is what i am
“we were untouchables” my mother whispered
when i asked where my roots go
was what i was born as
“you should not claim reservations
use your merits, as you have the privilege”
my father often opined
an identity erased by history
“…but you don’t look like one of us,”
what do you mean?
“you don’ look like a dalit
your colour is not dalit!
your clothes are not dalit !
and of course your class is not dalit!”
so how does one become a dalit?
even if my lived reality sometimes spells out dalit
when you are not yet uppercaste
once my friend told me with pride
“don’t ever tell my parents that you eat beef
they won’t let you in”
“your sister is one of us,
as she married a brahmin”
And yet I can never be one of you!!
who legitimizes my existence?
does my colour and my class negate my caste?
the reality that i was born into?
does it debar me from speaking my dalit dialect
does it make me less of an ezhava?
an identity i cling on to
the only way to reclaim my past
narratives of resistance and rebellion
meandering through the untouched path
towards celebrating being
Ezhavas are ex-untouchables who are now categorized as OBCs; they are considered as the most dominant among the Avarnas (that is, the people outside the varna system).
Nambiars are a ritually higher shudra community on par with the Nairs.
Narayana Guru was an anti-caste ezhava saint of the 19th century. He has been viewed both as a liberating and sanksritiing agent.
Shruti Tharayil works with a non-profit organization in Andhra Pradesh. She works closely with Adivasi, Dalit and pastoralist communities on Women, Violence and Livelihoods with the focus on Food Sovereignty.