This was my first novel by the legendary Mulk Raj Anand.As the title suggests, the story revolves around the untouchable or the Harijan community of India and is set in the backdrop of British India.The author paints a very humane and poignant picture of a jamedar by the name of Bakha, and the discrimination he faces on account of his lower caste status.The story decribes a single day in the life of Bakha and all the trials and tribulations he has to overcome as he goes about his work of cleaning the latrines and sweeping the streets. While during the first half of the day he only receives a barrage of abuses and inhuman treatment, the latter half of the day actually brings a glimmer of hope as Bakha is confronted with three choices that can improve his life.
Reading about Untouchability in history books is one thing; reading this novel quite another. The story is eye-opening and leaves one feeling deeply sympathetic to the plight of harijans and at the same time indignant at the inhuman behaviour of their perpetrators.I guess the most shameful incident in the book is when someone accidently touches Bakha in a busy street; he receives abuses and a beating and then for the remaining way, he has to warn others by shouting ”posh, posh Sweeper coming”.
Reading this novel has left me with the impression that Mulk Raj Anand could be the Premchand of English literature.Though the story lacks a plot, a lot of attention is given to detail.Read this if you are a fan of Premchand or if you have a soft corner for social issues.