interview in 'prairie schooner'

nabina das interviews me for 'prairie schooner', lit magazine:
~ ~ ~
Q. Imagining that the larger community has little or no idea of "Dalit Literature," tell us something about it.

A. It’s not very difficult to imagine that the larger community has little or no idea of "Dalit Literature." That tells us something about it; that the literature of the former ‘untouchables’ should largely remain untouchable even now, when it is available in such profusion, tells us how desperately the world wants to stand still and hold its breath so that it will go away.

Does this larger community figure in Dalit writing? 

The larger community is never absent in the Dalit writer’s imagination. The whole world throbs like a bad tumor in her imagination.

When Yendluri Sudhakar takes a walk in Chicago, he hears Martin Luther King:
When I walk in Chicago
The roar of Martin Luther King's
Word flames
Rings constantly in my ears
Like a chant!
K. G. Satyamurthy ('Sivasagar’) faces death in Jaffna:
Jaffna! Jaffna!! O Jaffna!!
When the night was flying as a vulture
You blew up as a landmine
I died without realizing it
I died in Jaffna.
He is imprisoned in South Africa with Nelson Mandela:
So many prisons
But only one life
He is singing in Tiananmen Square:
The tear drop that splits
On the edge of dark night’s sword:
In the clasp of the gallows
The song that shall wake the sun!
Writes a love letter to Saddam Hussein:
The river Tigris
The Kurdistan hills
The Baghdad streets
The Iraqi grains of sand,
I love Your love for them.
 And he grieves for Santiago:
Santiago! Santiago!
What treachery stabbed you in the back?
What treachery made you stand unarmed before your enemy?
What treachery deprived you of your people’s army?
We can then say that the Dalit poet has a global scope in her work?

The Dalit poet breathes the pain of the wretched and the marginalized in Chicago, Jaffna, Santiago, South Africa, Baghdad and Tiananmen Square as naturally as she inhales the daily treachery, repression, rebellion, seclusion, and defiance of the Dalitwada. Dalitwada is the Dalit settlement outside the village which is always so planned that it can taste even the wind only after it has passed through the village first. The wada which deserves only the leftovers, the remnants, the dregs of everything, including air: who would understand the need for community better?

Who would understand the need for peace and solidarity better than someone who has been engaged in an endless, unequal war she never sought? A war so unequal that generation after generation has to depend solely, and paradoxically, on the enemy itself to sustain its continued participation? Therefore, the wars and unrealized deaths in Jaffna or Santiago or Baghdad or Afghanistan or the Congo or anywhere and everywhere else aren’t unfamiliar to the Dalits in even the most remote, totally-shut-off-from-the-world wadas in India.

Because, as Sivasagar says:
Listen! Listen to the untouchable word:
Between the village and the wada
There's a Kargil,
From grandfathers' forefathers' age,
Burning between us;
This Kargil war
Hasn't stopped, it goes on.
The war between the caste village and the caste-less wada is the oldest conflict in the world. But the world still flickers in the Dalit poet’s heart more brightly than any lamp lit across the world in memory of dead soldiers.

Pydi Theresh Babu mourns the slow death of a world being consumed by globalization:
Nothing is overtly visible
You can’t hear my breath
In my song
You can’t hear my music
In my procession
You can’t see my play
In my street
You can’t see my ware
In my bazaar
Paradoxes. Contradictions. Why should a Dalit in the wada, who should be happy to be free of the village, embrace the whole world, in such unfettered love?

How do you see these contradictions being resolved? 

As Satish Chandar sees it, the Dalit is a revolutionary staking claim over her body, land, spirit and humanity:
My land's not mine, they said,
I became a revolutionary
My body's not mine, they said,
I became a feminist
My village is not mine, they said,
I became a Dalit
She wants a whole new world, nothing less:
I am not even human, they said,
Step away
I've become a human bomb.
~ ~ ~
please read the rest of the interview here
Add to Technorati Favorites