You are ourMooknayak, the leader of us who were made dumb by the caste–nation. You fought for us only with words when everything else was snatched away from us. On your birthday today, I shut my ears and eyes because they could be enchanted by the foolish creations the world around me is making for a cheap adrenaline rush. I am enriching you in words.
PEOPLE are increasingly becoming less and less interested in words. They are behind events, and visuals which provide them instant adrenaline rush. But in truth, when were people in this country interested in words? Words which ‘speak’ never fail to communicate, words which do not need disguise, words which inspire us to think, words which expose our own fear and vulnerabilities, and words which make us conscious of our own responsibilities and pain followed by it.
When I shared a poem about PhD scholar Rohith Vemula on his death anniversary, it attracted many more ‘likes’ and much more attention on social media than when I shared the same poem on other days. We have turned out to be more attentive to events, visuals, and whatever is appeasing to our eyes and soothing to our ears.
We are increasingly forgetting that we have to train our mind, and cultivate it in order to maintain dignity in life and never let ourselves fall in our own eyes. It is a symptom of our failure of making our brain critically conscious about our dreams as well.
People today are more attentive to your pictures, your images or your visuals rather than words painstakingly written by you, about you; words being the only bridge that could lead us to you. Your picture would fetch thousands of ‘likes’ on social media, whereas your words, or words about you, would get less attention. We have started to seek gratification from you, rather than courage to face our own fear and vulnerabilities as a society.
My father died in August 2022. You must know that when you arrived in Nagpur in October 1956 for the proclamation of the most peaceful revolution on Earth, my father was also there in the crowd as a three years-old boy. My grandfather had put my father next to his neck, with his legs hanging from my grandfather’s chest and his hands probably holding his father’s head. They walked a few kilometres from home to what is now called Dikshabhoomi.
My father was an eye witness of your revolution. Yet, the vision of your revolution made no impact on his life. Neither did he reach your words, nor did your words reach him. Hunger, survival and, yes, cinema altered his life forever. In my father, I clearly witnessed the failure of not being able to work on himself in this direction. But most incredibly, I also discovered the source of this failure. And to my fear, it lies in the family.
Your picture would fetch thousands of ‘likes’ on social media, whereas your words, or words about you, would get less attention. We have started to seek gratification from you, rather than courage to face our own fear and vulnerabilities as a society.
There is no liberation of any kind without knowing the source of pain which affects the individual first, then the family, and then the society. The source of an individual’s pain can become a disaster for a lot of people who are associated with that individual. If the pain has not been addressed by the individual or by the society, it sometimes destroys generations to come.
These few important observations I have drawn by reflecting upon the impossibility of my father to communicate his thoughts, feelings and emotions with others. In my reflection, I have found that the urge to break free among Dalit men is rampant, but they often end up assaulted by the language of the caste–society that has either erased them by being silent about them, or has already despised them in its social, cultural and political life before they could establish their existence through the language they possess.
Babasaheb, your words did not reach such people. Half of my own life is the victim of this inaccessibility to your words.
I have found that people who claim to have ‘authority’ over your thoughts and ideas, fail to reach people who struggle with hunger, survival and loneliness in life. I have found that people who claim to have ‘authority’ over your thoughts and ideas long ago dissociated themselves from the language of poetry and are mostly found practising the language of philosophy with which they develop an uncanny and destructive urge to prove who is the realest and most authentic successor of you.
They have utterly failed to understand that you possessed the language of poetry, which is why it is still alive and vibrantly powerful in its tone. If not for poetry, I would have never come to realise that your words never fail to disrupt our lethargy and provoke us to think. I began to think and I am here, and whoever is reading these words is a witness of what your words could make one think and write.
Do you remember in 2021, I wrote you a long poem? On your birthday today, let me read a small snippet from it. It is also because I want to break this inaccessibility to words, and if necessary, repeat words, because words written with pain never fail to be educative. This is what I have written, for you, keeping you in mind:
More often than not, I ponder over dreams, dreams that I see when my eyes are closed, dreams which wake me up in the darkness of night. My dreams are often dirty, surreal. But nonetheless, they are part of my mind. I try not to judge my life based on my dreams. Often, dreams are suppressed desires or unhealed wounds or emotions which could not be asserted (not expressed) because we find them to be standing against the ways of the world.
I read Ambedkar. I feel that my dreams which go against the ethos of the world that is against me, I must carry them as a souvenir of my time in this society and what it has made of me. I read Ambedkar. He puts sense into my head. I learn that in my dreams, I love people, irrespective of their gender, sexuality or identity. Ambedkar helps me explore love when society has spread so much hatred. I feel that Ambedkar was a dream begotten on this barren, loveless soil. I read Ambedkar. Reading Ambedkar is reading the history of silences which scream in my ears.
Most Dalits do not have a memory of their previous generations preserved. The time which is required to survive has consumed everything. But there are silences. Silences which scream.
Ambedkar is my memory
Carrying which in my brain cells
I fight against the history
Of this nation.
I dream: Ambedkar is a dream that when it enters your head, it disrupts your sleep forever.
In my basti, I could not sleep peacefully anymore. But I felt alive.
Today, our struggle is essentially about feeling. We cease to feel. We are seeing more and more in abundance, listening without any creative interruptions, and consuming visuals and colours in an excess which we don’t even require in the time and space to grow in the mental sphere of life. Today, we have access to things we don’t know whether we need. Today, we are consuming so many more visuals and sounds than we could digest in our sleep and dreams. Isn’t it obvious that in such circumstances, words always get lost? Words, which were the pillars of your revolution, words which were our only bridge to reach to you? Words, shared by one generation with the other helped all those who grew up grow, and in an absence of words, the rest have been doomed by alcohol and loneliness.
The urge to break free among Dalit men is rampant, but they often end up assaulted by the language of the caste–society that has either erased them by being silent about them, or has already despised them in its social, cultural and political life before they could establish their existence through language they possess.
I am growing up because of your words. My father was doomed by alcohol, cinema and loneliness, in an absence of words, your words.
You have always talked about justice the way a poet talks about love. I make no distinction between the two. This is probably because ever since I began to read your words, I discovered an irresistible urge within me to speak about justice the way a poet talks about love. I also think that it is because I have observed that when you were painstakingly speaking, and, most importantly, writing words about justice, you were writing at the same time about the love we need to explore while struggling to get justice. I felt that you came to the conclusion that even if we get justice, it won’t last long if we do not develop love for it, for each other, and for ourselves.
The urge for justice among us varies as per the circumstances and interests we share with each other. But the need to love, and to be loved, never fails to disappear from our instincts, and it is at the level of our instincts that we remain most truthful all the time. I feel you have a profound understanding of it, hence you introduced to us the man who encouraged each of us to THINK.
But today, when all of us are increasingly becoming less and less interested and attentive towards words, and consuming more and more distorted visuals and invading sounds in the wake of social media, our alienation from you seems to be so real, although we will never fail to keep you with us as a picture, photo or a sound. Engaging with words, your words, means investing our time, energy, labour and making a commitment that despite the useless fascinations the world is creating for us, we will remain deeply in touch with you because we will remain in touch with your words.
Ever since I began to read your words, I discovered an irresistible urge within me to speak about justice the way a poet talks about love. I also think that it is because I have observed that when you were painstakingly speaking, and, most importantly, writing words about justice, you were writing at the same time about the love we need to explore while struggling to get justice.
Words lead to discomfort, discomfort leads us to think, thinking leads us to find thoughts for ourselves, and finding thoughts for ourselves is finding a voice for us.
You are our Mooknayak, the leader of us who were made dumb by the caste–nation. You fought for us only with words when everything else was snatched away from us. On your birthday today, I shut my ears and eyes because they could be enchanted by the foolish creations the world around me is making for a cheap adrenaline rush. I am enriching you in words.
Waiting for visa
In a queue
Is the only country
I belong to.
(Both poems used above are reproduced from the author’s book Ambedkar 2021: Meanings of Love and Hurt, Panther’s Paw Publication, 2022.)