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
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Date Visited: Sat Nov 22 2014 11:09:03 GMT+0100 (CET)

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“[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.”– Ivy Imogene Hansdak in Pandita Ramabai Saraswati: the convert as ‘heretic’

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See also

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