“I do not see the alphabet of my clan” . This line was written and sung in 1921 by Poykayil Appachan. He was a mere seventeen when he lived through the harassment in Eraviperur, Pathanamthitta and joined the Mar Thoma community. But when he completed the ritual of baptism he was quick to realise that he had entered a different world of discrimination. This self-realisation provoked him to burn the Bible.
Poykayil Appachan is the tip of a territory – the tip of an unknown territory It is these territories defiled by and lost to the chaturvarna or the four caste system that are now being recaptured. The anthology of Dalit ( untouchables) writing that is being published in English by Oxford University Press in Madras and presented to the world displays another side of India.
It is possible that that there is no such anthology in Malayalam. This present anthology is a comprehensive and accurate representation of Dalit compositions. It reports the resistance to and the rebellion against the politics of isolation.
Touchability and Untouchability
The editor, Prof. Dasan quotes an old folk song:
“The temple drum needs the skin of cows,
The puja flowers need the pariah’s (Untouchable) basket,
Oh Brahmin, what is impurity ?”
Prof. Dasan also raises the question asked by the village idiot “ It is blood that flows from my wound and yours. This being so why are you questioning my caste ?” This anthology also fulfils the mission of questioning and re-writing the politics of untouchabilty. The editors of this document are Prof. Dasan who is the Head of the English Department in Kannur University, V.Pratibha, Reader in Kozhikode University, Pradeep Pambirikunnu, Reader in Sankaracharya University, C.S.Chandrika of Swaminathan Research Foundation in Wynaad. This anthology takes us to a whole gamut of poetry, short stories, drama, autobiography and critiques.
I openly announce “Kaviyur Murali” as I begin to recite a verse of his.
"Never say you are busy
For what I say is for you alone”
This is a book about the dreams,views and the life of a people. They are notes from those who were evicted from their own land when God seems to have been on vacation.
One can see the relevance of the statement of the reputed Tamil writer Ravi Kumar that Dalit
writings are not just stories of those targeted. These writings also certainly show that the conclusions from these writings are an indication of the transformation of society. What is also noteworthy is Prof. Dasan’s observation that the writings display clear views in the matter of possession rights over land, commodities and democratic institutions.
The anthology contains the writings of Raghavan Atholi,Sunny Kavikkad, Sivadas Purameri. A.R.Renu Kumar, M. B.Manoj, T.K.C Vaduthala, Paul Chirakkarode, C. Ayyappan, P.K.Prakash, S.Joseph, P.A.Uthaman, A. Shanthakumar, Kallen Pokkudan, Kallara Sukumaran, K.K.Kochu, A.Soman.
In a manner of speaking Oxford University Press is conducting a silent revolution. According to Mrs. Mini Krishnan , Editor, Translations, Oxford University Press who has been steering this project it is most probable that the Anthology of Malayalam Dalit Writing will be released in Kannur by the end of this month. The project has taken two years to complete. The Kerala Government helped with rupees two lakhs and several voluntary organisations in Chennai also assisted. Mini pointed out that the translation into English was done with great care. Saji Mathew, Shirley Joseph, K.Satchidanandan, J.Devaki., T.C.Narayan, E.V.Ramakrishnan, Sushila Thomas are among those who have helped with the translation.
Mini’s next venture is an anthology of Tamil Dalit writings. The work on this is almost complete and it should be ready by next January. Ravi Kumar and Dr.Azhakarasan are the editors. Dalit writings in Telugu, Oriya , Bengali and from the North Eastern States are also on Mini’s agenda.
It is impossible to ignore Mini’s role in bringing before the world writers such as Bama. This is a process of re-drawing the literary map of the world and India. As U.R.Ananthamurthi has recorded this is an explosion of a new energy and a new language.
This is a countrywide movement of a new future through new channels. Nobody can now say that he or she has not seen the literary creations that are reaching new worlds.