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

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A New Note to the Polyphony

Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir by Yashica Dutt, New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2019; pp xx+212, ₹ 599.


Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir by the New York-based journalist Yashica Dutt is in many ways an informative, insightful, damning and somewhat cathartic compendium of personal/political awakening by a “nouveau Dalit” who was obsessively “schooled” since childhood in many detours to duck her “ex-untouchable” identity. After living what she calls a “lie”—“pretending to be from a caste that’s not Dalit” (p xi) for a long time, she finally “came out,” declaring (and thereby asserting) herself to be a Dalit in the aftermath of the Rohith Vemula incident in January 2016.

Dalit memoir writing as a potent and preponderant genre of self-expression can be broadly affixed (but by no means fixated) to such leitmotifs as pressing penury and hunger, everyday engagement with dirt, caste/gender oppression, raw discrimination and humiliation, unflagging struggle for education, the seminal legacy of social revolutionaries and intellectuals (for example, Savitribai Phule, Jotirao Phule, B R Ambedkar), a certain attainment of material decency, contestations contra the structures of inequality and oppression (for example, caste, gender) and the continuous collective struggle towards achieving unbranded human personality or liberation. To this polyphony of voices, Dutt’s memoir adds a somewhat different note in the sense that it is not a raw and ragged Dalit life-writing that we have witnessed so far. While the saga of pressing hunger and smacking caste discrimination are absent in her memoir, by no means is it devoid of the monster of caste that B R Ambedkar so presciently warned about.

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Updated On : 27th Apr, 2021
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