MASTER’S DEGREE PROGRAMME
MEG-13: WRITINGS FROM THE MARGINS
Q1. Write notes on any two of the following in about 250 words each: 2×10=20
(a) Emergence of Shudras
(b) Importance of Dalit Autobiography
(c) Tribal Discourse
(d) Role of Myth in Tribal Belief-system
(a) Emergence of Shudras: Indian historian Ram Sharan Sharma believes Dalits were present in the Mauryan period and before. B.R. Ambedkar cites Western historians to say that the Aryan invasion was the mark when Dalits as a section of society with racial distinction came into being.
R.S.Sharma refers to Kautilya’s Arthashastra on the division of society. According to Kautilya, actors, players, singers, fishermen, hunters, herdsmen, wine distillers and vendors, and similar persons usually travel with their women. This was not the case with the women of the higher varnas, whose activities were limited to the sphere of the home. The outside life of the women of the sudra varna was because of the necessity of working in the fields and pastures for the subsistence of their families. Kautilya provides that wives of sharecroppers and herdsmen are responsible for the payment of debts incurred by their husbands. The status of women belonging to the lower ranks was stronger and more dynamic than was the case with women of the higher ranks because the women of the lower ranks participate in the work outside the home and are a component of social productivity.
In the post-Gupta period, two major developments were the decline of urban centers and the paucity of money. There was also a decline in trade and parallelization of power. A related development was the increase in the number of land grants by the state. The land grants carried with them various obligations to the overlord and led to the creation of a class with superior rights in land which extracted the surplus from producers either through rent or labor services. This class of landlords was delegated fiscal, judicial and military authority as well. Brahman priests were recipients of a large number of such grants. The purpose of these grants was both ideological and the extension of the agrarian frontier. By the end of the Gupta age, the Shudras were losing their servile status and had, along with the vaishyas, become part of the huge class of subject peasants in the countryside. Surpluses were extracted by a superior class of landlords, who also had a high ritual status. There is a proliferation of jatis in this period, and varna loses its functional role. During the period, the servants of the household are turned into peasants who would now work day in and day out to provide resources to a new class of landlords to whom grants have been given by the new regime. The Shudras and vaishyas who worked together in society lose their identity at this time and become scattered along lines of divided work. This is meant by varna changing into smaller castes and Shudras are subjected now to a new kind of oppression where one group will be segregated from another and all groups will be bound by the new norms associated with specialized labor. A new set of artisans who came along from other countries in the wake of change in the rulers and leaders in society and their interaction with the artisans in India contributed to new mobility that led to increase in production, study and research. Irfan Habib has brought out the implications of coming together of two different sections of artisans and craftsmen in the 13th and 14th centuries. New techniques of paper manufacture, of making lime mortar and vaulted roof and, quite possibly, some weaving techniques (e.g. carpet making) could only have been established here through such immigrant craftsmen. In course of time, there must have been adjustments within the caste system but in the short run, the lack of craft labour in specific spheres had to be overcome.
(b) Importance of Dalit Autobiography: The autobiography unravels a series of experiences and enlightens the reader about the constraints that Dalits work and look for their identity. Dalit autobiographies deal not only with the caste system as oppressive but also depict how economic deprivation and poverty.
Autobiographies are generally written by eminent personalities towards the end of their lives and who have got much to evidence before the world, but Dalit autobiographies are penned at an early age when the author is neither distinguished nor eminent but noted for its depiction of a poignant past that has affected the history of a community.
Fiction and poetry have also been written on Dalit’s feelings and emotions. The narrative of the Dalit subject in autobiography bears a close resemblance to fictions. The narratives in both the modes have a similarity. Much of the fictions coming from a Dalit writer may have indirect references to his own life.
Poems have also been written. Subjects of the poems have been the actual people, young or old, woman or man; they speak in their own individual voice about the issues of the time and cry out against injustices heaped on them by agencies of intolerance.
In the essay The Dalit Vision and Voice: A Study of Sharan Kumar Limbale’s Akkarmashi,” Mini Babu has said that Limbale “projects before the readers an objective and disinterested account of his life…carefully creating the image of his community in conflict with the contemporary social and cultural conditions. The narrator’s self reflects his life in particular and the life of the community in general.” This observation raises the question of gap between the individual and his community. The reader going through the account of the autobiography in such a case would lose out on the plight of ordinary members of that community.
Another factor may be that of equation of the individual subject with persons of the higher castes. It might be assumed that the Dalit writer gained acceptance among the educated people in the higher castes and this changed his consciousness about the otherwise existing social divisions. He would not be able to see in true light the uneven nature of social layers in the world around him.
Take the case of violence in language which is markedly present in works of Dalit poets like Namdeo Dhasal. They have a directness of expression that transcends mainstream understanding of culture and sophistication. They also use common idiom and even cuss words in some cases. This finds mention in some discussions. Javed Ahmad Lone in his essay “Meena Kandasamy: The Angry Dalit Voice” talks about the unique treatment of language by Kandasamy in her poems.
Ahmad has observed, “Kandasamy employs the African-American vocabulary to twist the norms of established language.” Her poem “For Sale” deals with the story of a Dalit who entered the temple that was otherwise shut for Dalits. The language describing this fact is interesting. “He go to da temple, where/his po’ol’ folks ain’t allowed.” It uses an African America word and opened scope for unity between two different sections living away from each other geographically.
Besides, Dalit expression is imbued with harshness of true reality. For example, Kandasamy’s poetry is rooted in reality. The poet is in possession of numerous ‘stories’, some of which have got narrated and some have gone unreported. Ahmed says “Kandasamy’s poems portray such a dreadful picture of varied agonies experienced by Dalits that her poems seem as an encyclopedia of painful inventories.”
Q2. Write a note on the attitude of men towards women both in the urban and rural spheres in Changiya Rukh : Against the Night. 20
Answer: The women projected in Changia Rukh belong to rural Punjab. Those bound by marriage are more passive in comparison to the male counterparts who are aggressive and hit back at the caste system. It has reference to Daadi Haro who through sharp tongued speaks with authority and fearlessness. “Daadi’s authority was unchallenged” even among the upper castes, thus “If a Jat woman (or any other woman) passed near her without wishing her, she would say loudly, ‘wonder which arrogant bitch just passed by!’”
For the narrator, Daadi is a symbol of resilient motherhood. He notes: “My mother would turn emotional whenever Daadi fell ill, saying, ‘There are not many like her; a widow for over forty-five years; brought up her children, settled them, yet never been beholden to anyone’”. Being “the oldest inhabitant of the village” she received respect from all whatever be the caste, as the narrator exclaims “many Jats of the village would come to Daadi asking for her advice about weddings and other such celebrations. They would also do whatever she advised them.”
Daadi refused to die and there too her resilience shows up. When advised by others ‘Haro, take the name of God. Now it is the time for you to think of God. He may relieve you’”, Daadi with her toothless smile would answer “I think of Him, but he doesn’t take me away’”. Finally at her death after nearly hundred years, “half the village collected around her. As her body was laid out, there was praise for her on everyone’s lips.”
The narrator also refers to Daadi as an agent of patriarchy who keeps a strong hold on younger women. The narrator says, “I had never seen Daadi working. But she would always criticize daughters and daughters-in-law of other houses, ‘Bitches! They get up late in the morning! We would have finished grinding ten seers of wheat by this time.”
Analyzing the relation between his mother and Grandmother, Daadi, the narrator notes: “Despite all this, my mother would never retaliate. She was afraid of my Daadi’s harsh tongue and would neither argue with her nor say anything against her. At times, it appeared as if she had lost the use of her tongue.”
The expression “as if she had lost the use of her tongue” is damning yet thought provoking. It speaks volume of the position of the mother in the household who is silenced by the patriarchal set up evident in this case in the form of Daadi as also her husband.
The narrator also mentions about domestic violence as he talks about his mother Seebo. She is at the receiving end vis-à-vis her husband. The narrator notes, “Bhaia often taunted Ma about her brothers. Sometimes he would abuse her, and throw things at her when his temper ran away with him. And Ma …she had steeled herself to patiently bear all humiliations heaped on her”.
Accepting domestic violence as a way of life, Seebo like other women in India under the framework of patriarchy has been taught from childhood “to patiently bear all humiliations heaped on” them. Considering herself insignificant in the larger scheme of things the narrator’s mother accepts her position as a low caste and merely echoes the father’s wishes and words. So is the case with other women in the village who more or less adhere to traditional roles assigned to them in the social set-up.
The narrator’s attitude to women he meets in the workplace reveals that he feels one with their cause. Relating with them at the ideological level he asserts “One must do something to protect them from exploitation”. Noting in his friends a demeaning attitude towards women, the narrator states: Musical evenings would be arranged to forget the tensions of the day and to relax. Jokes, which were mostly about women, would be told. Even the women who were working in the godown were not spared.
It was very upsetting. Sometimes I had suspicion about those women, and then again I felt concerned about their vulnerability and their helplessness. The result was that I would often advise these women how to conduct themselves with dignity. Exploitation of women is in many ways similar to that of caste. Madhopuri understands the nuanced dimensions of caste but he is unable to see that ‘advising’ women on “how to conduct themselves with dignity” is no answer to the problem. He sympathizes with the cause of women but he is unable to go beyond it.
Q3. Discuss Sangati as a Dalit autobiographical narrative. 20
Autobiographical Elements in Sangati
Sangati has autobiographical elements because it has incidents from the author’s life and surroundings. However, it is not an autobiography in the sense that Bama’s first book Karukku is. Sangati is more an autobiographical novella which means it has some fictional elements and follows a literary form. Laxmi Holmstrom says that one may argue that “Sangati is perhaps the autobiography of a community” because “Sangati moves from the story of individual struggle to perception of a community of paraiya women, a neighbourhood group of friends and relations and their joint struggle”.
What is an Autobiography?
An autobiography provides a full account of one’s life written by the person her/himself. It is different from the memoir, in which the emphasis is not on the author’s developing self but on the people and events that the author has known or seen and from the private diary or journal, which is a day-to-day record of the events in one’s life, written for personal use and satisfaction, with little or no thought of publication. Autobiography is a type of a bildungsroman. Bama’s Sangati tells about the growing up of the author and the lives of other women in her community. Thus, it has both elements of autobiography and memoir. It narrates the real life stories of struggle and perseverance. It is significant in Dalit literature because it projects personal testimonies of violence and oppression meted out to the community and specifically to women within that community. Sangati is also considered as a novella (a short novel) – an imaginative recollection and representation of life.
A Dalit Autobiographical Narrative
Both Dalit autobiographical narrative and mainstream ones are personal narratives with an additional responsibility to express the concerns of the time. A Dalit account of self however prioritizes the concerns of the Dalit community rather than the society at large. Such texts voice the problems that are generally silenced by the powers of the time. Mainstream autobiographies are well-structured narratives of self-glorification, while Dalit autobiographies are the response of those who have been wronged for centuries. Dalit autobiographers express the anger of their sordid life. Thus, mainstream autobiographies focus on the heroic self of the protagonist, one that has done the nation proud and would become the object of study for later generations. However, Dalit autobiographers speak of oppression and violence meted out to an entire community not an individual alone. The ‘heroic’ aspect of Dalit autobiographical narratives constitutes the subject’s fight against oppression and the ability to liberate oneself from the stronghold of caste system. Dalit autobiographies uncover the dark side of the apparently harmonious society. Dalit autobiographies are unabashedly political and polemical. Caste is an important issue in Dalit autobiographical literature. In Sangati, Bama tells about the habitation of the Paraiyar (the untouchable) caste. People of this caste are not supposed to use the tube water that belongs to the upper caste. The low caste people occupy the ends of the town and are not supposed to mingle with those higher up. The narrator at the outset of Sangati makes clear the divide between the Dalits and the upper castes.
Q4. The poem ‘To be or Not to be Born’ is not about a child but about the mother. Comment.
In the poem “To be or Not to be Born”, the baby in the womb is the speaker and the listener is the mother. The speaker is telling her mother whether she should born or should not born. She raises several big questions on poverty and the exploitation. The poem offers a fine combination of the child’s anger and the poet’s sustained support for the cause of change. However, if we analyse whatever the baby says is about the mother.
For example, in the starting of the poem, the child asks her mother about the reason behind the “long labour”. It may be a reference to the poor healthcare facilities even for deliveries in the rural areas, especially for the marginalized sections. There is no surety whether the mother and the child would survive. She also talks about the “paths raced horizon wards but to me was barred”.
Then the baby talks about the state of society in which her mother’s live as she says:
All of you lay, eyes fixed on the sky
then shut them, saying
the sky has a prop, a prop!
The people have dreams and hopes for a better future but they do not achieve them because there are obstacles on their paths. Then she points out “generation of dire poverty” and “head pillowed on constant need”. The poet here speaks for the community he belongs to. The child then questions the trend, the issue of gender bias, prevalent in the society.
Here you are not supposed to say
that every human being comes
from the union of man and woman.
Here, nobody dare
broaden the beaten track.
The child is satirical about the society. Here nobody has the courage to widen the beaten track. Nobody dares to change the trend. The child is satiric about the acts and the movement of his people as she says “you ran round and round yourself exclaiming YES, of course the earth is round, is round. The child also talks about the clash, struggle and bloodshed.
Then she scornfully said
I spit on this great civilization
Is this land yours, mother,
because you were born here?
Is it mine
because I was born to you?
The last four lines are evocative as she says: Sorry, mother, but truth to tell
I must confess, I wondered
Should I be born
Should I be born into this land?
A significant rhetoric is used by the poet to make a statement on the social divisions that exist today. It leaves one in no doubt that a shift in paradigm is the need of the hour. For evocation two expressions, “truth to tell” and “confess, I wondered”, turn our attention towards the sense of creative thought. It is rhetorical because the child I aware of the place where his mother lives and knows how the place is driven by problematic structures. This awareness is spread over the whole poem and gives it a rare power and consistency. The other view of a required picture is woven effectively into the poem.
Q5. Compare and contrast the two stories ‘‘The Poisoned Bread’’ and ‘‘The Storeyed House’’ from the point of view of their themes. 20
Bayaji and Yetalya, both representing the Mahar community, are the victims of the caste system. Bayaji appears to be an extension of Yetalaya because of his progressive thinking and the new way of life that his conversion to Buddhism has given him.
Bayaji is also more advanced in his ideas and much less threatened at the sight of wicked Bhajuba, the ‘high class’ villan. He holds his self-esteem high and dares to wish Bhajuba in an unconventional manner, saying “Greetings to you, sir, how are things with you?’, and not “my humble salutations to you, sir, who are my father and mother.’ This address is quite unlike that of the manner in which Yetalya wishes Patil in “The Poisoned Bread”, addressing himself by demeaning terms like “slave”, and “Begging Mahar” and certainly not as one “claiming equality.” The protagonists achieve a different purpose. Yetalya represents poverty, suffering, slavery and tribulations that the Dalits endured for thousands of years and which pervades the Dalit Literature as a theme. Bayaji stands for the awakened consciousness, instilled in the Dalit community at the call of Dr. Ambedkar.
Yetalya is submissive and finds his place only in the feet of Bapu Patil, the upper caste man, even ready to be “kicked”, while Bayaji even feels “tempted to knock him (Bhujaba) down with his box” at his insolent behaviour but avoids the clash not wanting to be violent, as violence was not a way with the Dalit movement which sought to fulfil its aims by “peaceful means”, so Ambedkar said in his speech at Mahad Satyagraha. Bayaji considers it a good policy by not “incurring the hostility of anyone in the village” as he was there for the rest of his life and did believe in peaceful coexistence with everyone, an understanding that owes greatly to his affiliation to Buddhism.
Bayaji thus decides against the plan to make a storeyed house at the threat of Kondiba Patil, not willing to offend him unnecessarily and builds a “concealed” storey serving his own purpose too. Both the characters, in a way, try their best not to incur the fury of their upper class lords: Yetalya finding “no escape from the hereditary holding” and Bayaji “making the best of things” in the interest of both the parties. But the way both these characters meet their end in the respective stories is an eye-opener and converging of the basic idea of the writers behind their portrayal. Both the characters fall prey to the viciousness of the system and die a tragic death. But the irony is, that it is only at the time of their death that both of them realize the worthlessness of the life of submission and slavery that they led, and not willing to let the same submissive tendency percolate down to their younger generation, they leave a strong message for them. Both the characters ignite a spark in the mind of their young generation.
Yetalya’s dying words to his grandson: “Never depend on the age-old bread associated with our caste. Get as much education as you can. Take away this accursed bread from the mouths of Mahars. This poisonous bread will finally kill the very humanness of man”, find a clear correspondence to the last words of Bayaji, expressed as his “last wish” to his sons: “I want you to build a storeyed house. I have no other wish.”
The depiction of the younger generation too, in both the stories is quite similar. While the grandson of Yetalaya is a “city-bred” boy who has received education, Bayaji’s sons are also educated and are “doing well” – one of them being a school teacher, two
in the government service and one still studying. The rebel in the educated Mhadeva, enabling him to question, rips apart the soul of the rotten system in his arguments and counter arguments with Patil as well as his reasoning with Yetalya. The ability to know and understand things and his belief in the possibility of a ‘change’ in the situation make him protest against the conventional and obsolete modes of thinking and living. Bent upon ending the suffering of many like him, Mahadeva tries to convince his grandpa that it is surely possible to break away from the chain of land-bondage which is taken as hereditary by Mahars and is accepted as an established norm without questioning.
Mahadeva was “inflamed with a sense of fury and disgust, prompted to retaliate”. This implied retaliation of Mhadeva finds a striking parallel in the retaliation of the sons of Bayaji, who, exactly like Mahadeva, rise above their grief and sorrow at the death of their father, and joined by each other, start digging the ground to start “on a house, not one with a concealed first floor but a regular two-storeyed house.” Like Mahadeva, it is their “retaliation” that they start digging the foundation of a new two storeyed house. The young generation in both the stories, which ‘rejects’ and ‘revolts’, it represents a collective consciousness of millions of Dalits.
Q6. Comment on the ending of the play Budhan. 20
The end of the play states how the denotified tribes have never been involved in any such matter but they have never been accepted on their own terms. The appeal for respect at the end of the play is a plea to understand the tribes. The use of the Brechtian style of theatre allows the audience to see the contradictions present and to pose questions regarding this world. It presents the realities of the Budhan case from the perspective of the DNTs while highlighting the atrocities inflicted on them.
In the last scene, the actors pose simple questions to the audience. Some of the questions raised are: If a DNT commits a crime, is the punishment death? No Bhansali was born amongst the DNTs. No Harshad Mehta was born among the DNTs. No DNT is involved in the Bofors scandal. Are we second-class citizens? The play ends with a human chain raising their hands. The purpose here is to tell the world that there are many big crimes where no tribe man is involved and the tribe people have been made victims by the system.
The play highlights the exploitation and oppression of the tribe people by the people who have power. It uses a sharp tone and a direct style to inform people of the truth regarding the Budhan case. The play can be compared with Dario Fo’s play because both the plays provide counter-information of the actual events. A murder of a tribe man has been hushed up. The play allows the suppressed voice to surface and make a claim for justice. The play is a reflection on the cruel practices of the state that criminalizes the DNTs and tortures them. They do not get a chance to even present their side of the case.
In term of its structure, the play aims at highlighting what Milind Bokil in his discussion of the DNTs mentions the obduracy of the state functionaries who continue to see groups of people as criminal. The political system ignores all these and seems to convert the DNTs into scapegoats who will answer for the crimes of other people. The end of the play states how the DNTs have never been involved in any such matter but they have never been accepted on their own terms. The appeal for respect at the end of the play is a plea to understand the tribes. The use of the Brechtian style of theatre allows the audience to see the contradictions present in reality and to pose questions regarding this world. It presents the realities of the Budhan case from the perspective of the DNTs while highlighting the atrocities inflicted on them.
Q7. Comment on the significance of the way C.K. Janu concludes the narrative of Mother Forest. 20
The Personal is the Political
Without any formal education and without the support of any political party, Janu challenged the state and the mainstream and staunchly fought for the rights of her community. She forged her own path of political struggle through grassroot involvement and one-to-one interaction with the members of her community. She is called an ‘Organic Intellectual’ who has her class consciousness and who works towards spreading that consciousness among her people to fight the hegemonic forces. She is an example of a true fighter. Ecocritical Perspectives
The narrative shows the importance of the forest in the lives of them and the disturbing impact of encroachment of civilization and modernization projects on the livelihoods of the Adivasis. From the
ecocritical perspective, Mother Forest presents the pivotal role of land and ecosystem in the culture and identity of the Adivasis. Land is not just a territorial entity but is crucially linked to the life of the Adivasis, their indigenous knowledge systems, faith, cuisines, language. The loss of land means loss of culture and identity for the Adivasis.
Mother Forest is a representative voice of a community that had been silenced for generations. The Adivasis have not only been silenced, but also ‘othered’, marginalized, and unrepresented literature. Misrepresentations leads to homogenization and stereotyping of the Adivasi cultures and lifestyles. Homogenization of the Adivasis causes turning a blind eye to the richness, variety and plurality of their identities. The politics of stereotyping and othering come under two types, the exotic and the demonic. Exotic means romanticization and glorification of the ‘primitiveness’ of the natives and borders on tendencies of patronizing them or civilizing them. Demonic means portraying them as a menace and criminalizing them. Both the types project the Adivasis as ‘the other’. The encroachment into the indigenous ways of life, and the attempt at indiscreet modernization and emancipation of the Adivasis end up in effacement of their traditional ways of life. Such tendencies without a constructive dialogue with the Adivasis, leads to drastic onslaught on them. Environment conservation might mean different things to the mainstream and to the Adivasis. From Janu’s narrative, the state protecting the forests means the Adivasis have been deprived of livelihood.
Stylistics of the Text
The translator states that he wanted to retain the flavour of Janu’s intonation and the sing-song manner of her speech and he thus experimented with the language and sentence construction. In the starting, the sentences do not start with capitals, even the ‘I’ is written in lower case. The upper case is used when something from the civil society is mentioned like “Motor Pump” and “Shirts”. Tom Thomas calls it a technique to indicate holism and to dwarf anthro-pocentrism. There are also no commas between various verbs. According to Thomas, “language does not merely reflect reality, but also actively creates it. Lives are strongly interlinked with nature, the earth and the trees.” Meena T. Pillai calls it an act of ‘cultural translation’. Pillai says that Janu’s monologue does not seem to be a free speech without a context, but “a process nudged and prompted by the ethnographer and translator to construct a particular kind of discourse of the subaltern, that is then condensed, formatted, published and reviewed as a postcolonial text that ‘centers’ the margin”. Despite the criticisms, texts like Mother Forest are a progressive leap in the history of regional literature which has always been hegemonic.
Q8. Examine the issues discussed in Narayan’s Kocharethi : The Araya Woman. 20
Tribal writers from the North East India and
Maharashtra have written novels. Narayan’s Kocharethi is considered as the first tribal novel of South India. The novel is about the Malayarayar tribe, their history and struggles in life, their myths, rituals, social customs and belief systems. The writer draws heavily from the oral traditions and evokes nature and spirit of the tribe imagined as present in the imagination of the tribe. G.S. Jayshree points out that the novel gives an insider’s view as Narayan chronicles the changes that happened in the lives of the inhabitants of the foothills of the Western Ghats under the impact of modernity.
Narayan says that he wrote the novel since he was not happy with the writings of the mainstream non-tribal writers. The adivasi when represented appeared as a monochromatic figure; like the rakshasan or nishacharan of mythological stories. He feels that it was always a negative picture. The tribals are the asuran/the kaattaalan (demon) in their interpretation. In Hindu mythology, the demons are variously called rakshasan, nishacharan, asuran and the connotative significance of being uncultured who had to be killed by a diety wielding a shoolam (trident) or a savarna (uppercaste) of divine parentage. Thus, Narayan said they wanted to resist such biased representation. “We wanted to tell the world that we have our own distinctive way of life, our own value system.”
The novel has been held in high esteem by many writers and critics like Ayyappa Paniker and Mahasweta Devi. Mahasweta Devi regards it as “a remarkable work.” Catherine Thankamma who translated it into English calls it “a landmark piece.”
The novel is written by a tribal writer about the
Malayarayar community that lives in the Western Ghats of Kerala and their experiences. The community had control over the hills once and they were the rulers of the hills. The novel depicts their life and experience in the changing socioeconomic and cultural contexts. The tribal’s perspectives on land have also been changing. Earlier they had a different kind of relationship with land but now it has been a part of the process of change. The community has also been negotiating with modernity. Another aspect of the novel is that it tells us about the way identity is formed – Adivasi identity formation. Narayan makes a conscious attempt to show his community as a different community with distinct form of cultural practices.
He narrates the rituals, myths and world view of the people. The novel also deals with issues related to tribal woman, sexuality, marriage, pregnancy and child birth. Narayan also tries to reconstruct the past.
The novel, Kocharethi, has been held in high esteem by many writers and critics like Ayyappa Paniker and Mahasweta Devi. It has been regarded as “a remarkable work” by Mahashweta Devi. Catherine Thankamma who translated it into English calls it “a landmark piece.” The novel is written by a tribal writer about the Malayarayar community that lives in the Western Ghats of Kerala and their experiences. The community had control over the hills once and they were the rulers of the hills. The novel presents their life and experience in the changing socioeconomic and cultural contexts. The tribal perspectives on land have also been changing. Earlier they had a different kind of relationship with land but now it has been a part of the process of change. The community has also been negotiating with modernity. Another aspect of the novel is that it tells us about the way identity is formed – Adivasi identity formation. Narayan makes a conscious attempt to show his community as a different community with distinct form of cultural practices. He narrates the rituals, myths and world view of the people. The novel also deals with issues related to tribal woman, sexuality, marriage, pregnancy and child birth. Narayan also tries to reconstruct the past.