What does it mean...

... to be an untouchable in India? Don’t all Indians look the same? Isn’t untouchability a thing of the past?"

The playful calligraphy, the crafts motifs and the bright illustrations belie the darkness of the subject matter in Navayana's forthcoming The Despair of Touch, a biographical work by B R Ambedkar which the Gond Adivasi artists – Durgabai Vyam, Subhash Vyam and Roshni Vyam – illustrate with a fresh, non-realist interpretation wherein they weave historical incidents with contemporary real-life stories of experiences of untouchability in India.

"In a little-read work, India’s foremost and radical writer on issues of caste and untouchability, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956), recounts his experiences of growing up untouchable and being routinely discriminated against. Born into an ‘untouchable’ mahar family, Bhimrao gets a taste of untouchability very early in his life, in his school. Against all odds, he uses education as a weapon to get over the stigma of caste, but realizes that a doctorate from Columbia University and a degree from London School of Economics would still not get him a room for rent in India in 1917. Experiences similar to Ambedkar’s in early twentieth century continue to haunt a large section of India’s 170 million dalits. They are still denied housing, water and the basic dignities of life."