Samboli! Beware! – Lakshman

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Translated from Kannada by SUSHEELA PUNITHA

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Samboli! means echcharike in Kannada ‘Be careful!’

Samboli! This expression is not from yesterday or the day before; it is centuries old.

Manu, the ancient lawgiver, decreed that people belonging to any of the untouchable castes of this country had to hold a pole with jingling bells tied to one end and pound it on the ground at every step to make a sound jal-jal. They had to call out, ‘Samboli! Samboli!’ This is the Samboli pole warning others of their presence. They were to walk only on conservancy lanes and not on the main streets and only around noon when their shadow was tucked under their feet and would not pollute people of the upper castes by falling on them.

Samboli, by extension, could imply ‘Beware!’ in the present context of Dalit uprisings. It could also be a clarion call for Dalit’s to fight for their humanity.

About the Author

Lakshman (1957–2017) was from Kathriguppe, a village in South Bengaluru Taluk. His parents Muthappa and Venkatamma were daily-wage labourers. He studied in the Government Primary School in Kathruguppe and the Government Boys Middle School in Basavanagudi and completed his studies at the Government Fort High School, Chamarajapet, residing at the Shri Narasimharaja Hostel, Chamarajapet. He was a second division clerk at HKED Veerendra Patil Pre-University College since 1980.
As a social activist, he served as general secretary, Karnataka Dalit Sangarsha Samiti, founder member and national vice president of Karnataka Vimochana Ranga and founder president of Jaathi Vinaashaka Vedhike.
As a writer, he has many collections of poems, short stories and two novels to his credit. The novels Jadimale and Badhuku have been translated into Tamil. Some of the awards he has received are: Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Award (2003), Dr Ambedkar Fellowship National Award (2006) and Karnataka Keerthi Kalasa State Award (2007).
Susheela Punitha has translated from Kannada to English, excerpts on theatre in Karnataka for Regional Theatre Histories, Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi Enclave, Delhi and the following works of fiction for Oxford University Press: Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights and Other Stories, a collection of short stories by S Diwakar (2015), Dweepa, a novella by Na. D’Souza (2013), Asprushyaru, a novel by Vaidehi, as Vasudeva’s Family (2012) and Bharathipura, a novel by U R Ananthamurthy (2010).
Bharathipura was shortlisted for the Jaipur Literary Prize, 2012 and the Hindu Literary Prize, 2012. Hundreds of Streets to the Palace of Lights was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award, 2016.
Susheela Punitha received the Sahitya Akademi Translation Award for English, 2015, for her translation of U R Ananthamurthy’s novel Bharathipura.


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