Karukku was my healing: Bama Faustina

It has been 25 years since Bama Faustina’s Karakku revolutionised the world of Tamil literature for it was the first autobiography by a Dalit in the language

Photo courtesy: NH photo
Photo courtesy: NH photo

Bama Faustina

After seven years of living in the convent, on November 8, 1992, I left behind my life of renunciation and came out into the world. After that, I wrote the book, Karukku. That book was written as a means of healing my inward wounds; I had no other motive. Yes, it had unexpected results. It influenced people in many different ways. Karukku made me realise how potent a book can be. My parents read it. They understood me a little more. My friends read it. They praised it because it was a new kind of writing. People from my village read it. Although they were hostile at first, they realised that it was necessary. They rejoiced and encouraged me. Many Dalits read it and said it gave them strength. Literary critics read it and analysed it, asking each other how to categorise it. They decided, finally, that it was a new genre in Tamil literature. Many praised it, many scorned it. After all of this, the noise has died down…


Mini Krishnan was the editor at Macmillan India at the time. Through her efforts, Karukku came out as a Macmillan publication, translated into English by Lakshmi Holmstrom. Following this, Karukku came to the attention of a national and then international readership. The next year it won the Crossword Award. Then it was translated into other languages such as Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada, in all of which it was well received. Students from different disciplines studied it, both in English and Tamil; they continue to do so.


Now 25 years have passed. During these 25 years, Karukku has journeyed widely. Many universities and colleges have used it as a text book for different subjects such as Marginal Literature, Literature in Translation, Autobiography, Feminist Literature, Subaltern Literature and Dalit Literature. Many students have used it as research material for a number of different topics. Karukku written by a wounded self, has not been dissolved in the stream of time. On the contrary, it has been a means of relieving the pain of others who were wounded. Karukku has been of comfort to many who have been brought low, and who suffer the pain of caste discrimination, untouchability, poverty and destitution; it has given them courage and helped them to love life once more. Karukku stands as a means of strength to the multitudes whose identities have been destroyed and denied. The feedbacks I received for Karukku both positive and negative enabled me to grow and helped me to write my other novels Sangathi, Vanmam and Manushi and many short stories. Karukku has reminded its readers not only that truth alone is victorious, but that only the truth is the truth. Karukku has enabled many to raise their voices and proclaim, ‘My language, my culture, my life is praiseworthy, it is excellent.’ Karukku insists only on a humanism which crosses all boundaries; the truths it tells may be bitter to some, to some they may be ridiculous. The book stands past such criticism and speaks for itself.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 30 Jan 2018, 8:59 AM