Saturday, January 21, 2017

Open the gate

There was a sun above,
I woke up calm, happy there will be light,
Only light was there, but nothing I could see,
Made me sleep again,
I woke up every now and then,
Bright darkness was all I could feel.

Until I realised that the sun was never there,
It was an illusion, I pulled it down,
Hoping for another sun to rise.
Darker it became.
Took the brush I did,
Painted the sun again with my folk,
The Sun of my culture,
With the brush of my pride,
And the paint of my conviction.

When despair spread its hands to me,
In despair,
When history looked at me for a future,
When culture and civilisation,
Were standing at the tip of a cliff,
Just about to fall all way down,
I stood ground in the slippery beach sand,
With the ocean on one side where
I cannot go,
And land on the other side,
Waiting to be conquered.

My soul waged a war within myself,
To do or not to do,
My culture gave it life,
It radiated through my body,
Pulled it did,
Souls all over,
All merging into One,
The Soul of my Race.

A war with no weapon,
An attack with no damage,
An army with no leader?
No way, there was one,
The leader was my history,
The Soul of my Race.

When you thought,
You have won over me.
When you think you had squeezed,
The blood of my body,
I cried with hunger,
Mothers came to me,
I cried out of pain,
Sisters cried for me,
I felt cold,
Brothers hugged me,
I was sad,
Toddlers smiled at me,

Pushed me you though you did,
Into the sea.
A rock how much ever,
You push down will all force,
Let it go once,
It will rise back,
Rose I did,
Came back I did,
Not me but my entire family,
We came not alone,
But with my whole civilization,
My brave forefathers,
My wise literature,
The pride of our women.

We hit you back,
Not with revenge,
We hit you back,
By not hitting at all, live with it!
We lived our culture,
Showed you Truth,
Cleaned your thoughts,
By Cleaning the dirt,
In front of you!
Showed you equality
By praying in front of you,
Taught you to be a man,
By letting a woman be a woman.

The sun of pride is shining on the beach,
It glitters, the reflection,
Travels far and wide,
Opening the eyes,
Of those that slept in pure daylight.

The door of freedom is shut,
Right in front of me,
We stand there holding hands,
We hold the ropes to the gate,
And laughing at you,
You thought we cannot pull,
Throw the gate open,
Bravery is not in strength,
It was in earning respect.

Come to us,
Stand and salute
With respect and dignity,
For my people,
My history, my culture,
You shall go with the key you so proudly
Thought you hid from us,
Open that gate of freedom,
The gate of my culture,
The bull of our pride will and ego will run,
Hug the pride we will,
Tame the ego we will,
Right in front of you.

Dont worry,
We will not let you go so easily,
We will give you Coconut water,
After all you are our friend,
The moment you come here,
You will never go unhappy,
Our land has taught us so.


I have been born and raised in a family belonging to a particular upper caste, though I dont place my identity with that caste nor that I am proud of being one. I have been educated in a minority institution with people belonging to various religions and castes. Politically, I have been driven by Gandhi & Nelson Mandela, philosophically by Vivekananda and Ramanuja who have always profused equality of men and women in the eyes of humanity and God. I have travelled all over the country due to various reasons and interacted with several other cultures.

I sport a Kudumi and a Naamam (tikka in Hindi) [ironically these are looked as oppressing symbols) not because I belong to a caste but because it is a reflection of the philosophy of Ramanuja (the man who saw a revolution of social justice in religion, revival of tamil language in temples and religious literature, revering people of various castes as Gurus - as a famous TV serial today written by a world famous rationalist says today).  I practice a particular sect in Hinduism which has people from various castes including dalits as revered Gurus and seers (not to mention some dalit gurus are revered as incarnations of God himself), which has a goddess who is a muslim, etc. Though there have been distortions in the way people practice it (which I strongly object by the way), the philosophy fundamentally is very secular.

Having said this, I am also a person subject to several prejudices against me simply because I belong to a particular caste  or pose with supposedly caste symbols irrespective of my social and political views, abuses at times, etc. I am not a bad person, I dont demean or harm anyone. My close friends or people who know me definitely know the secular person I am and kind of views / ideals I uphold.

Todays hot topic / movement in Tamil Nadu has been Jallikattu and the revival or protection of it. But more than just Jallikkattu, this movement has brought out several important realities to the forefront, which makes me to strongly believe that political and public discourse in tamil nadu definitely need a recalibration to suit the reality. Todays tamil nadu according to me needs a centrist approach, if not it will keep endlessly rotating in hypocritical loops.

Following are some observations from Jallikattu:

1) First of all this movement had no religion or caste at all. How many times have you really seen a movement with no religion or caste with so much public support. You had people from various religions supporting the movement. They thrashed some groups trying to make it a Hindu festival, some linking to opposition to Uniform Civil Code, etc which was outrightly trashed by the protesters. People of all religions came together to fight against a cause, which was to uphold a tradition which was core to our culture and identity.

2) Tamil Nadu has always been subjected to a particular type of thinking as rationalist, which is atheist communist way. Since this thinking has been in forefront in politics and media, alternate thought or expression bares little significance, at least in public discourse. Can anyone ever say that this movement comes out of "such" thinking alone. The movement again was not against capitalism, it was against exploitation !

For instance, there have been so many references by people such as "Koil" Kalai, Enga "Saami", will do "Pooja" etc. Tamil Nadu has always atleast politically associated analytical / rational thinking to an opposition to anything (through a communist atheist lens) that indicates a sense of god belief in things that we do. If one were to say villages were based on a temple for social needs, it would be ridiculed. But this time nobody has done that, atleast no political outfit. Or even if they did, nobody cared. It obviously shows to indicate that the average tamil today understands that issues cannot be so binary as koil means superstition, bull worship is backward, etc.

The same political outfits which criticized rural religious beliefs such mannu soru or certain activities in rural temples have not criticised this time, because every one understands the importance of the tradition, which has religious , societal and scientific reasons (whichever way one wants to see it).

3)There have been posts such as Jallikattu belonged to a particular upper caste in south tamil nadu (not brahmins), dalits were kept out or had to witness the sport from a seperate area, etc. People have thrashed those posts. Why? Does this mean that dalits had no problems at all with Jallikattu or does it mean that rural tamil nadu has wonderful dalit rights? It just means that everybody understands that while reform is required within the set tradition, issues within the tradition do not make the tradition itself stupid. Throughout tamil nadu, could you at any point identify which religion or caste the group belonged to?

Further, so much respect was provided by the protestors to muslim protestors who did not forget their prayers and did their prayers from the protest area. Islam is a wonderful religion promoting peace, this is an evidence of that. Yes, islam did not arise from this soil and yes we had islamic rulers which also led to cultural interaction. That does not mean that they are not tamils, they are outsiders or they tried to kill our culture. I was agitated when a political leader said muslims have no right to protest for Pongal!! How foolish and divisive it can be.

This brings me to my point of hypocritical loops and trying to divide and rule a state based on a perceived common enemy and build a vote bank.

Tamil Nadu social movements have atleast associated upper caste to Brahmins most of the times. Certain Brahmins in the past had definitely done a lot of social evils and I will definitely support that high handedness of brahmins has to go out because it is against their own philosophy. Tamil brahmins have their gurus / revered devotees of God who were non brahmins. But social status and exploitative mindset did not allow them to see society beyond binary lens (caste by birth), which obviously led to exploitation. Brahmins occupied powerful positions at a point of time. Self respect movements and education in Tamil Nadu have definitely helped in providing a balance, an alternate dialogue and an outlook.

But where things go for a toss is when alternate dialogue instead of bringing a balance has become a tool of political bashing and complete banning and ridicule of religion. This is more like Jallikattu - concern for the animal due to certain unscrupulous ill treatment  (such as alcohol, chilli powder, etc) versus total ban on the sport, calling it barbaric.

The hypocrisy of politics has always been upper castes being equated to brahmins alone, all atrocities  are related to brahminism, encouragement of vulgar talk in public forum such as dog, loafer etc etc, ill treatment of dalits coming only out of brahminism and not feudalism. Reality is due to several social reforms, brahmins today do not wield as much power as they used to, they form a minority, they are no vote bank per se, I am not sure what anyone is achieving by channelising all oppression and abuse to them. Its almost like beating a dead snake. They are not rich and they have no influence on the farmer lands or do they have any influence to buy out an opponent. Agreed, they still have an influence in temples which has diminished to a great extent! I think anti brahminism of yesteryears made sense (though the violence and abuse did not), but today it is only used as a unifying factor for a divided vote bank.

Spoiler alert - Jallikattu is a lot part of the tradition that brahmins uphold. Their prayers or religious verses have references of jalli kattu, their god having played jallikattu, brahmins are in support of jallikattu. Obviously this is not true if they were foreign or another race and wanted to kill our culture. Another spoiler alert, tamil brahmins associate themselves more to tamil culture and literature than those of the north.

Protesters are targeting corporates and foreign nationals or NGOs, which makes complete sense. Yes, there are still social evils. There are social viruses and they belong to any caste or religion. Everybody is part of our culture, we can disagree with them but we cannot demonise or make them an enemy (like calling a muslim a terrorist, come on!). Recent scandals actually reveal people from outside the state being corrupt! And within the state, unfortunately corruption scandals by some parties are diverted as attack on lower castes!

3) Gender equality & safety - See the pictures for yourself to know what I am saying.

4) This country talks of Swachh Bharat. Have you seen a protest with so much cleanliness in this country? We all know the state of political rallies, the state of biryani packets and water packets and liquor bottles. We protested but we all cleaned the place. Gandhi's dream was this! Civic sense is fundamental to a good civil society.

Political parties should encourage this. There is absolutely no talk on cleanliness, toilets etc. There is no meaning to equality, freedom and self respect without civic sense.

5) Again, political parties would divert much of public discourse to freebies and areas of infrastructure, agriculture, power, industry, corruption, liqour, education will all be left with no one to care.

The real issues at hand today for tamils are price rise, middlemen, farmers, cauvery water, livelihood of fishermen, exploitation by Corporates over natural resources, planting of trees, quality education for all, equality of men and women, respect of all religions, industrial and agricultural growth. We youngsters are very clear today on what we want. The social evils if wrong will definitely be opposed by us. But political parties need to definitely come out of traditional rhetoric and start addressing real issues.

Tamil Nadu needs a centrist approach. Yes, we have travelled a long way with Self respect movement and language protection. But now Jallikattu shows us that this state needs a centrist approach:

- A balance between agricultural, industrial and cultural growth

- A balance of indigenous growth and foreign investment

- Clear definition of social ills and crimes irrespective of caste, religion, vote bank

- A balance between respecting each ones beliefs at the same time ensuring no oppression on the other.

- A clear blend of urban and rural development

I am not sure when a leader will emerge from one of us, but clearly this new "vote bank" or civil movement will provide a check to random rhetoric poetic divisive talk with no substance. This protest reflects the new tamil nadu, political parties and public discourse, please grow up!


The Unmindful Scholar