Untouchable: Scene 1 - Morning

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Scene I: Morning

The Underdogs Habitat

      The novel starts with a description of the society of most exploited class of people on the outskirts of the town of Bulasha in the vicinity of the cantonment. The author delineates the location, “The colony that belonged to the outcastes, is a cluster of mud-walled houses. They serve as shelter for the scavenger, the cobblers, the washermen the barbers, the water carriers, the grass cutters and a host of other groups of outcastes who were made to suffer untold miseries and tyranny at the hands of the elite Hindus. The place contains nothing except filth and squalor oozing away penetrating and offensive smell with a disgusting look. Their belongings are neither diamond nor gold. What belongs to them are few dark hovels with some pet animals. Bio-washes make the place quite unhealthy to live in.”

Bakha in the Mirror of His Social Ambience

      Bakha, the protagonist, is a life-size character and presents the virtual pathos of an exploited, deprived and condemned human being for no reason except being an outcaste. He lives with Lakha, his father, Rakha, his younger brother and Sohini, his young charming sister, in his filthy colony He is young, and a sturdy boy of eighteen. His mother passed away long ago. His father is old and quite unable to work because his feeble limbs have lost the strength to work due to ageing. Like most Indian families the responsibility to cater to the requirements befalls Bakha. He works relentlessly He works for meagre wages that are hardly sufficient to support even the basic needs of life. But they have no way out. Besides, Bakha and his family has to bear the excruciating stigma and contempt for being outcastes because they are children of the lesser god. He is a mute spectator and victim of humiliation in caste-ridclen Hindu society.

      Besides these excruciating experiences he has an unusual passion for English ways of life. He loves to wear English clothes to experience a sense of distinction. He imitates English soldiers for they don’t discriminate human beings on the basis of their caste and creed. He smokes Red Lamp, a brand cigarette. And for this typical craziness, he is called pilpali saheb. Ever since he was a child he yearned for the scarlet and Khaki uniforms discarded by the English soldiers (Tommies) but he could not afford them. Pith Sola topis, peek caps, knives and forks, buttons and old books etc. all tempted Bakha. His desires remained unsatiated till he grew enough to earn his livelihood. He collected tips from the Tommies amounting to ten rupees which was not to extinguish all his desires but he was happy to afford a few of them. His father did not like his extravagance and discouraged his new passion. Even his own community members scoffed at him and Chota and Ram Charan cut jokes with him for his queer way of living, calling him Pilpali Saheb. He was very much alive to the fact that he possessed nothing of the English Sahib except a few worn out rags. He did all these things to mitigate the pain of humiliation.

      He in many ways, is different from others who belong to his community. While others accept humiliation and tyranny as their divine fate in a servile manner he violates the cruel tradition and cultures and represents himself as progressive. He discards traditional uniform of sweeper to voice his sense of protest and revolt. He remains conscious towards justice and equality among human beings. He waits for a radical change that is a distant dream.

Havildar’s Call to Work

      While turning sides in his bed with cold he ignores the call of Havildar Charat Singh for sometime. His father’s coughing and abusing is a routine matter and this compels him to detest his father from the core of his heart who is a worthless and a burden and good for nothing. He mellows as he remembers his mother because she loved him dearly. Havildar Charat Singh shouts from outside, to clean a latrine for him. Bakha has to jump from his bed as he can no longer resist the abuse of Havildar Charat Singh.

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