Karukku- ‘A Dalit Testimony’

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By Aurosikha Priyadarshini

Being a student of literature, I buy a novel every month. It so happened that I came across this book last week in my shelf. The name of the book is ‘KARUKKU’ by Bama. Before giving my opinions on the book, let me introduce the readers to the author.

Bama is originally known as Faustina Mary Fatima Rani. Bama is the pen-name of a Tamil Dalit woman, from a Roman Catholic family. She was born in 1958 and has written many novels, including the autobiographical novel ‘Karukku’. The book was published in 1992 and was written in Tamil. Later, it was translated into English in 2012 by Lakshmi Holmstrom. The book portrays the journey of a woman and how she struggles to raise her voice against the suppression faced by her and her community.

Karukku refers to Palmyra leaves which are like double edged swords. The novel acts as a double -edged sword in two ways. The novel archives the repression, atrocities, faced by the people of low stratum of the society. The novel is written from the perspective of a Dalit woman, Bama who was agonized and suffered under the dominant Hindu social structures. The book is the first Tamil Dalit literature of its kind. The book is more of a memoir than an autobiography because it voices the joys, sorrows of the people of her community who were oppressed by the higher and the elite class of the society. She even talks of the sufferings she faced after being converted to Christianity. She believed that shifting her religion to Christianity will put an end to her troubles, but it did not happen so.

The converted Christian Dalits were even treated inhuman, and she realized the truth that the situation of the Dalits will always remain the same. Being a Dalit woman she was marginalized, but she mastered over her will and worked hard to emancipate the fate of the Dalits. The book is a semi autobiography because it talks more of the people of her community, their culture, the food habits, and traditions. It gives voice to the silence and oppressed sections of the society. She uses simple narrative techniques and the style is different from the writing style of the mainstream literary texts. It is written more out of her own experiences as a suffered Dalit woman. It basically deals with the Dalits of Tamil Nadu. She grieves over the pitiable conditions of the people of her community. She talks about how the Dalit women were subjugated in the hands of the so called ‘pure’ Brahmins.

Through her writing, she raises the voices of those who are pushed aside and marginalized. The book can even have a different reading. Women should not shut their mouth and should rise against the ignominy of sexual torture, subjugation, or any other forms of violence because women are not objects to be consumed. Bama was influenced by her brother to study hard because education is the only way to gain dignity in the society. The book talks of the travails and trauma faced by a dalit woman. She becomes the representative of the entire community. It is not only the tale of Bama, but hundreds of such other deprived and ostracized people under the Brahmanic hegemony.

The book is a call to the oppressed sections of the society to unite and fight for their rights. It supports the clarion of Dr. B.R Ambedkar, “Unite, Educate, and Agitate”.

The author is a student of University Of Hyderabad. Twitter handle – https://twitter.com/aurosikhapriya6