reviewed by null Date Added: Sunday 3 Dec 2017

According to Sharankumar Limbale (author of “The Outcaste-Akkarmashi”), the caste of an individual determines everything about his life, including the clothes he will wear, the person he will marry, and the food he will eat. Limbale describes the life of a man who suffered the pain of not even being allowed into the caste system: he was an outcaste, below everyone else. “Akkarmashi”, a landmark in Marathi Dalit literature, was first written by Sharankumar Limbale in the Mahar dialect of Maharashtra in 1984. Through his Sharankumar Limbalewords, he portrayed the miserable life he lived as an untouchable, as a half-caste, and as an impoverished man. This work was translated into English by Santosh Bhoomkar in 2003. “The Outcaste” is about an untouchable family in general and community struggles in particular. It reflects the conditions of a particular oppressed class, namely the Mahar community about half a century back and at the same time gives a true and realistic picture of the darker side of the Indian society. The best way to find out the sufferings of the Dalits and the other marginalised sections is through the words and emotions of those who have lived through the experience and who have the education and talent to write so vividly about it. One obvious source is Sharankumar Limbale’s autobiography, “Akkarmashi, The Outcaste”. He has also written many other novels and short stories on Dalit life.He used a personal descriptive style in his auto-biography to show the life experiences of a Dalit, which includes inequality, discrimination and indifference towards them and their culture. The author describes about his pathetic situation of not having an identity, a home or place of belonging. Limbale was born as an illegal son of a high caste Patil and a poor, landless, untouchable mother. As a result, Limbale neither belongs to Mahar community nor the Marata caste; he is an Akkarmashi, i.e. an Outcaste. His mother lived in a hut, and his father in a mansion. Hence, the son was branded illegitimate. Due to this reason, he could not get certain papers signed for school and the school authorities would not accept his grandmother as his guardian because she lived with a Muslim and for obvious reasons, they could not accept his last name since it belonged to a higher caste. When it was time for marriage, he could not even get married to a low caste girl because his blood was not “pure”; he was not wanted anywhere. Eventually, a drunkard who had offered Limbale his daughter would not allow her to leave after the wedding because of Limbale’s background. Due to his fractured identity, the narrator suffered his entire life.However, because of his incredible strength and bravery, he did not allow these socially constructed walls to stop him from getting an education and eventually publishing his story. Dalits lived in huts outside the Village (this depicts their status in the society). They spent most of the time inside the bus stand. Regarding the House, Sharankumar said: ” To us the bus stand was like home… we lay like discarded bus tickets”. They totally depended on upper caste people. They ate leftover food, did sub-ordinate work and wore clothes discarded by upper class society. It is said that for filling stomachs men become thieves and women become whores. However, due to the pathetic life situations, Limbale goes to the extent of saying that God had made a mistake by giving stomachs to the Dalits. The condition of the untouchables is such that they steal, beg, sort grain from dung, fetch dead animals and eat them, in order to appease their hunger.In the caste hierarchy, Brahmins were the superior ones, then the Kshatriyas and then the Vaishayas and the Shudras. The fifth, which was not even considered as part of the caste system, was Dalits, which were often referred to as the “polluting” caste. The cruelty reached its height when the Dalits were imposed with murder, rape, and many more such allegations. Influenced by people like Shahu, Phule, Gandhiji and Ambedkar, Dalit writers started emphasizing on their existing issues. Following the path of these legends, Dalit writers began writing, focusing on themes such as cruelty on Dalits, demand of social equality, justice, and social and economic democracy. The teachings of Dr. Ambedkar woke up the Dalits. Ambedkar himself was a Dalit, born in the Mahar community who went on to become a social activist, a legal expert and a nationally respected leader of Dalits in India. The new found political independence also helped a lot in improving the living conditions of the untouchables. During this period, Dalits began to refuse to do the lowly jobs that they once did for the upper caste. They also started demanding equality, which was unacceptable to the upper castes.The Dalits realised that being educated alone cannot help their community detach themselves from the influence of the caste system. So, they hoped to bring about a revolution through literature, by including their experiences. Therefore, auto-biographical narratives constitute a significant segment of Dalit literature. Autobiography has become an important means to convey the bitter experience of humiliation and injustice that the Dalits of India had been going through. The roots of this injustice and humiliation went deep into history, for many thousands of years. It is this pain, agony and suffering which persuaded Dalit writers to voice out their life-long experiences through literature. It throws light on their culture, traditions, believes and thinking as well. Sharankumar Limbale’s autobiography “The Outcaste” portrays the most humiliating events and insults that Sharankumar and his family endured. The narrator criticises the rotten social system and emphasises on the change of this system.Dalit literature represents a powerful, emerging trend in the Indian literary field. Dalit literature began as a voice of protest against an unjust social order. Today, it has attained the status of a creative literary world, reflecting the plight of the marginalised people of the world, and highlighting the struggles of the human spirit against the age-old oppressive practices against them. In the changed circumstances, Dalits are getting education and are becoming aware of their rights. The policy of reservation ensures jobs for the educated ones.The issues related to Dalit women have hardly been taken up seriously either by political leaders or by scholars until very recently. Dalit women were left out of the social reform processes and remained untouchables among untouchables. The onset of globalization in India enabled Dalits to raise the issue of discrimination based on caste in the international forums. Dalit activists and intellectuals introduced a case for recognition of caste-based discrimination in India as being similar to racial discrimination in the West, in the World Conference against Racism on 31st August to 7th September 2001 at Durban, South Africa. The debates on caste and Dalit rights at the global level gave a new dimension to the struggle against the caste system, with the emergence of non-governmental organisations and Dalit organisations as representatives of Dalits in India. These debates on caste in the global arena created a new interest in Dalits and their literature.Limbale portrays the pathetic and miserable life of a poor and oppressed community in the hands of an unthinking privileged class in a simple yet touching and unique style. Santhosh Bhoomkar has done a good service by translating this work from the Mahar dialect to English. Through his autobiographical work, Limbale revealed a world of poverty and discrimination in which the Dalits had lived for thousands of years . He raises some valid questions to be answered by people who consider themselves civilized and modern- ‘How is a person born with his caste? How does he become an untouchable as soon as he is born? How can he be a criminal?’ etc. Limbale’s autobiography is a good quick read that would interest any student taking a course on modern India. The author includes an excellent introduction that describes the caste system to the Western reader.Autobiography and poetry writings are amply found in Dalit literature. These writings had a significant and massive influence on the society as they depicted first hand experiences. Dalit literature is not simply literature. It is associated with a movement to bring about change. Dalits are masses, exploited and oppressed economically, socially, culturally, in the name of religion and other factors. Dalit writers like Limbale hope that this exploited group of people will bring about a socio-cultural revolution

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]