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Growing Up Untouchable in India: A Dalit Autobiography

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There is much in Vasant Moon's story of his vasti, his childhood neighborhood in India, that would probably be true of any ghetto anywhere in the world. There is hunger and deprivation, to be sure, but also a sense of community, an easy acceptance of petty crime and violence, the saving grace of sports and organized activities led by caring adults, the off-again on-again aid from relatives, the inexplicable cruelty and unexpected generosity, and escape through education. But there is much here that is peculiarly and vividly Indian as well. Primary among these is the factor of caste, a hierarchical system unrelated to race but based on ancient principles of hereditary pollution and purity, with Brahmans the purest and Untouchables the most polluted. Second is the presence of a hero so important he is described as a "wave," and surely no despised group has ever had a leader as meaningful as Dr. B. R. (Babasaheb) Ambedkar was and remains for India's awakened and ambitious Dalits. Third is nature, with Moon's compelling descriptions of Nagpur's heat and the vivid joy brought by the monsoon. Indeed, every tree, every fruit, every nook and cranny of the world in and around the vasti plays an important part in his story. Dalit literature, poetry, plays, and autobiographies have been one of the most important developments in the culture of India in the past thirty years, yet little has been translated for a Western audience. Vasant Moon's Growing Up Untouchable, the first Dalit autobiography to be published in English, is a moving and eloquent testament to a uniquely Indian life as well as to the universal human spirit.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published December 20, 2000

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About the author

Vasant Moon

6 books3 followers
Vasant Moon is a retired civil servant and Dalit activist. He is the editor of 17 volumes of Dr. Ambedkar’s writings and speeches in English.

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
Profile Image for Conrad Barwa.
145 reviews114 followers
February 28, 2016
Not as powerful as Valmiki's 'Joothan' or as caustic as Murli's 'Untouchable'. Moon's Mahar background is relatively more priveleged and less deprived than that of paraiyars or bhangis but it offers nonetheless an insight into the Ambedkarite tradition of Dalit thought and experience common in Western India, along with the Buddhist influence that isn't found as strongly elsewhere.
Profile Image for Ke.
898 reviews7 followers
May 1, 2012
Though the pacing of this book is a bit uneven, it is about a topic which I knew very little about. I tried to read this and not to be too upset at the caste system.
Profile Image for Casey Hugelfink.
52 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2023
I didn't finish the book, it's too hard to understand for me. Too many Indian terms and too many old fashioned English words I've never heard before. I think it's a good book for learning about the history of Dalit uprising. And yes, education is a way out. But I was searching for the trauma left by labelled "Untouchable", the psychologic consequences, for this it's the wrong book.
13 reviews
January 30, 2023
The book doesn't do justice with the title, There is no pain or suffering of an untouchable in this book
5 reviews
June 14, 2007
pretty good, alittle confusing at times, but overall really interesting
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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