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Omprakash Valmiki describes his life as an untouchable, or Dalit, in the newly independent India of the s. "Joothan" refers to scraps of food left on a plate, .
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During the days of extreme poverty and lack of food, Om Prakash was admitted into the Tyagi Inter College , Barla which was renamed as Barla Inter College after selling the silver anklets of his sister-in-law. He was bullied, beaten and given low marks because of his caste identity. He lived in a perpetual fear and nervousness of getting subjected to violence by other Tyagi students and teachers. He revealed that the inadequacy of the education system arises from the biases, violence practiced by the educators. After moving to Indresh Nagar, a sweeper and cleaner colony in Dehradun, Om Prakash had access to various books on political leaders.

However, the autobiography of Ambedkar was introduced by one his friends Hemlal. From that moment, he not only understood the significance of being politically involved to raise his own opinions but participated in protests which he considered as an essential part of education. Later, when he applied for training at Raipur Ordinance Factory, he became more acquainted with ideas of Ambedkar. After moving to Jabalpur, he became deeply engaged with Marxist thought and questioned religious ideas pertaining to animal sacrifice.

With his growing interest in the literary life of Jabalpur, Om Prakash began to write more plays, scripts and improve his speech. During the same period, he got increasingly involved in Dalit politics, and wrote articles regarding the same in Nav Bharat Times , Maharashtra and increased his interest in Marathi Dalit Literature. Caste system is seen as a significant weapon for cultural homogeneity to be protected. He mentioned various instances of facing humiliation due to his caste identity.

As Valmiki got back to Bombay after paying a visit to his parents in Barla where they were still subjected to caste oppression. He noticed that he was treated with respect as long as the family was not aware of his caste background. He was even warned by one of his friends to not disclose his caste identity. I reached fourth class. Along with him had come another new teacher. After the arrival of these two, the three of us fell on terrible times. They would thrash us at the slightest excuse. Ram Singh would escape once in a while, but Sukkhan Singh and I got beaten almost daily.

I was very weak and skinny in those days. Sukkhan Singh developed a boil on his belly, just below his ribs.


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While in class, he used to keep his shirt folded up to keep the boil uncovered. This way the shirt could be kept clear of the puss, and he thought that if the teacher could see the boil, he would be decent and not hit him. Sukkhan screamed with pain.

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The boil had burst. Seeing him flailing with pain, I too began to cry.

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While we cried, the teacher was showering abuse on us nonstop. If I repeated his abusive words here, they would smear the nobility of Hindi. I say that, because many big-name Hindi writers wrinkled their noses and eyebrows when I had a character 8. Students in the fourth class are around ten years old. Coincidentally, the character who swore was a Brahmin, that is, the knower of Brahma, of God.

Was it possible? Would a Brahmin swear? The ideal image of the teachers that I saw in my childhood has remained indelibly imprinted on my memory. Whenever someone starts talking about a great guru, I remember all those teachers who used to swear about mothers and sisters. They used to fondle good-looking boys and invite them to their homes and sexually abuse them. Children used to feel scared just encountering the headmaster. The entire school was terrified of him.

Joothan By Om Prakash Valmiki – Book Review

See that teak tree there? Climb that tree.


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  • Break some twigs and make a broom. And sweep the whole school clean as a mirror. It is, after all, your family occupation. My face was covered with dust. I had dust inside my mouth.

    The other children in my class were studying and I was sweeping. The headmaster was sitting in his room and watching me. I was not even allowed to get a drink of water. I swept the whole day. I had never done so much work, being the pampered one among my brothers. The second day, as soon as I reached school, the headmaster again put me to sweeping the school. I was consoling myself that I would go back to class the next day. The third day I went to the class and sat down quietly. The pressure of his fingers was increasing.

    As a wolf grabs a lamb by the neck, he dragged me out of the class and threw me on the ground. Just like me, it was shedding its dried up leaves. All that remained were the thin sticks. Tears were falling from my eyes. I started to sweep the compound while my tears fell. From the doors and windows of the schoolrooms, the teachers and the boys saw this spectacle. Each pore of my body was submerged in an abyss of anguish.

    Just then my father passed by the school. He stopped abruptly when he saw me sweeping the school compound.

    Autobiographie d'un intouchable

    When I saw him, I burst out sobbing. He entered the school compound and came toward me. Tell me, what has happened? In between my hiccups I told the whole story to my father: that the teachers had been making me sweep for the last three days, that they did not let me enter the classroom at all.

    Pitaji snatched the broom from my hand and threw it away. His eyes were blazing. Pitaji, who was always taut as a bowstring in front of others, was so angry that his dense moustache was fluttering. All the teachers, along with the headmaster, came out. Kaliram, the headmaster, threatened my father and called him names.

    But his threats had no effect on Pitaji. I have never forgotten the courage and the Joothan 7 fortitude with which my father confronted the headmaster that day. Pitaji had all sorts of weaknesses, but the decisive turn that he gave my future that day has had a great influence on my personality. The Chuhra wants him educated. Go, go—otherwise I will have your bones broken. So I am leaving now. But remember this much, Master: This Chuhre ka will study right here, in this school. And not just him, there will be more coming after him. But what happened was the exact opposite.

    Knowledge is not gained like this. Pitaji came back, tired and dejected. He sat up all night without food or drink. God knows how deep an anguish Pitaji went through.

    Om Prakash Valmiki

    As soon as the morning broke, he took me along and went to the house of the pradhan, or village chief, Sagwa Singh Tyagi. What is the matter? You have come so early in the morning.

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    And that headmaster makes this child of mine to come out of the class and sweep all day instead of teaching him. If he has to sweep the school all day, then you tell me: When is he going to study? He had tears in his eyes.