Anil Kumar Yadav
[The original Hindi version of this essay appeared in Tehelka yesterday, May 1, 2015. Translation: HUG]
Among the things with which the future shall take stock of and measure our times, surely facebook will be one.Events used to be enacted twice even in the earlier times. The first time in real terms; and the second, within the inner retreats of human beings. But this occurrence of the second time often gets manifested now in the form of a many-hued poetry of diverse emotions on the pages of facebook. If we refrain from getting judgmental, it can be assumed that the poems that used to die within our selves can now see the light of the day; how long such flickers stay alive would depend on their internal fibre though.
After that many-textured incident took place among the crowds, in full glare of the camera, a poem by Krishna Kalpit came into being:
एक नकली किसान/एक नकली मुख्यमंत्री के सामने/एक नकली पेड़ से लटककर मर गया/और नकली पुलिस और नकली जनता देखती रही/सब नकली थे/लेकिन मृत्यु असली थी!
A fake farmer/in front of a fake chief-minister/died hanging on a fake tree/and fake police and fake crowd kept watching/everything was fake/but death was real!
One needs to have some courage in order to pen the very first line of this poem. For this is being penned after a death has just occurred, amidst a countrywide spell of fake outcry on the issue of farmer-suicides. The poet can be easily pulverized.Pilloried.But if you could imagine yourself standing beside that bearded dead-body among the clapping throng at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, then you would know that a whole fake people has not only been manufactured, but this condition has become complicated to such an extent that it is impossible to get back the very idea of people—janta— in the old sense anymore. This throng, having exorcised all its feelings and occupying that hazy zone between truth and falsehood, is ever-ready to be shoved and propelled in any direction. An unsurpassed example of this predicament is the deceased Gajendra Singh himself.
He was aware of the ruined realities of the farmers. Having been a regular in quite a few political parties, he had mastered the finer art of attracting the attention of the leaders. Contrary to the farmer sensibility, he had also chosen a kind of work for himself for which he would be rewarded with tipping—बख्शीश, rather than caring to earn an honest workman’s wages—मजदूरी. Literally mounting slices of amusing spectacles, he would tie turbans onto the heads of the political leaders. He would be tipped by those kinds of people who, aided by turbans, swords, crown and butter, would help the political leaders play-act the game of being maharajas for those daily brief moments of harlequinry that caricatures our times. And hope to climb up a few rungs themselves in the wake. Actually he wished to follow the successful mercenary imprints of those leaders who were singing paeans to a pedigreed clan or stoking the self-conceit of a single arrogant man. Pity, in this pursuit, he could only become an attention seeking pawn—in life and in death.
In this multi-textured event that testifies to a retrogressive political culture, much more staggering than the death of this mercenary farmer is the death of a party and a man who, people had once thought, wanted to establish the aam admi (common man) at the front and centre of the political arena. The last time, having sacrificed the 47 days government in an ambition to proliferate across the nation, Arvind Kejrwal was slapped by an auto-wallah. Arvind went to his place after paying homage at Rajghat. At that point people suffered from the crazy hope that perhaps our lost ideals and political embodiments could be reinstated by this man. The same Arvind went ahead with his political speech even after the death of a man, as if a hovering insect got scorched in the glamour of his blazing petromax. From the rapidly unscaling layers of his persona this time, it is evident that the lessons of humility, idealism, mercy and piety, his readings from the Hind Swaraj, were all but mere rites of passage to power—well thought out and practiced. Not unlike those against whom he had come out in war in the first place. Now,at some point if he implores the people of Delhi, citing humanism, to transport maimed and dying people from the streets to the hospitals, he will surely be asked in reply whether he is the same man who can stop a meeting in deference to azaan emanating from a mosque but cannot do so when a man dies.
More fraudulent is that dissonant and hoarse clamour for the farmers from people who actually make policies for the rich and the influential and who are, every passing day, enclosing the spaces of all resistance. In modes of pure farce, the symbols, allegories and the metaphors of language are all lurching towards the villages. In order to conceal one’s true aims, a whole alternative cosmos has been created, where everything is illusive. And every bit delusory, non-existent. Recall that the poet had also spoken of a fake tree in which the man had hanged himself.