Urmila Pawar is an Indian writer and activist. She is a prominent figure in the dalit and feminist movements in India and her works, all of which are written in Marathi language, have often been hailed as a critique of social discrimination and the savarna exploitation by commentators and media outlets.
Pawar's short stories including "Kavach" and "A Childhood Tale" are widely read and form the part of the curriculum at various Indian universities. Her documentation with Meenakshi Moon on the participation of dalit women was a major contribution to the construction of dalit history from a feminist perspective in India.
Pawar's autobiography Aidan (Weave), which was one of the first of its kind account by a dalit woman, won her acclaim and numerous accolades. The book was later translated into English by Maya Pandit and released under the title The Weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoirs. Wandana Sonalkar has written the foreword for the book.
Early life and educationEdit
Pawar was born in 1945 in Adgaon village of Ratnagiri district in the Konkan district of Bombay Presidency (now the state of Maharashtra). When she was 12 years old, she and her family converted to Buddhism along with other members of their community after B. R. Ambedkar called for people from the Dalit community to renounce Hinduism.
Pawar was acutely aware of her caste identity even as a child because of the repeated instances of discrimination and humiliation she faced in her school and other places. She talks about an incident in school where her classmates invited her for a potluck lunch but clearly told her not to bring any food. Post-lunch, she also found herself as a topic of gossip for having eaten too much food. She also narrates an incident where her English teacher humiliated her for her poor English. She has described how her community lived in the centre of the village, unlike Dalit communities elsewhere in the Presidency that were usually expected to live at the periphery. Her father was a teacher in a school for untouchable children. She has also noted that her father neither participated in the Mahad Satyagraha organised by Ambedkar nor inter-dining arranged by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, although her elder sister, Shantiakka, often missed school to attend the inter-dining lured by sweet delicacies served there.
Aaidan (The Weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoirs)Edit
Aaidan her autobiography written in Marathi has been translated into English and titled as The Weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoirs. In her foreword to the English translation, Wandana Sonalkar writes that the title of the book The Weave is a metaphor of the writing technique employed by Pawar, "the lives of different members of her family, her husband's family, her neighbours and classmates, are woven together in a narrative that gradually reveals different aspects of the everyday life of Dalits, the manifold ways in which caste asserts itself and grinds them down"
Awards and accoladesEdit
Pawar won the Laxmibai Tilak award for the best published autobiography given by the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad (Maharashtra Literary Conference), Pune for Aaidan. Pawar rejected the award. In a letter to the Parishad, she explained that the intent to start the programme with a prayer to goddess Saraswati indicated an attempt to project symbols and metaphors of a single religion. She questioned why such ideas should be present in Marathi literature.
Pawar was also awarded the Matoshree Bhimabai Ambedkar Award by the Sambodhi Pratishthan in 2004 for her work in the fields of literature and activism.
- Urmila, Pawar (2008). The weave of my life: A dalit woman's memoirs. Kolkata: Stree. ISBN 9788185604909. OCLC 751401950.
- Rege, Sharmila (2006). Writing caste, writing gender: reading Dalit women's testimonies. Zubaan. p. 256. ISBN 978-81-89013-01-1.
- "Notes From the Margins: Dalit writer Urmila Pawar's autobiography inspires a Marathi play". The Indian Express. 20 July 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- Rege, Sharmila (2006). Writing caste, writing gender: reading Dalit women's testimonies. Zubaan. pp. 256–265. ISBN 978-81-89013-01-1.
- Urmilā Pavāra (June 2009). The weave of my life: a Dalit woman's memoirs. Columbia University Press. pp. xv–xviii. ISBN 978-0-231-14900-6. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
- Rai, Nandini (December 2007). "Writing Caste/Writing Gender: Narrating Dalit Women's Testimonios, 2006". Social Change. 37 (4): 211–213. doi:10.1177/004908570703700413. ISSN 0049-0857. S2CID 151700198.
- "Dailyhunt". m.dailyhunt.in. Retrieved 13 November 2018.