Monday, April 30, 2018

Karukku By Bama In Tamil and English

In Karukku, Bama focuses the vulnerable condition of Dalit people and how they are victims of circumstances due to their poor economic background. They remain landless agricultural labourers who are politically, powerless. She focuses other major problems such as untouchability, discrimination in the new religion, Christianity. She painfully notes that their rich culture is robbed and they are left with no culture.

An Excerpt from the Fictional Autobiography, Karukku, by Bama:

UNTIL THE TIME that I was in the eighth class, I worked in my village in all these ways. All the time I went to work for the Naikers, I knew I should not touch their goods or chattels; I should never come close to where they were, I should always stand away to one side. These were their rules. I often felt pained and ashamed. But there was nothing that I could do. They belonged to a higher caste. They had the money. We had to listen to what they said. However furious or resentful I felt in my heart, I have stepped aside for them, along with the other women of my community.
I was admitted into the convent school in the nearby village so that I could attend the ninth class. There I did not have to work all the time like this. I ate my meals, and I studied; that was all. Children who boarded at the convent and studied there certainly has a special status in our village. All the same, when I went home I did all the chores that fell to me customarily.
After the tenth class, I finished my final exams and went home. My mother was walking from the street of the Naikers with a bundle on her head, made up of mango wood which she had gathered and tied together. I went along with her, back and forth, with two or three head-loads of firewood which I gathered for her. To come to our part of the village from Naiker Street, you had to cross the Nadar Street, the Thevar Street, and then come past the oil-press and bazaar. Some people who had seen me carrying the firewood said to my mother in astonishment, ‘Your daughter has finished her schooling at the convent, yet she doesn’t mind carrying firewood like this’. I don’t know why they were so surprised. In those days I really enjoyed that kind of hard physical labour. It is only recently that I find I cannot do it anymore. Because I have been to other places and have been engaged in studying different things, I find that my body isn’t as flexible as it used to be.
When I saw our people working so hard night and day, I often used to wonder from where they got their strength. And I used to think, that at the rate they worked, men and women both, every single day, they should really be able to advance themselves. But of course, they never received a payment that was appropriate to their labour. And another thing. Even if they did the same work, men received one wage, women another. They always paid men more. I could never understand why.
Even though they worked so hard and suffered bodily pain, our people laughed and were cheerful. This is a community that was born to work. And however hard they toil, it is the same kuuzh every day. The same broken-grain gruel. The same watery dried-fish curry. It seems they never ever reflect upon their own terrible state of affairs. But do they have any time to think? You have to wonder how the upper-castes would survive without these people. For it’s only when they fall asleep at night that their arms and legs are still; they seem to be at work all other times. And they have to keep working until the moment of death. It is only in this way that they can even half fill their bellies.
Mind you, things get steadily worse and worse. In the old days, it is true, even tiny tots would hold on to sheep and cattle, and look after babies as they tumbled about in the streets around their houses. Nowadays, poor things, they go to work like adults. At crack of dawn, even before the Madurai bus makes its appearance, these days, the van from the match-box factory will arrive. These tiny crab-like children pour their kuuzh into their carriers half asleep, totter along to the van, climb in and go off to work. They work at sticking on match box-labels; they make firecrackers and use chemicals; and they return home exhausted, at seven in the evening. At an age when they should be going to school, studying like everyone else and playing around in the evenings, they are shut up inside the factories instead. There are two or three schools available for the children nowadays. But these little ones’ fate is the smell of match-box solution, not the smell of knowledge or learning. How can they afford to study, there it is such a struggle even to fill their bellies?
Naikers: The land-owning dominant caste in Bama’s village.
Street of the Naikers: Bama’s village, like most Indian villages, is divided into streets on the basis of caste. Caste groups live in segregated clusters, closely sharing the space and not allowing any person from a different caste to live there. While the dominant caste groups and their streets form the main village, the low caste groups settle on the outskirts. This stratification is so strict that it is possible to identify people’s caste by the location of the street in which they live.
Kuuzh: A thick porridge of millet or grain.

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