Saturday, August 13, 2016

With apologies: Do I know Mahashweta Devi ? And what’s correct about her writings?


Obviously I have both in plenty. There are two other elements vital in journalism those follow taking their own path – The EGO and Honesty or the lack of it. Ego is in plenty ! and honesty – generally a shortfall.
In the meantime – let us recall a comment from the illustrious scientist Albert Einstein …..:: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

In our country – who are stupids? Those who avoid the beaten track? Sensible world call them ‘mad’ and ‘failed jokers’ too!
So when illustrious writer Mahashweta Devi died on July 28, 2016 – words of condolence messages, twitter oneliners and Facebook messages went around. Those who knew and deserved to write about her did so – others who hardly had any knowledge and wanted to make a fashion statement also did so.

Most – if not all - commentaries were laudatory. And why not? She was great and she is no longer.

Does the story end there? My story does not. I bring back my CYNICISM TO WORK. Ego too catches up and there’s a thin borderline clash between honesty and dishonesty!

What’s so special about Mahashweta Devi’s writings? Obituaries flooded in. President, Vice President, Congress chief Sonia, film makers, Mamata Banerjee – who gets inspiration to paint to write poems for “crores” – none could be miss.

A tweet went around with Sushma Swaraj naming “wrong books” of Mahasweta Devi as the busy External Affairs Minister allegedly mistook another Devi – Ashapurna Devi’s works! You could not have missed it.

Now let us turn the table – why she attained the greatness? What theme did her writings actually seek to propagate? Was she selective? If so why? Tribals of north east are also tribals, do they figure in her chronicle of being “a conscience keeper” – as none other than virtuos ‘Saint’ Sonia Gandhi had described the illustrious writer?

You are right, I am being cynic and stretching it too far ! May be, may be not!
But will it be wrong to argue: It is as though saving the remains of Marxism is more important than saving humanity. Whereever Mahashweta traveled, a particular thought process prevailed. Because India’s communists and Marxists “virtuous” gang had nothing to do with north eastern states – except Tripura – Mahasweta Devi did not go either.
I am not finding fault. But as a northeastern boy – who can perhaps never have a “hut” of his own north east hills and valleys – can have this grudge. Is it really unjustified?
Then comes in her vintage best role after 2002 mayhem in Gujarat. Mark her wordings – no doubt she has endeared herself as so dearly to ultra-left “Neo-Lady Jinnah” Ms Mamata Banerjee!

''The people who perpetrated heinous vandalism in Ayodhya in December 1992 and stoked communal flames are again at their game for the last few months. We know the pattern. We even know the remedy. The trouble is a complete lack of political will to put a stop this kind of madness'', she said in her famous letter to the then President K R Narayanan. 

Politically correct again! What about those who died in the train mayhem at Godhra?
So, at this juncture – first rapid fire quiz query: What Mahashweata Devi did or said after Nandigram and Singur?

“Even at her advanced age she did not hesitate to extend her support to the peoples’ struggles in Singur, Nandigram, and Junglemahal, and fought for the release of political prisoners,” says an obit in 'Economic and Political Weekly', a magazine once founded and edited by her maternal uncle Sachin Choudhary

Readers of these blogs know for sure that I have no sympathies for Marxists and their hypocrisies.

But the clash of CPI-M and pro-Naxalite elements in Singur-Nandigram chapter of Bengal polity is a question the answer to which actually lay in the womb of time.

Will it be wrong to say - politically Mahashweta Devi had been close to the “revolutionary life in Indian politics” and her books actually bear testimony to explicit sympathy with the Naxalites?

Take for instance – what is generally given out as her watershed – defining moment - novel of 1974, Hajar Chaurashir Ma (Mother Of 1084), which is one of Devi’s most widely read works.

The book deals with the life of a Naxalite – whose identity is later dismissed as mere No. 1084 in morgue. It actually ends up justifying Naxal movement – something that was later called “single biggest challenge of India”. 

Supposed to deal with “the emotional struggles” of a mother when she is summoned to identify her son lying dead in the police morgue – also later filmed well by Govind Nihalini (starring Jaya Bachchan), the book and the mother protagonist seemed to endorse the path of Naxalism.

Post 1970-91 plot – when Bengal had witnessed the first taste of Naxalism that started from a place called Naxalbari in West Bengal --- the mother actually understands “her son’s death”! She understands how the double standards of bourgeois society had forced her son to rebel against it !

 If you are not convinced; take a closer look at this: In her introduction to Agnigarbha (1978), Devi explained her mission thus:

‘I find my people still groaning under hunger, landlessness, indebtedness and bonded labor. An anger, luminous, burning and passionate, directed against a system that has failed to liberate my people from these horrible constraints is the only source of inspiration in all my writing. 

All the parties to the Left as well as to the Right have failed to keep their commitment to the common people. I do not hope to see in my lifetime any reason to change this conviction of mine. Hence I go on writing to the best of my abilities about the people, so that I can face myself without any sense of guilt and shame. For a writer faces judgement in her lifetime and remains answerable.’ 

I am afraid elsewhere and with someone else - one could have heard - why you are glorifying Maoism?
Blogger in North Bengal 

The ultra-Marxist ideas and history – two vital elements of Bengali intellectualism of her time – certainly fascinated her.

Hence Godhra victims of Feb 27, 2002 and hundreds of Nirendra Devs chased out of north east and the prolonged agony of northeast tribals did not figure much in her works – both fictions and non-fictions.   


1 comment:

  1. not getting the MAZA..u are running around the bush on the mahasweta devi story