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Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Escape from India’s Caste System
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Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Escape from India’s Caste System

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  224 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Every sixth human being in the world today is an Indian, and every sixth Indian is an untouchable. For thousands of years the untouchables, or Dalits, the people at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, have been treated as subhuman. In this remarkable book, at last giving voice to India’s voiceless, Narendra Jadhav tells the awe-inspiring story of his family’s struggle fo ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published March 29th 2007 by University of California Press (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 781)
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Shankar
This is a true story of how one couple, Damu and Sonu Jadhav dedicated their lives to help their children break free of the shackles of India's caste system. And behind their commitment is the towering inspiration of Babasaheb Ambedkar whose call to educate Dalit children became the motto of their lives. This book goes up along with Mistry's A Fine Balance and Sainath's Everybody Loves a Good Drought in helping me better understand the condition of Dalits in India.
I want to record some of the
...more
Noor
The greatest thing about this biography is that it educated me on a deeper level on India's Untouchable caste. I had never heard of Babasaheb Ambedkar before, but I'm glad I got a chance to learn about this EXTRAORDINARY man who challenged both the cultural and religous system of India. Also, Untouchables unintentionally helped provide foundation for my dislike for Gandhi. Before I didn't like him mostly off of a gut feeling based upon his actions, but Jadhav's bio helped ground my intuition. Ga ...more
Nathan
This surprised me by being a straight memoir rather than a sociological explanation of one family's experience. As it is, Jadhav tends to get bogged down in personal recollection, to the neglect of showing how those personal experiences typify life under the caste system as a whole. This is a decent book, though I don't know that anyone not already familiar with the concept of caste would find this the best place to start.

Judged as a memoir, this was just okay. Jadhav is honest, eloquent and no
...more
Liz
The personal memoir guise of this book is used largely as a framework for political history of the Dalit struggle for equality in Indian society between the 1920s and 1950s. The book added to my shallow understanding of Indian history; for example, independence and partition were not the defining moments of this book, and I learned that Gandhi was not universally beloved among the poor (who weren't Hindu nationalists either). The glimpses into village life in the 1920s were really interesting to ...more
Sehar  Moughal
A very inspiring account of a man's struggle to gain freedom, independence and dignity; to break free from the shackles of the Hindu caste-system. Thinking back, almost all my Hindu friends have brought up the caste-system to justify another Hindu's ill behavior, their misfortunes or ill-treatment by the government officials/general public. I never could understand any of it; the divide between the privileged and the untouchables, the underlying hatred and the ever-present shame. Suffice to say, ...more
Aloonee
The nonfiction biography, Untouchables, by Narendra Jadhav is an awe-inspiring story set around the 1900s in India. It is about the journey of an untouchable family breaking out of the oppressive caste system. Jadhav writes this true story based on his father’s diaries and many family stories, which talks about his parents’ struggle for equal rights and justice in the low times of India. For thousands of years, Dalits (untouchables) have been treated harshly and not only by the gore (British) bu ...more
itpdx
There seems to be disagreement on what this book is. My library has it classified as a biography. Maybe it is narrative nonfiction, a classification that I haven't been able to get my mind around. The book is about the author's parents. They were Dalit (Untouchables) Indians who grew up in small villages, moved to Mumbai, were involved in the political movement to bring equality to the Dalits. The father, Domu was only semi-literate. The mother, Sonu, never learned to read. The author has them t ...more
Michaela Nee
I loved how Jadhav brought the reader right into the daily lives of those in the untouchables caste, but I had a really hard time staying with this book. I appreciated the perspectives and light that was given to the struggles of the lower caste people in India, and it was very well described, but it was hard to stay interested when so much of it was just recounting various childhood memories.
Weavre
Very nice. I suspect the original may have been a bit better written than the English translation, but I still enjoyed this quite a bit. It was interesting to get an "on-the-ground" perspective of the ideological conflict between Gandhi and Babasaheb, too; like most Westerners, I'd heard a lot about the former and very little about the latter, and feel that this book filled some important gaps in my knowledge. The real-life characters were interesting, and their human dramas compelling, so this ...more
Bethany
Untouchables is actually a revised version of a book published in 1993, which I have not read and can therefore make no comparison. However, the story of the Jahdavs’ journey out of the caste system in India is intriguing. The book itself is more of a collective memoir, with alternating pieces by Narendra Jahdav’s parents. This gives a very unique voice to their situations and shows several perspectives on the events that occur in their lives.

In the United States, we tend to think that the battl
...more
Margaret
Quickly gives a good but simplistic view of how 1/6 of a population can be kept oppressed by lack of education, and religion. The personal stories interesting and adds understanding to the reasons why so large a population has accepted and still accepts abuse.
Eric Kim
I moved a lot. Happiness is from the rich as well as the poor. The poor have also their dreams and hapiness.

The family was from the lowest level in India with a cast system, They were untouchables. There was an untuchable movents and it helped them to get education.
Natalie
i'm amazed. brilliant editor. story of family unfolds through chapters--perspective changes back and forth from husband to wife. gandhi v. ambedkar. hinduism v. buddhism. feels like i'm right there. nagging mothers. bhakris day in day out. overthrowing tradition--some traditions. marriage age 10. how to galvanize and organize a population that is poor and overworked and bound to the religion and social order that maintains they are irrevocably LOW? this is one family's story.
Lauren
I feel the title is a little misleading as this book is more of a memoir of his mother and father who also happened to be social activists. Much more focus on everyday family life than anticipated. Enjoyable, but I'd like to have an indepth biography that provided more context. Also, a fair warning that there's a first person narrative about the consummation of his mother's child marriage which I was somewhat unprepared for.
Chris
This book describes a family who seeks to overcome the unspeakable horrors of being an untouchable in India in the early 1900's and providing an education for their children, who have become scholars and successful professionals. I found the book fascinating and would highly recommend it. It seems sad that societies so often choose to discriminate between one group or another.
Emily
This book was not what I expected from the description. I felt that it was more a description of rising from an impoverished life in India and the limitations that that imposed rather than the ongoing struggles of a family against their caste. The challenges of the parents were caste-related but it was less clear to me how caste affected the lives of the children.
Agatha
This was a good story but, sadly, I am not proficient enough in Indian history or vocabulary to fully appreciate it, I think. :( I got too lost in the foreign words, which came about 2-3 every sentence. It was too tiring for me to pick through. :(

I wanted to like it, though. :(
Melanie
Great biography/autobiography about one family's story of growing up in India during the era of Ghandi and social reform. Great additional chapters at the end that detail the lives of the children now living in India and how far they came from being the lowest caste.
Kate
What I learned from this book... all about the life in the lowest Indian caste. It's a compelling family story about rising from the life society dictates into a life of your own creation. Without education... this family never would have made it out.
Alison
The writing in this book is at times uneven (its a translation) in the beginning but it soon hits its stride going back and forth between chapters from husband Damu and wife Sonu. It was very enlightening about the life of Dalits in India historically.
Khandoba Salunkhe
This book is an interesting biography, especially due to the sense of humour of author.. But at some points author sounds exaggerating, and the book is not as deep into caste system as it should've been.. Still, worth reading once..
Kristen Iworsky
The author writes simply, and there's no great description, etc. but the book works. I think it helps to have been in India and understand the country and her people. The addendum by his daughter was a joke.
Barbarawiley
Interesting story and you learn a great deal about the caste system in India. It is discouraging that every culture seems to need to create cultural systems where some people are looked down upon.
Susan
This is an incredible story. The obstacles his family had to surmount were staggering. He did a lovely job of writing about his parents.
Linden
True story of one Dalit family who rises beyond its birth status. Very interesting account of how Dalits were treated. Nonfiction.
Kavita
a very moving book about the power of courage and conviction to overcome the most unimaginable deprivation and humiliation
Elena Mooney Graham
This was fine. I wouldn't kill a bear to buy this book, but I might pull it off the buck table at Borders and give it a spin.
Andrell
Tear-jerking... my first non-fiction exposure to cultures outside the U.S. My aunt had me read it.
Monika
very good insight into the culture and rules of the caste system in India. very enlightening.
Susie
I learned a lot about the caste system in India. For that reason, I would recommend this book.
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Narendra Jadhav is a noted Indian bureaucrat, economist, social scientist, writer and educationist. He is a member of Planning Commission of India. As well as a member of National Advisory Council (NAC), since 31 May 2010 Prior to this, he had worked with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and headed economic research at Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

A writer with 100 research papers, 14 books on eco
...more
More about Narendra Jadhav (डॉ. नरेंद्र जाधव )...
Amcha Baap Aan Aamhi (आमचा बाप आन् आम्ही) Outcaste, A Memoir Re Emerging India: A Global Perspective Untouchables: My Family S Triumphant Escape from India S Caste System Ambedkar Speaks Volume 1

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“It was a pleasure to watch them eating jalebis, always entreating the other to eat some more—the beauty of love that had mellowed in the evening of life.” 1 likes
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