Caste segregation and caste occupations meant Dalits would be forbidden from having the same privileges as Savarnas did. In ‘Waiting for a Visa’, Dr Ambedkar says that these events are so transformative in his journey that they had an ‘indelible impression’ on his mind.
Illustration by Ajinkya Dekhane
Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1991, in the town and military cantonment of Mhow, (in present-day Madhya Pradesh) to Ramji and Bhimabai Sakpal. He was born in the Mahar caste, which is classified as a Scheduled Caste today. He was the last of the 14 children of his parents. His family came originally from the Dapoli Taluka of the Ratnagiri District of the Bombay Presidency.
During his school admission, Dr Ambedkar’s father put his surname as ‘Ambadawekar’, based on their native village of Ambadawe. Contrary to popular belief, the surname Ambedkar was not given to him by a Brahmin teacher, as there are no records of any teacher of the same last name at the school where Dr Ambedkar studied.
Although Dr Ambedkar was fortunate to have attended school, a rarity for a Mahar child at the time, those children including Dr Ambedkar were treated with grave untouchability. For instance, Babasaheb was not allowed to sit among his peers and was forced to sit in a corner by himself. As he writes in his ‘Waiting for a Visa’, “he knew that he was an untouchable and that untouchables were subjected to certain indignities and discriminations.”
Caste segregation and caste occupations meant Dalits would be forbidden from having the same privileges as Savarnas did. For example, the work of cutting the hair or shaving the boys including Dr Ambedkar’s was done by his elder sister, not that there were no barbers in Satara, not that they could not afford to pay the barber. But because they were untouchables and no barber would consent to shave an untouchable.
In ‘Waiting for a Visa’, Dr Ambedkar says that these events are so transformative in his journey that they had an ‘indelible impression’ on his mind. It led Babasaheb to think about the problem of untouchability as not just that of the untouchables, but also of the touchables – thus shifting the responsibility of caste oppression to the oppressor. A lasting mark was left on his childhood, one that would ultimately bolster his vision towards radical change and make him the revolutionary thinker and reformist that he was.
Waiting for a Visa