Bhikhu leaves for Delhi, the promised land, where caste recriminations are obliterated and where humanity lives in amity and friendliness. It appears that the road to freedom and salvation, for Bhikhu, is larded with hazards which he fails to circumvent and where he comes to know of the futility of all endeavours and he leaves up the task to the future generation. Though defeated, Bhikhu is never vanquished, and his taking the road to Delhi should not be interpreted as unseemly defeatism. It is the genuine angst of an existential hero who spurns everything and seeks penance in self-isolation.
Untouchability has always provoked the intelligent heart of Mulk Raj Anand into action. He finds that legislation as a means of social change does not work in the case of untouchability, since untouchability is deeply rooted in the Indian psyche. Once Anand quoted Gandhiji and said that the ‘‘parliament is a prostitute’.30 Even in ‘Apology for Heroism’ he has said this. A democracy which can not safeguard the economic interests of the outcaste is working under an safeguard the economic interests of the outcaste is working under an illusion. Religion has played its role in exploiting the untouchable. Now there is illusion of ‘‘equality before law’’ and the outcaste has neither the money nor the time to go to a court of law. How can an outcaste are allowed to earn money. That way the ‘have-nots’ would one day sit with the privileged class. The landlord Thakur Singh says :
‘‘ Today they are taking the bread out of our mouths. By breaking the stones with the help of Dhooli Singh, they hope to ingratiate themselves with the Sarkar and earn money so that they can buy the status of the twice-born. Already they are having more money than is good for them. And we have less and less.’’31
The road becomes a social symbol. The Lambardar Dhooli Singh sees the importance of the road :
‘‘Ohe fool, the milk of the village will be borne to the city and more cash will come to the folk. After the journeys I have made to Delhi in that hard jeep motor of Diwan Roop Kishan, I say it is only roads and roads and more roads and electricity – that will bring prosperity.’’32
Anand realizes that untouchability can be removed only by appealing to the hearts of the privileged people who unscrupulously perpetuate it. He understands that untouchability can be abolished only through a literacy of feeling.
In ‘The Road’ we find the caste Hindus ill-treating their outcaste brethren. They are not allowed to come into physical contact with the ‘twice-born’, or permitted to enter the temple for coming into contact with the God of all. Anand also introduces a lecherous and hypocritical priest. In both the novel ‘Untouchable’ and ‘The Road; we come across the ‘‘slapping scene’’. In ‘Untouchable’, it is a highly dramatic situation, the pivot of the novel, but in ‘The Road’ it is a mere contrivance. On the last but one page of the book we come across the slapping incident. The Landlord sends a...