Archive for November 2008

dalit fury?

November 17, 2008

Just a couple of days ago a violent and ugly scene was enacted in the premises of the prestigious Chennai ‘Ambedkar law college’. The problem is alleged to have started after the name of Ambedkar was dropped/deleted/ignored in some posters. Dalit students were shown in the clippings aired repeatedly on Tamil TV channels, as perpetrators of mass violence. True, about three or four of those guys beat another young man to a pulp. Sentiments have been aroused. Tears stand in the rims of viewing eyes. Angry fumes suffocate pained hearts. “how sad” croon soap watchers. Indignant and righteous fingers type letters to editors or blog if they can.

The mass reaction to this incident has now turned into sympathy for the ‘devar’ caste persons who got the beating. Even those secular,eclectic intellectuals who pretend to distance themselves from casteism feel sorry for these `devar’ boys. It is no more a sympathy for the loser in a fight. It is not just a human empathetic concern for a beaten and bruised man. It is a silent anger that ‘those’ guys have found the guts to beat ‘these’ or ‘our’ boys. It is a silent fear that screams in their minds that if these dalits are allowed to get away with this act of retaliation, then slowly they would try to come up and even sit in our temples!

Whether dalit or devar those boys had no right to gang up and beat with murderous rage. They ought to be punished. But just because those devar boys have been beaten up badly they cannot be absolved either. They were the ones who were supposed to have started the fight. There are even some visuals showing one of those devar boys running amok with a knife in hand.

I just wonder what would have been the reaction if that boy had managed to chop off all those who came to attack him? Would all these tears still flow for the dalit boys had they been killed?

The whole episode is shocking the public because the hitherto trampled dalit boys have dared to fight back. We are simply not used to seeing this. It satisfies our intellectual itch to feel sorry that dalits have separate living quarters, separate vessels to drink. We nod in apparent understanding and pseudo-sympathy that dalits have been barricaded away from mainstream by a real brick and mortar wall. We are simply used to these guys being trampled. We have become so insensitive to the casteist curse on the society that the painful screams of dalits just gets lost in the air and never registers even as a whimper in our ears. their men were made to eat shit, their women stripped, their children not allowed to play in some areas, they were not allowed to move freely, at times they werenot even allowed to take their dead to their cemetry via the shortest route. we knew all this, and we were silent. we were feeling ‘bad’! Now a group of those boys have taken sticks in their hand and beaten their opponent who had allegedly cut off one of the dalit boy’s ears. This is shocking.

Pragya and her prohit connections are not so shocking. Manmohan singhs shameless licking of bush is not repulsive. Karunanidhi’s constant political stunts are not worrying. Just the fact that dalit boys have dared to fight is shocking.

I am not like the BJP RSS gang that says godmen/whatever those goons in spiritual garb are called should be protected even if they bomb public places. I want those boys- those dalit boys to be punished. I also want people to feel that though they may have over-reacted, they reacted. It is time to think on ways to end provocations instead of crying over reactions.


November 16, 2008

Every child has a hero, and every hero needs a child. It is easier to appear heroic to a child, and the child keeps the hero safe in a corner of its growing mind. You generally do not grow up to worship your childhood hero. You begin to see more. You begin to see through. You may not be vocal, you may not even be conscious, but the hero of your childhood is never the same in adulthood, that is if you grow up.

My hero had the clichéd thousand faces, each one morphing into another, at every phase of my life. I lost my hero not when I grew out of childhood, but when I did not need one. I had a phantom childhood, while my son had an asterix childhood. There wasn’t anything ghostly or ghastly in my childhood just as how there weren’t anything starry in my son’s childhood. These were the comic themes of two generations, the Lee Falk creation and Uderzo’s art.

Being a child in late 1950s and erly 1960s, MGR had to be, by default my hero. As I grew, he was replaced even by Karunanidhi! Over the years my heroes changed. For no logical reason JFK was one, and for logical ones Nehru was another. Vivekananda, Marx, Freud, Bharathi, Kannadasan, Jayakanthan and many others happened to hold the exalted position of a hero in my mind. It all went on till the innate narcissistic nihilistic nature started adoring the mirror! But then this is not an autobiographical thrust on an unsuspecting and uncaring reader. It is a reflection.

Heroes need us. Without applause, nothing is heroic. But, why do we need heroes? I just happened to read Nandini Chandra’s book on AmarChitaKatha, and realized what had happened all along. There were heroes. Were they also `the’ villains? If the heroes are projections of the golden aura of the author, who are the villains? If valor is mind’s indignation at injustice to self or its perceptions then, is anger not a disappointment of the self at the self?

Why do heroes appear on the mindscape?

Stories are always told. Grandmothers learnt from their grandmothers and tell with the hope that their grandkids will learn the same stories. With grandmothers not finding space anymore with grandchildren, comics and storybooks become necessary. This is where we have to watch out. Heroes can be easily created in the minds of children.

A child’s hero is full of admirable qualities, he does not give up easily, he is not seen sleeping or eating, shaving or shouting at his wife, he need not be shown the progress report; he will not be an unavoidable reality like the father of the child. Generally the dad is the first hero, but he shouts at times, even beats at times. Therefore he is easily substituted by the awesome persona of the hero whose fantasy relationship is thoroughly at will and optional. Heroes are picked up from fables. Even cinema-heroes are picked for their astounding valor, skills and charm. And, then what happens?The child tries to emulate the hero.

Imagine the plight of children before the TV boom! If they wanted to emulate the mythic hero narrated by grandmothers, they would have had to paint themselves blue in India. But a child grows up, though at times the nation does not. You know for sure at a certain age that Rama and Krishna were interesting characters. I am sure even Advani knows that his vote-vault ram is not viridian in tint. I am sure he has grown up. But a smart leader grows up quick enough to see to it that his followers do not grow up. Now we have `leaders` who tell stories. These stories create the new myths. New heroes and new values form the new narratives. These narratives become the cultural imprints of a civilization that pretends to be global.

Heroes are fantasies that we can summon at will and pretend to role-play to cheat ourselves out of disappointments and incapacities. If the model mind-toy is of sterner stuff, we can actually gain some strength temporarily.

More on the theme later.