In the Tiger’s Shadow  -  The Autobiography of an Ambedkarite

In the Tiger’s Shadow - The Autobiography of an Ambedkarite

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Author: Namdeo Nimgade
Translator(s)/ Editors(s): Christopher S Queen
Publisher: Navayana
Year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 290
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9788189059309


Born into a family of landless bonded laborers in the dustbowl of Sathgaon in western India, Namdeo Nimgade is 14 when he finally manages to attend his village school where, being an ‘untouchable’, he has to stand on the ‘hot verandah and listen to lessons through a window’.

Inspired by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, he steadfastly pursues his education. Graduating from Nagpur, Nimgade goes on to complete his Ph.D. in soil science from the University of Wisconsin in 1962-perhaps the first dalit after Ambedkar to earn a doctorate in an American university. In the 1950s, as an associate at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in Delhi, Nimgade gets to spend time with Dr Ambedkar. Throughout his life, Nimgade remains singularly committed to the Ambedkarite movement.

Nimgade narrates incidents in his life with candor and delightful humor-whether recounting his great-grandfather Ganba’s combat with a tiger in a forest or his ‘forbidden’ love for a nondalit woman. Moving away from the framework of victimhood narratives, Nimgade’s life is an inspiring story of triumph against odds.

Now close to 90, Nimgade lives with his love, his wife Hira, in Nagpur.

‘Our family name Nimgade probably derives from the neem tree, which is known for its healing properties and health benefits. Many people from our untouchable community bear names referring to trees or plants, such as my brother-in-law, Khobragade-which refers to a coconut. There’s similarly Ambagade, referring to mango, Jamgade to guava and Borkar to berry. Quite likely, these arboreal names derive from the peaceful Buddhist period in Indian history, and are cited as further evidence that many of India’s untouchables were previously Buddhist.’



Part I: Village and Jungle

1. The mystery of the two pillars
2. Grandfather marries a plant
3. A dandy and Gandhi
4. Running with the bulls
5. The bullock race
6. My ancestor fights a tiger
7. Late to school
8. My father the reformer
9. Marriage at age twelve?
10. We learn of Dr Ambedkar
11. Tattoed
12. Dreams of food, air, and water
13. From wrestler to bodyguard
Part II: The City
14. The moneylender and the Queen’s Palace
15. The Specter of Prison
16. Riot!
17. The “Temple – Destroying Nimgade!”
18. Forbidden romance
19. A Muslim to the rescue
20. Food and Friends
21. ‘I am not a coolie!’
Part III: Caste Aside
22. The holy stepping stone
23. The lion’s den
24. Beggar’s clothes in the nation’s capital
25. Into the melting pot
26. An adventure at the Asian Games
27. Lost in the Jungle
28. Learning from wasps
29. Nimgade from wasps
30. Nimade the ‘Guru’
31. Mother takes precipitous action
32. ‘Who are you?’
Part IV: My time with Babasaheb Ambedkar
33. Visiting Babasaheb’s bungalow
34. ‘Do not get tempted by power’
35. Writing the Indian Constitution
36. Dr Ambedkar explains life
Part V: Tying the knot
37. The wedding
38. A new life for Hira
39. Family and Dr Ambedkar
40. Caste out
41. Losing Sadhu-Boa
Part VI: A New World
42. No end to knowledge
43. ‘I will not die a Hindu!’
44. To the new world
45. Warmth in a freezing land
46. Appeals to stay
47. No turning back
48. Dr Nimgade and Dr king
49. Journey home
50. To Motherland
51. Return to Delhi
52. The Nimgade Hotel
53. ‘An untouchable has won world status’
54. A second generation Buddhist wedding
55. A village boy returns home
56. My wonderful identity card

Further Readings