Considered a masterpiece, his novel for the first time brings to the world of literature the trials and tribulations of his tribe, Uchalya, literally the pilferers, a term coined by the British who classified the tribe as a criminal tribe. His treatment of the Dalit theme, in which his own delicate subjectivity is a part, is widely acclaimed for its masterful sensitivity and supreme craftsmanship. He depicts in all their subtlety and poignancy the inner feelings, sufferings and emotional complexities of a tribe historically Born on July 23, in Dhanegaon, Latur District, Maharashtra, Laxman Maruti Gaikwad gained international recognition with the publication of The Branded, a translation of his autobiographical novel, Ucalya. He depicts in all their subtlety and poignancy the inner feelings, sufferings and emotional complexities of a tribe historically viewed as criminals.
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Uchalya is an autobiographical novel that carries the memories of Laxman Gaikwad right from his childhood till he became an adult. People belonging to Uchalya lived in their own world with their own systems.
Their major trade was looting and theft. They had their own internal groups divided and a newborn kid was handed over or sold to one of these groups to groom as a perfect thief. They had literally no living standards. Laxman remembers his childhood days in this book as carrying a small piece of cloth that he used as his bed on bare land.
Nearby cattle urinating in the night used to flow the liquid to this cloth being used as bed. And that was only a relief point for those kids during the winter season. They had no cemented building or roads. They used to move from one place to another for land, food, trade, small kind of jobs etc. The tribe often used to get visits of police in search of stolen gold, and other valuable items. Laxman was the only child in tribe who got admitted in a school nearby.
He remembers his embarrassing days there when he was the only child in the class from a low caste or tribe and rest of the students used to make fun of him.
Not only in school but the same happened to him within his tribe also where his family was scolded to break this trend of years of not sending any child to school. There was no regular washing of clothes in this tribe. Their clothes were used to be washed once in many months only when they used to get a chance to go near a river. Otherwise Laxman used to put his piece of cloth that he used to sleep on, on the roof of his hut everyday morning after waking up.
This tribe had no cleaning mechanism or structured homes. Their open space was utilized for multiple tasks at the same time. On one hand where some people used to cook food, on the other hand the same space was used for wasteful activities. A wonderful read. The autobiography translated in English from Marathi by P. Kolkarkar describe how the tribes left as an outcast on the fringes- deprived of education, dignity and freedom.
Tribal communities lost their legitimate means of livelihood. They were denied stable jobs. The only alternative left to them for survival was thieving and looting.
The book speaks about the social standing of different communities before the independence period and the atrocities among the poor people. The only flaw is the repetition of thoughts and ideas in the translated book, which takes away from the literary quality. What changes made to their life after independence?
Or Britishers were good? Are these people really got any benefit after independence? This book tries to answer all these issues, cast politics, why these people relying on crime?
The Branded (Uchalya)
Independence could not remove the social stigma of the Uchalyas literally: pilferers. This nomadic "denotified tribe" undergoes inhuman treatment courtesy law-enforcement agencies. It clings to the thieving profession to survive. This translation is the work of P. He realised the value of education, especially with regard to his youngest son, "Lachchman".
Book review: Laxman Gaikwad's 'The Branded: Uchalya'