A Rebellious Cobbler

Translation: Amritpal Kaur


The math teacher, who makes most of the class tremble, enters the room with a stack of marked tests. He approaches the desk of Dwarka Bharti and asks him to stand up. A shiver runs down the boy’s spine as he gets up. A question follows up: “what does your father do?” to which Dwarka answers obediently: “he makes shoes sir, he is a cobbler”. The teacher quickly grabs his hair almost as if he was rooting out the weeds. He then asks the boy, why does he need the education, he should just go and make shoes with his father. Up to this day, Bharti is reminded of this situation every time he sees a wriggling worm after the rain. That’s exactly how he felt standing in front of the class – like a worm.

A Rebellious Cobbler is a memoir of resistance and finding strength in literature. Bharti, although he worked most of his life as a cobbler, actively engaged in promoting Dalit literature, created by the lowest caste, often considered “untouchable”. He recollects various meetings with writers, reading through Marxist literature, his path to atheism or tough family relations. But he always finds his way to the shop, where he can find his beloved books and where he wrote many of his works. The memoir is closed by Bharti’s poem, which became a part of the course on Dalit literature at the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

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