‘Voice of the Voiceless’ in Mulk Raj Anand with special reference to ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Two Leaves and a Bud’ ?>

‘Voice of the Voiceless’ in Mulk Raj Anand with special reference to ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Two Leaves and a Bud’

Abdul Jubbar

Abstract:

The superfluous and malice behavior summoned out to the untouchables in India has been an issue of enormous concern. They have been undergoing the inexorable humiliation at the hands of the so called higher classes of Indian society. Concurrence of political independence has not improved their social status. Untouchables, referred as scheduled caste have been assigned the name “Harijan” by the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. Now-a-days these groups refer to themselves as Dalits which means exploited or underprivileged. Mulk Raj Anand, a pioneer of Indian writing in English, has gained an international reputation through his works. Anand’s literary career is notable for his depiction of the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society. His novels set an entire generation of educated Indians thinking about India’s social evils that were perpetuated in the name of religion and tradition. His works were a chilling exposé of the day-to-day life and used it as a tool to make broad attacks on various elements of India’s social structure and on British rule in India. It brought into sharp focus the dehumanising contradictions within colonised Indian society. Through his writings he revealed that in addition to the foreign colonialism of Britain there exist layers of colonialism within Indian society. This internal colonialism stood in the way of India’s transition to a modern civil society. While exposing the overarching divide between the British and a colonised India, he reveals an Indian society creating its own layers of colonisers and colonised thereby rendering the fledgling Indian nationalism an extremely problematic concept. An incredibly prolific writer, Anand’s creative career spanning a period of more than seventy-five years has been inextricably intertwined with the search for a just, equitable, and forward-looking India. He has written extensively in areas as variegated and diverse as art and sculpture, politics, Indian literature and history of ideas. An attempt has been made in this paper to investigate into the issues of the low caste Indians and how Mulk Raj Anand voiced the woes of the socially voiceless communities of India.

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Keywords: Untouchables, Caste-Conflict, Maltreatment, Segregation, Voiceless, etc.

 

Introduction

From the time immemorial class, caste conflict and gender discrimination has been one of the major themes of literature. Class conflict is a term long-used mostly by socialists, communists and many anarchists, who define a class by its relationship to the means of production such as factories, land and machinery. In our world, more than 260 million people are still witnessing their distressed plight by living under segregation, discrimination, and exclusion. They are known as downtrodden, underdone pariah and so on to bear a separate identity from the same human race. The social ladder bases on castes, creed, colour, language etc. was not created by God. This is a man made ladder which excels in power intellectuality, profession and standard physical colour of structure. The racial or caste superiority as seen in the world map; certainly has its malignant impact on humanity. In United State, the African blacks were considered hardly as human beings since they possess a black complexion. Their existence in the United States was tied with indentured slavery and their human dignity was aligned with vulgarity where their identical existence co-existed with the animal by having no dignity and worth. In our India, the exercise of caste system was seen during the growth in Indus Civilization known as Indo-Aryans which was marked before 2500 BC. When in Indo-Aryans arrived in India, they used the word ‘Varna’ (colour) to segregate certain groups and orders of people to sustain their exclusive and privileged order. The Rig Veda also records the victory of Aryans over the local dark skinned Dasyus. The footing of enslavement which stared during that time does not lessen its grip still in our India. According to one theory regarding the distinction made by the Aryans against the Dasyus, the Dalits and Scheduled Tribes and dark complexioned. Of course, the genesis of caste was constructed according to the occupation of people. In Rig Veda, the mention of the fourth class ‘Sudra’ appears only for one time. The other three classes respectively Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishaya held their distinctive order by alienating the fourth class ‘Sudra’ from major social activities. “Sudra”, therefore was the class treated as domestic servants which is very nearly to the position on slaves. In India, ‘ Dalits” are people who do no t belong to any chaturvarna- Brahmin Kshtriya, Vaishaya and Shudra mentioned in Manusmriti tow millennium ago.

The beginning of Anand’s literary career as a novelist with Untouchable is very impressive and remarkable. As an innovation, it is a wonderful artistic achievement. The novel follows the geniuses like Conrad and Joyce in technique as it deals with the problem of untouchable through the psychological probe of the character. Bakha is there in the novel to reflect on the vices of a caste-ridden community and, therefore, the decadence and demotion of the personality and career of a youth. The layers of accumulated lava of pain melt and thaw from the novelist’s pen trickling hot tears. In the words of Edgel Rock word, “Untouchable is essentially a tragic poem of the individual caught in the net of the age-old caste-system.”Bakha is the mouthpiece of Anand’s own commitments, ideas and true experiences of his childhood days and this is what makes the novel authentic, public and phenomenally successful. The novel ‘Untouchable’ is both artistic and thought provoking and it clearly establishes Anand as a great literary artist and a dynamic social crusader.

Objective of the Study

The aim and objective of this paper is to reveal how Mulk Raj Anand traces the Anglo Indian Society, slavery, Racism, Class-conflict, Caste-conflict and gender discrimination in his novels. Secondly to show how the writer traces various strands of victimization both in physical and psychological that the downtrodden as a whole or individual suffered. Thirdly to reveal how Mulk Raj Anand presents various types of irrational, supernatural, aesthetic, traumatic, grotesque and absurd elements to intensify the physical and psychological atrocities pervaded in his novels.

Importance of the Study

The issue of Caste-conflict, Class-conflict, gender bias has seriously been raised everywhere in the World. Nowadays, these issues becomes just like a cancer in our society that can impact tremendously upon the lives of the people both physically and psychologically. It arises from the various factors like racial, communal or inter communal, economical, cultural, political, gen discrimination and oppression. It is a problem still going on, unsettled everywhere in India. Here, in this paper on the basis of historical, theoretical and fictional frameworks, an attempt has been made to analyze the various strands of these issues. Again this subject deserves proper attention for discussion that would offer a fresh insight into the non-linear Anglo Indian socio-historical reality as reflected in the novels of Mulk Raj Anand and its solutions that could give a clue to build up progressive society which can boost to build up a prosperous nation.

Research Methodology

Methodology is an important part for any kind of research. It implies to the systematic and logical procedure of the principles which lead to scientific investigation. The title of this paper shows that the nature of the study is mainly descriptive and analytical. The neo-critical devices of close text reading have been followed for analysis of his select novels. Previous criticism of his works has been collected and followed for befitting analysis. By maintaining parity with the nature of his select novels the study has concentrated on a matter based, informative, impractical and systematic analysis.

(i) Sources of the Study: The present study is mainly based on primary and secondary sources. To prepare this paper the secondary data are mainly collected from KK Handique Library of Gauhati University and the library of B.P. Chaliha College, Nagarbera. For collecting the data related to Dalit literature and social taboos I have collected some newspaper articles as well as articles published in Journals like- The Heritage, The Dialogue, University News and also collected from Internet.

(ii) Data Collection: For collecting data I visited several libraries like KK Handique Library of Gauhati University, library of Bikali College, Dhupdhara and B.P. Chaliha College library, Nagarbera. While pursuing an intensive exercise of reading, the relevant parts which would supplement to this paper were clearly marked out. Reference books by outstanding scholars and critics on Caste-conflict, Class-conflict and gender bias were consulted. Discussions and deliberations were made with the several renowned scholars who had specialization in this field. Articles written in both vernacular and English language have great bearing on outcome of this paper. Above all the analysis of the data both from the primary and secondary sources found to be compatibles and mutually supporting one another towards the final outcome of this paper.

Caste and Segregation in “Untouchable” and “Two Leaves and a Bud”

Mulk Raj Anand comes to the forefront of Indo-Anglican literature as a crusader against all types of injustices to subalterns. In the Indian cultural context, subalternity occurs in the name of caste, class and gender. The caste system had played a great havoc to the people of our country. Even under the British rule, the situation was not different. The caste system is deep-rooted in our country from the time immemorial. Untouchability is the by-product of caste system. There were four main classes in Ancient Hindu Society – the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishayas and the Sudras. The Brahmins represented the highest class in the society as they were the people almost near to God. The Kshatriyas were warriors and thus the defenders of the country. In the caste hierarchy the Vaishayas occupied a position lower to the Kshatriyas. They were interested in money as they were the producers of wealth. The Sudras were the laborers who carried out menial jobs of sweeping and cleaning. The sweepers and scavengers were regarded as untouchables as they carried out the filthy jobs. As the sweepers and scavengers had to remove the human dung with their hands, it was thought that a touch by a sweeper or a scavenger would have the effect of polluting a caste Hindu. To eradicate this social evil, early efforts were begun with Swami Vivekananda who wrote: The caste system is opposed to the religion of Vedanta. Caste is a social custom and all our great preachers have tried to break it down. From Buddhism downwards, every sect has preached against caste and every time it has only riveted the chains. Caste system slowly began to decline in India with the entry of Mahatma Gandhi in the political arena. Gandhi realized that the people of India should be freed not only from the British rule but also from the clutches of caste system. Gandhi had made strenuous efforts to travel all over the country to spread the message of love and brotherhood. He had appealed to the people of our country not to indulge in inhuman activities of caste system. In 1932, Mulk Raj Anand met Gandhiji at the Sabarmati Ashram and stayed there for three months. Mulk Raj Anand revised several parts of his novel Untouchable at the advice of Mahatma Gandhi before it got published in 1935. He was pleased to follow the advice of Gandhi, who instructed him, “One must not write anything which was not based on one’s experience”. Mulk Raj Anand’s first novel Untouchable proved to be a minor classic with a preface by E.M.Forster. Untouchable attacked the caste system that was prevalent in India at that time. Due to this social evil, the country was divided and there was no unity among people for national integration. Untouchable was a protest novel and Mulk Raj Anand’s method of attacking the social evil of caste system invited the attention of the people. Anand states the purpose behind the creation of Untouchable as: “Untouchable was in its sources a ballad born of the freedom I had tried to win for truth against the age-old lies of the Hindus by which they upheld discrimination. The profound thoughts of the upper orders in ancient India about caste were often noble. Someone in the great Mahabharata had cried, “Caste, caste – there is no caste!” And I wanted to repeat this truth to the “dead souls” from the compassion of myself explanation in the various Hindu hells, in the hope that I would, myself come clean after I had been through sewer, as it were. Untouchable deals with the experiences of an eighteen year old sweeper boy called Bakha. He is regarded as an untouchable by the caste Hindus. He is in charge of keeping the public latrines clean and tidy. Bakha, the central character of the novel Untouchable, was actually the playmate of Mulk Raj Anand, when he was a small boy. As a young boy, Mulk Raj Anand used to mingle with children of different castes. One day as they were playing, a dhobi boy called Ram Charan threw a stone which happened to hit Mulk Raj Anand and he fell down. The children were afraid to touch Mulk Raj Anand as he belonged to the highest caste and they would be committing the sin of “pollution”. It was Bakha, the sweeper boy, who had the courage to carry the injured friend to his mother. Mulk Raj Anand’s mother got angry with Bakha as if he were responsible for it. This particular incident had made an indelible mark in the mind of Mulk Raj Anand. He realized that the generous nature of Bakhas in our society was being wasted on the basis of caste. He had vowed to fight against the caste system as he was conscious of its cruel nature. In Untouchable, Bakha and his sister Sohini are being segregated from the main stream of life on the basis of caste. People from the higher caste believed that it was the responsibility of Bakha to keep the public latrines clean and tidy. At the same time, they disliked the presence of Bakha near the latrines. “Men came one after another, towards the latrines. Most of them were Hindus, naked, except for the loin-cloth, brass jugs in hand and with the sacred thread twisted round their left ears”. The outcastes were not allowed to draw water from the public wells and they were severely punished if they go against the rule. They have to wait near the well for some Hindu to come and pour water into their pitchers: Their hands in servile humility to every passer-by; cursing their fate, and bemoaning their lot, if they were refused the help they wanted; praying, beseeching and blessing, if some generous soul condescended to listen to them, or to help them. The subaltern segregation in its heinous form occurs in the case of Bakha in Untouchable. One day after having earned eighteen annas, Bakha wished for buying sweets to cherish one of his unfulfilled dreams. The confectioner threw the packet of jilebis, like a cricket ball, so as to avoid pollution by touch.‟When Bakha placed the nickel coins on a shoe-board, the confectioner’s assistant sprinkled holy water to remove the pollution. In order to forget the humiliation, Bakha began to munch the jilebis as he walked. To his greatest disappointment, he heard: Keep to the side of the road, oh low-caste vermin!…Why don’t you call, you swine, and announce your approach! Do you know you have touched me and defiled me, cock-eyed son of a bow-legged scorpion! Now I will have to go and take a bath to purify myself. And it was a new dhoti and shirt I put on this morning, to add insult to injury, Bakha was slapped by the Lalla for committing the sin of pollution. Bakha was encircled by a great crowd which demanded him to apologize publicly for what he had done. Bakha’s earnest desire to eat the sweets had gone in vain when the jilebis fell down from his hand and scattered all over the ground. Bakha was insulted publicly and he couldn’t forgive two things: first of all, the slap by the Lalla who “ran away, like a dog with the tail between his legs” and the people who were responsible for scattering the jilebis. In the “Temple incident” of the novel Untouchable, Bakha and his sister Sohini were being severely accused of polluting the temple. Bakha was curious to know what had actually happened as he was not involved in any of the crime. The scene and holy atmosphere was disturbed by the sudden cry, “Polluted! Polluted! Polluted!” Bakha had been asked to get rid of the place by the congregation, in one voice: Get off the steps, scavenger! Off with you! You have defiled our temple! Now we will have to pay for the purification ceremony. Get down, get away, dog! … A temple can be polluted according to the Holy Books by a low-caste man coming within sixty-nine yards of it, and here he was actually on the steps, at the door. We are ruined. We will need to have a sacrificial fire in order to purify ourselves and our shrine. Bakha and Sohini became mere scapegoats of Pandit Kalinath’s misbehaviour in the temple courtyard. Pandit Kalinath, the high priest of the temple, tried to molest Sohini but she resisted the temptation. Pandit Kalinath’s exploitative nature lurked inside as he was attracted towards the untouchable girl Sohini. In the public, Pandit Kalinath condemns the untouchable but in the dark this same person behaves in a different way as in the case of Sohini. As she says, “that man made suggestions to me, when I was cleaning the lavatory of his house there. And when I screamed, he came out shouting that he had been defiled”. Pandit Kalinath could mislead the worshippers in the temple with mere words “Polluted!” The high priest of the temple dared to shout in front of the temple so as to save himself from troubles. Pandit Kalinath pointed an accused finger at Sohini when his attempt to seduce her went in vain. As George says; “The great Pandit’s misbehaviour with Sohini and his shameless accusation, that she made physical contact with him and defiled him is a typical illustration of the general hypocritical behaviour of the white-washed guardians of religion”.

Anand’s “Two Leaves and a Bud” reminds us about the horrible history of the black African-American slaves who were forcefully brought to America from Africa by the slave traders during 16th century. Though, the history of the American slavery and the history of the indigent Indian workers in British ruled India took place in two different regions of the world but the inhuman treatment which they received from the two powerful classes respectively the white American and the white British rulers was equal to some extent. No doubt, the history of American slavery was a large issue and billions of Africans’ tragic history was fraught with it. But in India social setting, the plight of the many poor Indian worker during the British Imperialism was no more less than the Afro-Americans. The Africans were brought to America on economical ground associated with the American cotton, sugarcane or tobacco plantation similarly the Indian workers were brought to Assam on the same economical ground associated with the different tea plantation of Assam. Anand’s “Two Leaves and a Bud” is another noteworthy Anglo-Indian fiction for which Anand appeared as the champion of the downtrodden and the underdogs who were exploited in Indian society.

Anand’s “Two Leaves and a Bud” depicts the pathetic plight of working class the coolies by introducing the tragic story of Gangu, a Punjabi farmer. As the Africans were forcefully captured and sold in America by different slave traders during the horrible days of slavery; likewise, Gangu and other workers had been trapped by the lure of high wages and a comfortable life by the recruitment agents like Sardar Buta who were working for the English sahibs. Gangu left his village Hoshiarpuur of Punjab and headed his fortune to Macpherson Tea Estate in Assam along with his wife Sajani, daughter Leila and son Budu. Having lost everything in his own native place; Gangu easily fell in the trap of Buta, who made false promises of a bright future. After coming to Macpherson Tea Estate, Gangu soon realized that he fell from the frying pan to the fire. He and his family members had been stormed by every kind of exploitation and maltreatment. The meagre wages that Gangu received as a coolie was too little to run his starved household. Malaria epidemic frequented in the unhygienic and filthy coolie-tenements and Gangu’s wife Sajani was also one of the pathetic victims of the malaria infection. Even, Gangu was unable to bear the funeral cost of his wife without being indebted to the ravenous Sahukar.

Reggie Hunt in “Two Leaves and a Bud”, a terrible womanizer, mirrors the lustful nature of the same coloured people and he is the true representation of heartless exploiter upon the poverty doomed and subjugated Indians. “No man’s mother or wife” can escape out from the libidinous web of Reggie Hunt and even Leila, the young daughter of miserable Gangu nearly comes to be the victim of his nefarious lust. To get rid from the debaucher, Leila runs to her home but the hunter Reggie Hunt chases her to her hut and shoots down Gangu when the poor but uncompromising father tries to protect his daughter’s chastity. The British law system, which had got its foothold on discrimination, pronounced the verdict that Reggie was “Not guilty” like the white-American society which always protected the atrocities committed on the black slaves.

The racial superiority based on colour flared dangerously in the British ruled India and many times the Indian people with black complexion were humiliated by the white sahibs. Anand’s “Two Leaves and a Bud” represents Reggie Hunt the arrogant white man, who has frenziedly demonstrated the colour discrimination on Indian people. Reggie Hunt has chucked off the blacked skinned Indian, enter into the English Club. Reggie Hunt being fuelled with his racial arrogance does not hesitate to tell Chuni Lal, “nigers are not allowed in his club”.

Findings and Analysis   

Mulk Raj Anand –has endeavored to focus on the issue of social marginalization and subjugation of different downtrodden communities and low caste Indians. The plots of Mulk Raj Anand’s novels are set in Indian panorama. The thematic study of the novels of Anand shows that he was a profound humanist and his fictions echo the voices of his humanitarian consciousness for the victimized and downtrodden communities in very conductive manner. Anand has exposed the evils of Anglo-Indian society. He has also been explosive to draw the existing social grim reality of marginalized caste Indians. In many cases, Anand realizes the fact that the pitiable conditions of the downtrodden Indian society has resulted from either extra racial or inter racial causes. In social spectra of the British ruled India, the plight of the downtrodden Indian people has been depicted in his novels.

Anand wants to awaken the exploited, suppressed, dehumanized classes of the society. He feels that exploiting the proletariat has been our national sin which we have been committing for centuries together. They are forced to such a depth that they will sink lower and lower and cannot rise above. They have been pushed to such a lowly life that it makes them feel subhuman. Anand wants to uplift them from the deeps.

Conclusion

The eternal humiliation of the wretched coolies of the tea estate and the lower Caste Indians are depicted respectively by the characters like Gangu and Bakha as seen in Anand’s “Two Leaves and a Bud” and “Untouchable”. Mulk Raj Anand is a true humanist and philanthropist. He is very much concerned about the social discrimination, subjugation, humiliation, and injustice prevailing in his time. Anand experiences the grim social reality of the slave-trodden and caste-ridden traditions which have been directly or indirectly connected with his lives. Anand considers his downtrodden character as “flesh and blood of my blood”, because he is the true replicas of his surrounding society where he spent his childhood and youth. Anand shows his concern over the organized evil in the society which is the cause of the miseries of the outcaste downtrodden. This organized evil is the real enemy of the society. It deliberately denies the basic human rights to the unprivileged class. Caste system kills the human dignity by giving an unfair advantage to a certain class over the others on the basis of their birth which damages the homogeneity of the society.

References

  1. “On the Genesis of Untouchable, “A Note by Mulk Raj Anand in Mulk Raj Anand’s Afterword to Untouchable (New Delhi: Arnold Associates 1970)
  2. Anand Mulk Raj, quoted by G.S. Balaram Gupta,”Towards a Closer Understanding of Anand”, in Perspectives on Mulk Raj Anand, (ed.) K.K. Sharma (Ghaziabad: Vimal Prakashan, 1978)
  3. Anand Mulk Raj, “Why I Write?” in Perspectives on Mulk Raj Anand (ed.) K.K. Sharma.
  4. Anand, Mulk Raj: 1994, Two Leaves and a Bud, Arnold Associates Private Limited, New Delhi.
  5. M. Forster in his Preface to Untouchable.
  6. Edgel Rockword, quoted by K.N. Sinha, Mulk Raj Anand.
  7. Iyengar, K R Srinivasa : 1985, Indian Writing in English, Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. New Delhi.
  8. Naik, M.K: 1992, A History of Indian English Literature, Sahitya Akademi, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi.
  9. Sing, R.S. : 1977, Indian Novel in English: A Critical Study, New Delhi, Arnold Heinemann, NewDelhi.
  10. The journal of Dibrugarh University. Vol – 8
  11. The journal of Gauhati University. Vol – 6
  12. The Heritage. Vol-3,4,5 Issues 2, 3, 4, 2014
  13. The Dialogue. Vol 2

The write is the Assistant Professor, Deptt. Of English, B. P. Chaliha College, Nagarbera, Guwahati, Assam (India)

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