Untouchable: Scene 4 - The Bazar

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Bakha and His Pals

      Ram Charan and Chota are his friends. Bakha comes across them while he was going to the bazaar. Ram Charan invites him on his sister’s wedding that is due in near future. Bakha agrees to come. His friends try to coax him away from work to play Khuti. But he declines to join them for he has works to do. Otherwise his father would scold him. The author distinguishes him from his friends by stressing his characteristic sincerity and loyalty to work. He is not too susceptible to be misled.

      Bakha does not want to make his father angry. All of a sudden he catches the amazing sight of two white clad, delicate young boys. They were sons of the Barra Baboo. They were going to school. They decide to play a hockey match against the XXXI Punjabis. They are privileged because they belong to elite class and have noble blood in their veins. The 38th Dogra boys’ eleven consisted of outcaste-boys. They had no privilege at all. They were entirely dependent on their beneficence for everything they needed.

      Bakha is also one of the unfortunate boys who are illiterate. Bakha is not to blame for being illiterate. It is social and cultural classification of society which denied him the privilege to get education. In spite of his strong yearning for education he was denied and deprived of school, books and pens. The upper caste Hindu society is preoccupied with the notion that if an outcaste touches a book or a pen he pollutes the sanctity of learning.

Bakha’s Insult and Self-mortification

      The funeral procession of someone reminds Bakha of his mother’s sad demise. While walking along the ill-built roads he comes across the funeral procession, he relaxes and remembers his mother’s dictum that one who sees a dead body when he is out in the streets is lucky. He looks at several shops in a sequence with yearning eyes and he becomes tempted to purchase a packet of Red Camp brand cigarettes. He pays one anna coin. The shopkeeper, an “ardent follower of hackneyed customs and rituals, sprinkles water around to purify his shop”. This is a devastating experience of humiliation. Will it ever be terminated?

      The portrayal of bazar is very outstanding and real. It reflects the true image of Indian market. One can hardly imagine of India without its market full of hustle and bustle of life. Bakha is tempted to buy woolen cloths as he is moving through the bazar. Lalla who is a cloth merchant, impresses customers by stylish hieroglyphics while his assistants are busy in work. Bakha’s suppressed wishes and desires seem to burst out. His passion for fashion, for being unconventional, for doing everything possible to look like an English Sahib, is obviously perceptible. His craze for fashion and modernity voice the suppressed dreams of millions of outcastes living across the country. Bakha stops at a confectioner shop to buy typical type of sweets called jalebis. Bakha enjoys the delicacy. He wants to eat them voraciously but he does not do so lest they finish soon. So he is munching and walking leisurely along the market being unmindful of what is going to happen tomorrow. Happiness seldom visits Bakha’s door.

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