UCHALYA: Lakshman Gaikwad in Marathi, Kaliyath Damodaran Tr. in Malayalam; Current Books, Round West, Thrissur-680001. Rs. 110.
THIS NOVEL created much excitement in Marathi literary circles when it first appeared in 1987. The following year, it won the Central Sahitya Akademi award for the best work in that language. It has taken 17 years for this major work from a sister language to find its way into Malayalam.
The autobiographical novel tells the story of a member of the Uchalya tribe, who overcomes the disabilities arising from the circumstances of his birth and emerges as a leader of the dispossessed people. As he goes along, he gets wise to the ways of the rich and the powerful and recognises the inadequacies of the Dalit leadership.
Lakshman Gaikwad's work is as much sociological as it is literary. He presents a realistic picture of the life of the Uchalyas, who have to put up with extreme humiliation and harassment for survival. They have to bribe policemen even when they have not committed any crime.
Apart from laying bare the tyranny of the caste system, the novel exposes the primitive ideas of crime and punishment that prevail in our society. It also provides insights into the ethical standards of the thieving community by implication it raises an important question: what is the stake of the dispossessed people in the Indian nation?
In the past the translator, Kaliyath Damodaran has introduced to Malayalam readers the works of other Marathi writers like Godavari Parulekar and Arun Sadhu.
B. R. P. BHASKAR
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