1 CASTE LAWS Jotirao Phule -P. K. Satapathy 1. Introduction Jotirao Phule is now regarded as a major social reformer of 19th century Maharashtra. However, during his lifetime, he was often accused of fermenting hatred between the nonbrahmins with his far-fetched interpretation of Indian history and the ancient texts. His critics made fun of his lack of command over grammar and philosophy. Jotirao Phule’s acrimonious criticism of the Brahmins, for obvious reasons, did not win him many friends in upper sections of society or administration. But it certainly marked the beginning of a challenge to the upper caste domination in society.
In this lesson, however, we shall focus on the extract ‘Caste Laws’ and try to understand the thrust of Phule’s social reforms agenda. We shall discuss the concepts Phule deploys in his arguments and try to appreciate the alternative point of view that he brings to bear upon the caste system. We all know that the caste system in India (often Jati in most of North India) has existed for ages. It exists even now though not in as acute a form in cities as in villages. The rigidity and practice of caste may vary from state to state and region to region. But the reality of the caste system is undeniable.
A look at the matrimonial column of any leading newspaper will reinforce these points. The recent issue of reservation for OBC’s in higher education clearly demonstrated that despite our claim to modernity, development and our aspiration to play a leadership role in the global arena, we have failed to free our society from the obnoxious practice of caste. Without going into the merits of the issue of reservation we can safely say that there is a need to examine the issue of caste and, if possible, try to reform our society even more, so that all men are treated with dignity and equality.
Let us now move on and examine Phule’s ‘Caste Laws’. 2. Caste Laws It has already been pointed out that the present essay, ‘Caste Laws” is an extract from the preface to the book ‘Slavery’ published in 1873. This book (Gulamgiri) remains Jotirao Phule’s most influential publication till date. The title itself suggests Phule’s approach to the subject of Caste. Phule considered caste and caste laws a form of slavery. Interestingly the sub-title of the book is “In the civilized British Govt under the Cloak of Brahminism”. Further the page of dedication in the original book reads:
Dedicated to the good people of the United States as token of admiration for their sublime disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion in the cause of Negro slavery and with an earnest desire, that my countrymen may take their noble example as their guide in the emancipation of their Sudra Brethren from the trammels of Brahmin thralldom. 2. 1 The subtitle and the dedication make two very important points: a. Phule considered caste as a form of slavery perpetuated by the Brahmins and that it flourished even under the British Govt. espite its claim to a civilized government. b. The emancipation of the Sudra’s and Ati Sudra can only come about by a social movement and by the people themselves. Consequently there was a need to awaken the people against the social domination of the Brahmins. Further, this particular essay begins with three quotations which reinforce and add to the points emphasized in the title and the dedication. The first quotation, from Homer, emphasizes the dehumanizing aspect of slavery. Nothing can be worse than slavery because it robs a man of his virtue and dignity.
The second quotation draws our attention to the fact that education in India, from time immemorial has been used not to raise the status of the people, but to ‘over-educate’ a few so that the rest are at the mercy of the learned few. The Brahmins perfected this practice by denying education to the lower castes as well as women. And the British administration did no better by providing education only to a few so that they could rely on these few to exploit and suppress the majority, thus continuing with the practice of Brahminism under the guise of civilized governance.
You may do well to recall the sub-title of the Book which makes a reference to the situation. The third quotation, again from a British author, draws our attention to the ill effects of Brahminical domination and the contradictions within this system. While the Brahmins boast of vast knowledge, they jealously, perpetuate superstitious practices which degrade human dignity. Further the author suggests that only by cutting down the brahminical domination to size the nation can hope to move forward. Why do you think Jyoti Rao Phule begins the essay with these quotations?
Well to begin with quotations are used to support and reinforce arguments put forward by the author. What is interesting is that all the three quotations are from foreign authors. The author here perhaps wants to present the readers with an outside objective view of Brahminsm before he presents his own critique. The first quotation sets the agenda that caste is like slavery which robs a man of his essential dignity. The next two quotations set the tone and tenor of the critique which is sharp and pointed.
It holds Brahminism responsible for the arrest of development and suggests that by getting rid of Brahminism progress for the common man can be ensured. 2. 2 The Essay Phule’s Caste Laws may be split up into three parts: a. b. c. The first part of the essay presented in the first paragraph places Brahminism in its historical context. The second part of the essay (Paragraphs 2,3 and 4) presents the consolidation of Brahminism through the constitution of Caste and arrogating to themselves unimaginable powers and privileges.
The third part comprising paragraph 5,6,7 and 8 analyses the continued domination of the Brahmins and the failure of the Government to gets rid of the obnoxious practice of caste. It also suggests ways of giving Sudras their rightful due in the country. 2. 2. (i) Let us examine the historical context presented by Phule in the first part of the essay. The main arguments presented in this section are: 2 a. b. c. d. e. f. The Brahmins are descendants of Aryan invaders who displaced and subjugated the original inhabitants of India, after along and protracted battle.
The Brahmins retain the temperament of the Aryans who were arrogant, manipulative and full of high notion of themselves as evidenced in the titles that they conferred on themselves. The Aryans hated the aborigines because of the stiff resistance they offered. This is evident in the terms they used (Chandala, Sudra, Mahar) for the aborigines. The struggle is chronicled in the Brahmin myths and legends in such a way as to portray the aborigines in very poor light (as cruel, unjust, ugly, etc). For example in the war between the Devas and Daityas, the Daitya are presented as strong but dim witted.
Rakshas’s are portrayed as evil in the Brahmin literature but the term Rakshas denotes protection of the land. Thus the exaggerated accounts of the Rakshas’s are only an indicator of the intensity of their hatred. After subjugating the aborigines, the Aryan subjected them to unimaginable cruelties. This has a parallel in the modern times in the subjugation of the American Indians. The cruelties displayed by Parasurama, a Brahmin God, hardly qualifies him as a god. He looks more like a fiend. Now if we look back at this section we will observe that Phule creates an alternate image of the past.
This section can hardly qualify as history but then that is to miss the entire point. His critics have also done the same. They accused him of historical inaccuracies. Phule was acutely conscious of the fact that it was imperative to challenge the Brahmin view of the past and the Brahmin ideology to break their dominance. Hence he has tried to interpret the past in terms of a Sudra perspective. His language is emotional and sharp. He challenges the hierarchies of good and evil constructed around the idea of Devas and Daitya’s.
He also tries to pitch Brahmins against every one else by subsuming all other castes under a broad rubric of “Kshetrias”. He is also able to present an alternate view of the Devas by presenting Parasuram as a fiend. His argument is centered around the idea that Aryans were essentially cruel and revengeful and blood thirsty. Thus we have a God who was so blood thirsty for revenge that he wiped out the entire Kshetria race several times over. On the other hand he presents the aborigines as brave and simple people who were victims of unjust and cruel invaders. . 2(ii) In the second part of the essay Phule discuses the methods used by the Brahmins to consolidate their victory over the aborigines and to arrogate all powers and privileges to themselves. The main argument prescribed in this section are: a. b. c. The deep cunning of the Brahmins is evident in the Institution of Caste. Through this institution, the Brahmins cornered all privileges and the Sudra’s and Ati-Sudras were denied even the basic human rights. The Sudra under Brahminism was reduced to the status of an animal.
His life was not worth more than a cat a frog or a dog etc. For instance if a Brahmin kills any of these animals or a Sudra he can be absolved of his sin by performing a fasting penance. On the other hand if a Sudra killed a Brahmin he had to pay for it with his life. The Brahmin laws and ordinances embodied in “Manava Dharma Shastra” exemplifies the cunning with which the Brahmins reduced the others to slavery. The ‘Manava Dharma Shastra’ is full of examples of the cunning with which the Brahmins established their own superiority over the Sudras and others. 3 d.
This system of slavery was so deep rooted and so rigid that it continued unchallenged into the time of the Peshwas. This was achieved by duping the minds of the people and keeping them ignorant. 2. 2(iii) The third section (Para 5,6,7,8) brings us up to date with the prevailing situation during Phule’s times. Phule examines the situation which prevailed during his times and points to a possible solution to the problem. The main arguments presented in the section are: a The proliferation of western ideas and civilization has certainly weakened the Brahmin dominance.
Though the Brahmins of Phule’s time did not have the same authority as the Brahmins under the Peshwa, they still refused to discard the erroneous notions of their own superiority. And as long as these notions continue, the Sudra will continue to suffer and India will never achieve greatness or prosperity. b. The Government is partly responsible for the crisis. The government has, for its own interests, focused its time and resources on higher education and has done precious little for the education of the masses.
Ironically the greater, part of revenues of the ‘India Empire’ comes from the working classes whereas the higher and richer classes contribute little but corner the maximum benefits. This attitude of the Government is reflected in the composition of the civil services as well. All the higher offices in the Government have become the monopoly of the Brahmins. The welfare of the ‘Ryot’ is only possible if this monopoly is broken and the Government allowed a fair representation to the other castes in the civil service. However it is important to ensure that the ‘Ryot’ has a fair chance by making good education available to the common masses.
The Government must pay more attention to the education of masses because higher education can take care of itself. It will be easy to create a body of men from the common masses, trained and well qualified and with better ‘morals’ and ‘manners’ to man the Government. Finally, it is the duty of every Sudra who has had the benefit of education to work for the upliftment of his fellow Sudra’s. They should endeavour to present the true picture of the status of Sudra’s before the Government and try to emancipate themselves from the dominance of the Brahmins.
Further there should be schools in every village for the Sudras manned by Sudra teachers and not Brahmins. It is only by emancipating the Sudra that the country can hope to progress and prosper because Sudra’s are the ‘life and sinews’ of the country. c. d. e. 3. Summing up This essay ‘Caste Laws’, as you know is taken from the preface to his book Gulamgiri. The essay is intended to make people aware of the debilitating effect of the caste system on society. The book was meant to raise awareness amongst the masses and galvanize them to work against the continued existence of caste laws.
Consequently the tone and tenor of the essay is charged and impassioned. A rational style was not appropriate for his purposes. A high-pitched style, as we find in this essay, often works well to galvanize people to action. The second thing that Phule needed was a powerful image to bring out the suffering of the people under the caste system. Hence he compares the caste system to slavery. Slavery, as we all know is an extremely inhuman system. A slave is stripped off all dignity and humanity. By equating slavery with the suffering of the Sudra’s,,.
Phule sends out a very powerful message. At the same time Phule was aware that it was much more difficult to free people of 4 mental slavery than physical slavery. The Sudra’s were kept ignorant by denying them education. They had come to believe what was told to them by the Brahmins. And the Brahmins, predictably told them of a divine system which had ordained that the Brahmins were God’s favorites and that the Sudra’s duty was to serve the Brahmins. Such a system of beliefs could only be countered by providing an alternate picture of the past.
Thus Phule writes an alternate account of the past and tries to overturn the Daivya/Daitya hierarchy. He tries to show that neither the Brahmins were Devas nor the Sudras were Daityas. He tries to prove that these Brahmin stories are not only far fetched but also a proof of their cunning. The Brahmin managed to convince the Sudra that he was inferior because the Sudra was uneducated. Hence it is only through education that the Sudra can see through the cunning of the Brahmins. But the Sudra must not be educated by the Brahmins because the Brahmins have not been inclined to discard the otions of their own superiority. The Sudra’s must be taught by the Sudra’s so that he is able to recognize himself as an equal of the Brahmin. However this is only possible if the government changed its attitude towards the education of the masses. Instead of spending time and resources on higher education which benefits the Brahmins, the Government must spend time and resources on the education of the masses. If the masses are educated then society will be free of the repugnant caste laws and there will be more harmony and peace in society.
It is only then that the country can hope to progress and prosper. 5 2 JOOTHAN Omprakash Valmiki -P. K. Satapathy 1. Introduction Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan is an autobiographical account of his growing up years as an untouchable in a village in UttarPradesh in the newly independent India of the 1950’s. Joothan, as I hope you all know, literally means left overs from a meal. In another sense it also means polluted or unfit for consumption by another person. Yet for centuries, the Dalits have been forced, under various circumstances, to eat ‘Joothan’ for their subsistence.
Thus the title of the book Joothan conveys the pain and humiliation faced by the author and his community, which has remained at the bottom of the social ladder for centuries. The community has been treated like ‘Joothan’, to be used and thrown away in the dustbins by the upper castes. Valmiki’s account of his early life is an account of the heroic struggle by a dalit boy from the sweeper caste (Bhangi, chuhra) against impossible odds to get an education. Omprakash Valmiki is an important figure in the Dalit movement in India. His own struggle made him realize that the condition of the Dalits can only hange through revolutionary transformation of society and the human consciousness. Under the influence of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Valmiki and other Dalit writers have tried to build up a critical Dalit consciousness in their writings that allows for pride, self respect and a vision of the future. Valmiki and others felt the need for a separate Dalit consciousness or ‘Dalit Chetna’ because Indian literature, more or less, had ignored the Dalit voice. Often the Dalits were portrayed as villains of an unjust social system in need of saviours and the sympathy of the higher castes.
Even a writer like Premchand, felt Valmiki and others, had failed the Dalits. Through Premchand is extremely sympathetic to the Dalits, he failed to give them a voice or agency. The Dalits in his stories, as you must have noticed in Deliverence suffer but hardly ever protest. In other words Valmiki and others felt that even Premchand lacked the Dalit consciousness. His story Kafan on the other hand is considered as anti- Dalit because the Dalits in the story are presented as lazy and drunk. It is in this context that the contribution of Valimiki and other Dalit writers assumes importance. . 1. Dalit Chetna: What then is this ‘Dalit Chetna’? Valimiki, in his book Dalit Sahitya Ka Saundarya Shastra defines Dalit as people deprived of human rights on a social level. Thus their chetna or consciousness is ‘Dalit Chetna’. ‘Dalit Chetna’ is a revolutionary mentality connected with struggle. It strives to make the Dalits conscious of their ‘Dalit condition’, which is a byproduct of an oppressive caste order. This emancipatory ideology is rooted in Ambedkarite thought. Some of the key features of `Dalit Chetna` are: i) ii) It is based on the welcoming vision of Dr.
B. R. Ambedkar on the question of freedom and independence. It rejects caste system, casteism, communalism and all hierarchies of language and privilege. 6 iii) iv) It rejects Brahminism, feudalism and all notions of supremacy. It rejects traditional theories of aesthetics as elitist and motivated. Consequently Dalit critics as well as writers have focused their attention on devoting an alternative aesthetics of Dalit literature. And quite appropriately they begin by examining the location and socio-political stance of the existing literature in relation to Dalits.
The focus is on writing that includes Dalit characters, description of Dalit life and experience so that the Dalit is accorded a subject position. In other words the attempt is to have the Dalit writing rather than being written about. 1. 2 The Use of Autobiography One of the objectives of this book (The Individual and Society) is to introduce you to various kinds of writings dealing with, roughly, the same issue. In this section the issue is Caste/Class. The idea, obviously, is to examine the way language and the choice of the genre shapes the presentation as well as the construction of meaning in different kinds of writing.
The first text in this section is a polemical essay by Jotirao Phule. The second text is a short story by Premchand. While Phule’s essay tries to arouse the consciousness of the dalit by presenting rational arguments against the caste system, Premchand presents the pitiable condition of Dukhi, a Dalit, under an unjust and heartless caste order through the use of irony. Both the texts present a critique of the oppressive caste system in different ways. Valmiki, on the other hand, uses autobiography to make the same point. Valmiki’s choice of genre is quite deliberate.
But why the autobiography? Autobiography, as you know, is a conscious literary genre that deals with the varied dimensions of personality of the subject. The author, in this form, is able to convey a sense of not just his whole life but also a sense of what it was like to have lived it at several stages. In other words, the author is able to present a lived experience from his own point of view. He is able to combine biographical facts and experiences from his point of view and at the same time is ‘true to life’ as well. If you recall our discussion of Dalit Chetna in section 1. , you will recall that one of the major focus of this movement is to present the lived experiences of the Dalit from a Dalit point of view. In other words the focus is to present authentic Dalilt experience from a Dalit subject position. Autobiography then, becomes the most appropriate genre to present Dalit consciousness. 2. Joothan This short extract is taken from the book Joothan by Omprakash Valmiki. Valmiki manages to do three things in this extract: a) b) He gives a brief description of the physical as well as the psychological space occupied by the Chuhras in the village as a matrix of their social existence.
He describes, very briefly, the day to day struggle of the untouchables to arrange two square meals for themselves. At the same time he is able to demonstrate that the economic deprivation of the untouchables is the consequence of the Hindu caste order. 7 c) He chronicles his own struggle to get an education in the village school. His story demonstrates that it is indeed possible for the untouchables, despite the hardships and deprivations, to emancipate themselves by persistent struggle and determination. The first part of this extract, very quickly, paints the sub-human living conditions of the Chuhras in the village.
The Chuhras, Valmiki’s own caste, lived across the pond, which acted as a natural barrier between the upper caste quarters and the untouchables. It demarcates not just the physical space occupied by the upper and the lower castes, but the two different worlds of existence. The Chuhras exist among filth and deprivation. The description of the basti gives us a sense of the utter deprivation faced by the untouchable community. There is an all pervading stink and one could see pigs, dogs and children roaming around in the narrow streets of this basti.
In short the Chuhras lived in a physical and social space devoid of human dignity, obviously as a consequence of the caste system. Thus Valmiki’s early childhood is marked by this utter deprivation and lack of dignity. The social and psychological deprivation is compounded by economic deprivation as well. Though every member of the Valmiki household worked it was difficult for them to arrange for two decent meals in a day. This economic deprivation is also a consequence of the caste order. The Chuhras did all kinds of works for the Tagas (upper caste people) and often without pay because they dare not refuse the Tagas.
Due to their lowly social position they were often abused by the upper castes and made to work for free. They were considered polluted and less than human. Ironically, one could touch animals but not Chuhras. Thus they were regarded as things to be used and abused at the convenience of the upper castes. It is within this sub-human context that Valmiki’s struggle for an education begins. The government schools, though officially open for the untouchables, refused admission to them. It was a generous Sevak Ram Masihi, a Christian, who took Valmiki into his open air school.
But after a tiff with Sevak Ram, Valmiki’s father took him to the Basic Primary school. After a prolonged period of begging and cajoling, Master Har Phool Singh allowed Valmiki into the school. It is important to remember that all this was happening eight years after India became independent. The practice of untouchability was very much a feature of this school. The untouchables, there were two more of them in Valmimi’s class, were made to sit away from the others. What is heartening though is that the three untouchable children, though from different castes, had a bond of solidarity.
Despite the humiliation by fellow students as well as the teachers the three of them persisted and continued in the school. The experience at the school, described in these passages, highlight the cruelty and heartlessness of the teachers and fellow students. It got worse with the new Headmaster Kaliram. They were openly abused in the classroom by the teacher and often beaten up as well. Valmiki takes the opportunity to highlight the fact that the Brahmin teacher in their school used swear words on a regular basis.
This is a very effective reply to the critics who frowned upon the use of swear words in Valmiki’s stories. He has tried to point out that when swear words are used in real life by people who are supposed to know Brahma (Brahmins) then it is legitimate to portray that reality in creative writing as a true depiction of lived experience. The experience at the school leaves a lasting impression on the young Valmiki. For instance the image of the guru (teacher) that Valmiki would remember throughout his life is that of a man who would swear about his mother and sister and who would sexually abuse young boys. 8
However the turning point for him as well as his father was an especially humiliating experience forced upon the young Valmiki by the Headmaster Kaliram who seems to be a rabid casteist. He orders the frail boy to sweep the school compound day after day. Valmiki suffered this indignity for three days. On the fourth day his father discovered him with a broom in his hand sweeping the school compound. In one decisive gesture his father, instead of quietly suffering the indignity, confronts the Headmaster. The courage and fortitude shown by his father is indeed remarkable. Expectedly Valmiki was thrown out of the school.
But his father was not going to give up easily. He promised the Headmaster that Valmiki would indeed study in the same school and that he will ensure that more untouchables would follow Valmiki to the school. With dogged determination Valmiki`s father, with the help of the village Pradhan ‘Chaudhri Saheb’, managed to send him back to school thus ensuring that his own son as well as others are not denied education in the village school because of their caste. 3. Summing Up Joothan, a self conscious Dalit literary text, makes a powerful statement against the oppressive caste system still prevalent in most parts of India.
Valmiki`s use of autobiography helps him to occupy a vantage subject position from which he presents a Dalit’s lived experience. The ‘true to life’ format of the autobiography helps him to lay bare the brutality inherent in the caste system, which consequently becomes a powerful argument in favour of dismantling this undesirable form of social organization. At the same time, Valmiki’s own struggles and success, acts as motivation for others to struggle and achieve their goals. Joothan symbolizes the struggle for dignity and human rights and demonstrates that a revolutionary transformation of society is not just desirable but possible as well. 3 DELIVERANCE Prem Chand -P. K. Satapathy 1. Introduction This story, Deliverance (Sadgati in Hindi) deals with caste relationships within an agrarian community. As mentioned in the notes at the end of the story, Sadgati roughly means salvation in Death. In other words a worthy death. We see the working of caste laws in this story which results in the death of Dukhi, the tanner. The preceding essay ‘Caste Laws’ by Jyotirao Phule also dealt with caste laws. But you must have noticed that both the texts are very different from each other. The obvious explanation is that while the first text is an essay, Deliverance is a short story.
The style and structure of the essay is different from that of a story. ‘Caste Laws’ by Phule analyses the emergence of the caste system from within a certain historical context and lays bare the inhuman treatment suffered by the Sudra’s under the system. On the other hand Premchand’s story “Deliverance” presents you the working of this system in the story of Dukhi. While the essay is analytical, the story is literary and imaginary. Premchand presents you with a piece of life, an experience, to convey the terrible sufferings of the lower castes under the caste system.
We shall discuss this issue a little later. Premchand, as you know, wrote a very large number of stories and not all of them deal with the caste system. But most of his stories have a rural setting. Premchand suffered great hardship throughout his life. His own experiences in life certainly shaped him as a writer. He saw the exploitation of the poor under the Zamindari system. He not only experienced poverty but saw great poverty all around him. He experienced the corrosive effect of debt himself. All his life he worked hard to pay off his debts. He saw the suffering of the people under British Colonialism.
Consequently his writing focused on zamindari, debt, poverty, colonialism and communalism. Often critics moaned the fact that there is much misery and death in Premchand’s writing. However, it is not surprising that Premchand chose to write about death and misery. A writer, as connected to the soil as Premchand, could not but write about these issues. Premchand was very clear about the role of the writer in society. The purpose of literature, for Premchand, was not just to delight, but more important to raise awareness about the various social issues at hand and bring in change.
Infact when he chaired the first convention of the Indian Progressive Writers association in 1936, he pointed out that the use of the term ‘Progressive’ was unnecessary. He said that writers were progressive by nature otherwise they wouldn’t be writers in the first place. He went on to elaborate on the social role of the writer and literature in his address. Literature must become the agent of social change. He followed in his personal life and writings what he preached in public. He resigned from his post under the United Province Government and played his part in the anti-colonial struggle.
He was a writer and not a politician. Hence he made his contribution through his writings. His first collection of short stories “Soze-watan” was considered inflammatory and banned and all the copies were confiscated and burned. He was a committed writer and his commitment shows in his writings when he writes about not just colonialism but oppression and suffering in all its hues. ‘Sadgati’ is one such story which captures the poignant death of Dukhi under an oppressive caste system. 2. Deliverance (Sadgati) This story has four sections.
We shall discuss each of these sections separately and at the end sum up our discussion. 10 2. (i) In the first section we are introduced to Dukhi and his wife Jhuriya. Both of them are making preparations to welcome the Brahman. Dukhi is a tanner who in the traditional Hindu social order are untouchables. Their job is to work with hides and remove dead animals. They belong to the lowest strata of the society. Ironically he is named Dukhi(sorrowful) to ward off evil. We see feverish activity in the Dukhi household . Dukhi is sweeping the floor clean and his wife is plastering cow dung on the floor.
Cow dung is believed to clean and purify. Interestingly, the discussion between Dukhi and his wife is centered around making their house fit for the visit of a holy man, the Brahman. We get a glimpse into the social norms prevalent in the village. The caste hierarchies are such that no one would give them even a pot of water if they asked for it. So instead of a cot they decide on making a mat of Mohwa leaves for the Brahman to sit on when he visits. They must also offer the Brahman food as offering but they cannot offer it in their own utensil because it is considered impure.
So they decide to offer food on a leaf once again. Jhuri is advised to buy the offering from the village merchant but not to touch anything because the touch of the untouchable is impure. She is advised to take the help of the gond girl who is a tribal girl. The tribes do not belong to the Hindu fold and consequently escape the rigid caste laws. Dukhi makes a list of offering to be made which seems quite impressive considering the status of Dukhi. Finally he leaves for the Pandit’s house to invite him with a big bundle of grass as a present.
This section not only introduces us to the main characters and the setting, it also in a very subtle way lays bare the tension and hypocrisy present in a rigid, caste based society. While Dukhi is considered an untouchable, whose touch pollutes whatever he touches, his offering and gifts are accepted by the Brahman. Dukhi lives on the margins of this society. He has no rights only obligations and duties. At the same time Dukhi seems to be a willing partner in the perpetuation of this system. He seems willing because he is kept ignorant and he is made to believe that indeed the Brahman is a holy man.
In the earlier essay, ‘Caste Laws’ Jyotirao Phule has pointed out the very same problem. Brahmin’s with their cunning not only cornered all the privileges but also made the other castes believe that they were inferior to the Brahmans. The Brahman’s were supposed to have come out of the mouth of Lord Vishnu whereas the Sudra’s came out of his feet. Hence the Sudra was created to serve the Brahman. The Sudra was not allowed to study the scriptures hence he had to believe what was told to him by the Brahman. The Brahmans, thus, through a combination of myth making and denial of education, kept the Sudra oppressed.
This situation prevails even in the twentieth century India (Sadgati was written in 1931). But Premchand has allowed us a glimpse of the holiness of the Brahman through the eyes of Dukhi. This Brahman seems to be very religious. “You know what a stickler he is about religion and doing things according to the rule”. But he seems to have a terrible temper too. “He flies off the handle very fast”. And when he does get angry he spares no one including his wife and son. He beat up his son so badly that it resulted in a broken hand for his son. Some holiness indeed.! 2(ii) The second section brings us to the house of Pandit Ghasiram.
After a short account of Pandit Ghasiram’s devotion to God and rituals we witness the meeting between Pandit Ghasiram and Dukhi. Pandit Ghasiram on his return from the temple finds Dukhi at his door. Dukhi immediately prostrates himself on the ground. Dukhi on being asked states his purpose for the visit. Dukhi wants the Pandit to visit his house and pick on an auspicious date for his daughter’s betrothal. Pandit Ghasiram sensing an opportunity to get some work done for free immediately sets him off on errands. He orders Dukhi to plaster the floor of his sitting room with cow dung, and 11 hen split the wood and to take out the hay and put it in the barn. Dukhi, conditioned to obey orders of the Brahmans, immediately sets out to work. Unfortunately, Dukhi had nothing since morning and he was terribly hungry. The Brahman was not offering him any food. He decides to smoke a pipe instead. But his own house was a mile away. But Brahmans unlike the low castes and untouchables did not smoke tobacco. Dukhi remembers the lone Gond who stayed in the village. He visits the Gond who offers him both a pipe and the tobacco. But Dukhi needs to light his pipe. He returns to the Pandit’s house and asks for a light.
The Pandit asks his wife to give Dukhi a light. This upsets the Panditayan and she reminds Pandit Ghasiram about the caste laws. The Pandit on the other hand reminds her of the free labour that Dukhi is rendering and goads her to relent. Finally the Panditayan relents and throws a piece of coal at Dukhi. Dukhi smokes his pipe and gets back to work. He works hard at splitting the wood but lacks the experience to do it. The Panditayan feels a little pity for Dukhi because in the act of throwing a piece of coal at Dukhi, she almost synged him. She wonders if they could give Dukhi something to eat.
After some deliberation they decide that feeding Dukhi was not worth the effort. So Dukhi keeps working without a morsel in his stomach. This section focuses on the hardhearted nature of the Brahmin couple, the servile mentality of Dukhi and the exploitative nature of caste system. The Brahmin’s holiness is almost entirely constituted in the meaningless rituals that he follows religiously. Ironically the first part of the ceremony of worship consists of preparing Bhang (an intoxicant) and the reward for the rituals is a steady stream of clients at his doorstep everyday.
The Brahman is in the business of religion and it seems quite lucrative too. The Brahman’s meaningless self-decoration and other rituals have very little to do with God or people. But the Brahman sees it as an investment that generates a fair amount of business. Dukhi, on the other hand, hardly understands anything about these rituals. But his servile mind perceives holiness in, what appears unremarkable to us, the Pandits glorious figure. Phule, in the earlier essay, talked about mental slavery. We see that mental slavery acted out here through the actions of Dukhi.
His mental subjugation is complete, so much so that the sight of the Pandit fills him with reverence. The sandalwood markings on the rotund figure of the Pandit appears godly to Dukhi and he is more than willing to do the Pandit’s bidding. What we see next is a fine example of the cunning, the greed and the hardhearted nature of the Pandit and his wife. When Dukhi pleads with the Pandit to grace his house and pick an auspicious date for his daughter’s wedding, the Pandit immediately seizes the opportunity to exploit Dukhi’s labour. Not only does he exploit Dukhi’s labour he even fails to relate to Dukhi as a human being.
Tired and hungry, Dukhi keeps working but the Pandit does not have the decency to offer him any refreshment. More over his attitude towards Dukhi is inhuman. Dukhi hears the conversation between the Pandit and his wife where the wife’s chides the Pandit for allowing a tanner inside the house. But instead of hurt or anger we see him in agreement with the Panditayan’s arguments. He has no respect for himself. He reasons that the Brahmans are clean and holy and consequently all unclean and impure people including himself must worship and respect the Brahmans.
The extent of Dukhi’s mental slavery becomes very clear in this scene. Though abused and humiliated, he refuses to blame anyone except himself and accepts it as his due. 2(iii) Dukhi sets about the job of splitting the wood after smoking the pipe. In the meanwhile the Gond visits him and tells him of the futility of his efforts. The Gond is sympathetic to Dukhi and enquires if Dukhi has had anything to eat. He also helps in chopping the wood for some time before he gives up. He advises Dukhi to give up the work for which he is not being paid and then he takes his leave.
Dukhi, for a moment, considers quitting the work. But he is unable to 12 summon the courage to do it. He starts shifting the hay from the store to the fodder bin. Tired, hungry and exhausted he falls asleep. In the meanwhile the Pandit after a nice nap comes out and finds Dukhi asleep. Instead of being thankful for the service rendered by Dukhi, he starts belittling him and his caste. He also threatens Dukhi with unpleasant consequences if the work is not completed. Dukhi is shaken. After all if the Pandit refuses to pick an auspicious day then the marriage would be a disaster.
A mix of awe, respect and fear gets hold of Dukhi and he gets into a state of delirium. He works the axe so hard that after sometime his tired and exhausted body gives up. He is dead. The death of Dukhi complicates the story a little. Dukhi dies in a Brahman village,save the Gond. Removing the body of the tanner becomes a problem. The Gond’s subversive activity complicates the issue further. The Gond tells the tanners in their village that if they touched the body of Dukhi they would get into trouble with the police. Consequently the tanners do not pick up Dukhi’s body. Moreover Dukhi wife, daughter and a dozen tanner women go o Pandit Ghasiram’s home to mourn. The scene ends in a stalemate. This section, apart from reinforcing the hard heartedness and cunning of the Pandit and the mental servility of Dukhi, introduces a new theme. The possibility of upsetting the caste hierarchies is presented by the Gond. The Gond is an outsider in the sense that he does not belong to the Hindu fold. Though he also lives on the margins of this society he is not mentally enslaved as the tanner. He is able to see things in their perspective and is able to see through the exploitation and meanness of the so called holy Pandit.
Chikhuri, contrasts the holy Pandit with the colonial administration and finds the latter better. For, as he says, even if the government forced you to work they at least paid for your labour. The prodding’s of Chikhuri forces Dukhi to contemplate quitting Pandit’s work. The Gond had made him aware that Pandit Ghasiram and the caste system was more exploitative than the colonial administration. But Dukhi lacks the courage to rebel against it. Further, Pandit Ghasiram’s threat about not finding an auspicious date for the wedding of the daughter forces Dukhi to abandon all thoughts of rebellion.
On the other hand Dukhi’s pitiable condition evokes no pity in the Pandit’s heart. Dukhi, with ‘stomach pasted to his backbone’, kept axing the wood which was as hard as steel. Even Dukhi’s death does not move the Brahman. It is only an irritant for him. The Gond tries to fan a revolt by asking the tanners to refrain from touching the body. Dukhi’s corpse lies infront of Pandit Ghasiram’s house in a state which is worse than a dead animal. The utter insensitivity of the Brahmins is revealed when we see them more worried about the pollution rather than trying to give the man a decent burial.
This seems even more appalling when we consider the fact that Dukhi died while serving Pandit Ghasiram. The attitude of the Brahman’s is made amply clear by the remark of one old woman who says “why don’t you have this body thrown away? ” Throw away the body of Dukhi as one throws away the carcass of a dead animal. 2(iv) Dukhi’s corpse lies in front of the Brahman’s house as no one would touch it. The tanner women keep up their weeping and lamentations late into the night. The corpse begins to stink. But for Pandit Ghasiram and his wife this is only an irritant.
After an uneasy night Pandit Ghasiram decides to take matter into his own hands. He manages to get a noose tied around the dead man’s feet and drags the corpse to the fields outside the village. After he gets back he takes a bath and performs the purification rites. The abandoned body of Dukhi in the fields becomes food for the scavengers (jackals, kites, dogs and crows). The story ends with an extremely ironic comment, ‘This was the reward of a whole life of devotion, service and faith’. There is poignancy to this short concluding section which makes us acutely aware of the inhumanity of the caste system.
Dukhi, literally, dies a dog’s death. There is a jarring contrast between the weeping and the insensitive, callous attitude of Pandit Ghasiram and his wife. It is 13 difficult to miss the profound irony of the ending. What Dukhi could not achieve in life he manages to do that in his death. Pandit Ghasiram, who considers the touch of Dukhi polluting, is forced to drag the dead body of Dukhi himself. This subversion was possible, of course, due to the effort of Chikhuri, the Gond. But the price was a dog’s death for Dukhi, left in the field to be devoured by scavengers.
Summing Up You must have noticed by now that though Jotirao Phule and Premchand are writing about similar things (caste laws) they are very different from each other. While Jotirao’s essay analyses the caste flaws in terms of origins and practices, Premchand presents an experience through imagination. While Jotirao’s essay appeals to our reason, Premchand story tugs at our emotions. In Deliverance the narrative point of view is that of an observer, who also comments. We also get an insight into the minds of the tanner, Pandit Ghasiram and Chikhuri the Gond.
Premchand thus, allows the reader access to look at the situation from the point of view of various characters. Though the controlling voice is that of the narrator-observer, it helps the reader to understand the actions of the various characters involved. Premchand, in this story, provides a critique of the caste system. He does this by using irony, satire and by setting up contrasting pictures through out the story. For instance Dukhi’s description of Pandit Ghasiram provides a jarring contrast to the description of Pandit Ghasiram by the narrator. Thus we see him as a short, bold roly-poly fellow with a shining skull.
Coupled with the ridiculous rituals he observes so religiously, this description makes him look more like a buffoon that a godly man. By juxtaposing Dukhi’s account of Pandit Ghasiram with that of a disinterested observer, Premchand keeps the reader from sharing Dukhi’s point of view. Premchand constantly uses authorial comments and objective description to influence the readers mind. For instance, Premchand brings out the meanness of the Pandit couple by describing the conversation between them about giving Dukhi a light and later some food. The dialogues between the two reveal the meanness of their characters.
When it is suggested that the tanner be given some food the Pandit considers it ‘entirely outside the behaviour expected of him’. He goes on to say’ You can never fill up these low-caste people with good bread’. The Panditayan responds with, ‘Let’s forget the whole thing… I’m not going to kill myself cooking in weather like this’. Thus ends the proposal for feeding a hungry man who has been working for free at their house since morning. Comments like ‘why don’t you have his body thrown away? ‘ ‘They are all polluted’ alerts the readers to the attitude of the Brahmins towards the lower castes.
Premchand uses a very subtle form of satire to expose the follies of the Brahmin. He does this by contrasting the simple nature of Dukhi against the greed and cunning of the Pandit and his wife. Thus the Brahmins treat the tanners as less than humans they have no qualms in accepting gifts and offering from them. The Pandit and his wife are extremely rigid about caste laws but allow a tanner inside their house to get their work done for free which otherwise would have cost them four annas. Premchand, despite his sympathies for the poor and oppressed, was never considered revolutionary enough for the Dalit cause.
This assessment stems from the fact that though Premchand presents the possibility of subverting the caste system he never moves beyond that possibility. For instance the possibility of disturbing the caste system is prescribed in the story but it remains only a possibility. The Gond and Dukhi share a sympathetic relationship. Chikhuri being a tribal remains outside the influence of the Brahmins but nevertheless shares the same marginal space with Dukhi. Both of them often end up being exploited by the higher castes. But Chikhuri is bold and is willing to stand up against exploitation.
Unlike Dukhi who is 14 enslaved in his mind and body, he does not consider the Brahman any higher than others. Thus he is able to see the meanness in Pandit Ghasiram. He is the one who presents the possibility of upsetting the hierarchy by a) inciting Dukhi to quit working for the Pandit free b) and then prevents the tanners in helping Pandit Ghasiram out of his difficulties (of removing the corpse of Dukhi). Chikhuri manages to upset the system for a while. In an extremely ironic reversal Pandit Ghasiram is forced to dispose off the body of Dukhi, whom he would have never touched in his life.
And what comes as an even greater irony is the fact that Ghasiram disposes the corpse of Dukhi in the fields to be eaten by scavengers, after Dukhi had served him with devotion and faith. Instead of rewarding Dukhi for his services, Pandit Ghasiram has ensured that Dukhi is vilified in death as he was in life. Pandit Ghasiram performs the necessary purification rites and, perhaps resumes his normal life. 15 4 KALLU Ismat Chugtai -P. K. Satapathy Introduction Ismat Chughtai remains one of the most important literary figures of modern India. She was one of the first Muslim women to write novels and short stories.
Tahira Naqvi, a Pakistani critic, coniders Chughtai as one of the four pillars of modern Urdu short story, the other three are S. H. Manto, Krishan Chander and Rajinder Singh Bedi. Apart from writing short stories and novels she also wrote articles, essays, and even film scripts. Ismat Chughtai was born into a middle class Muslim family in 1915. And unlike most of the women, especially muslim women of her time, she had an education, worked at a job, married according to her choice. In short, she led a very unconventional life. She was a rebel not only in life but in death as well.
She was, as per her expressed desires, cremated and not buried. She had begun writing short stories when she was a student at Aligarh Muslim University. But she was published only years later in 1939 and shot into prominence with the publication of ‘Lihaaf’ which dealt with the theme of women’s sexuality. By this time she was a prominent member of the Progressive Writers Association. ‘Lihaaf’ created a storm not just in literary circles but also in the public sphere as well. She was charged with obscenity and tried along with another famous short story writer of the time, Sadat Hasan Manto.
The trial lasted for four years and both Chughtai and Manto were cleared of the charges of obscenity because the judges could not find a single four letter word in their stories. Chughtai was mentored, earlier on, by Rasheed Jahan who she had met at the Progressive Writers Association conference in 1936. Rasheed Jahan, perhaps the first Muslim women writer, was one of the founding members of the Progressive Writers Association. She was largely instrumental in shaping Chughtai’s early literary career. Chughtai, for most part of her working life, lived in Mumbai and worked as the Principal of a girls college.
She met her husband Shahid Latif at Aligarh and married him in 1942. Shahid Latif was deeply associated with the Mumbai film industry and encouraged Chughtai to associate herself with the film industry. Chughtai wrote a number of scripts for films and some of her stories were also made into films. She herself wrote the script and acted in the film ‘Junoon’ (1978). Her story ‘Garam Hawa’ which was made into a film was a part of the new wave cinema and won a lot of acclaim all over the world. But her relationship with the film world was tenuous and full of complexities.
She wrote many stories where she tried to expose the hypocrisy of the film world but was not very successful at that. She was at her best when she wrote about ordinary people and especially women. Consequently much of her writings deal with women’s lives within middle class society and their concerns. Some critics do accuse Chughtai of being unidimensional. But then that was what she was best at. She had a keen eye for detail, and had an intuitive understanding of the concerns of women in the smaller town of Uttar Pradesh. Her writing is marked by understanding and compassion for these women.
She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1975 for her contribution to Urdu literature and she died on 24th Oct 1991. 2. Kallu Kallu is the story of a poor young boy who is sent by his mother to stay with a well-to-do family in the hope that Kallu, with the help of this family, will be able to make something of himself and improve his position in life. But, ironically, Kallu finds himself in very unfavorable 16 circumstances. He is made to work like a servant, exploited (he worked for only two rupees a month), ill treated by this family,especially Mumani. Kallu bears all the indignity and hardship with a smile.
Kallu has no time to play. But Kallu takes a liking for Salima bi, the youngest daughter of Mumani and the feeling seems to be mutual. One day Kallu while playing with Salima bi, asks her, in all innocence, if she would marry him to which Salima bi innocently says yes. Mumani, who is within hearing distance of the conversation goes into a rage and throws a sandal at Kallu which finds Kallu’s nose and he starts bleeding. Kallu’s mother who was visiting her son then, sees a bleeding kallu and creates a furore about it. Mumani throws both mother and son out of the house immediately.
Kallu, like all servants before him, is forgotten very soon. But Kallu returns, years later, to the same town as a young and handsome Mr. Din, the Deputy Collector. Once again the relationship between Kallu, now Kalim Saheb for the family, and his earlier masters is renewed, but on altered terms. Ironically he is accepted back into the family for precisely the same reasons for which he was thrown out in the first place – for expressing his desire to marry Salima bi. The Story illustrates the rigid class hierarchies that govern social intercourse in an Indian society.
The story also hints at the complex relationship between caste and class in our social structures. Kallu, despite his lowly social position, is able to improve his position in society, perhaps due to the fact that he is a ‘Qureshi’, a higher caste among muslims. When Mumani learns of Kallu’s appointment as the Deputy Collector she reacts with incredulity. But she is immediately reminded by the narrator’s mother “Amma” that after all Kallu was a ‘Qureshi’ which was a good caste. Though the Muslims do not have a caste system, the actual ground reality was a little different.
Omprakash Valmiki in his ‘Joothan’ points out that Taga’s, the Muslim equivalent of the Tyagi’s did behave in certain ways like caste hindus. The story, as you must have noticed, has two parts. The first part of the story details the early life of Kallu in the narrator’s house. Kallu is kept busy the entire day running errands for the household. The poor boy ends up doing the work of an adult. The irony of the situation is that Kallu is sent by his mother to the family with the fond hope that Kallu will be able to improve his position in life.
But Kallu ends up as a servant of the household. Though Kallu is the errand boy, he is treated differently by different members of the family. While ‘Amma’, the narrator’s mother, treats Kallu with sympathy, mumani jan is harsh on Kallu and looks down upon him. ‘Amma’ seems to be indulgent towards Kallu. Once Kallu is asked in a lighter vein, who he was going to marry. Kallu, in all innocence, expresses his desire to marry Salima bi, Mumani’s daughter. Mumani’s response to kallu’s innocent answer reflects Mumani’s attitude. She not only abuses Kallu but also boxes his ears as well.
Mumani rejects the idea of Kallu getting married to Salima Bi because of Kallu’s social status. The Second part of the story presents an entirely different situation. In the course of life the social status of Kallu as well as the narrator’s family has altered. Kallu, now, has achieved a higher social status than the narrator’s family. He is the deputy Collector. On the other hand the narrator’s family has witnessed a declining social and economic position. In this altered scenario the family’s response to Kallu’s new social status is also fractured; while ‘Amma’ is happy with Kallu’s rising fortune, Mumani jan is indignant.
Mumani is unable to accept the new Kallu, who has retained his love for Salima Bi. When ‘amma’ reminds Mumani Jan of the ill-treatment she had meted out to Kallu, she is even more indignant. But this indignation is also mixed with guilt and anxiety as well. But Mumani is unable to accept the altered situation because it entails an admission of her guilt. However kallu makes it easy for Mumani jan by restoring the former 17 hierarchy. He pleads with Mumani Jan for Salima bi hand in marriage and addresses her as Dulhan bi, the way he used to address her when he worked in heir house. Once the former hierarchy is restored at least in a symbolic way, Kallu is accepted by Mumani jan and she is addressed as ‘Amma bi’ by Kallu. Thus, in a symbolic shift, Mumani jan is turned from the master ‘Dulhan bi’ to mother (Amma bi). 18 5 BOSOM FRIEND Hira Bansode -P. K. Satapathy Introduction Like all Dalit Literature Dalit poetry constitutes another dissenting collection of voices that try to articulate the silent anguish, pain as well as anger of the Dalits. For them, like most other Dalit writers and thinkers caste is much more real than class.
Consequently their articulation revolves around the experiences which spring from the humiliating caste equations of the Hindu society. Dalit poetry has tried to rework a new aesthetic, different from the mainstream literature, by exploring areas of experience neglected by the mainstream poetic tradition. Dalit poetry marks itself by rejecting values of the mainstream poetic tradition like propriety, balance, restraint and understatement. They often challenge even notions of patriotism. The diction used is often deliberately subversive which challenges middle class notion of linguistic decency.
On the other hand Dalit women poets have primarily focused on women experiences within as well as without. Dalit women’s experience seems to be qualitatively different. As has been often observed Dalit women are like drums, beaten on both the sides. Or one can say that thus they are ‘twice Dalit’— Dalits in the larger social scheme and Dalits within their own community as well. Thus their poetry tends to be more introspective and less given into sloganeering and abuse. It is more mature, sober and larger in its concerns. Much of Dalit women’s poetry is conscious of form, less angry and complaining.
There is even a time of celebration of Dalit identity in their poetry. Hira Bansode is one of the more celebrated and better known Dalit poets. She had managed, with encouragement from her husband and her father- in- law, to acquire higher education and even managed to secure a government job with the Indian Railways. Her poetry, as you must have noticed in this poem, tends to be gentle and understated. Yet with a subtle irony she is able to express the pain and anguish of the Dalit existence which is marked by constant deprivation. Bosom Friend ‘Bosom Friend’ forms a part of a collection of poems called Phiyad (1984).
As the title suggests this poem is about a very good friend, a woman friend, who accepts the poet’s invitation for dinner and visits her for the first time. The first paragraph expresses the poet’s surprise as well as her admiration and gratitude for this friend who seems to have broken through the caste and traditional barriers to reach out to her untouchable friend. This friend, who obviously is from a higher caste, surprises the poet because women, who are actually the worst victims of oppressive traditions, are often the most orthodox defenders of the same traditions.
The poet is overwhelmed by this magnanimous gesture and the courage shown by her friend. Her own small existence is marked by her pocket sized house. “but you came with a mind large as the sky to my pocket size house. ” But the optimism, the expectations raised by this apparent magnanimity of the friend is belied in the second paragraph. The poet is grateful that her friend has reached out to her, bridging the chasm of social norms that has kept them apart till now. The emotional and psychological divide, products of the caste and social divide, are bridged, at least for a moment, between the two friends.
The poet’s gratitude for this gesture from her friend is beautifully 19 captured in the image of Shabari, the tribal woman who, in her devotion to Lord Rama, tasted each of the berries she offered him to ensure that they were indeed sweet. The poet’s love, devotion and gratitude is, perhaps, naive like that of Shabari. But her expectations are shattered the moment she offers food to her friend. The friend smirks at the way the food is arranged and promptly reproaches the poet for her inability to serve food the way upper caste people do. You still don’t know how to serve food
Truly, you folk will never improve This heartless reproach reopens the chasm that was bridged for some time with the friend’s visit. This us and them divide, it seems, has much deeper roots. Identities which are built up on the notions of pure/impure need much more than a visit to be merged into one human identity. The poet now turns inwards with this reproach. The poet’s out-stretched hands, which had touched the sky of freedom, freedom from her caste bondage, find rejection. She feels ashamed. A further reproach from the friend for not serving buttermilk makes her sad and speechless.
The sky, a symbol of hope and freedom, which was within reach a moment ago recedes back. The hurt, almost a betrayal, stirs up memories of loss and deprivation. I was sad, then dumb But the next moment I came back to life. A stone dropped in the water stirs up things on the bottom. The poet wakes up to the reality of her existence which she had forgotten for a moment in a state of heightened expectation, triggered by the visit of this friend. Though she now leads a middle class existence, her past is marked by deprivation and struggle. Dear Friend-you ask about buttermilk what/how can I tell you ?.
An existence marked by much deprivation leaves its mark on the mind and shapes habits of thought which are difficult to shake off. This is something that the friend cannot understand because she is far removed from this experience due to her privileged position in society. There is a slight reproach along with a sense of hurt in the poet’s tone in the third paragraph. You know in my childhood we didn’t even have milk for tea much less yoghurt or buttermilk. The last few lines, in an ironic shift talk about habits of mind. But this line is about the friend who, while pretending to treat the poet as an equal, still, treats her as an unequal.
The friend’s reproach that ‘Truly, you folk will never change’ turns back on her in an ironic reversal. Though she had accepted the poet’s invitation and visited her house, in apparent disregard for caste or tradition, she still carries the baggage of her tradition in her mind. Dear Friend-you have not discarded your tradition Its roots go deep in your mind Though this friend has crossed the physical threshold of caste she still carries it in her mind. She has recreated the emotional and psychological divide once again within the poet’s house.
The ‘you’ in her phrase ‘you folk will never improve’ once again imprisons the poet within a predefined psycho-social space and simultaneously redefines her self in opposition to the poet’s identity. She denies the poet’s essential humanity by formulating her in a fixed 20 communal identity. And all this because, ‘Today the arrangement of food on your plate was not properly ordered’. The poem ends with a couple of theoretical questions. Are you going to tell me what Mistakes I made ? Are you going to tell me my Mistakes ? These question carry within them a reproach as well as a challenge.
These questions also put this visit in its real perspective. Friends visit each other to share, to be together in an emotional and social bond and not to find faults. This friend makes the visit but retains her sense of superiority. The attitude displayed by this friend in symptomatic of a larger problem that simply cannot be resolved by empty gestures like this visit. The chasm of caste that divides people, that sets people up in a hierarchy can only change when we change habits of thought. This divide can only be bridged in a spirit of accommodation and understanding, by accepting alternate realities and alternate identities. 1 THEME: GENDER -Dr. Anil Aneja Introduction Chapters 7-15 of the textbook prescribed in your course, namely, The Individual and Society are clubbed under the heading Gender. The study materials on this section of the book have been prepared with a view to help you better understand some of the key issues, which have been focused upon in the prescribed pieces. History is a witness to the fact that most societies and communities throughout the world over a period of centuries have been patriarchal in nature and have tended to practice the principle of male superiority.
Such a practice has resulted in the constant and prolonged suppression of nearly one-half of the world’s population, the women. Despite the technology age of the 21st century in which we live, tendencies consciously or unconsciously aimed towards the