Table of Contents
- Bayaji: A retired man and the main protagonist who belongs to the untouchables.
- Kondiba: A high cast who wants to be superior to everyone else in the village.
- Bhujaba: A rascal.
The Storeyed House by Waman Hoval seeps into the heart of all and touches that part of sensitivity that knows how incorrect it is to afflict the lower section of the society for no reason at all. The second part of the story begins with the plans drawn up and the foundation of ̳the storeyed house was laid on an auspicious day.
But the news of the storeyed house is not received well by Kondiba Patil, the ‘high caste‘ headman of the village as he was the only storeyed house and no one can even imagine building the other. And the fact that a Dalit is even thinking of building one equal to his own is not only an insult to his status but also a devaluation of the accepted form of social hierarchy.
The construction had begun
The news about Bayaji building a storeyed house spread like wildfire. There was the only one-storeyed house in the village that belonged to Kondiba Patil. Kondiba couldn’t bear that an untouchable could be equal to him and other villagers too thought that the untouchables have forgotten their position. The construction contract was given to Dattaram Vadar.
One day Kondiba tried to divert Bayaji’s decision of constructing a storeyed house but when he didn’t succeed, he warned Bayaji that he may build a storeyed house only if he didn’t wish to stay in the village. Bayaji only wanted to build a shelter for his family but had to abandon the plans for building a storeyed house.
A change in the plan
A conventional three-portioned house was built instead but the middle portion of the wall was a little elevated and a small first storey was fixed up with wooden flooring. No one could guess that there was a first storey to the house. A house warming ceremony was planned and relatives from other villages were also invited as well as the elders of his village. The decoration of the house took full two days and well-known singers were invited to perform. People looked forward to the ceremony.
Kondiba Patil had arrived with Bhujaba and other rascals, they were jealous of seeing the brand new house and impressive decoration. Bayaji gave them a house tour and spread a wooden carpet for all the high caste people. The rascals and Kondiba became so uncomfortable and jealous that they left without even having their supper complaining about the fact that the untouchables have gotten out of hand.
All the guests had enjoyed themselves and loved the arrangements. Bayaji had shut the pandals and sat with the guests for some tea and devotional songs. Suddenly and the unexpected incident took place, the new house had caught fire from all sides which flared up. The guests were alarmed and ran out of the verandah.
A sudden tragedy
The fire destroyed the whole house, the staircase had crumbled down into flames and people pulled up water from the nearby well but the fire was too much to get into control. Bayaji was trapped while rescuing his belongings as the staircase had collapsed and no one could go up to save Bayaji. Bayaji ran around like a trapped creature howling all the time “My house, my house!”
The upper storey itself collapsed and with it Bayaji, he was burnt all over yet he couldn’t stop shouting about his house. The women and children cried their hearts out and the guests tried their best to put out the fire. Bayaji was badly burnt and his last wish was to build a storeyed house. Bayaji went quiet and with it, the fire calmed down too, he passed away without his last wish being fulfilled.
The police inquiry was made and the verdict was announced: the fire was caused accidentally by a petromax lantern. While everyone was still mourning the misfortune, the sons start building a proper two-storeyed house for their father.
In Hoval‘s story, for a Patil, the construction of a storeyed house by a Dalit is a symbolic assault on the horde of financial, social, cultural, and political privileges which the Hindu society bestows on him as a representative of the caste community. But while the general eminence that Patil benefits from may have had sacred permission, the associations of this to caste privilege are hindered in uncertainty. In the eyes of the caste communities, what Bayaji does represents a destabilization of a whole hierarchical world order that is concretely lived out in the real world of power relationships.
The fundamental right of the Dalits to create their own identity in sovereignty and solemnity is completely smeared out by the upper castes. Violation, thus, of the human rights of the Dalits to shelter liberty, equality and fraternity is a serious transgression.