When I hid my Caste
Nominated | Book Awards 2019 | Translated into English
When I hid my Caste ()
Baburao Bagul’s debut collection of short stories, Jevha Mi Jaat Chorli Hoti (1963), revolutionized not only Dalit but all Marathi as well as Indian literature, bringing to it raw energy and a radical realism—a refusal to understate or dress up gritty, brutal reality.
Through the lives of people on the margins—rebellious youth and migrants, sex workers and street vendors, slum-dwellers and gangsters—Bagul exposed the pain, horror and rage of the Dalit experience. The unnamed young protagonist of the title story risks his life and job, and conceals his caste from his fellow workers in the hope of bringing about social change. Damu, the village Mahar, demands the right to perform a religious masque—a preserve of the upper castes—thus disrupting the village order. Jaichand Rathod revolts against his parents’ wishes and refuses to take up the caste-enforced task of manual scavenging. Years of repressed maternal love begins to resurface when, in the face of death, Banoo calls out to her estranged son. And behind Savitri’s desire for revenge lies the gruesome pain she suffered at the hands of her husband.
Utterly unsparing in its depiction of the vicious and inhumane centuries-old caste system, this landmark book is now finally available in English, in a brilliant new translation by the award-winning author and translator Jerry Pinto.
Baburao Bagul was a Marathi writer from Maharashtra, India; a pioneer of modern literature in Marathi and an important figure in the Indian short story during the late 20th century, when it experienced a radical departure from the past, with the advent of Dalit writers such as him.