ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Another Song of the Road

Another Song of the Road Viramma: Life Of A Dalit by Viramma, Josiane Racine and Jean- Luc Racine; Social Science Press, Delhi, 2000; Rs 450 (HB)

The back flap of the book says that Viramma is a grandmother, an agricultural labourer and a dalit. But in the actual narration, it turns out that she is a bit more. She is the most prolific singer of the village, a trained mid-wife, a knower of spells, tied in a jajmani relationship with the most powerful reddiar family of the village and is a supervisor of other contract labourers in her landlord’s fields. Viramma is the first among equals for the dalit women. Since she is a folk artist she has a holistic vision of her world, its constitutiveness and has an idea about its historical roots. She has a rare mind that can see things in their totality. The sensitive artistic mind of hers has a very sharp memory and she can recall even the smallest events of her life in great detail. This also conveys to us that Viramma has had a happy life despite her poverty. The book is an autobiography transcribed into English by Racine and Racine.

The only thing she forgets is the birth order and the names of her dead children and it is obvious that these are the details she would prefer to forget. Nor does she remember the great cyclone very clearly. But most of her memories are well documented because she has been, on the whole, quite satisfied with her life. To the less sensitive reader, one who would like to stereotype dalits as being oppressed, who typecast revolution and change into acts of violent protests and who consider every expression of contention as alienation, might miss out the main theme of the book.

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