As you open the book, an incredibly beautiful face greets you—weatherbeaten, each line etched with suffering and sacrifice. Usually, a photo in the front of a book indicates a small-town publication, an indigent author thanking his patron. But it seems appropriate that Ilanda should greet us.
This is a riveting portrayal of Uttam Kamble’s mother, Ilanda, and also a brutally honest self-portrayal by the author. The book weaves between the past when Ilanda struggled to raise her family and educate Uttam, and the present when Uttam is a successful professional (he is chief editor of Sakal). The past is the oft-written Dalit story of struggle and incredible hardship. The present is far more interesting. Kamble has become a middle-class professional, but there are a horde of relatives who need to be educated and employed. How is he to raise his own family as a middle-class Indian while helping the others, with his mother bearing awful witness all the time? “I could not dare to confront her ideas of happiness, because I knew that I would not be able to face most of them.”
If only Kamble had made efforts to locate Ilanda the woman, not just the mother. he might have been able to answer his own question: “What did my mother want in life?” Though Dalit literature is gradually becoming more popular, it is a pity that mainstream publishers do not foster it. This book would have improved tremendously with some professional editing.