘Untouchable’ was the 18 years old son of Lakha, the jamadar of all the sweepers in the town and cantonment. He was officially in charge of three rows of public latrines. Bakha had been working on probation in the barracks for some years. Englishmen treated him with understanding and consideration. He took pleasure in mimicking the manners of English men. Chota, the leather worker’s son and Ram charan, the washerman’s son were his intimate friends.
Q.14. How was Bakha’s dead mother ?
Bakha’s mother had accustomed Bakha to get up early. When she was alive, she gave him a brass tankard full of tea which he relished very much. Bakha was lost in imagination and conjured up the image of his mother who was full of boundless love and kindness for him. She was the kindness personified. Ever since her death, he could not get an early morning tumbler full of tea. Bakha can, now, well recall the morning after his mother’s death.
Q.15. Give an example of humour by Charat Singh.
Charat Singh abusively called Bakha and ordered him to clean a latrine for him. Bakha abruptly awoke and hurried to the door yawning. The man was Havildar Charat Singh of the 38th Dogras Regiment, the famous Hockey player. He was as celebrated for his humour as for the fact that he suffered from chronic piles. He told Bakha that he was responsible for his piles. He had caught the contagion sitting on one of those unclean latrines.
Q.16. How was Bakha ?
Bakha was a diligent and honest worker. He was admired for his dexterity. He had some sense of cleanliness. He handled the commodes so carefully that even his sleeves were not sullied. He had a dignity and grace and looked intelligent. Havildar Charat Singh gave him a hockey stick as Bakha was a good hockey player. Bakha was grateful to Charat Singh for this offer. He bowed before his benefactor and resumed his work. So, in short, Bakha’s quality is unquestionable.
Q.17. How was Gulabo ?
Gulabo, the washerwoman thought herself superior to every other outcaste. She was proud of her high place in the hierarchy of castes among the low castes. In her youth, a wellknown Hindu gentleman had loved her and he was still kind to her. She was the mother of Ram charan, Bakha’s friend. Gulabo always hated Sohini, Bakha’s sister for being sweeper. Gulabo was ever jealous of Sohini as the latter was beautiful. Mockingly Gulabo told her to go back as there were so many before her.
Q.18. How was Sohini humiliated by Gulabo ?
Gulabo told Waziro, the weaver’s wife that Sohini was define and shameless. She roamed about all day without an apron over her head in town and cantonment. She insulted Sohini by calling her ‘bitch’, ‘prostitute’ and ‘illegally begotten When she protested, Gulabo furiously raised her hand to strike her. Waziro intervened and saved Sohini. Sohini was hurt in her heart but she had no alternative but to tolerate this humiliation.
Q.19. Whom did Pandit Kali Nath give water ?
All were in a great hurry to get water from Kali Nath. He gave water to none. He was searching a fair face. He saw Sohini and was fascinated by her youthful charm. Sohini advanced meekly and placed her pitcher. Pandit lifted the pitcher with great effort and got intoxicated being near to Sohini. He felt the urge for excretion but asked Sohini to come and clean the courtyard of his house at the temple. Sohini nodded her head and went to home.
Q.20. How did Bakha march towards town?
Bakha marched towards the town. The Colony of the outcastes was left behind. He breathed in the clealn, fresh air and realised the difference between the odorous smoky world of refuge and the open radiant world of the sun. He related himself in the warmth of sun. He felt vigorous in this bracing atmosphere. He was lost in the reminiscences of his childhood. He fell down from his dream when he stumbled over a stone. Ram charan, Chota and Rakha were observing him. He felt abashed. He knew that these 3 would mock at his dress and habits.
Q.21. Describe Bakha at the sweetmeat shop.
Bakha’s mouth watered when he saw rasgulas, gulabjamans, ladus. He certainly knew that these could not be cheap. He caught sight of jelibis which were sold at the rate of a rupee a seer. He bought four anna’s worth of jelibis. He put 4 nickel coins on the shoe board for the confectioner’s assistant who washed them and took them up. The shopkeeper wrapped jelibis in a torn piece of paper and threw that at Bakha like cricket ball. The warm, sweet, syrupy jelibis satisfied him, His gaze was drawn to a figure sitting in a window. But, his joy did not last long as somebody shouted at him- “keep to the side of the road you low caste vermin.” Bakha was deeply hurt.
Q.22. What did the street urchin do?
The street urchin called Bakha ‘son of a dog’ and accused him of beating urchins. Bakha asked “When did I beat you”. All the spectators took pity on the urchin and rebuked Bakha. Bakha was in a fix. He was in a moral dilemma. A tonga– wallah, warning the crowd to disperse, came. All except the touched man dispersed. He was not yet satisfied. He slapped Bakha. His turban fell down and his jelibis were scattered in the dust. Tears rolled down his cheeks. None but the Muslim tonga wallah felt for Bakha. Wiping his tears, Bakha started walking. Another shop-keeper abused him taking the opportunity. Bakha went on shouting-“posh, keep away, posh, sweeper coming……….”
Q.23. Why did Bakha want to kill Pandit Kali Nath ?
Sohini went to clear the courtyard of the temple of which Kali Nath was the priest. Kali Nath went on peeping through her breasts and attempted to molest her in the temple. He concentrates upon Sohini’s full breasts with their hard heads of nipples. Even when she was bending to work, Kali Nath came and held her by her breasts. Sohini resisted and requested him to go away. At the hue and cry made by Sohini, Bakha wanted to kill him. But, the brahmin was not seen. On the other hand, the common people took side of Kali Nath, the cheat.
Q.24. What ‘nasty experience’ was told by Lakha ?
Bakha fell seriously ill when he was a child. Lakha took him to Hakim Bhagwan Das in town. Being a sweeper, Lakha was not allowed to enter the room. He earnestly requested many people to inform the Hakims of his arrival but in vain Bakha’s condition was deteriorating. He was delirious and senseless. At last, Lakha entered the dispensary and told – “Hakimji, the meaning of my life is my child.” Hakimji lost his temper and accused Lakha of defiling medicines worth of thousands of rupees. Lakha begged his pardon and asked him to save his son’s life. Hakim was melted and wrote a prescription for Bakha. Later, the Hakim visited Lakha’s house and saved Bakha’s life. Lakha wants to tell that all the caste Hindus are not bad. Some of them are really kind and generous.
Q.25. What advice did Lakha give Bakha?
Lakha’s mouth watered recalling the great piles of cooked food got from the trays of high castemen and women, which he got on the occasions of marriage. He advised Bakha to be familiar with the town-people. He had to work for them all his life after Lakha’s death. Bakha helplessly anticipated his dreary future. He preferred to work in British Barracks. He began to dislike his own town, streets, home, profession. He was full of awe and romance for the unknown world of his fancy.
Q.26. Describe Bakha’s feelings of Nature.
The long and unending spectacle of nature, of the tall grass on the slopes of Bulashah hills thrilled him and filled him with pleasure. He felt soothed and comforted. He wanted to forget “the ugliness and the noise of the outcastes.” He wanted to woo nature in silence and solitude. As he was sauntering, he recalled the happy childhood days. When he and his friends played many games on the heath. His soul yearned for enjoying natural and joyous company of nature. His free will was hampered by the shackles of slavery and the dreary and monotonous routine of occupational environment.
Q.27. What was the after-effect of the hockey match?
During the hockey match, Bakha scored a goal. Then, Bakha was struck spitefully on the legs. The match turned into a brawl. The boys started fighting. A stone hit the Babu’s little son in the skull. Blood began to trickle down profusely Bakha took him to his house. But, the child’s mother showered a volley of abusive words on Bakha. She angrily called him, “‘You eater of your master, you dirty sweeper ? What have you done to my son ?” She did not bother to listen to Bakha but kept on abusing him. Bakha handed over the child and silently went away. He felt dejected and miserable. He loved the child very much. But, who will understand him?
Q.28. What were Bakha’s last feelings?
At the end of the novel, Bakha, standing aside, felt a burning sensation in him. He was still smothered by the misery and the anguish of the morning’s memories. He was deeply touched by Mahatmaji’s words but they were unintelligible to him. Though he was calm, yet the conflict in his soul was not over. Beautiful stars began to twinkle in the sky. He was now an enlightened man. He decided to tell his father what Gandhiji had said about untouchability and what suggestion the poet had given for the eradication of untouchability. He thought about the machine and desired to know more about it, if he could find the poet. And, at last, Bakha returned homewards.