Mahasweta Devi – a writer-activist’s literary tribute to the civilizational graces of the adivasis

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Excerpt from “The adivasi Mahashweta” [Mahasweta] by https:y in 540, August 2004 | Read the full article here >>

DO I know Mahashweta Devi ? Perhaps, I do. Perhaps not. […]

In the mid-90s, I decided to give up academic life and enter the world of the adivasis. The organization founded for this purpose was called ‘bhasha’ to represent the ‘voice of the adivasis’. Since the work was to be in remote adivasi villages, my colleagues felt that we should institute an annual lecture on adivasis in Baroda. We decided to name it after Verrier Elwin.

Every time we started short-listing speakers for the Elwin lecture, Mahashweta Devi’s name would come up first. […]

Her Elwin lecture was deeply moving. She had no written script. She spoke of the civilizational graces of the adivasis, of how our society had mindlessly destroyed the culture of our great continent, and how the innocents had been brutalised. She described the context in which the infamous Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 was introduced, the process of denotification in 1952 and the plight of the nomadic communities in India ever since. The DNTs (Denotified Tribals) are human beings too, she said. She then narrated the gruesome episode of the custodial death of Budhan Sabar in Purulia in February, a day before we first met her at the Vidyasagar University. […]

What is the source of her remarkable memory, the frightening economy of her words, that great simplicity which having distributed life between the necessary and the unnecessary, shuns all that is unnecessary?

Source: 540 Ganesh N. Devy, The adivasi Mahashweta
Address : http://www.india-seminar.com/2004/540/540%20ganesh%20n.%20devy.htm
Date Visited: Wed Oct 24 2012 19:04:37 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Sukhada Tatke, The Hindu, Books, MUMBAI, January 23, 2014

The first Dalit writer of West Bengal, he is possibly the only convict-turned-rickshawpuller in the world who has more than 10 books and 100 essays published.

His name is Manoranjan Byapari but he has little to do with entertainment or trade. His life, too, is a lengthy chronicle of opposites. He is possibly the only convict-turned-rickshawpuller in the world who has more than 10 books and 100 essays published.

Mr. Byapari’s tale of 63 years transports the listener to a Dickensian world. […]

The fellow inmate started teaching Mr. Byapari the Bangla alphabet. “In jail, I started going to the library. We won the case and my jail term was brought down. In the two years I spent in jail, I managed to read only two books because I was very slow. So when I got out, I had an insatiable appetite for more. I got a job as rickshawpuller and started reading anything that came my way. If I found a piece of paper on the street with words on it, I would pick it up to read.”

Reading became his source of empowerment. But one coincidence changed the course of his life. “I came across a word whose meaning I couldn’t find. One day, a woman got into my rickshaw and I asked her what jijibisha meant. The woman answered: ‘a will to live.’ Grateful, I showed her the book I was reading: Agnigarbha, a collection of short stories by Mahasweta Devi,” he said. The word appeared like a leitmotif in the book.

The woman then asked him to write a story for a magazine she was bringing out. He told her that he knew only how to read. “She told me to come back to her with the story. She scribbled her name on a piece of paper: Mahasweta Devi.” The rest, as they say, is history.

He continued writing on various issues, and without his knowing, he became credited with being the first ever Dalit writer of West Bengal. This year, he was honoured with the highest literary prize in the State: Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi Award. He is working on a book on the life of labour leader Shankar Guha Niyogi.

Source: Manoranjan Byapari: from fetters to letters – The Hindu
Address : https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/manoranjan-byapari-from-fetters-to-letters/article5606992.ece
Date Visited: 14 March 2024

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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