Tamil Dalit Literature – Quotations

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This blog has seen too much of my opinions. Their worth being uncertain, I must be less liberal with them. Also because, there are so many who speak so much more sense. So here is a new category in this blog: OtherWise Quotations.

This quote comes from an article by GJV Prasad. I liked his piece for it

GJV Prasad

GJV Prasad

raises many questions about translating dalit literature into English, and the problem of a non-dalit translator’s role. But this quotation is more to give a feeling of one of the stories of Bama which GJV Prasad has translated. What the following quote relates is a fine literary representation of dalit resistance: a specific mode because unlike class related resistances, dalit resistance goes beyond political economy and invokes the ethical issues. But, I must hold my tongue now and let Ammasi speak to you:

The story is called “Annachi”. The title is the respectful term “elder brother”. The story is about a Dalit youth called Ammasi, who is quite the hero among the young and a thorn in the flesh for the elders of his community. Ammasi has a strong sense of self and asserts his rights to the face of the upper castes. There are two instances in the story when Ammasi incurs the wrath of the landowning Naickers. In the first instance, he refuses to get up in the bus to give his seat to the landlord in whose fields his father works. When Chandrashekar Naicker, the landlord, asks him to get up, Ammasi replies that

from: women'sunlimited.org

from: women'sunlimited.org

he had to struggle to get the seat and that he would get off the bus soon enough and the Naicker could have his seat then. The landlord tries in vain to get Ammasi to give up the seat reminding him of their respective status. He reprimands Ammasi, a lower caste fellow, for sitting when “Ayya” was standing–the term “ayya” is a respectful way of addressing elders, of addressing employers, landlords, upper caste men, and of addressing one’s own father. Ammasi retorts that his “ayya” is working in Chandrashekar Naicker’s fields, and the Naicker was not his “ayya” by any stretch of the imagination. When Naicker throws his caste status at Ammasi’s teeth, saying that all parayars knew how to stand in humility in front of the Naickers except this young kid, Ammasi replies that he had better mind his tongue if he wanted to keep his respect. Though severely castigated for this and beaten by his father, the old man as he calls him (it would be budha in Hindi), Ammasi does not see why he should change.

His next misdemeanor also has to do with breaking rules of caste behaviour–called to help in watering a field, he shows up in freshly laundered clothes and then gets into an argument with the landlord, Jayshanker Naicker. The landlord objects to being called “Annachi”, elder brother, by the Parayan Ammasi. The fight ends with Ammasi using an abusive word, “mayiru”, hair and abusive because pubic hair, and Jayshanker Naicker complains against him and a panchayat is called. When the narrator thinks the panchayat is for his having used the abusive word, Ammasi coolly corrects him saying that it is for his having called the Naicker “elder brother”. In the meeting he is castigated for crossing boundaries in calling the Naicker by a kinship term, and when asked why he called him “annachi”, Ammasi replies that he did so because the Naicker was older, otherwise he would have called him “tambi”, younger brother. The story ends with Ammasi saying that he cannot understand the community elders who castigated him the previous week for calling the scavenger Irulappan “elder brother” because he belonged to a lower caste, and now castigate him for calling an upper caste man an elder brother.

From GJV Prasad: Translating Tamil Dalit literature into English or how to resist one’s self (Language Forum, Jan-June, 2007 by G.J.V. Prasad)

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