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?


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