“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.
“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.
“How a round base can be adjusted on a round top, how a sphere can rest on a sphere is a problem which may be of interest to those who think like Euclid or Archimedes. It never occurred to Sohini to ask herself anything like this as she balanced her pitcher on her head and went to and from her one-roomed home to the steps of the caste-well” (Anand 15).
This passage reminded me of the ending of “The Postmaster.” In both of these texts, philosophy is portrayed as a privilege for those who possess the time and resources to indulge it. Women of low classes like Sohini and Ratan do not have this privilege, and must simply defy these philosophical problems as they carry on their daily routines.