I Have Become the Tide

‘Powerful, no holds barred … A heart-stirring story of what happens to those who dare to dream of equality.’

—Nayantara Sahgal

‘Altogether captivating.’

—Perumal Murugan

“Where is that land where water flows free?”

A powerful, beautifully imagined novel from Githa Hariharan asks when the tide will turn to make this dream real.

Hundreds of years ago, Chikka, son of a cattle skinner, finds a home in Anandagrama, among people who believe everyone is equal; people whose prayer is inseparable from song and work, the river and the land, friendship and love. Chikka becomes Chikkiah the washerman who sings by his beloved river. But the Anandagrama movement against caste is torn apart, and its men and women slaughtered or forced to flee.

In the present day, Professor Krishna makes a discovery. The saint-singer Kannadeva is none other than the son of Chikkiah. The poets and fighters of Anandagrama have been forgotten; Kannadeva has been whitewashed into a casteless ‘Hindu saint’. Professor Krishna reconstructs many lives of resistance from his findings in a palm-leaf manuscript. But will the bigots, armed with bullets, bombs and hit-lists, let scholars and poets do what they must?

Three Dalit students—Asha, Ravi and Satya—dream of a future that will let them and their families live with dignity, just like everyone else. From Chikkiah’s story to theirs, a few things may have changed, but too much has remained the same.

Three distinctive narratives intertwine past and present in compelling ways to raise an urgent voice against the cruelties of caste, and the destructive forces that crush dissent. But they also celebrate the joy of resistance, the redemptive beauty of words, and the courage to be found in friendship and love. I Have Become the Tide is deeply political, but it never loses sight of humour, tenderness—or the human spirit.

From Reviews

“To Githa Hariharan’s great credit, she looks unflinchingly into the ugliness of sectarian destructiveness and strife with an almost photographically realistic lens, but always remains within earshot of her protagonists’ small, personal voices… As subtly constructed as a Chinese box, concealing narratives within narratives and yet remaining blindingly clear in all its exposition of public and private realities. Complex though it is, Fugitive Histories is Hariharan’s most compellingly simple book…”
Aamer Hussein, Tehelka