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Akkarmashi, an excerpt

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

…….. from author's note.

My mother is an untouchable, while my father is a high caste from one of the privileged classes of India. Mother lives in a hut, father lives in a mansion. Father is a landlord; mother, landless. I am akkarmashi  (half-caste). I am condemned, branded illegitimate. 

I regarded the immorality of my father and mother as a metaphor for rape. My father had privileges by virtue of his birth granted to him by the caste system. His relationship with my mother was respected by society, whereas my mother is untouchable and poor. Had she been born into the high caste or were she rich, would she have submitted to his appropriation of her? It is through the Dalit movement and Dalit literature that I understood that my mother was not an adulteress but a victim of a social system. I grow restless whenever I read about a rape in the newspaper. A violation anywhere in the country, I feel, is a violation of my mother.

I have put in words the life I have lived as an untouchable, as a half caste, and as an impoverished man. There is a Patil in every village who is also a landowner. He invariably has a whore. I have written this so that readers will learn the woes of the son of a whore. High-caste people look upon my community as untouchable, while my own community humiliated me, calling me 'akkarmashi'. This humiliation was like being stabbed over and over again. [….] 

……… The Outcaste

[….] Dada was the first son of the first wife of Dastagir Jamadar. Dada was married to a woman from Barhanpur, but they were childless, so his wife deserted him. Since then Dada has been living with Santamai. He has groomed me with great affection, as if I were his own child. Neither his religion nor my caste was a hinderance to us. Is it man who is a hinderance to religion or is it the other way around? Is the premise of religion greater than man's? Is religion made for man or man made for religion? Does man cause religion to degenerate, or is it religion that degenerates man? Can't man exist without religion and caste?


[…] Once, we had a guest and no money to pay even for his tea. Kashinath, the tea-stall owner was away. So we couldn't ask for credit. Old man Ghenappa who looked after the tea-stall in Kashinath's absence would not give us credit. We were in a fix and felt helpless. I sat in a corner like a barren hen trying to hatch an egg. Dada was waiting for a bus. Santamai's face looked like a cave discovered during excavation, while the guest sat like a refugee.


Source: The Outcaste Akkarmashi Sharankumar Limbale. Translated from Marathi by Santosh Bhoomkar 


Note: Sharankumar Limbale is the Regional Director (Pune Division) of the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik. A well-known Dalit activist, writer, editor, and critic, he is the author of 24 books. 

Santosh Bhoomkar (Translator) Reader and Head, Department of English,and In-charge, Postgraduate Faculty of Arts, Shri Saraswati Bhuwan Arts and Commerce College, Aurangabad.

An excerpt from Karukku

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011


Nowadays, now that I have left the order, I am angry when I see priests and nuns. Until I actually entered the convent, I truly did not understand their approach nor any of their procedures. It was only after my sojourn with them that I understood the lack of humanity in their piety. They speak in an empty way of devotion, renunciation, the Holy Spirit, God's vocation, poverty, chastity and obedience; they lead lives which remind me only of Pharisees, Sadducees and High Priests who appear in the Bible. If Jesus were to appear today he would question them much more sharply and severely than he did before. And even if he were to do so, I am not sure whether they will understand. 

When I look at the Church today, it seems to be a Church made up of the priests and nuns and their kith and kin. And when you consider who they are, it is clear that they are all from upper castes. They are the ones who are in the positions of power. Yet when you consider the Christian people as a whole, most of them are lowly people, and Dalits. These few assume power, control the dispossessed and the poor by thrusting a blind belief and devotion upon them by turning them into slaves in the name of God, while they themselves live in comfort. […..]

What kind of piety can this be? They make themselves into gods so that they can exploit others. So where has God gone? The so-called gods walking about here are the priests and nuns and their relations; no other.

How long will they deceive us, as if we are innocent children, with their Pusai and their Holy Communion, their rosary and their novena? Children, growing up, will no longer listen to everything they are told, open mouthed, nodding their heads. Dalits have begun to realize the truth. [….]

Dalits have learnt that these others have never respected them as human beings, but bent the religion to their benefit, to maintain their own falsehoods. But Dalits have also understood that God is not like this, has not spoken like this. They have become aware that they too were created in the likeness of God. There is a new strength within them, urging them to reclaim that likeness which has been so far repressed, ruined, obliterated; and to begin to live again with honour, self-respect and with love towards all humankind. To my mind, this alone is true devotion. 



Source: Karukku. Translated from the Tamil original by Lakshmi Holmstrom. Karukku is the autobiography of the Tamil writer, Bama.


Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

by Dashrath Parmar


All of a sudden, I felt as if a thorn was pricking my eye or as if someone was digging a pit with a sharp crowbar…

I stirred a little. I opened my eyes to the horrendous sight of a vulture perched on my chest, with its massive wings spread out, its beak stuck into my right eye….

I shrieked in terror, but the vulture continued to pick at my eye unperturbedly. Using all my force, I tried with both my hands to take it off my chest, but I failed. It had firmly fixed its talons in the gaps between my ribs. All my efforts were in vain.

I began to shout with more intensity, but no one responded. Where had my family members gone? Where were my loved ones? Look how this vulture tortures me!

Blood streamed down my eye into tributaries. One ran down my ear. The warmth…! Another reached down to my lips and into my mouth. The warm salty touch… taste…!

Gradually, my pillow, my quilt, was drenched…. If I bled further, the blood would seep through the quilt on to the floor…

With renewed strength I tried to push the vulture away, but it too resisted with doubled force and began to drink my blood with gulping sounds…

I looked outside with one eye, but its open, monstrous wings obstructed my sight. I lay in wait helplessly, for my eye to be scraped out. There would be no trace of the eye after a while, only a deep, valley-like opening….

Pain crept through every vein of my body. I sprang up from the cot when I could bear it no longer. The cot shook as I got up, it tilted to one side, the vulture lost its grip over my ribs, it fell and I fled.

The door was open. I tripped over the threshold and tumbled. However, I broke into a run again. I ran across the courtyard and came to a stop under the neem tree. There was a deadly silence in the vas, not a soul in sight, except a dog who sat chewing a bone… its mouth smeared with blood. [….]

The blood from my eye just refused to clot; I could hear it falling on the ground as I stood beneath the neem tree…… tip….tap…..tip……tap…… I felt something dangling from my eye-cavity… Oh! It was a lump of flesh! Could it be a severed ligament perhaps some vein or nerve leading to the brain or…

I put the lump back carefully back into the hollow. My hands were covered with blood, my clothes drenched red. I was tempted to kill the vulture with the kitchen knife. Would the taste of its blood be like mine?

I looked at my house from where I stood. The vulture was following the trail of my blood, licking the blood drops as it advanced towards me. For a moment I thought […..]

At the Fuldevi Temple:

I looked all round for a rag to stuff the hollow of my eye with. Perhaps, then the bleeding would cease….

Mataji’s idol caught my sight at that moment and I eyed the bright red chundadi wrapped around the idol, in the faint light of the lamp. Yes. I thought, this is it. The stone idol could do without any covering! […]

What would I ask her (Mataji)? Money… wealth… or a seven-storied mansion, as the greedy merchant had, where on the seventh floor, the son of his seventh son could sleep in a cradle of gold. No, no. I checked myself. Money and wealth would not serve my purpose. I decided I would ask for a ‘a gleaming, pointed, sharp trishul…..!

I rehearsed my request: “Hey ma! If you really want to grant me a boon, give me a trishul, your trishul! You have slain demons with it, I will use it to slay the vulture who is after my life…. and all its heirs… and redeem my…..”


Source: Tongues of Fire: a selection of Gujarati Dalit short stories. Translated and edited by Darshana Trivedi and Rupalee Burke. Dalit Sahitya Publication Series: Book IV.

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