Thursday, February 25, 2010

Words that touch

Untouchable, maybe. But no longer unread.

Omprakash Valmiki, born into India's lowest social group, the Dalits - known widely as "untouchables" -- says he was the first member of his family to "ever see the inside of a school building."

For 40 years he has worked for the Ministry of Defense in Dehradun - but by night the bureaucrat was doggedly composing poems and fiction. And when Mr. Valmiki came to the 2010 Jaipur Literary Festival to participate in a series of panels meant to recognize the importance of so-called Dalit literature, he drew larger crowds than many of the internationally known authors there. He was mobbed for autographs, and his works - which include the Hindi-language autobiographical novel Joothan: A Dalit's Life, published in English translation in the U.S. by Columbia University Press - were among the first to sell out at the festival bookshop. (The English translation also appears with the subtitle "An Untouchable's Life.")

Full report here Wall Street Journal 

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