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Nov 28, 2013

Dalit Literature

DALIT LITERATURE AFTER INDEPENDENCE

If the forth world emerges in the world map then its literature would be the Dalit literature which is not structured or entertaining like the ones conforming to Bhraminical ideological theories. Contemporary mainstream literature might not find it suitable but this literature was the realistic reflection of those oppressed classes. What is dalit literature (composition on the basis of caste) is always a question of question which still needs answer as it is very hard to define the exact time and place of its beginning. We only can guess its history from the written source based on “Manusmirity” or Ambedkar’s essay “Who were Shudras?” but one is religious document while other is historical so not comes in the tag with literature because many writers/critics never include religious document in literature. First of all let us go through the beginning of modern Dalit Literature. The jhalsa and oral literature are its important part but still in the waiting under the literature.

One group of literary critics and researchers defines its times to the Buddhist Age while second to the saint poet Chokhamela (14th C) whereas next to Mahatama Phule (1828-90) and there are some who prefers to S.M. Mate (1886-1957). Here one can add that term dalit was first used by Ambedkar in 1928 in his journal “Bahishkrit Bharat” (Outcaste India), thus we can say Buddha and Phule were making the pavement for dalit literature which is turned into a layer of concrete by Ambedkar through his periodicals “Mooknayak”, “Bahishkrut Bharat”, “Janata” and “Prabudha Bharat.” Beside it, the main aim of the dalit literature is described by Bandhumadev in article “Prabudha Bharat” (Feb 15, 1958) is that “Just as the Russian writers helped the revolution by spreading Lenin’s revolutionary ideas through their works. Our writers should spread Dr. Amdedkar’s philosophy to the villages.” (Dangle 242)

Modern Dalit Literature is detected in 1969 with the article “A Discussion: Literature of Dalit: Consciousness, Direction and Inspiration” by M.N. Wankhade wherein he mentions the Buddhist writers such as Keshav Meshram, Shankarrao Karat, Sukharam Hivrale and the Dalit writer P.M. Shinde. Again the emergence of “Dalit Literature” or “Dalit Sahitya” is seen in “The Times Weekly Supplement” of November 25, 1973 with the term Dalit Panthers (founded by Namdeo Dhasal and Raja Dhale). It comes against the physical reaction to the violence against untouchable or Buddhists. It is low caste Marxist movement of literature begins with Annabhau Sathe and Narayan Surve. It can be well understood by the words Bagul who famously writes “Dalit Sahitya is not a literature of vengeance. Dalit Sahitya is not a literature which spreads hatred. Dalit Sahitya first promotes man’s greatness and man’s freedom and for that reason it is an historic necessity.... Anguish, waiting, pronouncements of sorrow alone do not define Dalit Literature. We want literature heroically full of life for the creation of a (new) society.” Sathe’s speech spelt out the purpose of Dalit literature but not successful to bring any motion in literary world. In fact, there were no Dalit writes of calibre at that time, except few ones.

Most famous Buddhist poet is Namdeo Dhasal writes in a mixture of Buddhist and Marxist. The history of Dalit Literature and its theme are the part of Mahar Movement and chiefly connected with hero Ambedkar. Modern Dalit poet K.K. Damle, pseudonym Keshavsut, writes in the concluding part of the poem that published in 1974 “The First Question of the Untouchable Boy” about the status of how “low and high they are” and wonders when her mother told him all this about their position in social order and he questions to himself “How would she know/ that highness in this world is built/ on sin and glory on/ the degradation of others.” During his time other famous writers can be mentioned with the name M.G. Ranade, G.G. Agarkar, Gopal Baba Walangkar, Pandit Khodiram, and the social reformer Jotibha Phule but the literature of the time mainly centres on Keshavsut, and, after him, there was a long gap for the literature of untouchables until the rise of B.R. Ambedkar, the only highly educated untouchable.

When we peep in the history of 1940’s we find the great novel on life on Bhaka, the hero of “The Untouchable” by Mulk Raj Anand and another novel “Scavenger’s Sons” of Sivashankar Pillai. More social reformer and less literary figure, S.M. Mate’s two important works “Asprishyavicar” (Thoughts on Untoucbales, 1922) and “Asprishatancaprashna” (The Question of those who are Untoucbales) are enough to earned him the title “Mahar Mate.” The next literature in list is 1935’s book of Sane Guruji’s “Syamchi Ai” (Shayam’s Mother) and in the next book “Devala Saru Priya” (All are Dear to God) comes to conclusion that “to God all forms are holy. God is in the body of the Brahman, the fish and even the Mahar.”

In 1950’s and in 1960’s Dalit writing saw the emergence of literature with the publication of Sathe’s “Fakira”, and “Savala Mang”; and Shankarrao Karat’s “Manuskichi Huk” (The Cry of Humanity) and “Bara Balutedar” (The Twelve Balutedar). When we read the literature of all these writers we find a revolt against the old notions based on “Manusamiriti” or are the part of old brahim society. It was at its peak during the time of Ambedkar but after it its decline begins and witnesses an anticlimax in 1970s. Since there is steady or no progress in movement but literature was produced in a large number by various literature. Now, like Ambedkar, more dalit person goes abroad for higher studies and returns to India with a great zeal and begins to improve the situation of Dalit through their writings.

Not only in literature, we also noticed the emergence of political greatness and the political leader like Mayawati from Uttar Pardesh, Arjun Munda from Chattisgarh, fro, Bihar we have Lalu Parsad Yadav. They not provide the great space for the dalit but also the greater opportunities for them to make the success for their education which enables them to be the important part of society.

Shashi Bhushan Upadhayay pointed out that “Dalit literature is not a literary movement in ordinary sense of the term. It is, like Black literature, a product of an identity as well as constitutive of that identity... dalit literature, therefore, is not the literature written by anybody on the dalits, but only by those who are by birth dalits. Anyone else, not born as a dalit, even though writing on the socially downtrodden with sympathy or empathy, can-not be considered as a dalit writer nor will his/her literature be taken as dalit litera-ture.” ('Representing the Underdogs: Dalits in the Literature of Premchand') This is perhaps a restricted understanding. Raj Kumar pointed out that non-dalit writers are selective in their portrayal of the dalit situation. For instance, upper caste Hindu writers have not taken into account several important issues. "Even as late as the early part of the twentieth century, the untouchables had no access to public facilities such as wells, rivers, roads, schools, markets. The most perverted practice of untouchability was that which, at one time, compelled the untouchables to tie an earthen pot around their neck so that their sputum’s should not fall to the earth and pollute others. Another practice was the compulsion to tie a broom behind them so that their footprints would be erased before others set their eyes on them" (Dalit Literature: A Perspective from Below).

Now let us move to the some controversies regarding dalit literature. In this sense, the greatest work on the life of untouchable is Anand’s “Untouchable” (1935). It is criticised because it was not written by a Dalit writer as Anand belongs to Kshatriya caste and was considered a shame for the dalit community. But if we criticised a work only because it was written by a non-dalit writer then nothing could become good literature. They can criticised Shakespeare for writing about kings when he was not a king, and Milton about God or Angel when he was not the same. They can criticised Arvind Ghosh for writing about slaves simply because he was not a slave. If criticised literature or writings on these false notion then the originality of its loss its real value. The literature of this type can never be enjoyed by the critics. The real aim these writers is not to bring the lowness of dalit society but they are presenting the situation as they saw or reported to them by the others; and in doing so, they brings a close and real imagery and this is obviously true in the case with “Untouchable” and “Coolie” by the same writer.

The act of non-dalit is not an attack on the dalit literature but they perform to change the scenario by their writings which are not accepted by them. In fact, “non-dalit writers viewed dalit literature in a particular way but the dalit elite saw it with their own angle.” (Dangle 250) That is why the controversy arise. The class-war has always been between the oppressors and the oppressed differed markedly in different historical periods and this is also the case with the dalit and the dalit literature. All and everywhere we saw the conflict in between the ideas of Brahmin and dalit persons. All the conflicted are taken its counterpart from the writings of Marx and Engles.

Poems, short stories, novels and autobiographies written by Dalit writers provided useful insights on the question of Dalit identity. Now the subaltern communities found a new name by coming together with the perspective ‘Dalit is dignified’ thereby rejecting the sub-human status imposed on them by the Hindu social order. Dalit literature is experience – based. This ‘anubhava’ (experience) takes precedence over ‘anumana’ (speculation). Thus to Dalit writers, history is not illusionary or unreal as Hindu metaphysical theory may make one to believe. That is why authenticity and liveliness have become hallmarks of Dalit literature.

The well-received Dalit autobiography Karukku by Bama portrays, in a Dalit discourse and language, the prevalence of untouchability in the Catholic Church and its nunneries. The book is an unabashed expression of Dalit language. But as every body seems to be enjoying this language, we may suspect some weakness in this. The sorrow, tragedy and disappointment of Dalit experience have become objects of excessive pity and sym pathy. It does not seem to have evoked any sense of guilt or anger. Self-pity is of no use for the protest literatue of Dalits. Daya Pawar wrote his autobiography — Baluta — (a reward for the Mahar community in Maharashtra in return to the various services offered to the highcastes) when his poetry was widely appreciated. It was published in 1978. P.E. Sonkamble's Athwaniche Pakshi (Birds of Memories) came in the following year. Then came out a spate of Dalit autobiographies — Mukkam Post Devache Gothne (At Post Devache Gothne) by Madhav Kondvilkar, Taral Antral (The Sky and Heights of the Soul) by Shankarrao Kharat, Gawaki (A Village Profession) by Rustam Achalkhamb, Fanjar (A Thorny Bough) by Nanasaheb Zodge, Abhran (stripes of cloths worn around the waist by Potraj - a devotee who tortures himself in the name of God) by Parth Polke, Mitleli Kawada (Closed Doors) by Mukta Sarvagod, Majya Jalmachi Chittarkatha (The Illustrated Story of My Life) by Shantabai Kamble, Jina Amcha (Our Life) by Baby Kamble, Antasphot (Inner Explosion) by Kumud Pawade, Udhwasta Vyayacha Mala (I want to be Ruined) by Mallika Dhasal.

Besides these autobiographies narrating the experiences of caste based social structure, there are others narrating the tribal experiences. Living out of the well-bound limits of the society, the tribal com munities were never a part of the Indian ethos though they followed the same religious practices prevalent within the Hindu fold. They were always looked upon as aliens by the society. This feeling of being alienated is effectively illustrated by Laxman Mane in his autobiography entitled — Upara (An Outsider), by Laxman Gaikwad in Uchalya (A Lifter) and by Kishor Shantabai Kale in Kolhatyacha Por (Son of a Kolhati), Sham Kumar Limbale's Akkarmashi (Being Illegitimately Born) narrates a unique story of being illegitimately born. The narrator is a son of a Dalit woman who is lured into physical intimacy by a rich landlord and was deserted by him and consequently by the society. Limbale delineates what it is to be a son of deserted woman, how painful and agonizing is the process of growing up in a society in which sexual exploitation and casteism are the prevalent trends.

Dalit is poetry is an effort to use symbolic images based on the experience and they break many old poetic conventions of literature. In the images they neither follow Eliot nor Pound or Freud. Instead they choose historical references and myths from a dalit point of view. The Primary motive of Dalit literature is the liberation of dalits. Dalit struggle against casteist tradition has a long history. For example, in Kannada, it goes back to the first Vachana poet of the 11th century, Chennaiah, the cobbler. The 12th century Dalit saint Kalavve challenged the upper castes in the following words:

“Those who eat goats, foul and tiny fish:      
Such, they call caste people.  
Those who eat the Sacred Cow         
That showers frothing milk for Shiva:           
Such, they call out-castes”.

Kondiram's description of the Mahars' lifestyle thereby functioned as a caustic indictment of the Manusmriti's Brahmanic Hindu laws. Such laws, he says, not only made the Mahars wear a black thread around their necks as a sign of their non-human status, but excluded them from all social contact. Kondiram writes in his poem:

Live in a hut which you must build outside the village!        
That is what the Brahmans write in their books.

As non-humans, Kondiram points out, the Mahars could have no wealth or valuable possessions. He writes:

Ati-Shudras cannot tend cows and buffaloes,          
But how on earth can they ever obtain anything like a horse or        
an elephant!                
Their wealth is dogs and asses, rats and mice.           
They can keep the clothes from corpses,       
But can't have any new clothes.        
They must eat out of broken clay pots,          
And dress up finely by wearing iron ornaments!

Devibharati's short story 'Bali' is a noteworthy piece of Dalit writing. Through its narration, discourse, transgressions, counter aesthetics, and signification, it has become a brilliant piece of Dalit literature.

In 1867, Alexander Grant provided the first English translation of thirty-eight of Tukaram's abhangs, which in choice and exegesis suggest a strong line of juxtapositioning and comparison of bhakti Hinduism with Non-conformist Protestant theology. Firstly, in his translations and commentary, Grant laid particular emphasis on Tukaram's devotional faith and his individual sense of inner religious experience. He cites Tukaram's individual devotional experience in the following abhang:

Sing the song with earnestness, making pure the heart,        
            If you would attain God, then this is the easy 'way'.
            Make your heart lowly, touch the feet of the saints. 

Grant interprets this devotionalism as the essence of Tukaram's religious belief. In Grant's opinion this experience conformed closely to the Non-conformist Protestant insistence upon the value of individual inner experience as the ultimate religious authority.

Grant was one of the first, but by no means the only Non-conformist Protestant in Maharashtra to be struck by this alleged similarity of bhakti devotionalism to Non-conformist Protestantism. What Grant describes with regard to the Shudra bhakta-sant Tukaram, Rev. Alexander Robertson (Wesleyan Church) also found characteristic of the Mahar untouchable bhakta-sant Chokhamela. Robertson translates Janabai's abhang on Chokhamela in a similar fashion to Grant:

Famous as a saint was Chokha, God was much enamoured of him.
Whosoever showeth great devotion, him doth God assist in danger.           
Chokhamela gained such power, that e'en God became his debtor.
Lay firm hold, saith Nama's Jani, on the lotus feet of Vittal.

Secondly in their translations and commentaries, both Grant and Robertson argue that, like Non-conformist Protestantism, Tukaram's and Chokhamela's bhakti rejected all ritual and the intermediary role of the Brahman priesthood.

It is true that one major theme of dalit poetry is rural oppression, but not only is the writer urban middle class but the attitude is also middle class. This was reflected in the lackadaisical manner in which the discussion on language was conducted. That dalit literature, after more than a decade of existence, is not very serious in coming to grips even with the primary contradiction between writing for the oppressed and yet using the sanskritised language of the educated is indeed surprising. If dalit writers had come to grips with this problem they would have discovered—as revolutionary poets in Andhra have discovered—that there is a whole sea of new problems awaiting them.

Dalit writers sparkled their ink in short stories, novels and drama but its richness lies in poetry, autobiographies and biographies with the crying theme of “new past, new future.” Dalit literature find its root in black literature and this is quite true the Pawar’s poem “Harlem.” Baburao Bagul short story “When I had Concealed my Caste” creates a stir in Dalit Literary world. Narayan Surve’s poetry is a mixture of Marxism which makes him Angry Young Man of sixties whose work “Fakta” is published in “Little Magazine.” His collection of two anthologies “Aisa Ga Mi Bramha” and “Majhe Vidyapeeth” gives a new direction to the dalit literature. A new kind of point of view is seen in “Golpitha” by Namdeo Dhasal—the portrayal of explosive expression of the acute pain of dalits. “Doha” of Shrinivas Kulkarni is the another side of the same coin. The autobiographies highlights caste, class and gender bias during the oppression of Dalits and majority of these writings brought a small change in the outlook in the society, though many of the practices still continue in the society today.

Vizhi Pa. Idhayavendan's collection of short stories, Nan danar Theru revolves around Dalits. As these stories are modelled on genres of both mass culture and intellectual culture, its Dalit aesthetics is somewhat diluted. Moreover, they also make it suited for left cultural politics. Yet it is still possible that he may ultimately produce some good Dalit literature.

Valangkar (who was the principal author of the Vinanti Patra), likePhule, saw varna and jati divisions as a historical (and not divinelyordained structure) which had been developed by the Aryan Brahmans to extend their control over Hindu society. Valangkar argued that varna distinctions originated as a result of the conflict between the indigenous Dravidian inhabitants of India and India's Aryan invaders. Drawing on Phule's Gulamagiri (I873), Valangkar envisaged an Aryan Brahman accession to socio-religious power in southern and western India as a result of successive waves of Aryan conquest of the indigenous Dravidian inhabitants. Within this process of Aryan invasion and conquest, Phule had argued that the creation of the Mahar jati and untouchability was a punishment for those Dravidian inhabitants who had most persistently resisted Aryan authority.

The cry of dalits are “We shall write the way we feel; who are you to dictate to us?” While reviewing the past the Dalit find that there is no literature for them so, like Blacks, they revolt and produced their own literature through which they present their problems. The magazines like “Asmitadarsha” and “Pratishthan,” “Satyakatha”, “Marathwada,” “Amhi,” “Magova” and newspaper of Ambedkar and conferences like “Buddha Sahitya Sabha” helped them in doing this. The first collection of dalit poems by dalits entitled “Akar” was published by “Buddha Sahitya Sabha” in 1967.  In their search for alternatives, Dalit writers have rediscovered the low caste saint poets of the Bhakti movement. Even they found relevance in Buddhism. Referring to folk lore, they make an assertion that Dalits were members of an ancient primitive society and were uprooted by the alien Brahminical civilization. These writers make a fervent plea for a complete overhaul of society. As Arjun Dangle, the Marathi Dalit writer put it, “Even the Sun needs to be changed.” Dalit literature should represent the original, particularly the historical and the struggling, Dalit. It should not be a simple, superficial and empirical collection of the Dalit life. It should probe the deep, psychological underworld of the oppressed. It should avoid supplying any kind of moral compensation for the real struggle. Dalit literature should avoid the unpleasant distortion of 'Dalit Salvation' through the leadership provided by the patronage offered by the oppressors. The poems of 'Inquilab', the short stories of Vizhi. Paa. Idayavendan, Sivakami, Abhimani, Bama and the novels of Daniel, Poomani, Imayam, Arivazhagan, Marku, Bama are recognized as Dalit literary works.

Though the first collection of poems failed but the collection of short stories “Death is Getting Cheaper” by Baburao Bagul come like a revolution. In the past, white-collar writers shows the slum life with their point of view but Bagul totally changed it as Arjun Dangle remarks in the Maharastra Times (Oct 15, 1972) “it is difficult to write about Baburao’s stories. Their shrewd rusticity and their jolting experiences take his stories much beyond the normal limits of the short story. These stories can be set in the framework of traditional values of art. The rationale for separate standard of criticism for Dalit literature can be found there.” (Dangle 248)

Beings with Marathi language, dalit literature is growing in every regional and international language in different parts of India now-a-days. It is fact that it emerge with Ambedkar in the form of songs, ballads through tamasha and jhalsa but in writing it was very small. Dalit literature is successful in regional or national level but on international grounds it fails when compared with Black literature. Many reasons are pointed out for its backwardness such as (1) The critics thinks that it is a blend of Marxism and Ambedkarism which demands both class and caste. (2) Dalit literature is always confusion between Buddhist and Dalit Literature as some prefers Buddhism rather than Dalit. (3) There is always tension whether it is literature of social or political or both. Beside it, Dalit literature is rejected by the high class critics like W.L. Kulkarni, D.K. Bedekaar, R.G. Jadhav, And Sharatchandra Muktibodh. Not only this, it was also discarded by their native readers and critics as they wanted to forget their past. Arjun Dangle named them “Dalit Brahmins” as for them dalit literature is dirty. These “Dalit Brahmins” criticised the Bagul’s novel “Paushya” because of the pitiable conditions of the dalit.

In 1993, "Dalit Sahitya (literature) transform into "Ambedkari Sahitya" after the name of its modern age hero and inspiration Ambedkar. In a society, the Dalits were demographically sidelined and their writings did not border on romanticising the issues, but resisted it strongly, he observed. The writings may not be imaginative, but were able to make the world sit and think. University Rector K. Viyyanna Rao presented a memento to the participants in the plenary session. Their main point very correctly is that the mainstream literatures in our country relate to a world of experience which is quite small and narrow. The Lokayan seminar (Gujrat 1981) made  that point once again. But, as Economic and Public Weekly published, the Dalit writers are blissfully unaware of a bigger world of which even their areas of experience are a part. This seminar was yet another testimony to this lack of awareness or indifference. One- wishes that the Dalit writers extend their analysis and vision to areas beyond the ones they have been handling. If they did they might come up with almost revolutionary answers. They certainly have the potential. Arun Kamnble says: "aim of the movement is humanism; liberty, equality and fraternity; absence of exploitation". Arjun Dangle is even more inclusive: "all the revolutions that have happened anywhere - Ambedkar, Phule, Alarx, Mao, Lenin..."

Dalit literature questioned the mainstream literary theories and upper caste ideologies and explored the neglected aspects of life. Dalit literature is experience – based. This ‘anubhava’ (experience) takes precedence over ‘anumana’ (speculation). Thus to Dalit writers, history is not illusionary or unreal as Hindu metaphysical theory may make one to believe. That is why authenticity and liveliness have become hallmarks of Dalit literature. Unfortunately dalit have seen too many expansive 'total revolutionaries' to be happy with such formulations, especially when Dangle adds: "class antagonism of the Marxist model does not exist in India". But perhaps what was more striking was their indifference towards the whole question.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Dangle Arjun. ed. “Poisoned Bread: Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit Literature.” Bombay: Orient Longman. Print
Rao, Anupama. The Caste Question: Dalit and the Politics of Modern India.” University of California: 2011. Print
D, G. P.. “ Dalit Literature”. Economic and Political Weekly, 17. 3 (1982): 61-62. Print
Savyasaachi. “Dalit Studies: Exploring Criteria for a New Discipline.” Economic and Political Weekly, 39.17 (2004): 1658-1660. Print

Nov 17, 2013

Blame it on Feminism

Link http://www.spodawg32.net/files/txtarticles/BlameitonFeminism.txt

This is the first part of a two-part series.
Copyright 1991 by Susan Faludi.  Pulitzer Prize – winner Susan Faludi’s piece on Operation Rescue appeared in the November 1990 Mother Jones.

Blame it on Feminism
What’s wrong with women today?
Too much equality.

TO BE A WOMEN IN AMERICA AT THE CLOSE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY - what good fortune.  That’s what we keep hearing, anyway.  The barricades have fallen, politicians assure us.  Women have “made it,” Madison Avenue cheers.  Women’s fight for equality has “largely been won,” Time magazine announces.  Enroll at any university, join any law firm, and apply for any credit at any bank.  Women have so many opportunities now, corporate leaders say, that they don’t really need opportunity policies.  Women are so equal now, lawmakers say, that they no longer need an Equal Rights Amendment.  Women have “so much,” former president Ronald Reagan says, that the White house no longer needs to appoint them to high office.  Even American Express ads are saluting a woman’s right to charge it.  At last, women have received their full citizenship papers.  And yet…

Behind this celebration of the Americans woman’s victory, behind the news, cheerfully and endlessly repeated, that the struggle for women’s rights is won, another message flashes: You may be free and equal now, but you have never been more miserable.

This bulletin of despair is posted everywhere-at the newsstand, on the TV set, at the movies, I advertisements and doctor’s offices and academic journals.  Professional women are suffering “burnout” and succumbing to an “infertility epidemic.”  Single women are grieving from a “man shortage.” The New York Times reports: Childless women are “depressed and confused” and their ranks are swelling.  Newsweek says: Unwed women are “hysterical” and crumbling under a “profound crisis of confidence.”  The health-advice manuals inform: High-powered career women are stricken with unprecedented outbreaks of “stress-induced disorders,” hair loss, bad nerves, alcoholism, and even heart attacks.  The psychology books advice: Independent women’s loneliness represents “a major mental-health problem today.”  Even founding feminist Betty Friedan has been spreading the word: She warns that women now suffer from “new problems that have no name.”

How can American women be in so much trouble at the same time that they are supposed to be so blessed? If women got what they asked for, what could possibly be the matter now?

The prevailing wisdom of the past decade has supported one, and only one, answer this riddle: It must be all that equality that’s causing all that pain. Women are unhappy precisely because they are free.  Women are enslaved by their own liberation.  They have grabbed at the gold ring of independence, only to miss the one ring that really matters.  They have gained control of their fertility, only to destroy it.  They have pursued their own professional dreams-and lost out on romance, the greatest female adventure.  “Our generation was the human sacrifice” to the women’s movement, writer Elizabeth Mehren contends in a Time cover story.  Baby-boom women, like her, she says, have been duped by feminism: “we believed the rhetoric.” In Newsweek writer Kay Ebeling dubs feminism the “Great Experiment That Failed” and asserts, “Women in my generation, its perpetrators, are the casualties.”

In the eighties, publications forms the New York Times to Vanity Fair to The Nation have issued a steady stream of indictments against the women’s movement, with such headlines as “WHEN FEMINISM FAILED” or “THE AWFUL TRUTH AVOUT WOMEN’S LIB”.  They hold the campaign for women’s equality responsible for nearly every woe besetting women, from depression to meager savings accounts, from teenage suicides to eating disorders to bad complexions.  The Today show says women’s liberation is to blame for bag ladies. A guest columnist in the Baltimore Sun even proposes that feminists produced the rise in slashed movies.  By making the “violence” of abortion more acceptable, the author reasons, women’s-rights activists made it all right to show graphic murders on screen.

At the same time, other outlets of popular culture have been forging the same connection:  In Hollywood films, of which Fatal Attraction is the only most famous, emancipated women with condominiums of their own slink wild-eyed between bare walls, paying for their liberty with an empty bed, barren womb.  “My biological clock is ticking so loud it keeps me awake at night,” Sally Field cries in the film Surrender, as, in an all-too-common transformation in the cinema of the eighties, an actress who once played scrappy working heroines is now showcased groveling for a groom.  In prime-time television shows, from thirtysomething to Family Man, single professional, and feminist women are humiliated, turned into harpies, or hit by nervous breakdowns; the wise ones recant their independent ways by closing sequence.  In popular novels, from Gail Parent’s A Sign of the Eighties to Stephen King’s Misery, unwed women shrink to sniveling spinsters or inflate to fire-breathing she-devils; renouncing all aspirations but marriage, they beg for wedding bands from strangers or swing axes at reluctant bachelors.  Even Erica Jong’s high-flying independent heroine literally crashes by the end of the decade, as the author supplants Fear of Flying’s saucy Isadora Wing, an exuberant symbol of female sexual emancipation in the seventies, with an embittered careerist-turned-recovering-“codependent” in Any Woman’s Blues – a book that is intended, as the narrator bluntly states, “to demonstrate what a dead end the so-called sexual revolution had become and how desperate so-called free women were in the last few years of our decadent epoch.”

Popular psychology manuals peddle the same diagnosis for contemporary female distress.  “Feminism, having promised her a stronger sense of her own identity, has given her little more than an identity crisis,”  the best-selling advice manual Being a Woman asserts.  The authors of the era’s self-help classic, Smart Women, Foolish Choices, proclaim that women’s distress was “an unfortunate consequence of feminism” because “it created a myth among women that the apex of self-realization could be achieved only through autonomy, independence, and career.”

In the Reagan and Bush years, government officials have needed no prompting to endorse this thesis.  Reagan spokeswoman Faith Ryan Whittlesey declared feminism a “straightjacket” for women, in one of the White House’s only policy speeches on the status of the American female population – entitled “Radial Feminism in Retreat”.  The U.S. attorney general’s Commission on Pornography even proposed that women’s professional advancement might be responsible for rising rape rates:  With more women in college and at work now, the commission members reasoned in their report, women just have more opportunities to rape.

Legal scholars have railed against the “equality trap.”  Sociologists have claimed that “feminist-inspired” legislative reforms have stripped women of special “protections”.  Economists have argued that well-paid working women have created a “less stable American family.” And demographers, with greatest fanfare, have a legitimated the prevailing wisdom with so-called neutral data sex ratios and fertility trends; they say they actually have the numbers to prove that equality doesn’t mix with marriage and motherhood.

Finally, some “liberated” women themselves have joined the lamentations.  In The Cost of Loving:  Women and the New Fear of Intimacy, Megan Marshall, A Harvard-pedigreed writer, asserts that the feminist “Myth of Independence” has turned her generation into unloved and unhappy fast-trackers, “dehumanized” by careers and “uncertain of their gender identity.”  Other diaries of mad Superwomen charge that “the hard-core feminist viewpoint,” a one of them puts it, has relegated educated executive achievers to solitary nights of frozen dinners and closet drinking.  The triumph of equality, they report, has merely given women hives, stomach cramps, eye “twitching” disorders, even comas.

But what “equality” are all these authorities talking about?

If American women are so equal, why do they represent two-thirds of all poor adults?  Why are more than 70 percent of full-time working women making less than twenty-five thousand dollars a year, nearly double the number of men at that level?  Why are they still far more likely than men to live in poor housing, and twice as likely to draw no pension?  If women “have it all”, then why don’t they have the most basic requirements to achieve equality in the work force: unlike that of virtually all other industrialized nations, the U.S. government still has no family-leave and child-care programs.

If women are so “free”, why are their reproductive freedoms in greater jeopardy today than a decade earlier?  Why, in their own homes, do they still shoulder 70 percent of the household duties – while the only major change in the last fifteen years is that now men think they do more around the house?  In thirty states, it is still generally legal for husbands to rape their wives: and only ten states have laws mandating arrest for domestic violence – even though battering is the leading cause of injury to women (greater than rapes, muggings, and auto accidents combined).

The word may be that women have been “liberated”, but women themselves seem to feel otherwise.  Repeatedly in national surveys, majorities of women say they are still far from equality.  In poll after poll in the decade, overwhelming majorities of women said they need equal pay and equal job opportunities, they need an Equal Rights Amendment, they need the right to an abortion without government interference, they need a federal law guaranteeing maternity leave, and they need decent child-care services.  They have none of these.  So how exactly have women “won” the war for women’s rights?

Seen against this background, the much ballyhooed claim that feminism is responsible for making women miserable becomes absurd – and irrelevant.  The afflictions ascribed to feminism, from “the man shortage” to “the infertility epidemic” to “female burnout” to “toxic day care”, have had their origins not in the actual conditions of women’s lives but rather in a closed system that starts and ends in the media, popular culture, and advertising – an endless feedback loop that perpetuates and exaggerates its own false images of womanhood  And women don’t see feminism as their enemy, either.  In fact, in national surveys, 75 to 95 percent of women credit the feminist campaign with improving their lives, and similar proportion say that the women’s movement should keep pushing for change.
IF THE MANY PONDERERS OF THE WOMAN QUESTION REALLY WANTED to know what is troubling the American female population, they might have asked their subjects.  In public-opinion surveys, women consistently rank their own inequality, at work and at home, among their most urgent concerns.  Over and over, women complain to pollsters of a lack of economic, not marital, opportunities; they protest that working men, not working women, fail to spend time in the nursery and the kitchen.  It is justice for their gender, not wedding rings and bassinets that women believe to be in desperately short supply.

As the last decade ran its course, the monitors that serve to track slippage in women’s status have been working overtime.  Government and private surveys are showing that women’s already vast representation in the lowliest occupations is rising, their tiny presence in higher-paying trade and craft jobs stalled or backsliding, their minuscule representation in upper management posts stagnant or falling, and their pay dropping in the very occupations where they have made the most “progress”.

In national politics, the already small numbers of women in bother elective posts and political appointments fell during the eighties. In private life, the average amount that divorced men paid in child support fell by about 25 percent from the late seventies to the mid-eighties (to a mere $140 a month).  And government records chronicled a spectacular rise in sexual violence against women.  Reported rapes more than doubled from the early seventies – at nearly twice the rate of all other violent crimes and four times the overall crime rate in the United States.

The truth is that the last decade has seen a powerful counterassault on women’s rights, a backlash, and an attempt to retract the handful of small and hard-won victories that the feminist movement did manage to win in for women.  This counterassault is largely insidious:  in a kind of pop-culture version of the big lie, it stands the truth boldly on its head and proclaims that the very steps that have elevated women’s position have actually let to their downfall.

The backlash is at once sophisticated and banal, deceptively “progressive” and proudly backward.  It deploys both the “new” findings of “scientific research” and the dime-store moralism of yesteryear; it turns into media sound bites both the glib pronouncements of pop-psych trend watchers and the frenzied rhetoric of New Right preachers.  The backlash has succeeded in framing virtually the whole issue of women’s rights in its own language.  Just as Reaganism shifted political discourse far to the right and demonized liberalism, so the backlash convinced the public that women’s “liberation” was the true contemporary American scourge – the source of an endless laundry list of personal, social, and economic problems.

But what has made women unhappy in the last decade is not their “equality” – which they don’t yet have – but the rising pressure to halt, and even reverse, women’s quest for that equality.  The “man shortage” and the “infertility epidemic” are not the price of liberation: in fact, they do not even exist.  But these chimeras are part of a relentless whittling-down process – much of it amounting to outright propaganda – that has served to stir women’s private anxieties and break their political wills.  Identifying feminism a women’s enemy only furthers the ends of a backlash against women’s equality by simultaneously deflecting attention from the backlash’s central role and recruiting women to attach their own cause.

Some social observers may well ask whether the current pressures on women actually constitute a backlash – or just a continuation of American society’s long-standing resistance to women’s equal rights.  Certainly hostility to female independence has always been with us.  But if fear and loathing of feminism is a sort of perpetual viral condition in our culture, it is not always in an acute state; its symptoms subside and resurface periodically.  And it is these episodes of resurgence, such as the one we face now, that can accurately be termed “backlashes” to women’s advancement.  If we trace these occurrences in American history we find such flare-ups are hardly random; they have always been triggered by the perception – accurate or not – that women are making great strides.  These outbreaks are backlashes because they have always arisen in reaction to women’s “progress,” caused not simply by a bedrock of misogyny but by the specific efforts of contemporary women to improve their status, efforts that have been interpreted time and again by men – especially men grappling with real threats to their economic and social well-being on other fronts – as spelling their own masculine doom.

The most recent round of backlash first surfaced in the late seventies on the fringes, among the evangelical Right.  By the early eighties, the fundamentalist ideology had shouldered its way into the White House.  By the mid-eighties, as resistance to women’s rights acquired political and social acceptability, it passed into the popular culture.  And in every case, the timing coincided with the signs that women believed to be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Just when women’s quest for equal rights seemed closest to achieving its objectives, the backlash struck it down.  Just when a “gender gap” at the voting booth surfaced in 1980, and women in politics began to talk of capitalizing on it, the Republican Party elevated Ronald Reagan and both political parties began to shunt women’s rights off their platforms.  Just when support for feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment reached a record high in 1981, the amendment was defeated the following year.  Just when women were starting to mobilize against battering and sexual assaults, the federal government cut funding for battered-women’s programs, defeated bills to fund shelters, and shut down its Office of Domestic Violence – only two years after opening in 1979.  Just when record numbers of younger women were supporting feminist goals in the mid-eighties (more of them, in fact, than older women) and a majority of all women were calling themselves feminists, the media declared the advent of a young “post-feminist generation” that supposedly reviled the women’s movement.  Just when women racked up their largest percentage ever supporting the right to abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court moved toward reconsidering it.

In other words, the antifeminist backlash has been set off not by women’s achievement of full equality but by the increased possibility that they might win it.  It is a preemptive strike that stops women long before they reach the finish line.  “A backlash may be an indication that women rally have had an effect,” feminist psychiatrist Dr. Jean Baker Miller has written, “but backlashes occur when advances have been small, before changes are sufficient to help many people….It is almost as if the leaders of backlashes use the fear of change as a threat before major change has occurred.”  In the last decade, some women did make substantial advances before the backlash hit, but millions of others were left behind, stranded.  Some women now enjoy the right to legal abortion – but not the forty-four million women, from the indigent to the military worker, who depend on the federal government for their medical care.  Some women can now walk into high-paying professional careers – but not the millions still in the typing pools or behind the department store counter.  (Contrary to popular myth about the “have-it-all” baby-boom women, the largest percentage of women in this generation remain in office support roles.)

As the backlash has gathered force, it has cut off the few from the many – and the few women who have advanced seek to prove, as a social survival tactic, that they aren’t so interested in advancement after all.  Some of them parade their defection from the women’s movement, while their working–class peers founder and cling to the splintered remains of the feminist cause.  While a very few affluent and celebrity women who are showcased in news stories boast about going home to “bake bread,” the many working-class women appeal for their economic rights – flocking to unions in record numbers, striking on their own for pay equity, and establishing their own fledgling groups for working-women’s rights.  In 1986, while 41 percent of upper-income women were claiming in the Gallup poll that they were not feminists, only 26 percent of low-income women were making the same claim.


WOMEN’S ADVANCES AND RETREATS ARE GENERALLY DESCRIBED IN military terms:  battles won, battles lost, points and territory gained and surrendered.  The metaphor of combat is not without its merits in this context, and, clearly, the same sort of martial accounting and vocabulary is already surfacing here.  But by imagining the conflict as two battalions neatly arrayed on either side of the line, we miss the entangled nature, the locked embrace, of a “war” between women and the male culture they inhabit.  We miss the reactive nature of a backlash, which, by definition can exist only in response to another force.

In times when feminism is at low ebb, women assume the reactive role – privately and, most often, covertly struggling to assert themselves against the dominant cultural tide.  But when feminism itself becomes the tide, the opposition doesn’t simply go along with the reversal: it digs in its heels, brandishes its fists, builds walls and dams.  And its resistance crates countercurrents and treacherous undertows.

The force and furor of the backlash churn beneath the surface, largely invisible to the public eye.  On occasion in the last decade, they have burst into view.  We have seen New Right politicians condemn women’s independence, anti-abortion protesters firebomb women’s clinics, and fundamentalist preachers damn feminists as “whores”.  Other signs of the backlash’s wrath, by their sheer brutality, can push their way into public consciousness for a time – the sharp increase in rape, for example, or the rise in pornography that depicts extreme violence against women.

More subtle indicators in popular culture may receive momentary, and often bemused, media notice, then quickly slip from social awareness:  A report, for instance, that the image of women on prime-time TV shows has suddenly degenerated.  A survey of mystery fiction finding the numbers of tortured and mutilated female characters mysteriously multiplying.  The puzzling news that, as one commentator put it, “so many hit songs have the B word (bitch) to refer to women that some rap music seems to be veering toward rape music”.  The ascendancy of violently misogynist comics like Andrew Dice Clay, who calls women “pigs” and “sluts,” or radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, whose broadsides against “femi-Nazi” feminists helped make his syndicated program the most popular radio talk show in the nation.  Or the word that, in 1987, the American Women in Radio and Television couldn’t award its annual prize to ads that feature women positively: it could find no ad that qualified.

These phenomena are all related, but that doesn’t mean they are somehow coordinated.  The backlash is not a conspiracy, with a council dispatching agents from some central control room, nor are the people who serve its ends often aware of their role; some even consider themselves feminists.  For the most part, its workings are encoded and internalized, diffuse and chameleonic.  Not all of the manifestations of the backlash are of equal weight or significance, either; some are mere ephemera thrown up by a culture machine that is always scrounging for a “fresh” angle.  Taken as a whole, however, these codes and cajoling, these whispers and threats and myths, move overwhelmingly in one direction:  they try to push women back into their “acceptable” roles – whether as Daddy’s girl or fluttery romantic, active nester or passive love object.

Although the backlash is not an organized movement, that doesn’t make it any less destructive.  In fact, the lack of orchestration, the absence of a single string-puller, only makes it harder to see – and perhaps more effective.  A backlash against women’s rights succeeds to the degree that it appears not to be political, that it appears not to be a struggle at all.  It is most powerful when it goes private, when it lodges inside a woman’s mind and turns her vision inward, until she imagines the pressure is all in her head, until she begins to enforce the backlash, too – on herself.

In the last decade, the backlash has moved through the culture’s secret chambers, traveling through passageways of flattery and fear.  Along the way, it has adopted disguises: a mask of mild derision or the painted face of deep “concern”.  Its lips profess pity for any woman who won’t fit the mold, while it tries to clamp the mold around her ears.  It pursues a divide-and–conquer strategy:  single versus married women, working women versus homemakers, middle versus working class.  It manipulates a system of rewards and punishments, elevating women who follow its rules, isolating those who don’t.  The backlash remarkets old myths about women as new facts and ignores all appeals to reason.  Cornered, it denies its own existence, points an accusatory finger at feminism, and burrows deeper underground.

Backlash happens to be the title of a 1947 Hollywood movie in which a man frames his wife for a murder he’s committed.  The backlash against women’s rights works in much the same way:  its rhetoric charges feminism with all the crimes it perpetrates.  The backlash line blames the women’s movement for the “feminization of poverty” – while the backlash’s own instigators in Washington have pushed through the budget cuts that have helped impoverish millions of women, have fought pay-equity proposals, and undermined equal-opportunity laws.  The backlash line claims the women’s movement cares nothing for children’s rights – while its own representatives in the capital and state legislatures have blocked one bill after another to improve child care, slashed billions of dollars in aid for children, and relaxed state licensing standard for day-care centers.  The backlash line accuses the women’s movement of creating generations of unhappy single and childless women – but its purveyors in the media are the ones guilty of making single and childless women feel like circus freaks.

To blame feminism for women’s “lesser life” is to miss its point entirely, which is to win women a wider range of experience.  Feminism remains a pretty simple concept, despite repeated – and enormously effective – efforts to dress it up in greasepaint and turn its proponents into gargoyles.  As Rebecca West wrote sardonically in 1913, “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is:  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”

The meaning of the word feminism has not really changed since it first appeared in the book review in the The Athenaeum on April 27, 1895, describing a woman who “has in her the capacity of fighting her way back to independence”.  It is the basic proposition that, as Nora put it in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House a century ago, “Before everything else I’m a human being”.  It is the simply worded sign hoisted by a little girl in the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality:  “I AM NOT A BARBIE DOLL.”  Feminism asks the world to recognize at long last that women aren’t decorative ornaments, worthy vessels, members of a “special-interest group”.  They are half (in fact, now more than half) of the national population, and just as deserving of rights and opportunities, just as capable of participating in the world’s events, as the other half.  Feminism’s agenda is basic:  It asks that women not be forced to “choose” between public justice and private happiness.  It asks that women be free to define themselves – instead of having their identity defined for them, time and again, by their culture and their men.

The fact that these are still such incendiary notions should tell us that American women have a way to go before they enter the promised land of equality.
  1. Percentage drop in child support paid by the average divorced man between 1978 and 1985: 25
  2. Percentage change in a woman’s standard of living after a divorce:-33
  3. Percentage change in man’s: +15
  4. Percentage of women polled in 1984 saying their husbands shared equally in child care: 40
  5. Percentage of women polled in 1986 saying this: 31
  6. Percentage of female work force holding traditional “women’s” jobs (secretaries, administrative-support workers, salesclerks): 80
  7. Percentage of women at the end of the 1980’s saying they suffered job discrimination: 82
  8. Percentage saying they received unequal pay: 94
  9. Percentage of Fortune 1000 chief executives polled who believe that discrimination impedes female employees’ progress: 80
  10. Percentage of those executive who regard development of high potential women as a goal their personnel departments should pursue: less than 1
  11. Number of female senators: 2
  12. Number of female Fortune 500 chief executives: 2
  13. Percentage of top corporate managers who are female: 5
  14. Percentage of high schools that violate Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in education: 75
  15. Percentage of college aid and grants received by female as compared with male students: 70
  16. Percentage increase in sex-related murders of women between 1976 and 1984: 160
  17. Percentage of those murders committed by husbands or boyfriends: 33


Nov 13, 2013

Untouchable: Anand

Link: http://www.academia.edu/1189691/The_Case_of_Bakha

Colonialism, Dressing and Status in Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable: The Case of Bakha
Tasik Mumin

The Indian Subcontinent, since European colonization began in 1502, encountered the struggles across its vast lands not only in terms of military, economic and political subjection but also in cultural and social contexts. Following establishment of British rule in most parts of India, the other invading European nations began to decrease their troops and trading posts, giving the British East India Company supreme authority in this Asian territory. As Europeans spread their power all across, Indian natives began to lose their status as citizens of their own land. With their military power over this territory, British rulers forcibly set certain standards in Indian cultural and social milieu as well. Local Indians, for the first time in centuries, encountered a diverse nature of social and cultural dominance unknown to them before. Among other things, British dress codes further alienated the locals from the imperialist rulers. The British clothing, and its enforced authority as well as sense of a totally unknown drapery tastes, made Indians feel themselves different as human beings. When British supremacy rang its highest chords in the mid-19th to late 19th century, their haute couture entered the imagination of the colonized people just because wearing such dresses could make one (of course native inhabitant) get admission to European bars or official parties. Such imaginations also inflicted a newer sense among natives, loss of status as an individual as well as a free citizen. It has been pictured in many colonial-era and postcolonial literary works. Mulk Raj Anand’s very first novel Untouchable also records such blundering delusion from the central character’s over-enthusiasm regarding British clothes and ways of life.

This paper would focus on Anand’s novelette Untouchable, particularly on Bakha’s character and his fantasies regarding British clothes and how those imaginations shape his already marginalized status as a young sweeper. The whole novel chronicles a single Joycean day in the life of Bakha. At times, it seems the novel is drawing a frustrating image for the lowest caste Hindu youth, but the whole context is a much bigger issue—how Bakha’s status should be determined under the huge shadow of imperial rulers over all the strata of Indian society, where Bakha belongs even outside the lowest of the lowest order. The traumas and frustrations of his youthful self face an impasse throughout the day, as chronicled in the novel, as he is repeatedly abused and tortured psychologically, socially as well as culturally. There are no  escape route for his ‘disgraceful’ life rather he meets three alternatives—conversion to Christianity, adherence to Gandhism and flush system as prescribed by sympathetic Muslim poet Iqbal Nath Sarshar.

Bakha, a sweeper boy of 18, is “strong and able-bodied” and a descendent of an outcaste family—the lowest order of Hindu social groupings—the cleaner of human and animal excrements. He is constantly abused by everyone in Hindu society, even his father Lakha, for his lowly birth. He lives in a colony with his father, who is the jemadar (head of sweepers), sister Sohini and younger brother Rakha. Their quarters are far away from the main settlement in the nearby Bulashah town and regimental barracks alike. Describing the small community’s accommodation, Anand writes:
“The absence of drainage system had, through the rains of various seasons, made the quarter a marsh which gave the most offensive stink. And altogether the ramparts of human and animal refuse that lay on the outskirts of this little colony, and the ugliness, the squalor and the misery which lay within it, made it an ‘uncongenial’ place to live in”. (Anand 1)

This sketch is quite disturbing for the very existence of Bakha and other neighbours and they are all forced to scramble within the immurement of the colony. Their forced seclusion in the outskirts of the town projects a society that strictly maintained class and caste consciousness under pressures from both inner and outer hegemonic structure. Under British colonial administration, locals faced tremendous pressures from within caste Hindu people and an enforced subjection from ruling British commands over all levels of the society. The sweeper and other lower castes Hindus and Muslims faced humiliating insults from the higher caste Hindus. Bakha constantly questions the inequality within the society but never reaches any conclusion. He consciously wants to mimic the British officers as he wishes to dissociate himself from the society he lives in. He attempts to dress like the imperialists, wants to be educated, and becomes irked with his surroundings.

From the very first pages of the novel, Bakha is in search of his own identity within the very structure of a society that has consciously eliminated the possibility of him having one. The dilemma within Bakha is stroked repeatedly throughout the text. Bakha certainly has trouble accepting the identity allotted to him by birth. Therefore, he reacts to the contradictions in society although silently other than telling about his frustration to his friends, Chota and Ram Charan after the ‘touching’ episode in town. He also shares the same incident with his father who, though sympathetic, reminds Bakha that they are outcastes so they should be more cautious when they go out in public so that higher caste people do not get polluted. When his son shows his anger at their status as an outcaste, Lakha also suggests him not to be rebellious because there are some good higher caste Hindus just like the bad ones. Bakha, however, cannot acknowledge his father’s acceptance to their outcaste status.

Even if Bakha is a “dexterous workman” (Anand 8) and quite intelligent young man who maintains worthy work ethics, he is confined by caste to his ‘uncongenial’ profession. Passersby often wondered at his skill saying he is, "a bit superior to his job, not the kind of man who ought to be doing this [cleaning toilets]" (Anand 8). Despite Bakha's skill and work ethics, he has no chance of moving up in his life through the social ladder. He is forever imprisoned, by birth, just like his father and his ancestors, to his murky, demeaning profession. Therefore, he becomes frustrated and, within his quixotic world, he wants to become like an Englishman, and through this fantasy he wants to elevate himself to a human being, not a sweeper boy.

Bakha’s intentions to emulate the British officers are all though external signs of the imperialists, mostly dresses and solar hats, buttons etc. The minute details regarding his prized possessions are mostly British-standard worn-out clothes, boots and puttees, either begged from the Tommies or as endowment from an Indian sepoy; and he also bought “the jacket, the overcoat, the blanket he slept under” [page 4] from the rag-seller’s shop with the bakhsish he received from the British barracks.
“The clear-cut European dress had impressed his naive mind. The stark simplicity had furrowed his old Indian consciousness and cut deep new lines where all the considerations which made India evolve a skirty costume at best fitted for the human body, lay dormant. Bakha had looked at the Tommies, stared at them with wonder and amazement when he first went to live at the British regimental barracks…and he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people. He had felt that to put their clothes on made one a sahib too. So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances” (Anand 2-3).

The above depiction clearly shows his obsessions regarding the fashun of colonial rulers. He has an obsession to be like the Tommies so that he could bypass all the social hierarchy and be supreme, in his dreamlike world, over the others, which is otherwise impossible for him even in his wildest dreams. He thinks that "the Tommies had treated him as a human being and he had learnt to think of himself as superior to his fellow-outcasts" (Anand 3). He attempts to adopt the fashun of the British officers, and has become "possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life" (Anand 3). He naively hypothesizes that the mere adoption of external signs of a sahib will earn him respect and supremacy. He progresses through his day wearing the breeches of one of the Tommies, but this accession of identity fails to materialize any desired outcome. Instead, Bakha looks weird, a mere amusement for others, including his father, to hurl their petty jokes and insults at him. Bakha's desire to copy the Tommies has far-reaching importance because "[he] can preserve his identity only to the extent that he can be conscious of his superiority". However, Bakha's awareness of superiority is quickly dispelled when he comes to realize that "except for the English clothing there was nothing English in his life" (Anand 4). The novel offers a few incidents which help Bakha map the growth of his self-consciousness as well as status as a person within the Hindu caste system. These incidents make Bakha confused of his position in the societal and cultural context in a cruel but straight-forward manner. He stumbles upon to realize that his status as a part of the society is hierarchically denied by the caste Hindus and colonizers alike. All these incidents make him utterly frustrated, and traumatise him psychologically. 

The novel begins early in the dawn when Lakha asks his elder son to wake up from bed, calling him “you son of a pig” to attend the latrines or the sepoys will be angry. “That was the beginning of his father’s subsequent early-morning calls, which he had begun at first to resist with a casual deafness, and which he now ignored irritatedly” (Anand 5). His father always abused him by calling names like ‘son of a swine’ and ‘you illegally begotten’. Lakha was “really good and 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” (Anand 23). Likewise, other members of the society, both higher and lower in caste, maintained such bullying attitude to Bakha due to their own hypocrisies and unwillingness to carryout the ‘menial’ job of cleaning their latrines or keeping their surroundings clean. The higher caste Hindus are hypocrites because they want to remain clean but they do not allow the sweepers to be clean. Out of generosity or in return of the services they receive from the lower castes, the upper caste Hindus do not dig up any well for the lower castes to collect water whereas they perform purification services by water for themselves; but access to water, for the outcastes, is all dependent on the pity and generosity of the higher castes. When Bakha is caught by a priest to peep inside the temple to see the deity, the pundit says he needs to purify the place with water before any other services can be progressed. As the lower caste rely solely on the caste wells, to be drawn by some kind-hearted upper caste Hindu, so that their authority over the lower ones can be enforced, washermen, leather-workers, sweepers and other low caste Hindus always have scarcity of water. The lower castes are not allowed to use the nearby brook too because, if they touch that water, the channel would be defiled for the top three castes of Hindus. Therefore, most outcastes, oppressed in this way, could never bath or wash their clothes to remain clean as the superior Hindus did.

Another way of suppressing the outcastes was denial of their educational rights. Only the sons of higher caste Hindu went to schools. Bakha shows his interest to be educated so that he is able to talk with the sahibs, and therefore, by doing so, he believes, he would rise above his caste. However, he has no chance for education as outcastes were not allowed in schools because "the parents of the other children would not allow their sons to be contaminated by the touch of the low-caste man's son" (Anand 30). Bakha's interest to be educated like the sahibs was strong and he offered to pay a higher caste boy to teach him to read. Though Bakha did not have much money due to his poverty and non-payment for their jobs as sweepers, his offer to pay was indicative of his desire for education. Education was denied to people like him, and through education Bakha hoped to distance himself from the disgrace of his lowly caste background.

Bakha’s experiences, within his mere 18 years of existence, are totally different than any other closer to his age or profile; and it had shaped his persona in a way that is complex yet innocent and ever-inquisitive. His uneducated mind often asks questions that should have been answered way before Hindu society separated its populace according to their birth and profession. He often wanted to study in schools just like caste Hindu boys.
“...but he dreamed of becoming a sahib. Several times he had felt the impulse to study on his own. Life at the Tommies barracks fired his imagination. And he often sat in his spare time and tried to feel how it felt to read. Recently he had actually gone and bought a first primer of English....” (Anand 31)

The above incidents points out to the hypocrisies of the higher caste Hindus who are making outcastes do menial jobs to serve themselves but were unwilling to pay or serve them in return. Bakha could only endure the psychological trauma out of his inactions because the mental pressures are part of his tortured self since his early life and he somehow questions what his father thinks about their fate. Lakha “had never...renounced his deep rooted sense of inferiority and the docile acceptance of the laws of fate” (Anand 74). Bakha could not do much to protest during the touching scene due to the bar the society strictly maintained for hereditary subjection to the higher caste Hindus.

Another horrible experience of the day is the insult of his sister Sohini. Pandit Kalinath attempts to molest her in the temple yard after he asked her to come to clean the temple premises instead of her father. Oddly, the priest shouts he’s defiled by Sohini’s touch so that he could escape the allegation of molesting the young girl. This is another example of the hypocrisy of the other castes in their attitudes towards the untouchables. The higher castes view them as ‘polluted’ and make them do all the impure labour, still they are not unwilling to have sexual relations with them. Apparently, the idea of impurity is only there when it suits the higher castes’ desires. Hearing the story from her, Bakha is wild with anger. He felt he could kill them all; he was rising like a tiger at bay, but in the highest moment of his strength, the “slave in him arrested itself” (Anand 56). The plight of Bakha is he had been subjected to the humiliations and abuses as structured by the Hindu social order, and even after understanding the situations, he fails to take any action against caste Hindus.

Later, he does not feel like collecting the charity bread thrown into the gutter by a higher caste woman. The way she throws the bread shows the social and cultural attitude towards the untouchables for generations. Just because he fell asleep in the stairs of a higher caste’s house, the woman cries out that he has defiled the place just as the temple priest said. When Bakha helps a wounded boy from a hockey game that went unruly, the child’s mother abuses him saying he polluted the child instead of thanking Bakha for saving her boy from further wounds.

During his childhood, Bakha wished to be a washerman as he was fascinated with the trade. When he expressed that intention to his friend Ram Charan, his friend said, rather reluctantly, “though he (Ram Charan) touched him and played with him, he was a Hindu while Bakha was a mere sweeper” (Anand 80). Bakha felt a chilling insult from this comment and wished to slap his comrade for saying that. However, later he realized his friend was very right in his words. He told to himself “But now he now knew that there were degrees of castes among the low-caste, and that he was of the lowest” (Anand 80). This realization of Bakha was more a social and cultural learning than an emotional or psychological one. He was forced to submit to this understanding as the cultural and social milieu shaped no other picture for his future. 

Since early morning, Bakha has to endure a lot of sufferings that psychologically make him weak and frustrated. When he buys a cigarette and Jelabis, the shopkeeper does not receive the coin directly from him rather the shopkeeper asks him to put the money on a shelf, and later sprinkle water to purify it. This incident provides the realities Bakha has to endure throughout the day. His first experience in the town is a shattering experience to him. He accidentally touches a caste Hindu, forgetting to call the warning words ‘posh, posh, sweeper coming’ because he was too absorbed in watching the sceneries about the town. The ‘polluted’ Brahmin threatens him and publicly humiliates him by slapping him in the face. “Bakha’s turban fell off and the jelabis in the paper bag in his hand were scattered in the dust” (Anand 41) just as the sweeper lad was crushed down to the harsh realities of the social injustice against his caste. The insult hurled at him made Bakha ashamed of his self and infuriated him at the same time. He reacts to the event with anger: "the strength, the power of his giant body glistened with the desire for revenge in his eyes, while horror, rage, indignation swept over his frame. In a moment he lost all his humility, and he would have lost his temper too" (Anand 42), if it were not for the disappearance of the man who struck him. He is depicted as having a "smoldering rage within his soul," (Anand 42) and then resorts to self questioning: "why was I so humble? I could have struck him" (Anand 43). At the end of the incident, he is shocked to realize his ‘menial’ identity within the society and fumes in his anger “for them, I am a sweeper, Untouchable, that is the word. I am an untouchable” (Anand 43). This ignominy brings out the disgrace associated with his birth. Moreover, he recalls that the sentry inspector and the sahib abused his father too. 

All these incidents show how the whole society, from the ruling Britsh inspectors to the lower castes, rejects the very existence of the untouchables in a cruel manner where Bakha does not have any status as a human being instead he is always considered as an outcaste. It also exposes Bakha to a position where he continuously feels secluded from the mainstream of the society and he often dreams to be a part of the society that accepts him as a ‘respected’ person. 

Now, the colonizers dress codes and ways of life mesmerized Bakha ever since he went to work at the British barracks with his uncle. He, later, peeped “longingly” at the rag-seller’s shop in the town to see the “scarlet and khaki uniforms discarded or pawned by the Tommies, pith solar topees, peak caps, knives, forks, buttons, old books and other oddments of Anglo-Indian life” (Anand 3). It was not an overenthusiastic gaze only rather “he had hungered for the touch of them” (Anand 3) as well. He knew he could not buy them all yet his cravings for such items always stayed high until meeting Mrs Hutchison. ‘I will look like a sahib,’ he had secretly told himself. “And I will walk like them. Just as they do, in twos” (Anand 3). Bakha’s overwhelming intentions to imitate the British earned him the “Pilpali sahib” nickname from his friends Chota and Ram Charan. However, Chota, leather-worker’s son, and Ram Charan, washerman’s son—seem to mimic the ‘fashun’ of colonizers too, either by parting their hairs like the Englishmen in one side or wearing shorts during hockey matches and smoking cigarettes like ‘them’. Bakha also knew that his friends “knew that he was a devotee of ‘fashun’, a weakness they shared with him and yet for which they ridiculed him” (Anand 26). On the way to the town, Bakha was attracted to the woollen clothes “so glossy and nice! so expensive looking!” (Anand 36). No other clothes caught his eyes that much because “That was the kind of cloths of which sahib suits were made” (Anand 36)—the highest symbol of colonial clothing to his young eyes.

Later, at the barrack, when Bakha goes to receive the gift from Charat Singh—the hockey stick, he is reminded of the supreme authority in colonial India through the solar hat symbol. About the solar hat kept at the empty quarter-guard, the sentries used to say “it belonged to a sahib who had just gone into the grounds and would be returning to take it” (Anand 91). The sentries’ story could ward off little children from the area “for great was the fear attaching to the persons of sahibs, like the dread of pale-white ghosts, ghouls and hobgoblins, because they were rumoured to be very irritable, liable to strike you with their canes if you looked at them” (Anand 91). The authority of the Englishmen could be projected through the hat being hung at the peg for years. Anand tells the reader the sentries drove away kids not only to disperse the crowd but also because they wanted to get hold of this “symbol of sahibhood” (Anand 92). Later the writer tells what the European dress meant to the young minds:
“The consciousness of every child was full of a desire to wear Western dress, and since most of the boys about the place were the sons of babus, bandsman, sepoys, sweepers, washermen and shopkeepers, all too poor to afford the luxury of a complete European outfit, they eagerly stretched their hands to seize any particular article they could see anywhere, feeling that the possession of something European was better than the possession of nothing European. A hat with its curious distinction of shape and form, with the peculiar quality of honour that it presents to the Indian eye because it adorns the noblest part of the body, had a fascination such as no other item of European dress prssessed.” (Anand 92)

Therefore, whenever Bakha had the chance to work at the barracks, he regularly chose the quarter-guard side so that he could “steal glances at the object he coveted, and plan various devices to win it” (Anand 92). He even had planned several schemes to steal the headgear but never dared to do it just like the sepoys, havildars and others of the community at large. It shows what purpose the hat served for everyone alike—from the sepoys, havildars down to the outcastes and even the little children—the supreme sign of colonial power that halted everyone to take the hat and wear it or destroy it.  

He also imitated the Englishmen in sipping the tea without blowing “on the tea to cool it” (Anand 24) whereas his uncle and father did so which seems to Bakha as “natu habits” (Anand 24). To him, “the sahibs didn’t do that” (Anand 24) was more important than slightly burning his tongue. He even had managed to have a “broken cane chair, the only article of furniture of European design which he had been able to acquire in pursuance of his ambition to live like an Englishman” (Anand 14). Furthermore, Bakha and his friends smoked because they thought smoking Red Lamp cigarettes made them look like the rich people and the sahibs smoked too. After his sojourn at the barracks with his uncle, Bakha detested his identity as a sweeper and his childlike imaginations became obsessed with the English ways of life:
“The vagaries of Bakha’s naive tastes can be both explained and excused. He didn’t like his home, his street, his town, because he had been to work at the Tommies barracks, and obtained glimpses of another world, strange and beautiful; he had grown out of his native shoes into the ammunition boots that he had secured as a gift. And with this strange and exotic items of dress he had built up a new world, which was commendable, if for nothing else, because it represented a change from the old ossified order and the stagnating conventions of the life to which he was born.”  (Anand 69)

It proves that as Bakha’s plight is never ending due to lowly birth; and as the Tommies treated him a little better than his own folk, he wants to associate himself with their ways of life. Before meeting Charat Singh’s generosity, he has never experienced any good behaviour from the Hindus so when the havildar allows him to do some petty jobs for him and gifts the lad a hockey stick, Bakha feels honoured that his lot witnessed never before.   

Charat Singh’s request to supply the celebrated hockey player with coals for lighting his hookah made Bakha feel uplifted a bit as a Hindu man allowed him to touch his smoking pot without thinking his touch would defile it. As Charat Singh pours him the tea, Bakha feels honoured and as well as humbled—“a second he seemed to have dwarfed himself to the littlest little being on earth” (Anand 99). After his benefactor gifted him the hockey stick, Bakha was “grateful, grateful, haltingly grateful, falteringly grateful, stumblingly grateful, so grateful that he didn’t know how he could walk the ten yards to the corner to be out of the sight of his benevolence and generous host” (Anand 100). The sweeper lad is so overjoyed because he had never seen any other caste Hindu behaving in such polite and decent manner to an untouchable in his life before. In contrast, when Colonel Hutchison forcibly walks him towards the church to convert him to Christianity, Bakha feels rather lost at the thought of changing to a religion that fails to understand the problems of his identity crisis. Though he “felt honoured that a sahib had deigned to talk Hindustani to him” (Anand 113), Bakha does not understand why “are we all sinners?” (Anand 120)—as Christianity says and all his obsessions towards becoming a sahib was erased when Mrs Hutchison was angry at the colonel for bringing Bakha to their house. He also heard her say the words ‘bhangis and chamars’ which gave him the impression that she was angered mainly due to his status as a sweeper.

Later when he recalled the incident, he was more troubled than the touching incident in the morning at the bazaar. He thought:
“…the few words she had uttered carried a dread a hundred times more terrible than the fear inspired by the whole tirade of abuse by the touched man. It was probably that the episode of the morning was a matter of history, removed in time and space from the more recent scene, also, perhaps, because the anger of a white person mattered more. The mem-sahib was more important to his slavish mind than the man who was touched, he being one of his many brown countrymen. To displease the mem-sahib was to him a crime for which no punishment was bad enough. And he thought he had got off comparatively lightly. He dared not think unkind thoughts about her. So he unconsciously transferred his protest against her anger to the sum of his reactions against the insulting personages of the morning.” (Anand 124-125)

This incident changes his attitude towards the ruling white people. Conversion to Christianity does not give him any solution to his untouchable status as he learns, through Mrs Hutchinson, the white people’s attitude would not change with adopting their religion. Later, he comes to believe that the religion of his father is in no way inferior to Christianity. Thus replacing one faith with another will not solve the problem of untouchablity but will only further complicate the matter. 

As Anand proposes, Bakha has three alternatives for fighting the social evil. First alternative is to change his religious faith. Christian missionary Colonel Hutchinson explains that Christianity does not make a distinction between the rich and the poor and even there is no outcastes in that belief. Bakha finds no difference in practice between a Christian and a Hindu woman. Secondly, seeing Gandhi, Bakha sides himself with the rest of humanity. He is impressed by Gandhi’s principles and practice, but he becomes sceptical when the Mahatma advised the harijans to purify their lives and take pride in clearing the Hindu society. He also hates the idea when Mahatma blames the untouchables for drinking and gambling. Obviously, Bakha does not understand Gandhi’s complex thinking. According to Andrew M. Stracuzzi, “Yet there is an inherent dichotomy in Gandhi's rhetoric because the existing system does not allow for the untouchables to become purified primarily because their fundamental existence is rooted in the profession of filth.” (Stracuzzi 13) It is just as Bakha says to his father, "they think we are mere dirt because we clean their dirt" (Anand 70). Lastly, Iqbal Nath Sharshar, Muslim poet and thinker strongly recommend the introduction of the flush system. He says: “when the sweepers change their professions, they will no longer remain untouchables” (Anand 146). His argument is that caste is governed by profession and when the sweepers change their profession, they will not be treated as untouchables. Bakha sees the practical values of the poet’s suggestion. However, all these solutions prove to be inadequate primarily because these fail to remove the option for untouchables to take action against their own oppression. Bakha does not find a plausible solution to his distresses. He emerges with a better understanding of social dynamics but the ‘slave’ image repeatedly drawn about his character never seem to disappear.

British dress codes served as a hierarchical supremacy over the Indians, and Bakha fancied to be like a sahib, wearing their left-out or cheap dresses and using their worn-out furniture, and even sleeping with a thin blanket, only to soothe the harsh realities of his status as a sweeper boy under oppression from both colonial rulers as well as higher caste Hindus. Throughout most part of the novelette, readers find him “caught by the glamour of ‘white man’s life’”, fancying about being a sahib like the Tommies who “had treated him as human being and he had learned to think of himself as superior to his fellow-outcastes”. Such treatment from the Tommies actually further alienated Bakha from other outcastes closer to his rank and file because he had seen the manners and means of highest order of the imperial rulers as well as other castes of Hindus. Ashcroft quotes Bhabha as he studies "the process by which the colonized subject is reproduced as ‘almost the same, but not quite’"(Ashcroft 140). Bakha shows this as he at once mimics, but does not achieve, the effect of the clothing as worn by the Dogra and Sikh sepoys. As Ashcroft et al observe, mimicry can result in a ‘blurred copy’ of the colonizer (Thanuvalingam 13-15).

The worst part is that prejudice, feelings of inferiority and superiority, are immersed and shared by all Hindus, including the untouchables. This is evident by Bakha's choices of the British clothes he wears, a sign of his own status, exceedingly trying to distinguish himself from his peers, and always wanting to copy the British Tommies. The Tommy way of life becomes an image of his desire. Bhakha, as a boy is alternating between two worlds of suffocating reality where there is no solid gratification or inner resolution gained by the obstacles he is faced with during his day. He is not treated as a human being throughout the novel, except on a few occasions, so he visualizes a society which will not separate people in the name of caste, creed nationality, or race after his overt-obsession for the imperial life fails to meet the realities. But he cannot measure how that idea of inequality can be materialized so he remains puzzled at the end of the novel. 

Works Cited:
1. Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2001. Print.
2. Ashcroft, Bill et al. Post Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge, 2005. Print.
3. Stracuzzi, Andrew M. The Indelible Problem: Mulk Raj Anand and the Plight of Untouchability. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.postcolonialweb.org/india/anand/stracuzzi1.html>.  
4. Bhabha, Homi K. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.

References:
1.   Agarwal, B.R. “Subaltern Concern in the Novels of Mulk Raj Anand.” Mulk Raj Anand: Ed. B.R. Agarwal. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2006. Print.
2.    Bachchan, Ashok Kumar. “Indian Nuances of Anand’s English: An Examination of His Early Novels.” The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand: A New Critical Spectrum. Ed. T.M.J. Indra Mohan. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2005. Print.

3.   Dubery, Rashmi. “Gandhian Impact in the Novels of Mulk Raj Anand with Special Reference to Untouchable.” Mulk Raj Anand: Ed. B.R. Agarwal. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2006. Print.
4.    Guptoo, Nandini. “Caste and Labour: Untouchable Social Movements in Uttar Pradesh in the Early Twentieth Century.” Dalit Movements and Meanings of Labour in India: SOAs Studies on South Asia Ed. Pater D Robbe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Print.
5.   Jauhari, Ravi, and Kiran Kamboj. “A Social Evil in Untouchable.” Mulk Raj Anand: Ed. B.R. Agarwal. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2006. Print.
6.   Lynch, Owen M. The Politics of Untouchability: Social Mobility and Social Change in a City of India. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. Print.
7.     Mishra, Binod. “Identity Crisis in the Novels of Mulk Raj Anand.” The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand: A New Critical Spectrum. Ed. T.M.J. Indra Mohan. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2005. Print.
8.    Mohan, T.M.J. Indra. “Mulk Raj Anand Untouchable: Social Document.” The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand: A New Critical Spectrum. Ed. T.M.J. Indra Mohan. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2005. Print.
9.     Rukhaiyar, U.S. “Mulk Raj Anand Untouchable: A Triumph of Narrative Skill.” The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand: A New Critical Spectrum. Ed. T.M.J. Indra Mohan. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2005. Print.
10.    Thanuvalingam, V. “The Voice in Mulk Raj Anand.” Indian Novelist In English. Ed. Amar Nath Prasad. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2003. Print.
11.  Singh, Parul. “Socio-Economic Study of Anand’s Novels with Special Reference to Untouchable and Coolie.” Mulk Raj Anand: Ed. B.R. Agarwal. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2006. Print.
12.    Sinha, Rakesh. “Dalit Movement.”  The Times of India 22 Oct 1993: Print.
13.   Srivastava, Manju. “Concerns for the Downtrodden in the Fiction of Mulk Raj Anand.” Mulk Raj Anand: Ed. B.R. Agarwal. Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2006. Print.
14.    Walsh, William. Indian Literature in English. London: Longman, 1990. Print.



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