Vultures – Dalpat Chauhan; Tr. Hemang Ashwinkumar


‘This novel mirrors (Gujarat’s) history of horrors and becomes an instrument of its reform.’

– Kanchana Ilaiah Shepherd


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Gujarat, 1964. The agrarian system of renewable annual contract mandates fulltime labour on the houses and farms of landlords. In these bleak circumstances, Iso, a tanner by birth, graduates from being a child labourer to an adult serf on the estate of Mavaji. His life is one of humiliation, hunger and drudgery, and the only respite comes in the form of Diwali, Mavaji’s daughter. Between them exists a physical relationship that is shrouded in secrecy, shame and fear. Even as Iso creates distance between them, a chance encounter turns to violence and tragedy, and he faces the brutal sword of caste patriarchy.

Based on the blood-curdling murder of a Dalit boy by Rajput landlords in Kodaram village in 1964, Vultures portrays a feudal society structured around caste-based relations and social segregation, in which Dalit lives and livelihoods are torn to pieces by upper-caste vultures. The deft use of dialect, graphic descriptions and translator Hemang Ashwinkumar’s lucid telling throw sharp focus on the fragmented world of a mofussil village in Gujarat, much of which remains unchanged even today.


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