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PoetryofMeenaKandasamy:DeRomanticizingtheHegemonyofCasteandGenderHierarchy D O W N LO A D

Poetry of Meena Kandasamy: De-Romanticizing the Hegemony of Caste and


Gender Hierarchy in India

Ruchi Singh

Meena Kandasamy (b.1984) is a social activist, creative riter, translator

and !rimarily a young and !romising !oetic "igure o" #alit and $eminist riting. %t the age o"

seventeen she started editing a bi&monthly maga'ine, The Dalit. urrently she is on the

contributing ditor*s list o" Muse +ndia. She shot to !rominence ith her anthology o" !oems

TouchandMs.Militancy. esides, she has ritten com!elling columns "or nes -ournals and

maga'ines. o Ms. Kandasamy, riting !oetry is a constant groth !rocess to come to terms
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ith sel" and recreate an identity that she longs "or. /er aim is to send a social message and so

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"ar she has achieved her aim success"ully. /er or0 can be easily categori'ed into to& #alit

riting and $eminist riting. his instantly !uts her into the category o" those ho are tice

removed "rom the center and thus bear the trauma o" being marginali'ed sections o" the society.

aste system and the inevitable cruel conseuences o" unrestricted regime

o" the sel" acclaimed high caste or u!!er caste /indus "orm one o" the ma-or sub-ects o" her

collection o" !oems. #alit consciousness is an issue that motivates much o" Meena*s ritings.

She rites to narrate the !ain and su""ering o" the #alits and e2!oses the u!!er caste "or its

inhumanity and atrocious conducts. She rites about +ndia hich is crumbling under the dead

eight o" hegemony o" caste system and the corru!tion that stems "rom it. #alits have been

"orced to do the mean tas0s and harassed "or any re"usal or resistance. +t is not discrimination,

but 3blatant hatred* that the #alits in +ndia have to "ace. /er !oetry reveals a society that

continues to sanction such violence and discrimination toard #alits. My aim, in this research

!a!er, is to analy'e the !oems by Meena Kandasamy and see ho she subverts and challenges
the age old traditions entrenched in caste and gender hierarchy. he riter asserts her caste and

gender identity by de&romantici'ing and de&mysti"ying the 3divine* identity created by the high

caste /indus "or themselves.

/indu scri!tures are re!lete ith a number o" commands one o" hich is

that the touch, shado and s!eech o" a #alit ill !ollute the u!!er caste. he !oem 3ouch*

e2em!li"ies this trauma. ouch is a "eeling that is cherished by individuals but the same touch

hen crystalli'ed in caste5 becomes a source o" relentless hate and !ain "or the marginali'ed.

+ronically, the same touch does not de"ile them hen they ra!e #alit omen in Shame5 and

6arration5 to satis"y their lust. %ccording to Kandasamy, caste system is also related to male&

"emale se2uality. o be a oman in a staunch !atriarchal society is also a "orm o" belonging to

the loer caste. o add to the oe and ma0e it a sore, be a #alit oman. 7!!ression comes in

"orm o" se2ual sub-ugation to #alit omen. #alit oman is o!!ressed and ra!ed in 3Shame* and

nobody rescues her dignity. nable to bear the burden o" disgrace, and !ain, the #alit oman
burns hersel" alive. he u!!er caste goons commit heinous crimes and are scot "ree because they

belong to 3su!erior* class.

he scri!tures also say that the mere !resence o" a #alit in the vicinity o" a

tem!le or any other holy !lace ill corru!t the u!!er caste gods and goddesses. +n 3rayers* an

3untouchable* ho has !artially recovered "rom ty!hoid drags himsel" to a nearby tem!le and
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3untouchable* ho has !artially recovered "rom ty!hoid drags himsel" to a nearby tem!le and

bends in su!!lication aay "rom the tem!le. +t is ta0en as an encroachment by a #alit and the

si2ty "ive year old man is beaten to death. o chant 37m* is only a co!yright o" the rahmins.

aste !roves crueler than disease "or this 3untouchable.* She esches the gods ho only slee!

and do nothing orthhile. he gods do not bother themselves about living !eo!le. hey only

a0e u! once hen someone dies. he hole idea o" !olluting gods and not entering the tem!le

comes don crumbling in the !oem 3$or Sale* hich is an ironic remar0 on the hy!ocrisy o" the

rahmins. he !oem tells the story o" a #alit ho gro dam rich5, is alloed to enter the

tem!le, stand near the gods and gets e2tra blessings "or the cris! "i"ty buc0s.

Kandasamy s!ea0s o" the relentless struggle o" the #alit !eo!le "or their

rights& moral, social, legal, and !olitical. +n 3rayers in the bathroom, overheard,* the moment the

!riest comes to 0no that the ater in his bathroom ta! comes "rom the !um! that is o!erated by

an untouchable his entire "amily sto!s ta0ing bath. $ood and ater become im!ure by his touch.
Se!arate riverban0s and settlements have been arranged "or the 33shudra*s.* +n 3:iuid ragedy;

Karamchedu 198<* the !oet recalls an incident "rom history hen the only source o" ater "or

the #alits as made dirty ith bu""alo bath, urine and dung. % #alit oman retaliated and it led

to Karamchedu massacre here a number o" #alits ere brutally 0illed and omen ere ra!ed

to avenge the u!!er caste ego. he u!!er castes !reach the doctrine o" non&dualism but they

!ractice untouchability. 6on dualism e2ists only to maintain the highest order o" the rahmins in

the social hierarchy. 7nly they are eual to god on earth and "or the untouchables they are the

gods themselves.

he u!!er caste theori'ed that the untouchables su""er their "ate because o"

their bad karmain their !revious births. +t is no their dharmato serve and be slaves to u!!er

caste /indus and su""er division o" labor5, dis!arity in dreams and destinies.5 +n 3#ignity* the

rahmins en-oy the envious status in the society because o" they are born o" 3virtuous* "athers

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