Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Revolutionary Bard

The most inspiring personality for me among the Bhil adivasis is that of Vaharu Sonowane. He hails from an obscure village called Shrikhed on the Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh border but situated on the former side in Shahada tehsil of Nandurbar district. Since the schools on the Maharashtra side were too far away he studied in Madhya Pradesh in Hindi medium. Thus apart from his native Bhilori he became proficient in both Hindi and Marathi and from a young age began writing poetry. When he passed out of school in the early nineteen seventies the Shramik Sangathana movement of the Bhils of Shahada for their emancipation from the clutches of the landlords had begun. Ambar Singh Maharaj an educated Bhil troubador and social worker had begun singing about the injustice being perpetrated on the Bhil peasants by the landlords and encouraging them to rise in revolt and this struck a responsive chord in the Bhil masses. Vaharu too joined the movement, which was to become one of the landmark movements for adivasi emancipation in independent india, and became one of its leading activists. He has continued to fight for the rights of the adivasis ever since. When there was a split in the movement with a faction opting to join the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Vaharu stayed out and instead formed another faction that aligned with a socialist formation called Shramik Mukti Dal. Later still in the early 1990s he raised the issue of the marginalisation of adivasi activists in the people's movements by the non-adivasis and along with some other adivasi activists formed the Adivasi Ekta Parishad which has over the last decade and a half evolved into the foremost idependent organisation of the Bhil adivasis of western India spanning the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

What is exemplary about Vaharu is that he is an excellent poet with original compositions in Bhili, Hindi and Marathi. He has been awarded for his poems in Marathi some of which are modern classics. Here is one example which is poignantly expressive of the dire condition of the Bhils -

My tattered quilt
Inside the quilt I remain
at its sour smell
nose twitching up and down
turning from one side to the other
nose buried in the quilt I kept
suffering its sour smell.
In this same quilt
ancestors had flickered out
tears had wetted the quilt
its sour smell
kept reminding
today's descendants
of ancestral pains.
My tattered quilt

Even as early as the nineteen seventies Vaharu was alive to the issue of women's oppression as portrayed in the following gem -

When young a whore
when old a witch
so people say.
People -
people say anything.

A thing, such that
on the road, in the valley
stop her where you find her
embrace her if you wish
leave her if you've had your fill
No call for help, no outcry

The new sari, in it the new daughter-in-law,
falls at the feet of the father-in-law,
grows old and tattered
alongside her sari
and then -
patch on tattered patch
for a lifetime!

There are many more exquisite poems by Vaharu very feelingly transliterated into English by Suhas Paranjape and they can be accessed here  


lamp post said...

All his poems i have read in the link that u gave. very simple talk -presents what happiness and truth is all about.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the poems also delineate powerfully what oppression is for these simple people. that i think is the most important part of these poems. they vividly portray with beautiful imagery the depths to which the adivasis have been forced by our so called civilisational progess.

checkmate said...

beautiful poetry. originals must be better certainly. a suggestion: contact Manimala - books for change, for publication of poems in bhili i.e of course if Vaharu himself wants it to be published. any original poetry by bhili women ?

Raza Rumi said...

thanks for this earthy poetry - your blog and intro about your naturalism are most interesting!

Rahul Banerjee said...

lets hope more people get to savour vaharu's poetry. as for my naturalism i think it to be the sanest attitude to have in the present world.

Sylvia said...

vaharu's poetry...
it's as refreshing as the earth's smell after the rains...
and as poignant a reminder of the way 'progress' is taking us...

Rahul Banerjee said...

even today thirty years after he wrote them vaharu has remained true to the spirit expressed in these poems and is still carrying on the struggle against "progress". that is an indeed achievement