The New Dalit – Praveen Parcha, Valmiki Sadan
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He is against job reservations for Dalits.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His life could be like the plot of an old Amitabh Bachchan film. Both his grandfather and father were sweepers. Both met with an accident while on the job. Grandfather died. Father got soft in the head so mother got the father’s job.
Meanwhile, Mr Praveen Parcha grew up to become a painter by passion with a day-job as a call centre employee. He is a 25-year-old school-dropout who lives in Delhi’s Valmiki Sadan, popularly known as Dalit Colony. (This story is the third of a five-part series – The New Dalit, The Changing World of Delhi’s ‘Untouchables’.)
During a stint in HSBC, around two years ago, he fell in love with Urmila, a Brahmin girl. The families protested so they got married in a court. Urmila Bhardwaj became Urmila Parcha. “It’s the old folk who bother about caste,” says Mr Parcha. “In the call centres, despite knowing that I was a Dalit, no one thought twice before sharing my tiffin.” But he hasn’t forgotten the past. “My school teacher once said that no matter how arty I might be, one day I will end up sweeping.”
That’s what his mother wanted. After all, being a sweeper in New Delhi Municipal Corporation means a permanent sarkari job. Why be a penniless painter?
The mother and son would have arguments. One day Mr Parcha broke his brushes, threw the colours into the water, burnt the canvasses, sank into depression, and emerged one year later with a vengeance. He painted Ganeshas, landscapes and Delhi’s street life. He exhibited his paintings in public places, sold them in Jaipur and today, earns a little pocket money every now and then, thanks to orders from neighbourhood schools.
But Mr Parcha dreams of being another M.F. Husain, although at present no one recognises him in the streets. “I trust my talent,” he says. “That’s why I’m also against job reservations — where you end up snatching other people’s rights.”
Neither is Mr Parcha a fan of Mayawati, India’s most popular Dalit leader. “She is creating cracks in the society,” he says. “If she continues showing concern only for our community, other people will feel left out.” That’s some consideration.
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