His Titash, Her Titash: Tracing the Dalit eco-literary and Dalit eco-feminist concerns in A River Called Titash
Ms Arundhati Sen
Postgraduate Student, Department of English, Presidency University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Contemporary debates on environmental justice inform our perception of nature and we
can no longer afford to be blind to the differential treatment meted out to any particular
community by nature and vice-versa. The disparate treatment and outlook have to be taken into account based on the different coordinates of identity like race, gender and caste among others. Considering this framework of analysis this paper will examine Adwaita Mallabarman’s Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Called Titash) which depicts the lives and ways of the fisherfolk community, Malos on the banks of Titash, in erstwhile riverine undivided Bengal. I illustrate that the rivers, specifically Titash not only has a definite way toward Malo but also a unique way to deal with its womenfolk. I borrow Dalit eco-literary tradition that traces the close ties among Dalits and nature, and Dalit eco-feminist discourse which concerns itself with delineating the hostility and alliance among Dalit women and nature in my reading of the novel. To elaborate my argument, I focus on both the narrative and the rhetorical strategies adopted in the novel. First, I highlight the interwoven lives of the Malo community and the river, their interactions and perceptions and examine its effect on the choice of metaphors and narrative style itself. Besides how the social, cultural along with natural are all invested with politics of survival and struggle where one community is favoured over the other at different times and circumstances is taken into account in respect to the other caste community represented in the text. For instance, the upper castes were not affected by the desertification as much as the Malos. Second, while tracing the close interactions, I point to the even more intricate ties that exist between the river and the womenfolk, and analyze how it differs from that of the men, thus establishing how the entire
community is defined by the river but the women’s way of perceiving is vividly more personal. My paper demonstrates how Titash not only remains a passive natural force but rather becomes an active agent that plays a yardstick to gauge the differences and the plights that are gendered and ‘casteised’. A key methodological text remains Anandita Pan’s Mapping Dalit Feminism: Towards an Intersectional Standpoint which observes the ways in which different forms of discrimination combine, inform and overlap thus enabling me to locate the multiple axes of marginalization of the Malo women. Gopal Guru’s conception of ‘Dalit patriarchy’ helps me to situate a framework that allows for the problematization of the seemingly unbiased treatment of the Malo women folk. Mukul Sharma’s works on the field render itself of immense value in outlining the Dalit eco-critical tradition that I have attempted to unearth in my appreciation of the novel.
Keywords: Dalit Eco-criticism; Dalit eco-feminism; Malo fisherfolk community; Dalit
Patriarchy; Adwaita Mallabarman.