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Monday, Nov 29, 2021
Outlook.com
Review

Caste In Pebbles

Bama has material no feted, overrated Indian English author will ever be able to imagine. Yet, it's frittered away with casual, plotless outlines.

Caste In Pebbles
Caste In Pebbles
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Bama’s stories are more character sketches: anecdotes sans any craft, plot or imagination. Yet these 10 stories remain riveting. Each piece focuses on the behaviour—often defiant against odds—of a Dalit, mostly wage labourers on the farms of Naicker landlords and subjected to routine, everyday violence. From such benumbed lives rises the occasional spark of rebellion, threatening but not overthrowing the caste order.

There’s the educated Esakkimuthu who refuses the pongal doled out by the landlord, Ammasi who daringly refers to a landowning Naicker as Annachi (brother), Puthiyamuthu who plays pranks even at 50, Gangamma who pees in the police station, Masanam Thatha who knows how to drive a tough bargain with the caste Hindus, the dark Ponnuthaayi who reports domestic violence, severs her taali (mangalsutra) and sells it to set up a small business, or Malandi Thatha who talks to his buffalo. These are people we don’t meet in R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi idyll or in M.N. Srinivas’ ethnography. Bama has material no feted, overrated Indian English author will ever be able to imagine. Yet, it’s frittered away with casual, plotless outlines. As for the translator, N. Ravi Shanker, who earlier translated C.K. Janu’s life story from Malayalam, he’s the best Bama’s had.

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