|Mulk Raj Anand|
|Born||(1905-12-12)12 December 1905|
Peshawar, British India (now Pakistan)
|Died||28 September 2004(2004-09-28) (aged 98)|
Mulk Raj Anand (12 December 1905 – 28 September 2004) was an Indian writer in English, notable for his depiction of the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society. One of the pioneers of Indo-Anglian fiction, he, together with R. K. Narayan, Ahmad Ali and Raja Rao, was one of the first India-based writers in English to gain an international readership. Anand is admired for his novels and short stories, which have acquired the status of being classic works of modern Indian English literature, noted for their perceptive insight into the lives of the oppressed and their analyses of impoverishment, exploitation and misfortune. He is also notable for being among the first writers to incorporate Punjabi and Hindustani idioms into English and was a recipient of the civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan.
Early life and education
Born in Peshawar, Anand studied at Khalsa College, Amritsar, graduating with honours in 1924, before moving to England, where, while working in a restaurant because of poverty, he attended University College London as an undergraduate and later Cambridge University, earning a PhD in Philosophy in 1928, his dissertation being "Bertrand Russell and the English empiricists." During this time he forged friendships with members of the Bloomsbury Group. He spent some time in Geneva, lecturing at the League of Nations' School of intellectual corporation.
Anand met an English actress, Kathleen Gelder, whom he married in 1939. They had a daughter, Sushila. In 1948, they divorced.
Anand's literary career was launched by family tragedy, instigated by the rigidity of the caste system. His first prose essay was a response to the suicide of an aunt, who had been excommunicated by her family for sharing a meal with a Muslim woman. His first main novel, Untouchable, published in 1935, was a chilling expose of the day-to-day life of a member of India's untouchable caste. It is the story of a single day in the life of Bakha, a toilet-cleaner, who accidentally bumps into a member of a higher caste.
Bakha searches for salve to the tragedy of the destiny into which he was born, talking with a Christian missionary, listening to a speech about untouchability by Mahatma Gandhi and a subsequent conversation by two educated Indians, but by the end of the book Anand suggests that it is technology, in the form of the newly introduced flush toilet that may be his savior by eliminating the need for a caste of toilet cleaners.
This simple book, which captured the puissance of the Punjabi and Hindi idiom in English was widely acclaimed and Anand won the reputation of being India's Charles Dickens. The introduction was written by his friend, E. M. Forster, whom he met while working on T. S. Eliot's magazine Criterion. Forster writes: "Avoiding rhetoric and circumlocution, it has gone straight to the heart of its subject and purified it."
Inevitably, Anand, who in the 1930s and '40s spent half his time in London and half in India, was drawn to the Indian independence movement. During his time in London, he wrote propaganda on behalf of the Indian cause alongside India's future Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon, while trying to make a living as a novelist and journalist. At the same time, he also supported freedom elsewhere around the globe and even travelled to Spain to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, even though his role in the conflict was more journalistic than military. He spent World War II working as a scriptwriter for the BBC in London, where he became a friend of George Orwell. Orwell penned a favourable review of Anand's 1942 novel The Sword and the Sickle and remarked that "although Mr. Anand's novel would still be interesting on its own merits if it had been written by an Englishman, it is impossible to read it without remembering every few pages that is also a cultural curiosity," adding that the growth "of an English-language Indian literature is a strange phenomenon". He was also a friend of Picasso and had Picasso paintings in his collection.
Anand returned to India in 1946, and continued with his prodigious literary output there. His work includes poetry and essays on a wide range of subjects, as well as autobiographies, novels and short stories. Prominent among his novels are The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1939), The Sword and the Sickle (1942), all written in England, and Coolie (1936), The Private Life of an Indian Prince (1953), perhaps the most important of his works written in India. He also founded a literary magazine, Marg, and taught in various universities. During the 1970s, he worked with the International Progress Organization (IPO) on the issue of cultural self-comprehension of nations. His contribution to the conference of the IPO in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1974 had a special influence on debates that later became known under the phrase of "Dialogue Among Civilizations". Anand also delivered a series of lectures on eminent Indians including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, commemorating their achievements and significance and paying special attention to their distinct brands of humanism.
His 1953 novel The Private Life of an Indian Prince was more autobiographical in nature. In 1950 Anand embarked on a project to write a seven-part autobiography, beginning in 1951 with Seven Summers. One part, Morning Face (1968), won him the Sahitya Akademi Award. Like much of his later work, it contains elements of his spiritual journey as he struggles to attain a higher sense of self-awareness.
Anand, who was associated with Communism, used his novels to make broad attacks on various elements of India's social structure and on British rule in India; they are considered important for their social statement.
Anand married Shirin Vajifdar, a classical dancer.
Anand died of pneumonia in Pune on 28 September 2004 at the age of 98.
- ^"Very English, more Indian". The Indian Express. 29 September 2004. ("...it can be said that they have taken over from British writers like E. M. Forster & Edward Thompson the task of interpreting modern India to itself & the world"), The Oxford History of India, Vincent A. Smith (3rd edition, ed. Percival Spear), 1967, p. 838.
- ^Ranjit Hoskote (29 September 2004). "The last of Indian English fiction's grand troika: Encyclopaedia of arts". The Hindu.
- ^ abc"Mulk Raj Anand Profile", iloveindia.com.
- ^"Padma Awards"(PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- ^William Walsh, Indian Literature in English, Longman Group Limited (1990), p. 63
- ^"Mulk Raj Anand". The Daily Telegraph. 29 September 2004. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
- ^C. J. George, Mulk Raj Anand, His Art and Concerns: A Study of His Non-autobiographical Novels, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 1994.
- ^Shailaja B. Wadikar, "Silent Suffering and Agony in Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable", in Amar Nath Prasad and Rajiv K. Malik, Indian English Poetry and Fiction: Critical Elucidations, Volume 1, New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2007, p. 144–155.
- ^"Mulk Raj Anand", Penguin India.
- ^Cowasjee, Saros. So Many Freedoms: A Study of the Major Fiction of Mulk Raj Anand, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1977.
- ^Orwell, George. The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell – My Country Right or Left 1940–1943, London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1968, pp. 216–220.
- ^Sahitya Akademi Award recipients in EnglishArchived 13 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^Berry, Margaret (1968–1969). "'Purpose' in Mulk Raj Anand's Fiction". Mahfil. Michigan State University, Asian Studies Center. 5 (1/2 1968-1969): 85–90. JSTOR 40874218.
- ^ abJai Kumar; Haresh Pandya (29 September 2004). "Mulk Raj Anand (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
- ^B. R. Agrawal Mulk Raj Anand -- 2006 8126905867 Page 149 "His novel, The Road (1961) also deals with the theme of untouchability. Bhikhu is none but Bakha of Untouchable. He is a poor road worker and with his people works to build a road to solve the problems of transportation. "
- Marg Publications
- Obituary from rediff.com
- Mulk Raj Anand, "The Search for National Identity in India", in: Hans Köchler (ed.), Cultural Self-comprehension of Nations. Tübingen (Germany): Erdmann, 1978, pp. 73–98.
- Talat Ahmed, "Mulk Raj Anand: novelist and fighter", in International Socialism, Issue 105, 9 January 2005.
- Mulk Raj Anand: A Creator with Social ConcernFrontline, Volume 21, Issue 21, 9–22 October 2004.
- Charlotte Nunes, "Scholar explores work and career of writer Mulk Raj Anand", Cultural Compass. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Sahitya Akademi fellows
|Ananda Coomaraswamy Fellowship|
What purpose does Sohini’s assault serve in Untouchable? Why did Anand think it important to include her assault in the novel?
Sohini’s assault, an event that draws on the themes of "class struggle," "the untouchable’s burden," and "cyclical oppression," serves two major purposes. First, it shows how vulnerable untouchables, particularly female untouchables, are in India. The restrictions placed upon and the prejudices against them make them easy victims of crime and violence. As we see time and time again in the novel no one believes the word of an untouchable. Unfairly characterized as liars and thieves, they hold no sway in society or in the courts. Because of this, it is futile for Sohini to lodge a public complaint against her assaulter. No one would believe her over a priest. It is also futile for her brother to seek revenge for her. Avenging Sohini would most likely mean Bakha’s imprisonment and/or death. Pundit Kali Nath and other caste men are aware of this, and take advantage of the unjust system.
The second reason Anand included Sohini’s assault in the novel is because it grounds the novel in reality. The reality is that during the time Anand wrote Untouchable and in present-day India, untouchables are victims of numerous violent crimes, including rape. In historical, realistic novels it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the connections between the fictional stories the author crafts and the real events that inspire those stories. Sohini’s assault is an attempt to prevent a myopic interpretation of Untouchable and the stories contained in its pages.
Whiteness, in the form of the British and other Europeans, has an elevated status in Untouchable’s India. Why is whiteness so highly regarded? What are some examples of white supremacy in the novel?
By colonizing India, Great Britain established itself as the top dog on the Indian Subcontinent. When tides of British immigrated to India for various pursuits, including missionary work, they brought with them British and European culture, goods, machines, and ideals. These ideals hoisted up the British way of life as correct and modern while the Indian way was put down as wrong and backward. In this way, England’s colonization of India was not purely economical and political—it was a type of cultural imperialism as well. And while Lakha’s generation are resentful of the British, most likely because they can remember a time before colonization, Bakha’s generation idolize them.
Examples of white supremacy in the novel occur at two levels—the systematic and the personal. The two levels are linked and impact one another, but the former is primarily about governments and courts, while the latter is about the individual. An example of systematic white supremacy is the story of the solar topee’s fabled owner. In the story the Tommie kills a sepoy, another human being, but “since he was a white man [he] could never be put behind the bars” of barracks holding cell (Anand 194). Because he was essentially free while he waited for his day in court, the man was able to flee and escaped his punishment. This is one example of the different laws governing white people on the Indian Subcontinent.
An example of white supremacy at the individual level is Bakha’s reaction to the anger of Mary Hutchinson, the wife of the Salvation Army chief. For him, the few words of anger “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” (Anand 260). Even though his altercation with the touched man tore at Bakha’s pride and soul, “the anger of a white person mattered more.” Bakha says it himself:
The mem-sahib (Mary) 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.
For Bakha, the regard of the white woman is more important than that of his fellow brown Indians. This is a prime example of white supremacy.
In Untouchable Bakha is constantly daydreaming and falling into trance-like states. What role do his dreams and trances play in the novel?
Bakha’s dreams and trances are the principal way he escapes mentally from the realities of his life. The dreams he has when he takes a nap while begging for food are particularly escapist. He sees himself in a classroom, achieving his dream of learning how to read. He also witnesses himself leaving Bulashah via a freight station wearing a solar topee (Anand 133). Both of these scenarios are ones he hopes for but are at present beyond his reach. And so they occur only in his dreams.
Though a serious and at times tragic work, Untouchable is also known for its comedy. Analyze several instances Anand uses comedy in the novel.
Comedy in Untouchable comes from two major sources—the violent language used by some of the novel’s characters and the hockey player Charat Singh. Many of the insults directed at Bakha, his family, and his friends are transliterated Punjabi and Hindu idioms. All of them are deeply offensive, but some of them, such as “cockeyed son of a bow-legged scorpion,” are hilarious in their creativity. The seriousness and anger with which the users of the insults hurl them at their victims add to the hilarity. Sohini’s brush with Gulabo at the well comes to mind. Even Bakha’s sister laughs at the woman’s passionate, heartfelt cussing.
Charat Singh and his “chronic piles” are another source of mirth in the book. Infamous in the colony for his frequent cases of diarrhea, Singh is an example of the bathroom humor typical to Untouchable. Later on the in novel his recommendation that Bakha should “blow off” his work is as funny as it is paradoxical considering he shouted at Bakha earlier in the day for neglecting his sweeping duties. Part of Charat Singh’s comedic flair is his unpredictability. One moment he yells at Bakha, the next he makes jokes and gives him gifts. You never know what to expect.
The inclusion of Mahatma Gandhi helps place Untouchable in a particular temporal and physical setting. His speech, though largely incomprehensible to Bakha, contains a plethora of political and social commentary on India. Analyze Gandhi’s speech. What are the points he is trying to articulate?
Gandhi has three main points in his speech. He first addresses the hypocrisy of Indian society as a whole. He points out that while India is fighting for independence from Britain, India herself has stripped the freedoms of “millions of human beings without feeling the slightest remorse for [its] inequity” (Anand 283). By millions of human beings he of course means the untouchables. Gandhi’s second point is his condemnation of untouchability. He believes it to be Hinduism’s greatest blot and behooves his audience to no longer acknowledge it. This point is the easiest to understand given the content and overall message of Untouchable. The last point of the Mahatma is that untouchables are not only blameless victims. In his opinion, they too must change their habits in order to be accepted.