In Kalyani Thakur Charal’s short story translated as ‘A Hundred Pens’, Rekha’s Thakuma/paternal grandmother, though illiterate herself, dreams of a new generation rewriting the history of discrimination, oppression, neglect and deprivation that marks the caste-based politics of the Indian subcontinent.
For thousands of years our people haven’t been able to write—they are blind even though they have eyes. What others have written are taken to be true. To erase these thousand years of writing, everyone has to take a pen and write, dear.
The visibility of ‘dalit lekhikas’’ in the last forty years or so has been a tireless struggle for them to snatch out an iota of space, freedom and identity for Bengali Dalit women. And these are women who skin the cattle, inhale the stench, clean the excrement of others, cook modest meals for the family and then sit down to write of their experiences by the dim light of oil lamps. The cover illustration by Paramita Brahmachari grasps the essence of this life and its aspiration.