Being A Madiga
Tulsi Badrinath
Father may be an elephant and mother only a small basket, but.. by Gogu Shyamala Navayana, New Delhi, 2013, 260 pp., price not stated
July 2013, volume 37, No 7

Gogu Shyamala paints a world in rural Andhra Pradesh where human lives are not separate from nature. They inhabit a vast space, feet planted in the ‘moist mud’ and faces touching in the sky. That these human lives are also segregated by society as ‘untouchable’ means that certain pleasures, such as ‘the scent of new rice’, the taste of jowar sap, the power to invoke the goddess, are theirs to enjoy; joys perhaps unknown to the upper castes.

In fact, such is the power of Shyamala’s writing, she makes the reader feel that they have missed out on something by not being a Madiga. It is this quality that is most striking in Shyamala’s stories. Shyamala evokes the dalit experience through humour, sharp observation, and gentle narrative; there is none of the stridency that sometimes accompanies anger, blame and activism.

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