Caste is something that is unique to the Indian subcontinent, the concept of caste is very old. With caste comes the concept of untouchability. Even though the caste system is recognized to be a social evil, it is very much present in our society. Here are a few books that will help you understand the concept better.
Deliverance by Premchand
This is not exactly a book but a short story written by Premchand in 1931. Premchand is regarded as a master of social realism. This story can be found in The World of Premchand translated by David Rubin. The story presents the thoughtless and tragic exploitation of Dukhi Chamar by a Brahmin from whom he needs a favor. This will give ou a fair idea about the concept of caste.
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
The book is a mishmash of fact and fiction. The book presents a day in the life of a Dalit manual scavenger Bakha. Bakha bitterly ruminates on his lot in often florid language. The novel ends famously with Bakha attending a meeting at which Gandhi appears.
Samskara by U.R. Ananthamurthy
Samskara is a classic from one of the most acclaimed Kannada writers. When a disreputable man in a close-knit Brahmin village dies, a crisis brews around the disposal of his dead body and the conduct of the last rites. Though he wasn’t excommunicated for his blighted lifestyle, he finds no one willing to accord him dignity in death. Matters are made worse when, in a fit of despair, his concubine offers her gold jewelry to anyone humane enough to embrace the duty. Reluctant to be seen as greedy, people still hesitate, leaving it all up to the village guru to bring about a resolution. Samskara was translated into English by the renowned poet A. K. Ramanujan. The book was also adapted into a movie in 1970.
Seasons of the Palm by Perumal Murugan
Seasons of the palm written in Tamil presents the life of a goat-herding Dalit boy who works for a non-Dalit family a little higher than him in caste. It is in equal parts tender and harrowing and has been wonderfully translated by V. Geetha. The boy’s relationship to this family as well as the goats he herds is detailed with great insight.
If you want to know more about Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand, click here.