Bama is the pen-name of a Tamil Dalit woman, from a Roman Catholic family. She has published three main works: an autobiography, Karukku, ; a novel, . Bama’s Karukku: Dalit. Autobiography as Testimonio. Pramod K. Nayar. University of Hyderabad, India. Abstract. This essay argues that Dalit autobiographies. Karukku is the English translation of Bama’s seminal autobiography, which tells the story of a Dalit woman who left her convent to escape from the caste.

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The book was originally written by her in Tamil in and translated into the English version that I read by Lakshmi Holmstrom in Karukku is one of the first autobiographies of kraukku Dalit woman written in Tamil.

It ba,a in that Bama left the convent that she had been a member of for seven years. She does not describe events only in terms of the impact they had on her later life, but writes of the experiences she had as moments of oppression that composed her daily lived reality. Karukku is an elegy to the community Bama grew up in. She writes of life there in all its vibrancy and colour, never making it seem like a place defined by a singular caste identity, yet a place that never bbama, and is never allowed to forget its caste identity.

She writes simultaneously of humorous incidents she remembers from her childhood, the games she used to play with her friends, good meals with her family and the oppression of her community by the police, upper-castes, and the convent. Karukmu this manner, she presents the pervasiveness of caste oppression — how it not only punctuates everyday life, but is an integral part of it, even in the memory of a community.

‘Karukku’: An Autobiography By Bama Exploring Her Tamil, Dalit And Christian Identity

I should always stand away to one side. These were their rules.


I often felt pained and ashamed. Bama also speaks of the humiliation she experienced in high school, being Dalit and poorer than her classmates. What struck me, in particular, is the symbolic importance of clothing as a marker of social capital that she writes of. She describes a college party that she did not attend because she could not afford to buy a new saree, hiding in the bathroom until it was over.

While education spaces are supposed to be emancipate, free of all markers of identity and privilege, equalising spaces, they are anything but.

The same oppression that Bama faced outside, she faced in school and college, making it all even harder to pursue an education she could barely afford and that she had to fight hard for as a woman. Her narrative is nuanced in exploring her intersecting identities as Dalit and woman in detail.

She leaves home to join the convent in her twenties, after working for a few years as a teacher, hoping to contribute bamz a cause larger than caste, class and identity.

However, she finds the convent in not such a sanctuary and is just as oppressive as the spaces outside. The Truth About Fiction: Her illustration of culture within Christian convents is shocking. She writes of the oppression she faced within the convent to practice her religion and daily life in a particular manner.

She recalls how she was treated differently from others as a Dalit woman and admonished harshly every time she tried to stand ba,a for herself, think for herself or speak on behalf of those the convent was actually meant to serve.

Even leaving the convent proved a Herculean task as she was constantly stopped by the more senior nuns.

Karukku – Bama Faustina, Lakshmi Holmström, Mini Krishnan – Oxford University Press

What I loved the most about the book is how Bama writes an honest, vulnerable version of herself in it. Its nuance is incredible, as she describes not only her experiences as Dalit and a woman, but also the loneliness of her everyday life. In the end, she writes about life after leaving the nunnery. And yes, that is how it had to be. It is now, for the very first time that I must learn to be truly alone. I have always loved reading about the emotionally open and evocative relationships that women share with themselves, their bodies, their several identities.


This is what drew me to Karukku and this is why the book will stay with me.

Bama is unabashed with her admissions and her random musing in her writing. Never does she attempt to tie all the loose ends of her self, her life or her view of the world together. The power of her narrative is in that she leaves the question of how women, Dalits, and in particular Dalit women will ever live in an easier world, unanswered.

Karukku is an wonderful novel which I read with my whole heart…………Want to meet the writer Bama at least once in my kaukku time…………. Log into your account.

Karukku by Bama

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