A raw and vivid portrayal of life as an Untouchable. "I am the midwife here. I was born in the village of Velpakkam in Tamilnadu, and when I married, I came to Karani, my husband's village. I was still a child then. I am a farm worker and, like all my family, I am a serf, bonded to Karani's richest landowner. We are Pariahs. We live apart from the other castes; we eat beef; we play drums at funerals and weddings because only we can touch the cowhide; we work the land. My son Anbin corrects me when I say 'Pariah'; he says we should use the word 'Harijan'. Every day people from the political parties come to the village and tell us to demand higher wages, to fight the caste system. And they mean well. But how would we survive? We have no land, not even a field." - Viramma. Viramma is an agricultural worker and mid-wife in Karani, a village near Pondicherry in southeast India. This extraordinary book is the story of her life, which she told, over ten years, to Josiane and Jean-Luc Racine. Her story is both fascinating and moving. She describes her brief, happy childhood; the ordeal of leaving her village to live with her husband when she had just reached puberty and their subsequently loving marriage: her experiences as the mother of twelve children, nine of whom have died; the oral culture of her community and the interplay between different castes; the divine forces which influence her and the effects of modernization, which are becoming increasingly apparent. Threaded through the personal stories she tells is her sense of profound change, a constant dialogue between the old certainties of the caste system and institutional and political initiatives to improve the lives of her people. Officially Viramma is a Harijan, a member of the "scheduled castes." To emancipationists, she is one of the "dalits," the oppressed. But in her village, she is still what she has always been: an "untouchable," a "Pariah." Taking its place alongside the immensely successful I, Rigoberta Menchu, Viramma: A Pariah's Life is a rare and important publication: the vivid portrayal of a proud and expressive woman living at the margins of society.
..". a staggering book."--Elle