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Friday, May 04, 2001

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Tales of an epic struggle


LIKE THE nine lives of a cat, we can now begin to chronicle the nine years of gestation for this book, before the world saw and recognised the `1000 difficulties that beset a Dalit woman living on her own'.

Before the world was introduced to `Karukku' and its author, Bama.

But for Faustina, who hides behind her pseudonym Bama, life is pretty much the same before and after the Crossword Book Award 2000. It definitely means recognition `for me and my people', but she has been silently hoping that it would not create as much a flutter as it has. ``I did not tell anybody. The word seems to have spread through newspapers,'' she says, shying away from the arc lights.

That is, however, Bama - the sudden celebrity. Talk to Bama, the writer, SHE is more eloquent. Her first novel `Karukku' which has brought recognition, grows out of a particular moment, a personal crisis that spurs the author to make sense of her life.

The argument of the book is to do with the narrator's spiritual development - both through the nurturing of her belief as a Catholic and her gradual realisation of herself as a Dalit. It carries a message that there has been an important change, if not in the Church's practice, yet in the gradually growing awareness among Dalits.

This semi-fictional account, when it was first released caused a lot of discussion. ``Sections of Dalits were unhappy. They were very reluctant to accept the book. That was sociologically. And then there were the language critics who criticised the language of the book - its extreme rusticity, '' says Bama, completely without regret.

It was in 1998 that Ms. Mini Krishnan of Macmillan offered to publish `Karukku' in the English translation. So, did she like the translation? ``I could say I was satisfied, considering the original was esoteric, not only in content, but also in language,'' she says.

Now, on her fourth book, yet untitled, Bama writes on the communal clashes in Virudhunagar, once again advancing the saga of a people fighting against discrimination. Of lives lived amidst great adversity, the toil and the tears, only too real, `` I comfort myself with the thought that rather than live with a fraudulent smile, it is better to lead a life, weeping real tears,'' she signs off, this time with a genuine smile.

By Ramya Kannan

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