When, on day 14, I wrote about Dr.Ambedkar and his words of freedom – a friend ( a real life friend) posted a recommendation – Read Bhimayana. And, JM is a person who knows my reading habits. He has, over the years, recommended a great many books that I have enjoyed. And then Bhimayana went onto my monthly order on Flipkart.
I got the book this evening.
The first thing that strikes you about the book is the Art. Illustrated and coloured by Durgabai Vyam & Subhash Vyam – the art has an almost lyrical quality to it. Unlike most graphic novels there are no boxes. The art just flows. The graphic novel flap describes the Vyams as Pardhan Gond artists – strangely the bulk of the references I found on google were not from India, finally found something – in the Caravan magazine – remotely related to the Pardhan Gond Art form.
The artists say
“we’d like to state one thing very clearly at the outset. We shall not force our characters into boxes. It stifles them. We prefer to mount our work in open spaces. Our art is khulla (open) where there’s space for all to breathe” (pg.100)
In contrast to the art that is curvy and non linear – the writing by Srividya Natarajan and S.Anand is very linear. The story begins with an upper caste person cribbing about reservation. And the person he is talking to tells him the story of Dr.Ambedkar. The questions asked are similar to comments that I get from my students ‘oh maam but caste is over’ ‘caste was abolished’ Ambedkar didn’t want reservation’ ‘caste only happens in some villages’ and so on.
The way the authors have mixed today with yesterday – is hard hitting .
The story starts in 1901 – when 10 year old Bhim faces discrimination at school and the world at large. It looks at how people went hungry – not because they didn’t have food – but because they didn’t have access to water. It then goes on to all those instances in Modern India where Dalits have not just been not allowed to go near the water source, but harmed if they did.
The art in the book switches between black and white and colour – there seems to be no reason why it is so, but that is part of the artists’ call.
The book looks at key facets of Dr.Ambedkar’s struggle against the system. is a good introduction to someone who knows nothing about Dr.Ambedkar or about caste. It is not an easy read. There are parts that make you really angry. an impotent kind of rage – because you know it is not gone. you know those attitudes still exist. It may not be so blatant, at least in the cities – but it is there. JM had once told me, the only people who say caste doesn’t matter anymore is the upper caste.
You wonder while reading it, why the Dalits didn’t take up arms against those who have traditionally oppressed them. And, the term oppress is a very mild term for what was done to the Dalits for generations. The fact that Dalits did not go down the path of armed revolution is because of one man. Dr.Ambedkar.
Do buy. Do read. And get your kids to read … Bhimayana – experiences of Untouchability
this from Flipkart
Book: BHIMAYANA: Experiences Of Untouchability
Author: Durgabai Vyam, Subhash Vyam
ISBN-13: 9788189059170, 978-8189059170
Publishing Date: 2011
Publisher: Navayana Publishing For Social Change
Number of Pages: 108
What comes to mind when you see this ?