This collection of ten stories is a testimony to Bama’s skills and intent as a writer. Anecdotal in nature, the stories take you almost effortlessly into the lived lives of dalit parayars in Tamilnadu. This is a world that is in the process of change, where the dalits are learning to challenge the hegemonic hold of the landowning castes on them. As Masanam Thatha remarks, in the story “those days”, “That’s how it was in those days, can’t be the same today, can it? No.” However, things haven’t changed so much that acts of defiance are not the stuff of heroism (or foolhardiness till proved otherwise!). Life carries on as it has for centuries otherwise. There are landlords, and there are workers who toil day and night in order to eke out a subsistence living that they are trained to think is the result of the grace of their masters. The changed times, education and the awareness of social injustice, brings in a different atmosphere into these rural areas, challenging and disconcerting the landlords. The democracy that frames the feudal order now exerts intense pressure on it and its hegemonic caste equations.
December 2006, volume 30, No 12