India’s tribal citizens and the country’s urban mainstream: In search for schooling, work, food and dignity at home – Comment from New Delhi

Fragile lives, ferocious changes: The story of my Adivasi maid
by Renuka Narayan

An important position paper with policy recommendations on India’s tribal citizens is currently under consideration with Government. Its outcome interests me because though they don’t make them more ‘mainstream’ than I, my life as an urban gipsy startles friends who have lived in one house for decades or held their family homes for centuries. […]

Sarita was an Oraon from Jashpur in the Chota Nagpur plateau, Chhattisgarh; a long way for a young, unlettered girl to come in search of food, shelter and wages. Her family had converted to Christianity, so her greeting to fellow-Oraons was “Jaisu” (Jai Yesu) and she also honoured her ancestral affiliation to ‘Dharmes’ (Shiva). […]

She found me sadly wanting as a proper memsahib in my jeans and tees, her ideal was the young Hindu housewife who wore the full complement of sari, bindi, bangles, chains and ear-rings and had her hair in a nice, long plait, looking like ‘saaksharth Mahalakshmi’ as we’d say, at Dipavali. […]

Sarita fell in love with a young Oraon man at church, suffered a drastic personality change and eloped. I heard later that he’d begun to drink a lot and she had two children. I moved house and lost touch with those who might have known something about her. But I’m frequently reminded of Sarita. It’s common in our cities to see plump, prosperous mainstream families at malls and restaurants with an Adivasi maid in tow, carrying the baby or a mountain of shopping. […]

While our policy-makers think things over, I wonder if it will be possible one day soon for other Saritas to find schooling, work, food and dignity at home without feeling inadequate compared to the urban mainstream and having to slave for it like aphids for ants.

Source: Fragile lives, ferocious changes: The story of my Adivasi maid, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, October 12, 2014
Address :
Date Visited: Sat Nov 22 2014 11:09:03 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Usage in legal and historical records

“[A] common perception of conversion, prevalent in India, is that all conversions take place only among deprived lower caste or tribal groups, which are considered more susceptible to allurement or coercion. The reality of upper caste conversions is ignored in this climate of cynicism.”– Dr. Ivy Imogene Hansdak in Pandita Ramabai Saraswati: the convert as ‘heretic’More about the effects of “casteism” >>

Related posts

“Cover Your Country” by PARI: Rural people speak about their lives through photos, narratives, film, and audio materials >>

Video | “I saw women working 90 per cent of the time. They did backbreaking jobs for which you need an erect spine,” says P. Sainath in Visible Work, Invisible Women: Bricks, coal and stone | >>

In Marginalised but not Defeated, Tarun Kanti Bose (a seasoned public interest journalist) asserts that “the mainstream development paradigm is being questioned and new rainbows of collective, community reassertions are happening across the tribal belt in India. More so, in most cases, led by brave, empowered and resilient women.” | Learn more: >>

“In less than 200 years, photography has gone from an expensive, complex process to an ordinary part of everyday life. From selfies to satellites, most of the technology we use and spaces we inhabit rely on cameras. […] While photographic documentation can aid in shaping history, it can also be a window into the horrors of the past.” – Read more or listen to Butterfly Effect 9 – The Camera on CBC Radio Spark 26 May 2023 >>

See also

Adverse inclusion | Casteism | Rural poverty


Crafts and visual arts

Demographic Status of Scheduled Tribe Population of India (Census figures 2011)

Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes – Report and Recommendations (Technical Advisory Group)

Fact checking | Figures, census and other statistics

Human Rights Commission (posts) | (Government of India)

Imprisonment & rehabilitation

Search tips | Names of tribal communities, regions and states of India

State wise population of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and their percentage to the total population in the respective states and to the total STs population

“What are the Rights of Scheduled Tribes? – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)

“What is the Forest Rights Act about?” – Campaign for Survival and Dignity

“Who are Scheduled Tribes?” – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

Tips for using interactive maps

Toggle to normal view (from reader view) should the interactive map not be displayed by your tablet, smartphone or pc browser

For details and hyperlinks click on the rectangular button (left on the map’s header)

Scroll and click on one of the markers for information of special interest

Explore India’s tribal cultural heritage with the help of another interactive map >>