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

“A luminous novel… powerfully written. Hariharan pulls her readers from the tightly constructed world of the three friends and throws them down in front of today’s newspaper… The experiences of the three students in I Have Become the Tide will ring true for anyone who has faced discrimination in an educational institution… In his hostel room one night, Ravi dreams of a putrid canal behind his house and a torrential rain that makes it flow like a river. Floating in the current is a nest with three eggs, the three friends who will go forward one day. These are the episodes that make Hariharan’s novel luminous. The songs in it, written down by Kannadeva but not his alone, are spots of light and warmth in a dark story, and the reader will want to return to them long after the novel is read.”

“This searingly honest novel is woven around songs and water… there’s much to be afraid of in this world that Hariharan shows us and in which we are all immersed… Words can become bullets, puncturing the lives of student activists, academics and authors as we know only too well, from reading the newspapers… But words, like water, can also be the source of great positive power. Words are what Hariharan has harnessed in this fictional tale about ancient truths and transient lives. By linking the familiar events of today to a poet-mystic of the past, she creates a swift-flowing current of ideas from then to now.”
India Today, Leisure Review