Role of Mahatma Gandhi in The Novel Untouchable

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A Charismatic Personalty

      Mulk Raj Anand introduces Gandhiji as the most charismatic and mesmerizing personality with a broad prophetic vision. “Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai! Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai!” The cry went thundering up into the smoke-scented evening. Bakha’s attention was switched off the man who held the sceptre of British rule in the form of his formidable truncheon, and turned to the diminutive figure of the Mahatma, now seated in the lotus seat on the Congress panda !, surrounded by devotees, who had come soft-footed up the steps, joined hands in obeisance to the master, touched the dust at his feet, and scattered to sit around him.

      The Mahatma raised his right arm from the folds of his shawl and blessed the crowd with a gentle benediction. The babble of died out, as he has sent an electric shock through the mass of humanity gathered at his feet. This strange man seemed to have the genius that could, by a single dramatic act, rally multi-coloured, multi-tongued India to himself. Someone stood up to chant a hymn. The Mahatma had closed his, eyes and was praying.

Outstanding Appearance

      Saros Cowasjee says, “Perched on a tree, not quite unlike an ape, Bakha gets his first view of Gandhi. With superb skill Anand fashions the image of Gandhi as he knew him ! the little man swathed in a white shawl, with his big portruding ears, expansive forehead, quixotic smile and determine chin. But more than the physical details is the magic of Gandhi that Anand has been able to capture. The raucous cries of ‘Mahatma Ki Jai’, repeated endlessly suddenly die as the Mahatma raises his hand in benediction. Anand writes, ‘‘no sword can cut his body no bullet could pierce his skin, and no fire could scorch him.”

Gandhiji’s Clairvoyance

      Mahatma Gandhi’s clairvoyance or prophetic vision is obviously expressed in the following lines from Untouchable

The dawn is here, O traveller arise;
Past is the night, and yet sleep seals thine eyes.
Last is the soul that sleeps—dost not thou know?
The sleepless one finds peace beyond all woe.
Oh, Waken ! Shed thou thy slumber deep
Remember him who made thee and oh, weep.
For shame, is this the way of love—to sleep
When he himself doth ceaseless vigil keep?
Repent O soul, from sin and find release,
O erring one, in sin there is no peace.
What boots it now to mourn on bended knees,
When thou thyself didst thine own load increase?
What thou wouldst do tomorrow do today
Do thou the task you must face today.
What shall avail thy sorrow and dismay;
When thieving birds have borne thy grain away

Pre-occupation with Emancipation of the Untouchables

      Mahatma Gandhi’s speech in the novel is based on his own autobiography, Young India and others writings. Bakha fails to follow the opening lines. Bakha is thrilled when Gandhiji condemns untouchability ruthlessly and consider it as the greatest blot on Hinduism. But Mahatma emphasised the fact, “The untouchables should improve their own lot by giving up such evil habits as drinking and eating carrion. Bakha is bewildered and fears that the Mahatma is deviating from the focused issue. Gandhiji concludes, “Two of the strongest desires that keep me in the flesh are the emancipation of the untouchables and the protection of the cow.” Equating untouchability with the protection is something illogical. Gandhi’s genius does not lie in his inconsistent doctrines but it does lie in uncanny way in which he could feel the pulse of the people and win them over.

      Gandhi’s appearance in the novel stands for solution to the problem of untouchability. Anand seems to be motivated by missionary zeal to improve society and abolish and eradicate untouchability. But Gandhi does not play any significant role for their emancipation. But the way Gandhi greets the untouchables and inspired them to change themselves is remarkable. The introduction of Gandhi has generally been regarded as an artistic blemish. But Anand’s solution to the problem of untouchability is idealistic. The poor, wretched, oppressed underdogs cannot be expected to eliminate self-respect and cleanliness.

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