Bama (writer)

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Faustina Mary Fatima Rani

1958 (age 59–60)
Pudhupatti, Chennai State, India

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] She is the sister of famous Dalit writer Raj Gauthaman. In addition to this she has written twenty short stories.

Early life[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 from Puthupatti in the then Madras State.[1] Later she accepted 'Bama' as her pen name. Susairaj was her father and Sebasthiamma, her mother. Her father was employed in the Indian Army.[3] 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. On graduation, she served as a nun for seven years.[3]


After serving as a nun for seven years, Bama left the convent and 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] 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]


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.


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


  1. ^ a b c d Dutt, Nirupama. "Caste in her own image". The Tribune.
  2. ^ "Biography, Tamil Studies conference". Tamil Studies Conference.
  3. ^ 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, 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.

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.

External links[edit]