Havildar Charat Singh: Character Analysis in Untouchable

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      Mulk Raj introduces Havildar Charat Singh, A small thin man, naked except for a loin-cloth, stood outside with a small brass jug in his left hand, a round white cotton skull-cap on his head, a pair of wooden sandals on his feet, and the apron of his loin-cloth lifted to his nose.

      It was Havildar Charat Singh, the famous hockey player of the 38 Dogras regiment, as celebrated for his humour as for the fact, which with characteristic Indian openness he acknowledged, that he suffered from chronic piles.

      Prima impression of him is that he is ill-tempered. He suffers from piles. He is angry with Bakha because he thinks that he is responsible for his piles. He lives in the barracks where Bakha goes to clean latrines. Charat Singh rebukes him because he has not cleaned the latrines. He is fed up and shouts at Bakha, “Ohe, Bakhya! Ohe Bakya ! Ohe Scoundrel of a sweeper’s son ! Come and clean a latrine for me.” He scolds him further, “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 !” Charat Singh is pleased with Bakha when he realises that the young and healthy sweeper boy is honest and dextrous. He is puzzled to see his cleanliness. Although his caste superiority does not allow him to appreciate a sweeper boy he seems helpless to encourage and appreciate him. He applauds Bakha, “What a dextrous man!’ The novelist has noticed his applause, “What a dextrous workman!’ the outlooker would have said. And though his job was dirty he remained comparatively clean. He didn’t even soil his sleeves handling the commodes, sweeping and scrubbing them. ‘A bit superior to his job,’ one would have said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this. For he looked intelligent, even sensitive, with a sort of dignity that does not belong to the ordinary scavenger, who is as a rule uncouth and unclean. It was perhaps his absorption in his task that gave him the look of distinction, or his exotic dress however loose and ill-fitting, that lifted him above his odorous world.”

      Charat Singh is different from his own community of caste-Hindus for his liberalism and tolerance. He is not a fundamentalist and fanatic orthodox Hindu who treats the outcastes as wild beasts. The novelist depicts his generous and beneficent attitude toward the outcastes, “Havildar Charat Singh, who had the Hindu instinct for immaculate cleanliness, was puzzled when he emerged from his painful half an hour in the latrines and caught sight of Bakha. ‘Here was a low-caste man who seemed clean !’ He became rather self-conscious, the prejudice of the ‘twice-born’ high-caste Hindu against stink, even though he save not the slightest suspicion of it in Bakha, rising into his mind. He smiled complacently Then, however, he forgot his high caste and the ironic smile on his face became a childlike one.

‘‘You are becoming a gentreman, Ohe Bakhya!”

      Bakha needs human love and sympathy more than anything vital in the world. If Pandit Kalinath, a caste-Hindu, custodian of Hindu culture and traditions, represents hypocrisy cruelty and injustice, Havildar Charat Singh characterises progressive views.

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