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Their Superfluous Tears

A book lingers over endangered professions with compassion

Their Superfluous Tears
Photo by AFP (From Outlook Issue 25 April 2016)
Their Superfluous Tears
outlookindia.com
2016-04-15T19:14:15+05:30

As a cliche has it, many eras coexist in India—little wonder that recent iconography for the country inc­ludes overused photos of sadhus holding cellphones and film clips of a Delhi Metro train gliding past a giant Hanuman statue—and this point is demonstrated with some acuteness in Nidhi Dugar Kundalia’s The Lost Generation. This book is a collection of journalistic profiles of eleven fading professions. Its protagonists live on the outskirts of a modernising world and are in danger of being swallowed by time’s vortex.

They range from the old ittar-wallahs of Hyd­erabad, bottling and selling natural perfume oils, to the Godna artists who tattoo girl-children in Jharkhand, from the boat-makers of Balagarh to the Burrakatha storytellers of Telangana. The author meets them, learns about their journeys, uses the personal to illuminate the general, while also providing historical context, details of their work, and why these life-skills are in their last throes: for instance, the rudaalis (professional weepers) of Rajasthan are no...

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