"In a moving story 'Shishu' (Children), the Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi describes how tribal peoples have literally and figuratively crippled in post-independence
. National ‘development’ has no space for tribal culture or beliefs, and the attitude of even the well-meaning government officer Mr. Singh, towards the tribal people replicates colonialist views of non-Western peoples- to him, they are mysterious, superstitious, uncivilised, backward. In other words they are like children who need to be brought in line with the rest of the country…At the chilling climax of the tale, we are brought face to face with these ‘children’ who thrust their starved bodies towards Mr. Singh, forcing the officer to recognise that they are not children at all but adult citizens of free India: IndiaFear - stark, unreasoning, naked fear - gripped him....Why were they naked? And why such long hair? Children, he had always heard of children, but how come that one had white hair? Why did the women - no, no, girls - have dangling, withered breasts? ... They cackled with savage and revengeful glee. Cackiling, they ran around him. they rubbed their organs against him and told him they were adult citizens of India. ... Singh's shadow covered their bodies. And the shadow brought the realisation home to him. They hated his height of five feet and nine inches. They hated the normal growth of their body. His normalcy was a crime they could not forgive. Singh's cerebral cells tried to register the logical explanation bt he failed to utter a single word. Why, why this revenge? He was just an ordinary Indian. He didn't have the stature of a healthy Russian, Canadian or American. He did not eat food that supplied enough calories for a human body. The World Health Organisation said that it was a crime to deny the human body of the right number of calories. ..."
24 November 2007
More on Nationalist Politics
It's quite amusing to stumble on to this only days after writing the last post. It illustrates the point I was trying to make about how a majoritarian nationalist rhetoric does not serve the concerns of underprivileged sections of society. I'm quoting in length Ania Loomba's Colonialism/Postcolonialism where she's dealing with an extract from a story by Mahasweta Devi: