The Monotony of everyday life is presented the same as with Tagore, taking an above average stationed occupation and describing the supernatural.
” all the same, it was as much an honest man’s labour as any other, and he deserved the wages he carried home at the end of a day.”
This story does it a differently, however, it masks the ‘everyday-ness’ of the astrology become “lessened” by making the him susceptible to gambling, and other base vices, we do not expect from a man of this standing. But they are people to and that it the point.
In this recording from 2000, Anand (then seventy-five years old) says a little about the international movement of progressive writing in the 1930s and reads (starting at 4:29) from Untouchable, pp. 49 (very bottom)–52. The recording is from the Library of Congress South Asian Literary Recordings Project. The quality of the recording is poor, but it is well worth hearing Anand’s voice and considering why he has chosen this passage to represent the novel.
“His first sensation of the bazaar was of its smell, a pleasant aroma oozing from so many unpleasant things, drains, grains fresh and decaying vegetables, spices, men and women and asafoetida. Then it was the kaleidoscope of colours, the red, the orange, the purple of the fruit in the tiers of baskets which were arranged around the Pesawari fruit-seller, dressed in a blue silk turban, a scarlet velvet waistcoat, embroidered with gold, a long white tunic and trousers; the gory red of the mutton hanging beside the butcher who was himself busy mincing meat on a log of woof, while his assistants roasted it on skewers over a charcoal fire, or fried it in the black iron pan; the pale-blond colour of the wheat shop; and the rainbow hues of the sweetmeat stall, not to speak of the various shades of turbans and skirts, from the deep black of the widows the the green, the pink, the mauce and the fawn of the newly wedded brides, and all the tints of the shifting, changing crowd, from the Brahmin’s white to the grass-cutter’s coffee and the Pathan’s swarthy brown.”
When I initially read this, I marked it for commonplacing; it didn’t occur to me that this entire passage was one really long sentence until I was actually typing it out. I do love this passage though. I think it portrays the sensation of being overwhelmed by worldly/cultural wonder extremely acutely. I once walked through a street market in Portugal and felt much the same way – surrounded by strange and wondrous sights, smells, and strangers; it is a very humbling experience.
“But he didn’t mind the cold very much, suffering it willingly because he could sacrifice a good many comforts for the sake of what he called ‘fashun,’ by which he understood the art of wearing trousers, breeches, coat, puttees, boots, etc., as worn by the British and Indian soldiers in India” (10)
“His tongue was slightly burnt with small sips because he did not, as his father did, blow on the tea to cool it. This was another of the things he had learnt at the British barracks from the Tommies.” (32)
These to passages show the influence of a colonial legacy on Bakha as he tries to fashion himself into a sort of mimic man, equating British tastes as superior to Indian ones as he sees them (as the dominating colonial power) as more modern and fashionable. This is seen as a detriment. His English clothes are ill-suited for the environment and his western style blanket is unsuitable for keeping him warm at night. Even simple affectations, such as the way he takes his tea in the English fashion, harms him as he burns his tongue. He is nettled nettled by his fascination.
“He felt that his bones were stiff and his flesh numb with the cold. For a moment he felt feverish. A hot liquid trickled down from the corners of his eyes.”
I found these lines, and the few after, really interesting because Bakha said a few lines earlier that he couldn’t find the sorrow when thinking about his mother’s death but I feel like these lines are describing his sorrow, he is crying.
“Bakha observed her as she walked along swaying. She was beautiful. He was proud of her with a pride not altogether that of a brother for a sister” (Anand 15).
This passage interests me because this paragraph starts off describing how simple and ordinary Sohini is in this society yet Bakha is able to see her simplicity as beautiful which seems to contradict his longing to be like the Tommies who to Bakha, seem more sophisticated.
“‘All right,’ agreed Baka without any show of formality, and going out of doors sat down on the edge of 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 15)
The quote is interesting because Bakha is living the glamour of an Englishman’s life. At the same time not really in a sense of irony.
Having been really moved by Tagore this blog is dedicated to both of the short stories, hopefully.
” After that comes the misery of awakening, and then once again the longing to get back into the maze of the same mistakes.”
Having gone over multiple meanings/endings to the Postmaster, I decided to share the ending I read from my edition which was a scan online and the source is this link- http://www.online-literature.com/tagore-rabindranath/stories-from-tagore/7/
So Why I like this ending the most is because of the language of the translator, as I feel the other endings leave so much to ambiguity, this one sort of, metaphorically straightforward, as it gives words to the feeling of Time consistently flowing.
” I took out a bank-note, and gave it to him, saying: “Go back to your own daughter, Rahmun, in your own country, and may the happiness of your meeting bring good fortune to my child!”
Having made this present, I had to curtail some of the festivities. I could not have the electric lights I had intended, nor the military band, and the ladies of the house were despondent at it. But to me the wedding feast was all the brighter for the thought that in a distant land a long-lost father met again with his only child.”
This ending to “The Hungry Stones”
Gives off the same kind of perpetual nature of life, a life that is not “happy” for lack of a better word. something to be expected, or lost, the UN-natrual-ness of something coming to a conclusion…
“The blood in Bakha’s veins tingled with the heat as he stood before t. His dark face, round and solid and exquisitely well defined, lit with a queer sort of beauty. The toil of the body had built up for him a very fine physique. It seemed to suit him, to give a homogeneity, a wonderful wholeness to his body, so that you could turn round and say: ‘Here is a man.’ And it seemed to give him a nobility, strangely in contrast with his filthy profession and with the sub-human status to which he was condemned from birth.
This was a long task, lasting almost twenty minutes. Bakha, however, did not seem to feel the strain of it as he had felt that strain of his earlier occupation. The burning flame seemed to ally itself with him. It seemed to given him a sense of power, the power to destroy. It seemed to infuse into him a masterful instinct somewhat akin to sacrifice. It seemed as if burning or extraction was for him a form of physical culture.”
Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable, (London: Penguin Classics 2014), 46.
In his head, Bakha has a burning desire (literally) to destroy the caste system. He feels more superior than he knows he should, and the limitations placed on him because of his social position are not suitable to the Engish-like/higher class life he wants to lead.
“He shivered as he turned on his side. But he didn’t mind the cold very much, suffering it willingly because he could sacrifice a good many comforts for the sake of what he called ‘fashun’, by which he understood the art of wearing trousers, breeches, coat, puttees, boots, etc., as worn by the British and Indian soldiers in India….But Bakha was a child of modern India.The clearcut styles of European dress had impressed his naive mind. This stark simplicity had furrowed his old Indian consciousness and cut deep new lines where all the considerations which made India evolve a skirty costume as best fitted for the human body, lay dormant.” (4)
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Publishers, 2014.
Perhaps it is suspect to pick a passage so near the beginning of the novel, but I do believe there is much to unpack here. Firstly, it introduces the narration as not being without sentiment towards the traditional ways of India. Perhaps the phonetic spelling of the word ‘fashion’ is meant to convey a sort of ridiculousness at chasing after the ways of the foreign British, something the rest of the passage seems also to do. Of course, despite the political implications of the passage, it is also worth noting the familiarity of this in terms of youthful aspiration and fashion chasing. Also, whereas Tagore’s stories had colonialism in the subtext, clearly this is a novel with the British colonization front and center.
“He had had glimpses, during his sojourn there, of the life the Tommies lived…. 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 on their clothes 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. He had begged one Tommy for the gift of a pair of trousers. The man had given him a pair of breeches which he had to spare. A Hindu sepoy, for the good of his own soul, had been kind enough to make an endowment of a pair of boots and puttees. For the other items he had gone down to the rag-seller’s shop in the town…” (5).
The way in which Bakha views and obtains the British soldier attire stands out to me for many reasons. Initially, his desire to look like the British soldiers seems innocent. He wants to be like them after catching “glimpses” of them and their behaviors, mentioned prior to the passage above. However, this pure innocence begins to fade, slightly, when it is revealed Bakha wishes to look like the soldiers because they are “Sahibs” or “superior people”. No longer is Bakha’s wish simply to be like someone, but be like someone because they are supposedly better than others. Another component of this passage that I really enjoyed examining was the fractured way in which Bakha attains the different parts of British soldier clothing. One part comes from a British soldier, another from a Hindu sepoy, and the rest from a rag-seller. This manner of depicting his clothes as coming from multiple sources paints Bakha’s clothing as not necessarily worldly or cosmopolitan, but almost inauthentic. Yes, they form an entire outfit, as a military uniform, but they are pieced together in this puzzle-like manner that make them almost seem forced together – possibly by Bakha – to create a certain image of himself.
“The taint of the dark, narrow, dingy little prison cells of their one-roomed homes lurked in them, however, even in the outdoor air. They were silent as if the act of liberation was too much for them to bear. The great life-giver had cut the inscrutable knots that tied them up in themselves. It had melted the innermost parts of their being. And their souls stared at the wonder of it all, the mystery of it, the miracle of it.”
Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand (page 27)
So far I am finding this book very interesting, but this passage stuck out to me in particular. It is interesting the way Anand equates their homes with prison cells, and how he portrays merely stepping into the sun as a form of liberation. I think that Anand highlights the one-roomed, tiny homes as a way to symbolize the low social class and how it limits freedom in such a stratified caste system. Stepping out of the homes, even for a moment, represents breaking away from the binding structure of their impoverished lives.
” ‘That man, that man,’ she said, ‘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.'” (51)
In a book about squalor, the caste system, and struggle, I found the assault of Sohini particularly disturbing. We continuously see the abuse the untouchables face, but this passage highlights the attitude held by society that those on the bottom (of the caste system) are worthless/insignificant, even when serious mistreatment is occurring. This attitude continues to poison both its victims and the oppressors.
“It seemed as if burning or destruction was for him a form of physical culture.”
Untouchable, page 14
It is interesting that the author uses the term “physical culture” because when I think of culture, I don’t imagine it as something exactly physical. Perhaps I am just narrow-minded, but culture is not something you can exactly pinpoint, but rather incorporates different aspects.
“The old man seemed to awake instinctively, for a moment, just about that time every morning and then to relapse into his noisy sleep under the greasy, dense, thick, discoloured, patched quilt” (pg. 13).
This scene mirrors the socioeconomic class of Bakhya’s father as a latrine cleaner. The noisy sleep is uncomfortable along with greasy, dense, thick, and discoloured paints a picture of dis-ease.
“But the crowd which pressed round him, staring, pulling grimaces, jeering and leering, was without a shadow of pity for his remorse. It stood unmoved, without heeding his apologies, and taking a sort of sadistic delight in watching him cower under the abuses and curses of its spokesman.” (39)
The crowd takes on a different type of identity. “It” transforms into something more than just people, I’m looking forward to taking my time with dome of these crowd scenes.