Sunday, November 13, 2011

A falcon in the skies

Normally I would never put my professional life on my blog. But this is where the writer in me and the person in me united. Working as a journalist, I don't have a glamorous life. But I had the fortune of meeting a woman who changed the way I view some parts of the world. I am forced to wonder, if she can be positive and not cynical about this world, then so can I.

Here is the interview with a talented Dalit woman writer. Here is the link to the piece in my paper. Click here.

A falcon in the skies

Bama, a 55-year-old Tamil Dalit writer, talks of societal exclusion and struggle for acceptance in her autobiography Karukku, relaunched at the women writers’ colloquium

Srinidhi Raghavan

Photograph by K D Bhatt
City-based writer Esther David in her introduction to Bama, a renowed Tamil Dalit writer, spoke of their experience in Paris many years ago. Both Bama and Esther were called to talk about their writing at a conference. When Bama got up to speak, the audience erupted in anger and did not allow her to say a word. The two of them pleaded with the audience to be seated and half-an-hour later, Bama was heard.

“Social exclusion is the story of my life,” Bama says with a defiant smile. Her calm and down-to-earth demeanour belies her struggle for survival in a harsh, opinionated world.

Her book.
“I was an angry young child. Growing up and writing about my struggles gave me clarity on how to channel this anger. For a long time, my life as a Dalit woman was defined by someone else. Even being a human was not in my hands. When I realised that I can live my life on my terms, I did just that. Swimming against the tide brought me a lot of scorn from the society. But eventually, my family, friends and the people of my village realised that these stories were part of our collective struggle,” Bama says.

Bama is a 55-year-old single woman, who apart from writing, teaches schoolchildren in a small village in Tamil Nadu. She describes the beginning of her writing career as “purely accidental” and “therapeutic”. She wrote her first novel ‘Karukku’ in 1992. It was published after much struggle as publishers and critics felt her style, language and narration were not compelling enough.

“My guide, Father Mark, read my work and felt that it would be a great publication. When Mark approached a professor for a critique, the latter threw my work away, calling it rubbish. I am glad I was not present at that moment because I would have been crushed. But, almost 20 years later, the stories I told in 1992 are still relevant,” she adds with a slightly disheartened smile.

The situation, she feels, is changing at a slow pace. “When I left Tamil Nadu, I read an article on Dalits in Uthapuram being allowed to enter a temple. The symbolic entry that came after 22 years of being discriminated against means a lot to the Dalit community. But the photo in the story showed the other side of the spectrum as well. While Dalits entered the temple with broad smiles on their faces, the people of upper caste were seen wailing and screaming, saying the Dalits had polluted the temple. I am overjoyed by the change, but this is only the beginning,” says Bama.

The second edition of the English book published nearly 11 years later was edited to add a ‘10 years later’ section. In the first edition, she says “I am a bird trapped in a cage with broken wings”. On the contrary, her second edition that released a month ago, ends with “I am a falcon soaring in the skies”.

Explaining the antithesis, Bama says, “Though over these past years, I have learnt to fly, I still have my feet firmly on the ground. I might travel to different countries to give speeches about all that I have achieved. But I have to return home to my remote village where my identity of a Dalit woman is intact. I take pride in that.”


TheBluntBlogger said...

Girl! I am so proud of you <3 I have nothing less nothing more to say after reading the post. I am still absorbing the fact, the way in this world one has to fight for the right to express....

ps: teri dp main u look like vidya balan....<3 xoxoxox

Red Handed said...

WINGS OF FIRE literally!!
Brilliant post and abt a brilliant woman by a great blogger.
Thankyou for sharing this :)

Soumya said...

A big fat tight hug for sharing this! It was WOW, just wow.

Life is all about the fight and as they say survival of the fittest.

P.S: I did not know that you were a journalist! *Turns green eyed*

Towards Harmony said...

I was going to ask you If I could out it up on my blog.. which I would still like to do :)

I am so PROUD N!

And Bama she is exactly who I call a kickass woman!

Srinidhi said...

@bluntblogger: Thank you. :) Your appreciation means a lot.
Yes. It is sad no? :)

P.s waaah! thanks :D :D

@redhanded: I agree. Brilliant woman :) Thank you. It was my pleasure :)

@Soumya: Yes. She is fighting back like one cannot imagine :) thanks :)
p.s :p ooops :P

@Towards harmony: The more that read it, the happier I will be. So do share. :) I think she deserves a lot of coverage :) I am glad you love it :* :* <3 :* thanks :)

Between life's doings said...

This is SO beautiful and inspirational. I would love to know what happened to that anger and how it transformed. She's got to be one of those mindful woman, partaking in mindful activism. Bless her, and you for begin so amazing for writing this.

Srinidhi said...

Hey A! :)
I am glad you feel that way. And I agree. I think she was inspirational. Her book, she said, spoke of her transformation. It started with a want to change the society she was forced to live in. And finally by the acceptance of her society in her struggle.

She was in a convent for 7 years as a nun. She felt cause she felt her life's goal was to serve the poor. And she felt being part of the convent defeated the purpose. So she quit. She lived alone for many years and is still a single woman. Now she writes for therapy and teaches for the passion of it. :)
She came for an interview wearing a simply saree. She looked so simple that she was a star. :)

Between life's doings said...

Thats amazing! thanks for sharing that :-)