Letter To An Unborn Daughter

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 AMNov (Activism, Friends, Letter, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)


Beta, it’s almost a week now since I have been planning to write this letter to you. Circumstances and the state of mind did not allow me to, I must say. And forgive me beta, if this letter doesn’t flow in a chronological, logical order. My state of my mind is so that to expect it is to expect too much from me.

On the 10th of September, I was in Mangalore and like always I did visit Athree Book Centre where I bought this book titled Bitter Fruits of which I had read in Tehelka, lying on the hospital bed just a few days before that. Writing about it in Tehelka, Urvashi Butalia (of ‘The Other Side of Silence’ fame) titled her review as ‘Manto for all seasons’. I was thrilled to find the book there and without second thoughts I purchased the book.

Coming back, I started re-reading Manto’s partition stories. He has always been one of my favorite beta. The way he capsules violence in his words is terrific, I must say, running short of better words. Listen to this short story of his which runs for less than 25 words:

“He is not dead. There is still some life left in him”
“O leave it, my friend, I am exhausted”

Ready for one more beta? Then here it is…

“Don’t kill my daughter in front of my eyes”
“all right, all right. Peel off her clothes and shoo her aside”

But this one portrays the partition picture even the better…

Ripping the belly cleanly, the knife moved in a straight line down the midriff, in the process slashing the cord, which held the man’s pyjama’s in place.
The one with the knife took one look and exclaimed regretfully, ‘tut tut tut… blasphemy’

The murdered and the murderer could be of any community! That’s the beauty (?) of Manto’s writing. Before I leave Manto behind and proceed I must speak to you of that story, of which I speak the most while speaking of Manto. It’s titled ‘The Return’. Just listen to these initial lines of the short story, which is quite a lengthy if compared to the ones I have narrated above:

A special train left Amritsar at two in the afternoon, arriving at Mughalpur, Lahore eight hours later. Many had been killed on the way, a lot more injured and countless lost.

It appears like normal lines, if I don’t reveal to you, what G.Rajshekhar Sir, reveals in his insightful essay on Manto. The distance between Amritsar and Lahore can be traveled within half an hour! And it took eight hours! Beta, imagine the unimaginable!

As I was re-reading these stories, as I told my friend Agrani last night, it looked very much like stories of today and not that of 1947, because of the investigation reports and documents of Godhra riots that lies next to my bed in my book shelf and because of the recent attacks on Christian’s in Orissa.

Being astonished by the similarities I lived with Manto in the next few days. On the 13th there was a music concert by Pt. Shreepada Hegde and my friend Pattabhi was supposed to come from Mangalore for the concert about which I was very much excited. I had met him when I went to Mangalore yet I was looking forward to meeting him like I had not met him in ages reason being Manto. I wanted to discuss Manto with Pattabhi. But Pattabhi dint come for the concert.

Now, I must speak to you of Pattabhi. Ah! What a lovable man he is! He is a professor in English and more importantly he is one of our finest minds and a public intellectual. He was transferred several times from college to college because he was a public intellectual. This system can’t tolerate the people who question it, you see. The system, time and again, has tried to silence Pattabhi, through various means. What a free world we live in, isn’t it beta? Off late, I hear that the system is planning of yet another way to silence Pattabhi. What’s his ‘crime’? He is pro-people! I can see you laugh, as you read this. If every public intellectual like him is to be silenced where will be the resistance?

The music concert was excellent! What a voice the man is gifted with! Ah… I can still feel his voice echoing in my heart and soul. After the concert, Sunil Sir’s house filled with music when Shreepada HegdeJi gave wings to voice there, at night when the two needles of the clock embrace each other…

The next morning broke for me with a message from Vishnu saying “Prayer halls have been attacked in Udupi”. I immediately forwarded the message to many a friends including Ragamallika who runs a news website named The Manipal Journal popularly known as TMJ. I consciously informed her because I wanted the incident to be reported somewhere. You don’t know beta, how horrible this media world has turned out to be. They have sold themselves completely to the fascist power-holders. So the incident could go unreported, I felt. TMJ, I felt, was quite liberal in that sense because it’s run by Ragamallika who has no political interests. But yes, Beta will the e-world ever be a part of the common mass that is being affected from this and will it bring about any change in their mindset which is being manipulated by the media and the politics. I am skeptical. But at least the incident wouldn’t go unreported if TMJ reported it, I thought, thinking that the rest of the newspapers wouldn’t bother to report it except for Vartha Bharathi, which has the least of circulation. It is one of those ‘politically correct’ newspapers beta which I hear will be banned soon because the fascists feel threatened by it and they say that the editorial of VB is dangerous to the society! Its true is society is a synonym to them!

After a while Raghunandan (Vishnu’s brother) messaged me saying similar incidents occurred in Sheroor, Kundapur, Mangalore and Chikmagaloor. Then I knew that it wouldn’t go unreported. But you should have seen the way in which it was reported! Atrocious! The reports say things like ‘attacks on conversion centers’. The language and structure of the reports were silently supporting the attacks! The media has gone to the dogs. When I was reading all these reports I was reminded of the conversation I had with Richrad Rego, my Sir in St.Aloysisus College, whom I had met on my visit to Mangalore on the 10th. He said: “The media scenario is pathetic. I don’t know why we should be teaching media ethics and social responsibility, when it’s not being followed” He sounded sad. I would have been happy if he had sounded frustrated. But no he sounded sad. Frustration has a fire in it, which would fight. But sadness doesn’t have that fire in it, sadly. My teacher, who taught me was sitting before me and rethinking over what he had taught me and many a like me. No, no, no… I don’t want to remember….

That evening Rajesh asked me if I would like to join him to G.Rajshekhar Sir’s house and I said “yes”. Any opportunity to meet Sir I wouldn’t let go. He is a man who has taught me so much. He widens my horizon every time we cross paths. His talks his writings have always given a new insight and a new outlook. We sat at his home, talking to him, sipping a cup of tea which he prepared for us. Vishnu and Raghunandan (His sons) were also with us. Sir, as I know, is a very optimistic person. Even when people used to say sadly “the middle class families who were once liberals are fascist supporters today” Sir would reply saying “If they are not where they were before, they will not be where they are now, in future”. A man who had been in public life for around 40 years who has been a part of several movements and struggles, Rajshkehar, that evening made a statement which shook me. Beta, he said “this is the beginning of the end. Fascism is in full flow”. Speaking of the attacks he said “two decades ago I could have spoken to people in Udupi saying- aren’t Christians and Muslims also a part of this nation, when they have been living here from so many years- and also could have convinced some. But today I can’t even speak so. What the fascists have basically done is that they have changed the concept of right and wrong for the middle class of this nation. They have changed the norms and morals of this country. So all their violence is not violence in the eyes of a common man” How true beta! You won’t believe, that night when I went home, all my relatives were at home, most of them were of the opinion that the attack was the correct thing done to the Christians. I can’t tell you beta, how lonely I felt that day, in my own house. Before going home I was with Sunil Sir and he told me that one of his relatives also held the same opinion.

Sunil Sir, that day while having dinner said “Teaching can’t bring about any change Samvartha” it was the same man who around one and a half years ago quoted Chomsky to me “My classroom is my politics” The sound of his talk dint differ from the sound of the statement made by Richie (Richard Rego) and it was the same sound that I found in the voice of Anil Pinto to whom I spoke a few days later. Anil Pinto is a teacher in Bangalore and he is one of the most influential and inspiring teachers one can find. Anil had a question “What is education doing?” Education has failed before the politics of the fascist.

Sunil Sir, Richie, Anil all are my teachers who inspired me and still inspire me. Have they all given up, I ask myself. Has Rajshekhar Sir also given up? He sounded so pessimistic. With all these thoughts I went home that night to find out that many of my relatives were happy about the attacks. Yes, the concept of the right and wrong, the morals and norms of the middle class has been changed by the politics of the fascists.

The way Udayavani had reported the attacks put me off early morning. The continued discussion of my relatives regarding the attacks was scary. After breakfast I as instructed by my friend Nishitha opened the Frontline magazine of September 23, which has a cover story of the attacks that took place in Orissa recently. Trust me beta, it wasn’t very different from the stories that I was reading a few days ago of Manto! I messaged Nishitha saying “It doesn’t surprise me anymore but it continues to shock and scare me”. Yes Beta, the communal violence has increased so much these days that any violence will not surprise you. It’s like how that sweeper in the film Grave of the Fireflies says on finding a dead body “Oh! Another one”

Coming to the matter of religious conversion and attacks on the prayer halls Beta, I feel the first conversion that takes place is when one is born. The child gets converted into the religion that its family follows. And coming to coercive conversion, giving incentives is coercive conversion? If someone says “I will give you money/ education come join my religion” and the person does get converted, what we need to understand is that the person needs money/education and not religion. Be it the religion which he left behind of the one which he embraced. And ok, let’s take the argument that it’s a crime to give incentives also, even then who gave these fascists the right to take law in their hands and attack the prayer halls?

Rajshekhar Sir said “if lower caste people are getting converted to Christianity it’s because they don’t feel at home in their religion which has for centuries exploited them and also has never treated as 1:1” what a phrase to be used beta ‘feel at home’! Ah, this is the insight that I was saying Sir gives. Tell me Beta, how many lower caste people would feel at home with higher caste people? Feel at home in temples? If they don’t feel at home in Churches, why wouldn’t they go there? What is the crime if they want to feel at home and feel accepted?

The rich may understand the sufferings
of the poor man
but not his
fear, humiliation and helplessness

(P.Lankesh, known Kannada writer wrote poems in the name of Neelu. I translated this one for you)

Similarly beta, we the people who don’t belong the lower strata of life and world can’t understand the people of the lower strata because we don’t understand their fear, humiliation and helplessness. They need some acceptance which we haven’t given them. Who doesn’t want acceptance after all. Look at Basavanna, he says ‘Nudidare Linga mechchi ahudu ahudu enabeku’ to mean ‘you speak in such a fashion that Shiva Linga would also say “yes yes, I agree”. This shows that we want some acceptance from God also. That sense of being accepted, do you understand Beta?

Its not that people change their religion for acceptance, they also start following the customs of a higher caste (within the religion) to increase their status within in the caste hierarchy and thus be accepted by the higher caste people. This is what the renowned Sociologist M.N.Shrinivas of ‘A Remembered Village’ fame called as Brahminisation in the beginning and later called as Sanskritization. Like Brahminisation/ Sanskritization conversion also speaks of exploitation and this quest to be accepted.

Whom do I try and explain all these things? Who will listen to me? So, I write this letter to you, who is not yet born.

After reading the article in Frontline I had a small chat with Dr.UR.Ananthamurthy, another public intellectual and one of the Jnanapeetha award winners. He has been one of those who have been guiding the minds of the pro-people movements in our times. After speaking about the attacks, while dropping the phone I asked him “Sir, you appear much tiered” and he said “I have become old” could I ask something more to add to my hope-less situation?

Vaidehi, one of our great writers in Kannada, once while conversing with me said “Subbanna lead us very well, now he isn’t there, Tejaswi is also not there. Thankfully Ananthamurthy is there. Imagining the shunya after that scares me”

Recently beta, I was in Kolkata. I met my friend face to face for the first time. We had met each other on Orkut and thus became friends. The occasion of meeting a known person first time face-t-face was amazing. He was a man who has been into pro-people movement and struggles from a very young age. He went on narrating stories of their movement and struggle for a long time and I along with my friend Rajesh heard him very curiously. While we were leaving, he gifted us the book he has written on Sundarbans. While he was signing the copy he was to gift Rajesh, he asked me: “You look very young, there is a long way to go for you. How old are you?” and when I told him that I was 23 his eyes became bright and the distance of two steps he covered and hugged me. I was moved by his action. But now I am scared thinking of it. Did he see some hope in me? Was he telling himself “these boys will fight for the people, however our time is over”? If he did see some hope in me, now I want to go on my knees and tell him “no, I don’t have the energy in me. I am not as strong as you are and the circumstance is now so that it is difficult to fight. They say doing protest is also a crime. In such situation please don’t hope that I will do something”

God is dead.
Marx is dead. Lenin is dead.
Gandhi is dead.
I am alive
and not feeling too well myself.
(Graffitti in JNU)

Ananthamurthy is old, Rajshekhar’s optimism seem to have broken its limbs, Richie, Sunil Sir and Anil Pinto seem to have given up, the majority of the people have sold their mind and heart to the fascists, Pattabhi is being silenced, Vaartha Bharathi is going to be banned, violence is allover…

It’s to this world, which will ruin even the more in the near future that you will be stepping when you are born beta. Should I bring you to such a word, anytime, I ask myself, as the words of Rajshekhar Sir Echoes in my ears “It’s the beginning of the end. Fascism is in full flow”. May be beta, when you come to this world, you will blame me for having brought you to such a world or maybe you will ask me why I and my generation let this happen. What will I answer you beta?

Anand Bhai, in his last mail, told me “Samvartha the last thing you should lose is hope”. How do I save it? Whom to ask? I don’t have a sane world to offer you beta neither do I have a hope…..

Beta, kindly forgive me, if I bring you to this world…..

Samvartha ‘Sahil’

20 September 2008

1 Comment

  1. Writing Again To The Unborn Daughter… « Crazy Mind's Eye said,

    […] am writing to you, dear unborn daughter, after almost two and a half years. In my previous letter I spoke to you about the attacks on Christian worship places. I remembered you and the letter I […]

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