Gold from the Grave by Annabhau Sathe is in the syllabus for the subject “Translation: Theoretical and Literary Perspectives” under the course BA English Literature triple main (Communicative English with Journalism).
This is the summary and analysis of Gold from the Grave by Annabhau Sathe.
About the Author
Tukaram Bhaurao Sathe, popularly known as Annabhau Sathe was a social reformer, poet, novelist, and writer from Maharashtra. He is also known as the founding father of Dalit Literature as most of his notable works concentrated on the marginalization of the lower caste communities and class consciousness. He has written 35 novels, 15 collections of poems, and 12 screenplays, and 10 ballads in Marathi. Many of them are translated into various languages.
Read more about the author here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annabhau_Sathe
A Note on Dalit Literature
The word ‘Dalit’ means Broken or Scattered, referring to the lower caste people also known as untouchables. Dalit literature is seen differently from traditional literature. It focuses on equality, independence, and the establishment of an oppression-free society. It discusses the rejection and suffering of the Dalits in our community. It opposes capitalism, caste discrimination, and aims to find social justice and freedom.
Read more on Dalit Literature here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalit_literature
Summary of Gold from the Grave by Annabhau Sathe
‘Gold from the Grave’(Smashanatil Sone) by Annabhau Sathe can also be categorized as Dalit Literature.
The protagonist of the story is Bheema, a lower caste man living near the banks of river Warna. He migrated to Bombay in search of work but the city could not offer any work to poor Bheema. He settles down in the suburbs of a jungle. Soon he finds a job in the quarry nearby. However, the quarry closed within six months. Bheema was afraid that his family would have to face poverty and hunger. One day when he was walking home, he passed the graveyard, where only the rich were buried and the lower caste people were not allowed. The thought of death scared him. It was then he saw something sparkle on the ashes. He found a gold ring weighing about twelve grams. “Squeezing the ring in his palm he felt the keen pleasure of discovery.” Bheema thought this was his way to survive and to “keep the wolf at bay” (to earn enough to not starve and fall into debt). He roamed the graveyards to find more gold. He returned home with a gold earring, nose ring, an anklet, and a necklace. He had to shatter and powder the bones to find the gold pieces as the intense heat melted the metal. He would go into the suburb of Bombay and sell the gold to make money. Bheema was happy that he could feed his wife and could buy dates for his loving daughter Nabda. However, soon there were rumors. There were reports that tombs were exhumed and that one dead body of a moneylender’s daughter-in-law was dragged to the river bank from the tomb. This had caused panic in the community. Bheema’s wife told him that it was a disgusting job and that he didn’t have to do this. Bheema had ignored her and left for the night’s adventure. Bheema covered his head with a piece of cloth and draped himself with a cowl(a large hood) of a gunny bag(sack). He took a crowbar under his arm. He hoped to bring back home a saree, a petticoat, a blouse for his wife, and a packet of dates for his daughter. This was Bheema’s wish. The night was dark and had animals howling in the graveyard but it did not scare Bheema. Bheema encountered a pack of jackals digging a grave for the flesh of the dead body. He scared them away with stones and buried the mound to find gold. Soon jackals started attacking him and tore off his gunny bag. He stabbed it one by one with his crowbar and kept digging. He took the gold ring on the corpse’s hand and the earrings too. He wanted to check the mouth for gold but the jaw was shut tight. He used the crowbar and found a gold ring in the mouth. He had pulled out the crowbar with his hands inside the jaw. By then he had heard that the hurling sounds of the jackals had awakened the people and they were there coming toward the graveyard. Bheema used the crowbar again to get his hand out of the mouth however, his finger bones were broken. He reached home with all that he had. Bheema had his fingers amputated and on the same day, he came to know that the quarry work would begin soon.
Analysis and Commentary of Gold from the Grave By Annabhau Sathe
The short story ‘Gold from the Grave’ by Annabhau Sathe was originally written in Marathi. It is translated by H.V.Shintre into English. The character of Bheema is very interesting and realistic to an extent. It portrays a lower caste protagonist – Bheema, who tragically loses his fingers. The themes are strong, convincing, and realistic.
Bheema is the name from the Indian epic Mahabharata(Kunti’s second son) and he is a strong person. His strength is compared to that of 10,000 elephants. So a religious reference is also made here. Bheema is portrayed as a very powerful character as he looked like a “wrestler”. This is seen when he works in the quarry breaking stones. “With his strength of a giant he attacked the rocks, and the hill receded. Granite rocks gaped wide open at the strokes of his hammer.” These lines depict him as a physically strong character. However, by the end of the story, Bheema loses his fingers hence cannot work. This shows the contrast in character.
The character is also portrayed as “fearless”. Even when he went out in the nights for his adventure he was never afraid of the dark nor its haunting creatures. He used to dig the graves and steal gold from the tombs. He was never scared of walking through the graveyards in the middle of the night. However, Bheema showed contrasting characteristics when he heard jackals hauling. More than death he also feared hunger and poverty when he had lost his job.
The greatest theme throughout the story is class division and discrimination. He had searched for a job in the city of Bombay and could not find any. “He hated the city of Bombay which offers you everything except work and shelter.” He thought that rich people always lived because they are satisfied with their lives. “He thought that the dead person must have been jobless, and death must have given him relief.” These lines suggest that poor people are meant to die because it is more comforting than living jobless. The theme of life and death is interwoven with the rich and the poor respectively and is seen throughout the story. “His simple logic led him to believe that only the rich should die to help the poor live in this world and that the poor man has no right to die.” Hence he concluded that only a rich person can die to feed the poor. These lines show Bheema’s acceptance as a poor man. These two examples are contrasting in itself in Bheema’s thoughts.
“The city of Bombay itself is a colony of ghosts. The real specters live in houses and the dead ones rot in the graves. Monster breed in the city, not in the jungles.” Bheema is deeply angry and upset over the fact that the whole city has not even one single job to offer him. He calls the people real ghosts and that only the dead ghosts live in the tombs. This also shows discrimination and class division between the rich and the poor. When Bheema used to work all day in the quarry he only got “a couple of rupees” whereas when he stole from the graves he earned a “tenner”. This also suggests that the rich even die very luxuriously but the poor are left to starve and are not even given an opportunity to earn their own living.
The jackals are symbols of similarity and of contrast. Both Bheema and the jackals are digging graves to survive. The jackals dug for the corpse’s flesh and Bheema for the gold. This shows the same motive. However, the jackals threatened Bheema, almost exposing him to the people. Bheema gets really furious at this encounter as he could have been killed by the people or have been handed to the police. Either way, his family would starve.
Bheema is also seen as a strong yet compassionate individual. He wants to earn his living, to feed his family. His only wish was to buy a gold necklace for his wife, which he couldn’t fulfill. He was happy when he had the money to buy dates for his loving daughter. However, when he loses his fingers, he regrets stealing gold from the graves of dead people, as he wouldn’t be able to go to work anymore.
So this is the end, people.
If you need the text for this short story in English, do let me know in the comments section I will upload it.