In my defence: Responsibility of a poet

An old poem recited during a Kavi Sammelan (on a college campus) which invited a Show Cause Notice from the administration on the use of certain words. Here is a detailed description of the poem.

Critical appreciation and interpretation of the ‘objectionable’ poem

Title: कौन शर्मिंदा नहीं है?

The title itself sets the tone of the poem that there is no one in this world who is not ashamed of being himself. Where the concept of being is derived from various identities that are associated with us. We live in a society which targets anyone for anything ranging from the colour, creed, sex, language, region, caste, state, country, race, face, hair, tone among many others.

The poet is in search of one individual whose identity has not been questioned by another human being on one count or the other.

कुछ बातों पर मैं सोचता हूँ
और बारहाँ सोचता हूँ
कि क्यों
नेहरू विहार के जाट कहते हैं,
“सारे बिहारी चूतिये हैं, मारो सालों को…”
कुछ प्रबुद्ध लोग (इनमें बिहार यूपी के ज्यादा हैं) कह्ते हैं,
“सारे ‘चिंकियों’ ने दिल्ली में गन्द मचा रखा है, कुत्ता खाते हैं सब…
किसी दिन इनको देना पड़ेगा!”
कुछ मराठियों के लिये (मनसे समर्थक और अन्य)
“सारे बिहार-यूपी वाले हरामज़दगी करते हैं, सालों को बोलना भी नहीं आता।“
कुछ दशक पहले, किसी ठाकरे के शह पर
शिव सैनिक दक्षिण भारतीय लोगों को *&%$ से संबोधित करते थे।
आज वहीं दक्षिण भारत में हिन्दी भाषियों को ठेंगा दिखाया जाता है।
वृत्त पूरा हुआ, (life comes to a full circle)
सारे जहाँ से अच्छा हिन्दोस्तां हमारा…

The above stanza quotes the actual words quoted daily in our civil society that we listen and avoid. The poet gives a thought to the spoken words which have been uttered so regularly that we take it as default and stop questioning as long as it is not affecting us.

For instance it is known fact that ‘Bihari’ is no more a representative or an area of the state of Bihar but is looked down upon as a class of individuals who don’t know anything about civilised life. It denotes anything that is shabby, bad, uncivilised, ridiculous etc. and there is a particular class that uses the word ‘Chutiya’ in order to address them.

Bhargava Hindi Dictionary defines the word ‘chutiya’ as ‘buddhu’ or stupid person. The word ‘chutiya’ though is believed to originate from a word in local dialect of Hindi which means the female reproductive organ, the vagina. It must also be noted that the word vagina won’t sound insulting to you because it is in a foreign language but the Hindi of it sounds bad or abusive.

The exact English for the same will be vaginal. But does vaginal sound as abusive/uncivilised as ‘chutiya’? No. Not to me. Let’s go in to semantics. The words are not mere group of letters but the moment they are spoken in one particular region they carry a different connotation. The carry a different aspect altogether.

Now, it must also be noted that a Bihari, I am one, will feel much enraged on being addressed as a Bihari in derogatory tone than being called ‘chutiya’. Similarly, a north eastern individual is much more insulted when he or she is addressed as ‘Chinki’.

The point that I want to state is, the word itself is not insulting but the way it is delivered, to whom it is addressed and the time chosen to utter it.

Here in the above mentioned part of the poem I have tried to bring the point home that. A north eastern person is discriminated by a Bihari or a UP guy, a Bihari is discriminated by a Jaat and Marathi people, Hindi speaking people are looked down upon by South Indians who at one time were discriminated and driven away by the supporters of Shiv Sena.

So there is a circle of discrimination. Everyone is discriminating against everyone. No one is left unabused.

Now why did I, as a poet, used these words? What was my purpose? Some claps from audience? Applause from immature minds who will listen these abusive words and start clapping uncontrollably?

NO! I driven the point home by bringing these words to a stage where people of literature were sitting, where people who had interest in literature were sitting and they were sitting with an open mind to receive and perceive as I wanted them to.

I wanted them to hear these words, which were harsh to our civilised ears but spoken all the times. If I don’t tell them the words that they shouldn’t use then how do I expect that they will ward off their prejudices and don’t use these words for each other.

Many of them didn’t even realise that these were actually offensive words. I made it a point to let them listen and realise that these are the words they shouldn’t be using. And each and every individual sitting there applauded every single word that I spoke. And I could see it was not an euphoric applaud from immature individuals from first semester but from my esteemed colleagues from this college as well as from colleges of DU who were invited as chief guests and guest poets.

Let’s look at the second stanza:
बाहर निकलते हैं:
कुछ हिन्दुओं के लिये,
“सारे मुसलमान कट्टर होते ही हैं।”
और कुछ मुसलमानों के लिये,
“सारे हिन्दू क़ाफ़िर हैं।“
कुछ रूसीयों के लिये,
“सारे चेचन्या वाले आतंकवादी हैं…”
और कुछ अमेरिकन कह्ते हैं कि
“ईरान, अफ़गानिस्तान और ईराक़ ‘axis of evil’ हैं”
और तो और
इनके लिये सारा इस्लाम आतंकवाद का पर्याय है
और “burn a Quraan day” मनाने से आतंकवाद खतम हो जायेगा!
सिंहलियों (श्रीलंकन) के लिये
सारे तमिल लोग सिर्फ़ बन्दूक की भाषा समझते हैं…
भारतीयों के लिये सारी पाकिस्तानी माएँ
वो गंदी नाली हैं
जहाँ से ‘कसाब’ और ‘मौलाना मसूद अज़हर’ पैदा होते हैं,
और
पाकिस्तानियों के लिये सारा भारत
ज़हालत से भरी वो बस्ती है
जहाँ काफ़िर बसते हैं।
और अफ़्रीका के काले लोग तो
अभी तक वहशी, दरिन्दगी, असभ्यता और क्रूरता के पर्याय हैं ही
“पता नहीं कब सभ्य होंगे!”

In this stanza I have taken the same issues of discrimination at the international stage. And I am quite sure you won’t have any problem with the words ‘kafir, vahshi, darinde, jahalat, aatankwaadi, kattar’ etc. because they are not abusive to you.

But it is abusive to a whole nation that is referred to as these words. Calling a whole religion a synonym of terrorism is much gross discrimination than saying the words ‘chutiya, haramzaada, haraamkhor’.

Joseph Conrad (in his book Heart of Drakness) and Chinua Achebe (in Things Fall Apart) presents to us the African societies and give two different accounts of the same society. One is from an European author and another from a Kenyan. There is stark difference between the two. I would recommend you to read them both.

The point is we are all fighting discrimination at several fronts, layers. As a Hindu, Bihari, Brown coloured, Brahmin, male, Hindi speaking, Indian and many that I don’t even realise I am being abused as!

I have first quoted the exact words from our own society and then the world. The problem is something else. Problem is not on an individual level. The next stanza elucidates that:

‘कुछ’ को ‘सारे’ से दिक्कत है।
‘सारे’ को ‘कुछ’ से नहीं।
झुंड को झुंड से परेशानी है [मनुष्यों का भेड़ी-फ़िकेशन हो गया है]
व्यक्ति को व्यक्ति से नहीं!
मज़ा ये है कि हर एक हीन है
किसी न किसी के लिये।
बचा कौन?
कौन बच गया
मैं खोज रहा हूँ उसे
जो चूतिया नहीं है,
जो हरामजादा नहीं है,
जो किसी नाली से पैदा ना हुआ हो…
जो अपने ‘होने’ को लेकर
शर्मिंदा नहीं है।

It says that, seeing the above example, the problem is not on the level of individuals but at the level of crowd. A group hates another but when you sit down and logically debate, the individual doesn’t have many words to defend his/her hatred other than saying, ‘I am using it because everyone uses it!’

The human beings have become sheep. The thing is each one is inferior or looked down as an inferior of each one. No one can claim and say I am the person who hasn’t been discriminated or his friends haven’t been ridiculed for being from certain area, having certain colour, dress in certain way, speak a certain language, follow certain faith…

But can I as a poet, without using those words, ask people not to use them? If they don’t know what are the words they mustn’t be using, how on earth will they ever stop using those? How they will know what exactly is offending and what exactly isn’t?

A poet’s job is to bring out the frailties of the society. He/she is a social commentator. He/she has an unsaid responsibility to bring changes in the society. I am just making an effort as was made by Manto, Chugtai, John Donne, Gustave Falubert, DH Lawrence, Achebe, Conrad, Kashinath Singh, Rajendra Yadav, Namwar Singh and scores of others.

As already said, you can govern emotions but not a work of literature. I rest my case.

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