Translating Caste is a significant addition to the literature of caste now available in English. These anthologies established the uniqueness of dalit writing in modern Indian literature, even as they drew attention to its conditions of production, to questions of style, genre, and resistance, and to the comparability of this corpus with the literature of indigenous and disadvantaged people from across the world. Though unexceptionable as a principle for putting together coherent anthologies or for directing radical movements, the strictness of the selection foreclosed the option of reading the dalit alongside other representations of caste, besides implying a disconnect between dalit politics and other struggles for freedom and rights in post-independence India. By widening the goalposts to include a broad selection of stories on the subject, Translating Caste avoids these constraints; and, if this allows the volume to place dalit literature within. Ramanunni shows the ubiquity of caste as an everyday social category despite the transformations wrought by class mobility. The variety of languages, locations, and caste identities is however at the service of a close historical interest.

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Urmila Pawar is a Dalit feminist writer. Even though Dalit Feminism is understood to be the ideas of Dalit women activists and writers, the theoretical formulation of this discourse is mostly shaped by a few non-Dalit feminists and Dalit intellectuals. For example, Sharmila Rege has been considered to be one of the important figures in Dalit feminism. Thus, Dalit autobiographies and fiction occupy an important political position; as works of protest.

I have always thought that fiction plays an important role in taking that which we take as familiar and making their underlying social structures apparent. Even the concept of intersectionality, I think, is better understood not through just academic papers but stories of people who are located at these different axes of power.

Her fiction explores the axes of power of caste, class and gender and in doing so brings forth vivid everyday lived realities of women in the Dalit community.

Dalit literature in Maharashtra is characterized by angry, self-assertive voices. It is about seeking what has been denied to them, historically. Dalit literature is a literature of self-assertion. The initial phase of the movement, started by the likes of Phule and Ambedkar in pre-Independence era used to be more inclusive towards women.

As we begin this quest of unfolding the stories it is important to keep in mind what is at stake for Pawar when she writes these stories. These are not mere fictions — each story has a trace in the living experiences Pawar has lived, struggled, and questioned.

Mother Wit stories are written by a woman who writes with the glimpses of the past she has lived through and the stories of people around her that struggle against their harsh realities. The act of writing here is the very will to speak of those or for those who cannot and to let them be heard. The short stories that Pawar writes are a window into the lives Dalit women live on the ground.

For Pawar it is the fundamental will to be heard that drives these stories. Women in her stories do not write slogans and march in movements but they fight everyday discrimination within the circumstances that they find themselves in.

She changes her life by shifting from chawl to the new house, and in doing so aspires to move away from historical markers of identity and create a new one for her family. Nalini, after getting housing at government quarters, is determined to move out. Her husband assures her he will persuade his parents.

But the climax of the story is astonishing when we see Nalini pick up her baby and leave without waiting to persuade anyone or seek approval. She just leaves. He feels ashamed of the way she dresses when she goes to the market to sell mangoes and at how she lets the customers misbehave with her without answering back like his teacher does to the male teachers in school.

The story beautifully brings out the implicit sexual undertones of the language itself. Gaurya is ecstatic when he hears his mother talk back to these men, bravely standing her ground when he is himself is frightened and feels helpless in their presence. Here the lost-in-translation problem persists even after the lucid translations of Veena Deo, making an important metaphor in Marathi language sound plain once translated to English.

The short story is a classic example of what death of the patriarch does to a family in a patriarchal system and how the widow is not deemed fit to make decisions for her family. The mother continues to work on the basket weaving to sustain her family. The only thing on her mind is to educate all her children — the promise her husband takes from her on his deathbed.

The mother her name never mentioned fights her in-laws and chooses to stay where is so that she can continue to send her children to school even though the village relatives are insistent on taking the family back to village house.

It is a story of female friendships — a topic hardly dealt with in fiction. It tells the story of two female friends and how a husband changes the dynamics of this relationship. It also questions the social structure which makes a vertical hierarchy out of our personal relations and always situates the husband at the apex.

Dalit literature is also characterised by language which is layered with implicit caste-gender connotations. Dalit writing is a way of fighting the structural injustice: first by writing about the historical and then tracing its continuity to see how discrimination manifests in the present times. I found myself sometimes completely alienated from the experiences of women in the stories, which allowed me to recognise my privilege.

But at the same time, I felt like I could relate to the way they questioned their circumstances. The complexity of lives lived with the burdens of caste, class and gender: how do these women dissent? Are they protesting? What is the form of their protest? Urmila Pawar makes impossibly rebellious acts imaginable through her short stories. Her characters escape the pages of her book and the realm of fiction — they become living, breathing human beings who we come across every day.

Sign in. Log into your account. Password recovery. Friday, June 5, FII Hindi. Forgot your password? Get help. Feminism In India. Video: Understanding Sexual Consent. Video: What Is Intersectional Feminism? Urmila Pawar's 'Mother Wit'. Leave a Reply Cancel reply. In a world that is marred with COVID, India has been in a lockdown and the practice of physical distancing is in practice.

This has severely impacted these women weavers who have lost their livelihood and space of solidarity. In the case of online school classes, the ones who have it the hardest are the mothers who have more than one child under class 4 or 5 who need to be present with the child during the class time, especially the ones who do not have the work-from-home option and cannot afford a nanny.

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Dalit Writing in English Translation

Editor's note: Under the norms of the caste system, Dalits were denied the pen. Before the advent of Dalit literature in India, much of Dalit history was oral in nature. Their lives were not available to them in written form, and even when available, it was a depiction by those who had no experiential connection with Dalits. It was Dr BR Ambedkar who stressed on literary assertion as a means to struggle against the caste system. Thus began the ceaseless movement of literary assertion by Dalits, who went on to write powerful stories about their lives. It marked a resurrection of their experiential world, which had been appropriated by the pens of Savarnas.


How Urmila Pawar broke the barriers of caste and patriarchy armed with only words

Her raspy voice bursts out, almost drowning those of the others in the room, as she intones the choicest of abuses in Marathi. Soon, Urmila Pawar is giggling and everyone else in the room cracks up as well. Pawar is a noted Dalit writer and feminist, who has authored several critically acclaimed books, including her two collections of short stories, Sahav Bot Sixth Finger and Mother Wit. The year-old, who plays the titular character, has been performing the one-woman show for over 25 years. Although Deshpande was familiar with the work, considered one of the most influential Dalit autobiographies, it was a nudge from Mumbai playwright Ramu Ramanathan that led her to consider adapting it. But she eventually came around.


The Truth About Fiction: Looking At Caste, Gender And Dissent In Urmila Pawar’s Short Stories

The present chapter discusses about Urmila Pawar as a Dalit writer with Urmila Pawar is a literary personality, known for her short story writings in Marathi. Activist and award-winning writer Urmila Pawar recounts three generations of Dalit life was like in the time of her grandmother, mother, and in her childhood. As we begin this quest of unfolding the stories it is important to keep in mind what is at stake for Pawar when she writes these stories. The woman realizes her brother in law is trying to steal her land.

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