August 15, 2010

Peasant Question Continued

A brothers' counsel to commit suicide and claim compensation from the government and regain control over a piece of agro-land, had many Bangalore yuppies chomp at popcorn and laugh and cry at a high-end multiplex. Peepli Live spoke the pathos of a desperate subaltern in an innocent voice of life (in this case, death) getting entrapped in the juggernaut of modernity. State, media, vernacularity, cosmopolitanism, politics of spectacles, politics of sentimentalism, politics of subalternity come together to weave a sati-like celebrity around Nathha.

I was struck by the banality with which death was spoken of in the UP-tongues of the subaltern. The peasant question was reiterated - Bollywood-style. More erudite than the jaded jargonists. Talking of death as a new handle to move things around in the land of impasse. Death, here, is a word of promise, opportunity, bridging across an abyss. A young boy asks his father when he would be done dying, so he can be a thekedaar. A shriveled woman says her business would receive a boost. Perhaps, the subalterns offer a comment on 'death' beyond irony. Tugging death into the zone of the ordinary, just as they affirm that life offers too little to fear death. A vernacular righteousness - a bit too poetic - gets narrated in the wars between local and metropolitan media, local and central state, brutal and gentrified violences. And one comes away, rattled by the question - how is it different when a man dies, as opposed to when a man speaks his death?

August 9, 2010

I once met a poet

Love comes from the city
Wearing a hat
Strapped boots
On an old ferry
Up the river
In jolts and starts
It rained that night
And you wrote bad verse
On a ballpoint pen

And love flew out
Into the jungles
Where they camped
Around fires
And stones

And they tell tales
Of government
And road
And railway
And war
And real tragedy
Real stories

I once met a poet
Who spoke of loverliness
Under the bridge
Leaving behind a trail of ashes
With which to remember

I met a fable
She spoke of love
In the time of war
A ghostly lover
An old loverliness
Was it under the bridge I ask
She smiles
It was very very long ago.