Mr. Joseph Cruz Anthony (1928-2021) served as the Senior Scientific Officer for the DGAQA, and for the Bangalore Division of the Ministry of Defence. He brought non-formal education to underprivileged children. Many of them received training in computer technology and other fields and went on to work for large, private enterprises. Mr. Anthony is also the author of My Adi Roots: Emancipation from Caste Stigma. He passed away earlier this year and it is in his memory that the Department of English, School of Languages has organised this colloquium on Dalit Aesthetics (18 October 2021 to 25 October 2021)
Dr. Sylvia Karpagam is a public health doctor. She has been instrumental in making healthcare accessible and be seen as a right rather than a marketable product. She has also highlighted field researchers’ oppressive working conditions as well as data gathering deficiencies. She inaugurated the J.C Anthony Colloquium on 18 Oct 2021.
The following is a short report on Day One of the colloquium.
By Sambavi and Denzel
The J.C. Anthony Colloquium on Dalit Aesthetics: Self-representation, questions of justice, and enabling alliances, conducted by the Department of English, School of Languages, at St. Joseph’s College began around five in the evening on 18th October 2021. The session took place on MS teams with over a hundred active listeners, and was initiated with an introduction of the event and about J.C. Anthony, the renowned writer.
Dr. Sylvia Karpagam inaugurated the colloquium with a heartfelt letter in memory of her beloved father, J.C. Anthony. She introduced him to us not only as a writer but as a keen, handsome father who had left a legacy of thoughts for his children. The letter transcended through various moments of her life that she shared with her father, who was not only her hero, but a guide, friend and most importantly, a man with keen perspectives.
Prof. Vijeta shared in response to the letter, a few things about J.C. Anthony from when he visited SJC in 2019 to talk about his book. She recalled how jovial he had been, encouraging the audience to ask more questions, and to say that he was only 29 years old even though he was actually a proud 92. He was one such person who reminded people that age is anything but a number.
After the special guest, the session proceeded with a conversation between Sujatha Gidla, writer of Ants Among Elephants, and Prof. Vijeta Kumar. Gidla’s opening statement stuck with me the second I heard it. “I was not a writer, the stories I needed to share made me a writer.” The conversation took an entertaining turn with twisted love stories and unheard of hypotheses. The theme of caste aesthetics unraveled slowly, thread by thread. The writer spoke about her book and how she was often called up by journalists for opinions when there were any accidental cases due to caste. She emphasised how many opinions she had on ‘non-caste’ topics, and yet people kept missing it.
Another point made by Gidla was the complexity of the caste question in India, ‘Ants Among Elephants’ is by no means a work of fiction and it does a beautiful job in reminding us of this fact, Ms. Gidla made a passing statement during the session that helped me understand how complex the caste system itself is. “Caste isn’t like race here in America, here they discriminate on the basis of something tangible”
What is caste discrimination rooted in if not the abstract need to subjugate, the same need that finds itself at the center of racism as well? But unlike racism, there’s no clear marker for discrimination here. Here they are discriminated against for the alleged wrongs of their ancestors. Generational trauma takes on a whole different meaning here in India, in multiple ways.
“If I want to write about my grandmother, I will write, you write about your own.”
What might seem like a humourous statement made to poke fun at oblivious privileged critics actually answered an important question. “How do you write stories that are not your own but still affect you every single day?”
It’s simple, you write them and ignore the people bothered about it not being your story.
Watch the session here. Stay tuned for Day 2 of the J.C. Anthony Colloquium on Dalit Aesthetics.