Listening to the presentation by Aparajita Ninan who did the art for ‘A Gardner in the Wasteland’ I realised that reading books had a revolutionary effect on my naive perception of the caste system and seeing my privilege, coming from a Brahmin family. It helped me recognise the everyday discriminations we turn a blind eye to and the hidden (and not so hidden) ways in which it affects our interaction with people. So here is a package of three books that made me notice, crticize and despise the practice of Hinduism that discriminates based on caste and I hope they will do the same for you.
The first one I read is Karukku by Bama – that I reviewed on this blog, which is the autobiography of a Dalit woman originally written in Tamil. The review will give you a better idea of my experience of the book but the reading of this book brought real understanding of the caste system and utter disgust (and guilt) at any religious practice that would justify discriminating one human being from another.
Serepititously enough my friend at Mindful Motherhood reviewed ‘A Gardner in the Wasteland‘ on her (older) blog and I bought it. It is a graphic novel illustrated by Aparajita Ninan and written by Srividya Natarajan. This book was published by Navayana a publishing group that exclusively ‘focuses on the issue of caste from the anti-caste perspective’. A book based on ‘Gulamgiri’ (Slavery) written by Jyotiba Phule. It is ‘a scathing and witty attack on the brahmanism and the slavery of India’s ‘lower’ castes that it engendered.’ Beautifully illustrated in black and white it is a mind-opener on the caste system and the vedas in Hinduism.
More research and discussions about caste literature led to ‘Bhimayana’ another graphic narrative illustrated by Pardhan-Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Shubhash Vyam and written by Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand. Juxtaposing historical events from the the life of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and contemporary events, it is a powerful book. The beautiful art definitely makes it a valuable possession, the narrative is powerful and revealing of the gross human rights violations that the caste system normalizes.