28 July, 2021

Dalit Diary

In seventh grade, Maya Pramod was banished to the back benches because of caste. She tells a very personal story here—of her journey from virtual ostracisation to an international award at Brandeis University.

Illustration by Saahil
Dalit Diary
Journey of a Back-Bencher

I made the trip to school for the mid-day lunch. Seeing me sitting on one of the front benches, the seventh grade teacher says, “The back benches are where your people sit”. Taking me by the hand, she leads me there. I had sat in front as I am short and the disease of scoliosis—a very painful, disabling curvature of the spine—made it difficult for me to view the blackboard clearly. That incident sparked several questions in my mind: who ‘your people’ were, if it signified dark-skinned people like me, and whether it should govern my choice of friends. I invited the teacher to my house…if one can hardly call that a ‘house’. Her response was one of extreme embarrassment and discomfort, as if she would be marked out for entering the colony house of a scheduled caste. Her words and attitude made me think. Thus did a seventh-grader, her mind besieged by these perplexities, start climbing...

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