The talk by Prof. Satyanaraya was very insightful because of the way it was presented and because of the many relevant topics that the professor touched upon. The talk moved away from usual ways of looking at Dalit writing. The two texts that were discussed by Prof. Satyanarayana in the talks were Baby (Shantabai) Kamble’s The Prisons We Broke and Bama’s Karuppu. As opposed to the many other talks that were held during Dhvani, Satyanarayana was less concerned with the content than he was with the form used by the Dalit writers. The talks took a closer look at the form of the autobiography and the politics associated with it.
One of the crucial aspects of the Dalit autobiography, according to Satyanarayana, is that it becomes a starting point for the careers of many writers. This must be held as an important point in studying their works because there is a tendency among many readers of the texts to equate these works with their lives. Satyanarayana asked us to be sceptical of such a reading because these texts too are crafted to meet a particular end. To demonstrate this, he pointed out examples from Kamble who wrote the first draft of her book on newspapers in the ‘60s and her relationship with the figure of Ambedkar. The representation of Bhama’s identity as a Dalit was shown to be even more problematic because at no point in her life could she be properly considered a Dalit.
Report by: Roshan Nair
Photography by: Sissi Hamann