Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer Ramesh Karthik Nayak is the voice of the marginalised

Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer Ramesh Karthik Nayak is the voice of the marginalised

Literature from lived experience: Ramesh Nayak

Literature from lived experience: Ramesh Nayak | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

Beyond the limits and dictates of urban middle-class literary imagination, there is a plethora of Indian vernacular literature that explores the neglected margins of our society. Ramesh Karthik Nayak, 26, a representative of the Banjara tribe in Telangana, is one such voice. He hails from the tribal thanda of Vivek Nagar in Jakaranpally mandal of Nizamabad district.

Nayak is the youngest and first Telugu writer to be awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar 2024 for his collection of short stories Dhawlo (Song of Lament, 2021). Her literary journey spans four books – three short story collections and a poetry collection – all written in the Banjari language in Telugu and English script. Apart from receiving several awards and features in international and national publications, her writings have been included in university courses in institutions across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Drawing on his own experiences, he portrays the reality of the indigenous nomadic community of the Banjara community, also known as Lambada, who are originally from Rajasthan but are now spread across the country.

Nayak recalls, “Since childhood, I used to write poems in the back of my school notebooks and my teachers would often stop me from writing. But I knew my goal; I wanted my Banjara community to have a voice.” After passing Class X from SVSHS Bodhan, he did several odd jobs like catering, distributing pamphlets, selling books at events and even repairing ACs before he took up writing. “Once I had written my first collection of poems, I had to write poems on my first day. Balder Bander He said, “When this book was published in 2018, there was no looking back after that.”

'Fragmented identity'

Nayak is the first writer to bring to the contemporary readership the lifestyle of the Banjaras, their culture and heritage. His work explores the politics of identity and belonging, the innate beauty of the nomadic landscape and the myriad challenges faced by the tribal community.

“The Banjara identity is extremely fragmented, our festivals have become hybridised, the colourful and flamboyant costumes are now slowly fading away, and oral history is fast getting lost in translation. I want to capture the essence of my community, as we have been hidden from mainstream literary spaces for a long time,” he emphasises.

while their award winners Dhawlo (2021), highlights the nuances of Banjara life in Banjari, a collection of his Banjari poems Flint (2023), written in English, discusses in depth the displacement and crises experienced by nomadic tribes. Here, the protagonists question the concept of 'origin' and highlight the loneliness that comes with being uprooted.

Through his work, he aims to uncover the talent hidden in the shadows.” This award [Sahitya Akademi] And the media coverage is drawing more attention to my tribe and other tribal communities in the Telugu states; it is also a rare instance of tribal talent getting recognition. Now the nation can look into the marginalised talent and self-taught artistes who come from little or no privilege,” he says.

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