Bama (writer)

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Faustina Mary Fatima Rani

1958 (age 60–61)
Pudhupatti, Chennai, India
Occupationwriter, teacher.

Bama (born 1958), also known as Bama Faustina Soosairaj, is a Tamil Dalit feminist, committed teacher and novelist. She rose to fame with her autobiographical novel Karukku (1992), which chronicles the joys and sorrows experienced by Dalit Christian women in Tamil Nadu.[1] She subsequently wrote two more novels, Sangati (1994) and Vanmam (2002) along with two collections of short stories: Kusumbukkaran (1996) and Oru Tattvum Erumaiyum (2003).[2] In addition to this she has written twenty short stories.

Early life & family[edit]

"We who are asleep must open our eyes and look about us. We must not accept the injustice of our enslavement by telling ourselves it is our fate, as if we have no true feelings; we must dare to stand up for change. We must crush all these institutions that use caste to bully us into submission, and demonstrate that among human beings there are none who are high or low. Those who have found their happiness by exploiting us are not going to go easily. It is we who have to place them where they belong and bring about a changed and just society where all are equal."

 — Bama in Karukku (2012).

Bama was born in 1958 as Faustina Mary Fatima Rani in a Roman Catholic family belonging to the Paraiyar community from Puthupatti in the then Madras State.[1] Later she accepted 'Bama' as her pen name. Her father, Susairaj was employed in the Indian Army[3] and her mother was named Sebasthiamma. She is the sister of famous Dalit writer Raj Gauthaman. Bama's grandfather had converted from Hinduism to Christianity.[1] Bama's ancestors were from the Dalit community and worked as agricultural labourers. Bama had her early education in her village. Her early literary influences include Tamil writers like Jayakantan, Akhilan, Mani, and Parthasarthy. In college, she read and enjoyed Kahlil Gibran and Rabindranath Tagore. On graduation, she became a schoolteacher for very poor girls, following which she served as a nun for seven years.[3] She chose to take the holy orders to escape caste-based discrimination, and also to further her mission of helping in the advancement of poor Dalit girls.


After joining the nunnery, Bama found out that there was a separate training centre for Dalit Catholics.[citation needed] Angered by the poor conditions of the Dalit Catholic training centre, she left the nunnery after seven years. She finished her studies and joined as a teacher at a Catholic Christian school. During her teaching experience, she found out that the Catholic nuns oppressed the Dalit children and teachers. This further added to her disdain towards the convent. This was when she began writing. With the encouragement of a friend, she wrote on her childhood experiences.[1] These experiences formed the basis for her first novel, Karukku published in 1992.[1] When the novel was published, Bama was ostracised from her village for portraying it in poor light and was not allowed to enter it for the next seven months.[4] Karukku was, however, critically acclaimed and won the Crossword Book Award in 2000.[5][6] It has since become a textbook in various courses like Marginal Literature, Literature in Translation, Autobiography, Feminist Literature, Subaltern Literature and Dalit Literature, across many universities.[7] Bama followed it with Sangati and Kusumbukkaran. Bama got a loan and set up a school for Dalit children in Uttiramerur.[4] Bama's Karukku has been translated to English[5] and Kusumbukkaran and Sangati to French.[1] Sangati has also been translated to Telugu by Dalit writer and activist Joopaka Subhadra.[8]


Bama 's novels focus on caste and gender discrimination. They portray caste-discrimination practised in Christianity and Hinduism. Bama's works are seen as embodying Dalit feminism and are famed for celebrating the inner strength of the subaltern woman. In an interview, Modi has said that she writes because she considers it her duty and responsibility to share the experiences of her people. In addition, she also finds the act of writing cathartic and liberating. For her, "writing itself is a political act", and a "weapon" that she uses to continuously fight against the dehumanizing caste practice.[9]


  • Karukku (1992; 2nd ed. with postscript, 2012)
  • Sangati (1994)
  • Kusumbukkaran (1996)
  • Vanmam (2002)
  • Oru Tattavum Erumaiyum (2003)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dutt, Nirupama. "Caste in her own image". The Tribune.
  2. ^ "Biography, Tamil Studies conference". Tamil Studies Conference.
  3. ^ a b Sudha, Sarojini. "From Oppression to Optimum Through Self-spun Philosophy- A Comparative Reading of the Fictional Output of Maya Angelou and Bama" (PDF). Shodhganga.inflibnet, Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b Hariharan, Gita (December 28, 2003). "The hard business of life". The Telegraph.
  5. ^ a b Kannan, Ramya (4 May 2001). "Tales of an epic struggle". The Hindu.
  6. ^ Prasad, Amar Nath (2007). Dalit literatuer: A critical exploration. Sarup & Sons. p. 69.
  7. ^ "Karukku was my healing: Bama Faustina". National Herald. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  8. ^ "Subhadra Joopaka". Literary Commons. 2016-01-19. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  9. ^ Sarangi, Jaydeep (2018-01-28). "Interview with Bama". Writers in Conversation. 5 (1). doi:10.22356/wic.v5i1.28. ISSN 2203-4293.

Further reading[edit]

  • Satyanarayana, K & Tharu, Susie (2011) No Alphabet in Sight: New Dalit Writing from South Asia, Dossier 1: Tamil and Malayalam, New Delhi: Penguin Books.
  • Clarinda Still (2014) Dalit Women: Honour and Patriarchy in South India (ISBN 978-81-87358-54-1)

External links[edit]