It has been called essential reading for every Indian child, a lively
illustrated storybook aimed at raising youthful awareness of the
injustices of the country's caste system, much as "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
exposed the indignities of slavery to white America.
Kancha Ilaiah hopes his book, "Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land:
Dignity of Labour in Our Times," will change the way young people see
farmhands, barbers, leather workers and others whose jobs are viewed
with disgust by upper castes. The social activists who have lauded the
book hope so, too.
"Turning the Pot" is the first Indian children's book to openly
challenge the 3,000-year-old caste system, which ranks professions
from scholars to shoemakers in a rigid hierarchy and is reinforced by
some interpretations of Hindu theology.
"This book is a weapon for India's millions of low-caste children who
are fighting for respect, just as African Americans did and do in the
U.S.," said Ilaiah, who also wrote the best-selling anti-caste book
"Why I Am Not a Hindu." "How do you change ancient prejudices in any
society? You do it through repositioning caste at childhood. If young
children are taught respect over a bedtime story or in class, that
could help enormously."