Rohit Kumar's Views

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Book Review: Untouchables (Escape From Indian Caste System)

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Blackcobra’s Posterous

This review is from: Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Escape from India’s Caste System, An International Best Seller (Paperback) I’m Indian but I grew up here in the US and I wanted to learn about the caste system as I was raised Christian and my family does not believe in this backwards tradition. I’ve heard stories about the caste system but I thought this book would give me a better understanding of it’s origins and ideology.

The book is actually very easy to read and you could finish it off in a day or two. The language is easy to understand and it flows very well. The story being told is the author’s translation of his parents recollections during the early 1900’s under the caste system in India. The book starts out well and hooks you immediately. The beginning story of how the author’s father was beaten and treated as less-than-human really helps you to see how cruel the system is. Unfortunately that is really the only part in the book when you are able to see the cruelness of this system. The rest of the book reads more like a narrative. Somewhere in the middle, I started to lose my interest because I was expecting to see more of this cruel injustice but the author started discussing how his parents were walking on the beach, having kids, and traveling back and forth to Mumbai. That didn’t sound like oppression to me. As an Indian, I’ve visited India and I have seen low caste people get treated like garbage and it breaks my heart because, as Americans, we just can’t understand that in this society. I was expecting to understand why they do this in India but I didn’t get that in this book. Actually, the first thing that came to my mind was that the way the author portrayed the caste system wasn’t nearly as bad as what African-American’s had to go through here in the US not so long ago. In reality, I know the caste system in India is far worse and inhuman but the author simply did not portray it as such.

Sure, the author’s parents fought to stand up for what is right and vowed to give their kids a better life but there are countless other people in India who’s story is very different. I was thinking I was going to get some insight into that. It’s great that the author wrote a book about an untouchable who succeeded and rose above the oppression but I think the story would have been so much more effective if we understood more about what the caste system is all about, why people still believe in it, and why India just can’t get rid of it.

Overall, it was a decent read but I didn’t come away with a good understanding of the caste system after reading it. Maybe if you are not Indian, this might be a good starting point but if you are buying this book to understand the Indian caste system, you will be disappointed.

Also, the epilogue which is written by Jadhav’s daughter really didn’t add to the book as it seemed more like she was gloating about her accomplishments. I know she was trying to portray that she, living in America, does not have to deal with the injustices that her grandparents had to but it just didn’t come across as such.


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