This is the story of Viramma, an agricultural worker and mid-wife in Karani, a village near Pondicherry in South-East India. Her life was recounted to Josiane and Jean-Luc Racine over ten years. She describes: her brief, happy childhood: the ordeal of leaving her village to live with her husband when she had just reached puberty, and their subsequently loving marriage; her experiences as the mother of 12 children, nine of whom have died; the oral culture of her community and the interplay between different castes; and the divine forces which influence her and the effects of modernization, which are becoming increasingly apparent. Threaded through the personal stories, she tells of her sense of profound change, a constant dialogue between the old certainties of the caste system and institutional and political initiatives to improve the lives of her people. Officially Viramma is a Harijan, a member of the "scheduled castes". To emancipationists, she is one of the "Dalits", the oppressed. But in her village, she is still what she has always been: an "Untouchable", a "pariah".