Skip to content

On Mourning and Memory: Sameer Khan

November 30, 2012

Guest Post by Sameer Khan

It was an amazing sight to see Bal Thackeray draped in the National Flag like a decorated war hero on way to his funeral among the sea of followers and curious onlookers. More surprising were the news anchors, media persons and other flag bearers of our proud democracy, singing paens and eulogies on Prime Time TV for two days. I wondered at the reason for this laudatory outpouring from the news anchors, some of whom had been, not too long ago, at the receiving end of the fury of the deceased man

As a person belonging to a minority community who grew up in Central Mumbai in the 80’s, it was extremely painful for me to listen to the news anchors as they heaped praises on the dead cartoonist. It was a shocking sight for someone who had witnessed the searing effects of the policies and the politics of the man that had targeted not only my community but many others, and had also eroded the secular and multicultural society in the city of my birth.

I wondered if I have a stronger and sharper memory than others, especially the news anchors, many of whom older than me, who seemed to be suffering from a strange amnesia. Did they have no recollection of how the Muslims working at the Mazegaon Docks were prevented from entering the docks during the killing and arson that followed the demolition of Babri Masjid? Had they totally forgotten the Maha Aartis that were organized all over Mumbai to produce an atmosphere of fear and intimidation of Muslims? Did they not remember the famous remark of “Opening the Third Eye of Shiva” in 1993, which opened the gates of hell and led to the deaths of a 1000 citizens of Bombay, most of them Muslims, and set off a chain of events culminating in the bomb blasts that led to the deaths of 250 citizens, most of them Hindus?

How do I remember all this, when no one else seems to, am I hallucinating, do I have a psychiatric problem ? How could I have such incredibly detailed recollections of events on such a large scale that no one, especially the news anchors and defenders of Freedom and Democracy seemed to remember?

I remember that the Gentleman had protested against the Green paint on Andheri Station because according to him it was the colour of Pakistan. I remember that film director Mani Ratnam organised a private screening of his film Bombay for the man in 1995 and was allowed to release the film only after carrying out the changes that BT wanted. I also remember that Mani Ratnam ignored the protests of the Muslims about the way they were depicted in the same film.

I am sure these are hallucinations. All news anchors could not have simultaneously developed selective amnesia and forgotten the same set of events connected to the man.

I woke up in the morning with flashes of Manisha Koirala visiting a leader with a huge Tilak on her forehead protesting that her nude scenes have been used without her permission by the Director. There were protests and some men tore down the posters and threatened the cinema owners. And then the protests are withdrawn as suddenly as they were mounted. Was it just a dream? I am not sure, but in my dreams I also saw some men, in their undergarments, dancing outside the residence of the legendary Dileep Kumar, they were doing this because Dileep Kumar had dared to support Deepa Mehta for her film Fire. I am beginning to wonder if I have actually witnessed these events or if they are figments of my imagination.

I shrugged off all these thoughts and took a sleeping pill that night. To my horror, the nightmares returned, I dreamt that the same person was urging his community to form Suicide Squads.

I met the shrink in the morning and I narrated what I had been going through for the last few days. The shrink did not look into my eyes. He too like the news anchors did not remember any of the events that I narrated to him but yes he did remember the recent image of the sea of people and the Tri-Color proudly draping a great Nationalist.

He concluded that I was suffering from Excessive Memory Disorder. What a relief. The problem lay with me and not any of the news anchors. He has prescribed some pills which I need to take from time to time to keep myself normal like the majority of the people.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2012 11:09 AM

    This nautanki or tamasha is not over yet, brother! The so-called Maharashtrians or Shivasainiks may urge or demand the government of India to honour the deceased “warrior” Bal Thackeray with Bharat ratna or at least honourary(?) Param Vir Chakra?!

  2. Nisha george permalink
    November 30, 2012 2:38 PM

    Again I agree with you. I am sorry that as a community people can show support for a person who created hate and discord, who created rifts instead of bridges, who taught young people in this day and age that violence was the answer to everything they did not like. Then the ‘moderates’ who spoke in his praise or showed him support , also have the blood of those who died (in the communist violence that was created )on their hands.

    • Nitin Basrur permalink
      December 5, 2012 11:00 AM

      You mean ‘communal’ not ‘communist’ violence.

  3. sameerspen@gmail.com permalink
    November 30, 2012 3:27 PM

    Very Good Article. Also There has to be some introspection from the Media about the Manner in which they treated this entire event.

  4. chandramohan permalink
    November 30, 2012 9:50 PM

    All these arguments are well taken, i do not support any kind of activity that looks down upon any community, as shashikumar says all that will happen. But just relax and close your eyes and think arent we the people who are generally responsible for this condition that exits, we have left spaces and that is being filled. Most of us dont vote, we laugh at our democracy, think of voting day as paid holiday. We are communal, in public we may chant the mantra of secularism. What is our private behaviour and attitude i am not making this personal, we hide behidn masks, gulp lies, praise people on their face and criticise them on their back when we are sure that they would not be able to hear. We hunt with the hound and run with the hare, we are perpetrators of all kins of corruption and we are also fighting against it- we are fighting against what we do and will continue to do. People must come in large numbers and vote, attitudes have to change. We dont accept rationalists, sefcularists all we have is silent respect for fundamentalists. So what happens just think.

    • chandrashekhar vairale permalink
      December 5, 2012 11:07 AM

      very true chandramohan …I agree

  5. shailja permalink
    November 30, 2012 10:55 PM

    A nice piece of description which nobody should forget to remember.

  6. December 1, 2012 7:46 AM

    The SS honcho-in-chief was head to foot a coward. He hadn’t the guts to overtly go to cities like New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. Had he faced a meet-the-press, he would have seen how profoundly hated he was.

  7. Roshan Lal permalink
    December 1, 2012 8:55 AM

    Magic realism — the kind Alejo Carpentier and Gabriel Garcia Marquez would be proud of.

  8. Sohail Hashmi permalink
    December 1, 2012 2:44 PM

    It is not only the Anchors, it is the entire media, owners of News channels and editors, it is the same fellows who always addressed him as BALA SAHEB THACKREY, the deference that crept into their tone was not out of respect but out of fear, cowards, sucking up to bullies, it was thackrey then and now it is uddhav, raj and modi.

    • Nitin Basrur permalink
      December 5, 2012 11:17 AM

      Even the great Arnab Goswami went, “Bala saheb…this” .and “Balasaheb … that”. And all this when the country is not even under Emergency.

  9. Kabira permalink
    December 1, 2012 5:15 PM

    Sohail Hashmi. You are right and the Author has also used the News Anchors as a Metaphor for the Whole Media

  10. December 1, 2012 8:26 PM

    It’s the responsibility of society as a whole to revile and reject hate and prejudice. In the world’s largest democracy, this becomes even more acute. Society must show the moral courage to denounce ideologies and individuals who promote hate and violence towards others. Glorifying such people only erodes the integrity and principles of democracy. The media enjoys freedoms, but it must also use them responsibly.

  11. deepak44 permalink
    December 2, 2012 3:34 PM

    In his influential work, The Hour of Our Death, Philippe Aries argued that with the beginning of the 20th century, the rituals and commemoration around death receded from public social exchange and became purely private acts. Correspondingly, processes of mourning and the language of grief were also barred from the public sphere. This removal was achieved through technological innovations centred on therapy. Death became a technical phenomenon obtained by a cessation of care and was no longer a ritual ceremony, over which the dying person presided.

    Something like the opposite has happened in the death and subsequent mourning of Mr. Thackeray. It is not that his death has led to a kind of recreational mourning, but that the displacement of grief from the sphere of ritual or sacral activity to that of the virtual space of commercial media has re-inscribed mourning. What we find are techniques of quotation and pastiche in such a way that the spectre of Mr. Thackeray becomes the preserve of such media. The discourses that it produces participate in producing a phantasm where Mr. Thackeray is now seen as the emblem of strong leadership, sturdy, muscular response to terror and a messianic vision of a re-awakened Marathi Hindu, who will turn the Saryu river red with the blood of its martyrs. And yet, this spectre conceals, as we know too well, the terror and violence that became the signature of his life, styles of fear that are much too palpable to be forgotten by both recipient and giver.

    How, then, does one tell the story of this spectre? Can we in any meaningful way address the problem of grief of the victims of this man? Can we provide an ethical response to 1992 in Bombay as it was then known. While I recognize Mr. Arnab Goswami’s stubborn attachment to the spectre, I find his expenditure of psychic resources on this ghost to be a riddle. His anguish at the shock of loss, and of many, more accomplished luminaries of the Mumbai entertainment industry, is part of an ongoing interpretive challenge. This is a challenge since it does not seem likely that SS 1 and SS 2 will depart from the spectre’s vision. Instead, both will begin a feverish search for a new enemy, revivify their patronage and extortion networks and re-articulate the language of paranoia. But all this is par for the course. What stand can those take who are opposed to this form of necropolitics? As a first step, I think we need to restore to memory its ethical sense of the past by recognizing that mediated forms of grief are only kitschy forms of nostalgia.

    • chandrashekhar vairale permalink
      December 5, 2012 11:11 AM

      Very well put Deepak44..

  12. Vandana permalink
    December 2, 2012 7:14 PM

    I wonder if it has to do with our mentality of “never speak ill of the dead. Forgive and forget.Or, follow the herd. Everyone is treating him like a Hero, so he must be one.”
    If he did well for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other religious groups alike, the individual and community alike, for the State and Nation alike, then we may salute a leader.

  13. December 3, 2012 1:10 AM

    Hats off to you Sameer. Well said. I validate all that you have stated and stand by you. All the so called respect shown is sheer fear and to top it all some of us who subscribed to Hathway were forced to watch the funeral procession as all the other channels were blocked. If we really want to show our disgust we should protest against the slow but sure way the SS is now trying to install a statue at Shivaji Park. If they consider it so important then they should put one up at the entrance of Matoshree and turn that residence into a museum at their own cost.

    • Nitin Basrur permalink
      December 5, 2012 11:09 AM

      That’s right. Hathway blocked all channels except those showing BT’s funeral. Turning Matoshree into a museum is a good idea.

  14. varun permalink
    December 5, 2012 5:40 PM

    I won’t speak, for I don’t have a penchant for jails. Thank you very much.

Trackbacks

  1. “On Mourning and Memory” for Kafila.org 30/11/2012 | Sameer’s Pen

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48,900 other followers

%d bloggers like this: