Lakha: Character Analysis in Untouchable

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      Lakha is the Jamadar of all the sweepers in the town and the cantonment and officially in charge of the three rows of public Latrines which lie the extreme end of the colony by the brook-side; Anand introduces him in the beginning of the novel. He does not play any significant role but he is a remarkable character for certain characteristic features of an Indian outcaste. He symbolises the grief, agony poverty and disease of an aged outcaste. Anand has focused our attention on such a character because he is also a human being; he does feel pains; he does have his own dreams. But what generally happens to such a miserable character is that he dies without proper treatment and medicine and our indifference aggravates the situation. Caste-Hindu’s apathy to Lakha is touching and significant also.

Self-centred and Obsequious

      Lakha characterises the down-trodden untouchables. Old age and sickness have rendered him lethargic, ill-tempered and self-centred. He is pre-occupied with his own bread and tea. He does not care for his own children. He has abandoned them at the mercy of Heaven. He has accepted the misery and poverty and untouchability as his destiny. He thinks that the white-skinned Britishers are the rightful people ruled and treated the caste-Hindus as super-human deities. He believed that the outcastes are born to serve them. He tolerates all social evils without a single word of complain. He has inherited extreme servility as a consequence of thousand years of racial and caste superiority that is in vogue in India. Anand portrays his selfishness, “I thought you were dead or something, daughter of a pig!” Lakha was shouting. “No tea, no piece of bread, and I am dying of hunger !”


      Prolonged sickness and inactive life has rendered him ill-tempered and peevish. He never treats his children with love and affection as a father should do. He does not greet them with good words. He is always abusing. He is used to uttering sub-standard and vulgar words typical to low-caste community His dictions, and phrases, ‘you son of a pig’, ‘you illegally begotten’ and ‘call those swines’ expose his ill temper.

Subdued and Indolent

      Thousand years of servility and humility has made him subdued and indolent, deprived of the spirit to revolt. He deems the caste-Hindus as his deity who determines his destiny He is always ready to prostrate before them. He has no sense of self-respect. He does not react to the injustice and oppressing perpetrated on the outcastes. He seems to be a lifeless body rather a dead, putrefying corpse. He does not condemn the priest, Pandit Kalinath for molesting his innocent daughter, Sohini. He does not commiserate with her He does not revolt because he is afraid of the police and the consequence. He is an embodiment of misery poverty helplessness and wretchedness. He thinks that speaking against the caste Hindus is equal to blasphemy.

His Practical Experience

      Lakha does not revolt to the injustice and oppression and humiliation unleashed on the outcastes by the caste Hindus because he knows his limitation. He does not boil like his young son Bakha does. Years of practical experience has made him more tolerant. To him survival is the main concern. He loves his safety but he prefers the safety of his community. He knows that his protest and rebellion will be subduced with infinite power of the caste Hindus. Neither society nor religion, culture and tradition will favour him. The irony is that the system that is the main culprit is the authority and justice also. So the victims are between the devil and the deep blue see.

As an Affectionate Father

      Mulk Raj Anand points-out his soft corner for his children in the following lines from Untouchable:

“No tea, no piece of bread arid I am dying of hunger ! Put the tea on and call those swines, Bakha and Rakha to me.’ Then he frowned in the gruff manner of a man who was really kind at heart, but who knew he was weak and infirm and so bullied his children, to preserve his authority, lest he should be repudiated by them, refused and rejected as the difficult old rubbish he was.”

      The story of Bakha's illness reveals his virtuous features of a father. Once Bakha falls seriously ill. Lakha rocks the child in his arm and spends a sleepless night. He needs his life desperately. In morning he rushes to Hakim Bhagwan Dass and begs to save the life of his son. The Hakim becomes angry because he feels that the old sweeper has defiled him. He admits that his sin is beyond compensation and further implores to treat his child and to give some medicine. The physician agrees and thus Bakha is cured.

      Bigamy and polygamy are common phenomena among the outcastes. But Lakha does not re-marry even after the death of his wife. He knows that his love and care will be divided. He will be biased to his new wife and neglect his children. His sacrifice is natural instinct.

      He rebukes and scolds his children because of his prolonged sickness and inability to work. Old age and sickness have rendered him helpless, ill-tempered and humble. He rebukes and scolds his children to assert his parental authority over them.

      Lakha serves two purpose in the novel. First, he represents the common untouchables who are subjected to tyranny and poverty and injustice. Secondly; his sense of inferiority stands as a contrast to Bakha’s sense of superiority.

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