Gandhi, Untouchables and Me

Welcome to the Playwright page of Rao Rampilla - Featuring his acclaimed one-man-show "Gandhi, Untouchables and Me".


In a noble effort to use Theater as a vehicle for social change, Rao's show highlights the horrendous plight of India's 'Untouchables' - an apartheid that has been institutionalized for thousands of years in Rao's native India.

This show is about the triumph and tragedies of Rao Rampilla's personal experience fighting on the campuses and in the courts on behalf of these people whom Gandhi referred to as 'Children of God'.

Powerful and poignant, entertaining and educational, the show touches on our common humanity, as Rao makes his case for Social Justice in India - his vision of equality reaching into our hearts and awakening our souls to compassion, joy and courage.


Have you ever been aware or even cared that 161 millions of human beings are looked down as “untouchables". In India the curse of being a nonentity remains like a plague from 1,000 BC until the present. This way of life that man's inhumanity to man continues to be practiced in the land of Buddha and Gandhi.

I like to share with you about the black spot in our Indian society called the caste system with its untouchables. I am not here to put down India or to tell you only half truths. I am not Lord Buddha or Gandhi. It was not expected when I was born as Narayana Rao Rampilla into a middle class family that I will be the advocate for the untouchables.

My upbringing was in Vijayawada, a small Southern Indian town close to Madras. I was named after the Hindu god "Vishnu". You might consider me a black sheep as my neighbors, family and friends were upset when I chose to their horror to deal with untouchables as equals. I grew up playing with them in the neighborhood. Funny thing, they just looked like me. It never felt as though they are different. We never played games like “hey untouchable" like your cowboys and Indians. For some reason even today I can't comprehend why they are called untouchables.

With this outlook, naturally, trouble was in the horizon. Can you imagine confrontation with my own family and friends on this subject especially when you are not a bad kid? My grades are satisfactory and what is wrong with me falling in love with a girl outside my caste? That is not what my family thought.

Nothing changed even as an adult when I was at the national university in New Delhi surrounded by the so called leftist elements in 1981. Drawn innocently and reacting spontaneously with my conscience against the ongoing injustice on the campus, I was caught in the middle of a national debate and struggle. Hey, I ain't no Che Guevara nor am I Lenin or Mao to formulate tactics and strategy to fight the established forces on the campus. But my knowledge came from my commitment to fight the age old injustice. Believe me I ended up going on an indefinite hunger strike against caste discrimination and I am not following Gandhi. But it is a tactic that worked in the past for others.

Those were the happiest moments of my life. I wish I were dead than to exist every day knowing untouchability lives. Yes, I left for America Then, had all this been a big waste? No. It is not all naught. In fact, it paved the way for the subsequent Mandal Commission Report in India, which addressed this issue but couldn't resolve it. And then the recent mass family suicides of untouchable farmers?

To sum up my need to share my feelings - I mean - I can understand if you find all this boring - nothing to do with you - but I hope you will give me this moment to vent. The subject has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. What is it they say if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it fall - does it matter? Well, so far as I'm concerned, the untouchables have been crying all their lives - but anyone listened?

This play is a dramatized version of my life experience with my fellow brethren, named by Gandhi as"Children of God".