Saturday, March 13, 2010

Colours of discrimination

Dalit literature of our times, born out of lived experience and art, is a significant contribution both to the collective social conscience and to our notions of aesthetics.

The best of art for me is that which speaks — in various forms and voices — of the lives of dispossessed people, of the ways they live, cope and overcome; and of dreams and visions of a better, fairer, kinder world.

Among the most moving reminiscences of a dispossessed childhood that I have encountered, for instance, are in a new genre of dalit autobiographies. Close to my heart is Sharankumar Limbade's autobiography Akkarmashi. Limbade begins with memories of a school picnic to a forest near his village. The dalit children play and eat separately embarrassed in front of their upper caste classmates by their stale dry rotis, chutney and a dried fish. They can smell the delicacies from the other group: fried paranthas, delicious laddoos, fresh spiced vegetables, gujiyas and so much else. Some girls feel sorry, and give them some vegetables, careful not to touch them.

Limbade is embarrassed by their pity. When they have eaten, the teacher asks the dalit boys to gather the leftovers in an old piece of newspaper. They can barely wait to eat the scraps, which they attack as soon as their classmates have walked ahead. When he returns home that night, his mother asks him sourly why he did not also bring some of the leftovers home for the rest of the family to taste.

Full report here Hindu

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