Untouchable

“For though he considered them his inferiors since he came back with sharpened wits from the British barracks, he still recognised them as his neighbors, the intimates with whose lives, whose thoughts, whose feelings he had to make a compromise. He didn’t expect them to be formal. And as he stood for a while among them, he became a part of a strange, brooding, mysterious crowd that was seeking the warmth of the sun. One didn’t need to employ a courtesy, a greeting to become part of this gathering as one does in the word where there is plenty of light and happiness. For in the lives of this riff-raff, this scum of the earth, these dregs of humanity, only silence, grim silence of death fighting for life prevailed.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. (New York: Penguin Books, 1940). 36.

Bakha’s exposure to the Tommies as a sweeper of their barracks is enough for Bakha to view himself as superior to his neighbors. There is a noticeable hierarchy within this lower class. Bakha’s view, however, seems contradictory: while he is superior to his neighbors, he is also part of them. Through shared experience, all basking in the warmth of the sun on one level and all experiencing “the lives of the riff-raff, this scum of the earth, these dregs of humanity” on another level, Bakha was equal to them. 

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