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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing account of journey out of prejudice
I just received this book and ended up reading the entire book in one night -- it was that enthralling. This is a true account of a Dalit ("untouchable") family in India. The author -- Narendra Jadhav -- born into a Dalit sub-caste, has recorded the journals his father had kept of his parents' resistance against ancient prejudice.

Inspired by the Dalit leader,...
Published on November 6, 2008 by Wave Tossed

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really what I expected, I was looking for a better understanding of the caste system.
I'm Indian but I grew up here in the US and I wanted to learn about the caste system as I was raised Christian and my family does not believe in this backwards tradition. I've heard stories about the caste system but I thought this book would give me a better understanding of it's origins and ideology.

The book is actually very easy to read and you could...
Published on April 20, 2011 by Dan K


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing account of journey out of prejudice, November 6, 2008
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I just received this book and ended up reading the entire book in one night -- it was that enthralling. This is a true account of a Dalit ("untouchable") family in India. The author -- Narendra Jadhav -- born into a Dalit sub-caste, has recorded the journals his father had kept of his parents' resistance against ancient prejudice.

Inspired by the Dalit leader, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Damu Jadhav (the author's father) finally had reached his limit on all of the indignities that had been thrust upon him by the higher-caste authorities. He refused to perform an unconscionable duty demanded of him by a village official; for this refusal, he was brutally beaten. This was the beginning of the family's quest for freedom. There are stirring accounts of demonstrations, led by Dr. Ambedkar, where Dalits (including Damu Jadhav and his wife) had demanded their human dignity. This account relates the Jadhav family's struggles, set against the Dalit human rights struggle.

Finally the reader sees how the Jadhav family emerged in triumph, having escaped their onerous discriminatory conditions, going through all sorts of conditions to make sure that the children would all receive a good education. Dr. Narendra Jadhav grew up to became an esteemed economist and his brothers and sisters also became eminent in their fields of study.

In the cities, prejudice against the Dalits has greatly diminished. Unfortunately, in India's vast rural areas, caste-based discrimination and violence continues to exist in far too many instances. This book lays out a foundation for ways to continue the fight for Dalit human rights.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really what I expected, I was looking for a better understanding of the caste system., April 20, 2011
I'm Indian but I grew up here in the US and I wanted to learn about the caste system as I was raised Christian and my family does not believe in this backwards tradition. I've heard stories about the caste system but I thought this book would give me a better understanding of it's origins and ideology.

The book is actually very easy to read and you could finish it off in a day or two. The language is easy to understand and it flows very well. The story being told is the author's translation of his parents recollections during the early 1900's under the caste system in India. The book starts out well and hooks you immediately. The beginning story of how the author's father was beaten and treated as less-than-human really helps you to see how cruel the system is. Unfortunately that is really the only part in the book when you are able to see the cruelness of this system. The rest of the book reads more like a narrative. Somewhere in the middle, I started to lose my interest because I was expecting to see more of this cruel injustice but the author started discussing how his parents were walking on the beach, having kids, and traveling back and forth to Mumbai. That didn't sound like oppression to me. As an Indian, I've visited India and I have seen low caste people get treated like garbage and it breaks my heart because, as Americans, we just can't understand that in this society. I was expecting to understand why they do this in India but I didn't get that in this book. Actually, the first thing that came to my mind was that the way the author portrayed the caste system wasn't nearly as bad as what African-American's had to go through here in the US not so long ago. In reality, I know the caste system in India is far worse and inhuman but the author simply did not portray it as such.

Sure, the author's parents fought to stand up for what is right and vowed to give their kids a better life but there are countless other people in India who's story is very different. I was thinking I was going to get some insight into that. It's great that the author wrote a book about an untouchable who succeeded and rose above the oppression but I think the story would have been so much more effective if we understood more about what the caste system is all about, why people still believe in it, and why India just can't get rid of it.

Overall, it was a decent read but I didn't come away with a good understanding of the caste system after reading it. Maybe if you are not Indian, this might be a good starting point but if you are buying this book to understand the Indian caste system, you will be disappointed.

Also, the epilogue which is written by Jadhav's daughter really didn't add to the book as it seemed more like she was gloating about her accomplishments. I know she was trying to portray that she, living in America, does not have to deal with the injustices that her grandparents had to but it just didn't come across as such.

I'd borrow this book first.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual inside-out view of the struggles and achievments of an Indian family, January 21, 2006
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This review is from: Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India (Hardcover)
Written in a rather spare style this book is not Arundhati Roy, but does provide a honest view of a Mahar family in the villages of Maharashtra and the slums of its capital Mumbai. In terms of the Indian caste ladder, Mahars are at the lowest rung and were (and in some mental pockets still are) considered 'untouchables'. The correct term for this lowest rung is "Dalit", and Dalits are found in almost all the regions of India, speaking each region's local language, at about 15-20% of the population. But the Mahars have been a little more fortunate than other regional Dalit communities, in their recent history. During the British Raj they were designated as a martial caste, and military regiments were organized from amongst them. Also B.R. Ambedkar, a lesser known visionary from early 20th century India, the 'architect' of free India's constitution, and a Mahar himself, was an inspiring force in showing the way for socio-economic progress.

I have some reservations about the English title of the book, and the original Marathi title, "My father and mother" just resonates a little more.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into Indias still prevalent caste system, November 23, 2005
This review is from: Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India (Hardcover)
This book tells the story of the authors parents and their lives as lower caste members of Indias social system. It is a great reminder of how tough the road for some people was/is because of the name their family carries. In India to this day a persons last name can attach to him or her heavy social baggage. Baggage that comes with social behavior not fit for animals. Mr. Jadhav writes about how his dad was determined to free his children from the bonds of caste by educating them.This book should be read by all young people of Indian origin. It is an important part of Indian history. Very akin to what the African American population faced during the years of segregation. This is a book worth owning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, insightful story, January 2, 2006
By 
L.S. (Nashville, TN) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India (Hardcover)
This is an interesting book and I learned alot from it, never realizing the caste system of India played such a horrifying role at one point in time. The endurance of the author's family is commendable, and it is a story worth reading. Very interesting and insightful observations coming from a family who has struggled to be treated well - sometimes just to be treated better than a dog, literally. Well done.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring story of a Dalit's struggle against poverty and prejudice, August 15, 2010
This review is from: Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India (Hardcover)
Damodar Jadhav (the author's father) is the remarkable man whose story is told in this book. Facing prejudice in his village, he leaves for Bombay in 1930. Through perseverance, hard work and luck he lifts his family out of poverty. His life is animated by the ideas of B.R.Ambedkar. Ambedkar may not be as well known to the West as Gandhi and Nehru, but is an equally important figure in the story of modern India. His ideas of social justice shaped Indian constitution, and continue to shape the national debate to this day.

Damu Jadhav faces a rigid social structure in his village where the circumstances of his birth (as a Mahar) determine his livelihood. The poverty of rural India is heart breaking. But life in the village is not all misery. The Mahar's strong social bonds, their love for their gods Khandoba and Mariaai, the joy of their weddings, all make for interesting reading. One scene in particular stands out: the Mahar's Buffalo feast. Later in the book, Damu decides that his family will leave the Hindu fold and become Buddhists. Sonu (Damu's wife) is distraught at having to leave her beloved gods Khandoba and Mariaai. Her distress is one of the more moving parts of the book.

Life in Bombay is different. In the big city Damu is no longer defined by his caste. He finds profitable work in a series of jobs: newspaper seller, railway man, port trust employee... Are we to draw the conclusion that the uglier aspects of caste do not survive contact with a modern economy?

In general, no one in a market economy cares about the caste or tribal identity of a counter party. As long as the government ensures the fundamental rights of all (property rights, right to pursue a livelihood of one's choice), is there a need for an intrusive program of social engineering? As an economist, I expected the author to have some thoughts on these issues. But he is curiously silent (except for a casual mention of affirmative action). Did the author benefit from affirmative action? Did he need to? The author is upset with the mentions of caste in the matrimonial pages of Indian newspapers. Does he propose that the state intrude in marriage?

The author is also overly sensitive about slights (real or perceived). For example: his daughter is asked: "Are you the child of Narendra Jadhav, the Dalit scholar?". Hmmm. If he does not want to be identified as a Dalit, perhaps writing a 300 page book on his Dalit family is not the best idea?

But these are mere quibbles. I was overawed by the magnitude of Damu Jadhav's achievement. Life dealt Damu Jadhav a rotten hand. But he was lucky that he grew up during a time of economic change in India. This (combined with his own initiative) allowed him (and millions of other Dalits) to break free of social constraints and build a life for himself and his family.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story of about a family challenging the system, August 23, 2006
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This review is from: Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India (Hardcover)
This is a good night time read.The author tells the story about his family confronting the caste system in India.It is not a historical account, but the author lets us know how,thru the years, the "upper" classes in India have treated the "dalits" .The author's father deserves all the credit in the world because he was the one who initiated this challenge against the caste system.The dalits still have a long way to go but looks like their situation is improving.The author's account is simple and to the point, altough i think that, at times, the author strays a little too much of the subject giving us a lot of information that is not that relevant to the story.But all in all is a good book that helps us understand and appreciate how people in other parts of the world struggle while we have it easy here in the United States.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative, February 27, 2010
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and gave a great view of what living in India with the label of the caste system would have been like. I liked the way the author offered different points of view from chapter to chapter. It allowed the reader to understand each character better.
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Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India
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