Gaddar on the plight of the Vote.

After attempting a translation of one of Gorati Venkanna’s songs, I wanted to do the same with the fountainhead himself – Gaddar. His songs have been playing in my ears and thoughts, but this recent article on Round Table India got the fingers going.

In this song, Gaddar sings of the promise of the vote, of universal franchise, and its fate in Andhra Pradesh politics. Needless to say, my translation is no patch on the Telugu original, available here (at ‘04 otama otama’ in the list). How does one translate the phonaesthetic of gulAbi rangukestE gunTa nakkaipAye or cultural specificity of pasupu ranguku vEstE pasupukunkumAle vAye or even just vOTamma?

A few notes below this translation for those unfamiliar with Telugu politics. Telugu original/transliteration/translation follow. Suggestions on improving the translation welcome.

* * * * * * *

Mother Vote, Mother Vote

(Speaking begins)

O Mother Vote!
A time was, when only kings and millionaires voted.
Time is great, it has changed.
On getting Independence, Mother Vote,
it is said, you came into our huts.
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The Brahminical as hegemonic ideology and the Dalit-Bahujan counter

Most ideas in this post are borrowed from the writing of Kuffir Nalgundwar, Anoop Kumar, Karthik Navayan Battula , Sri Chintala, and others on Facebook, and on Round Table India. I’ve tried to combine them with my reading of the works and speeches of Phule, Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram, and G Aloysius. The belief and misunderstandings are mine.

The term ‘Brahminical’ is used to describe an ideology rather than a caste/community, and is not to be equated/conflated with Brahmins. Brahminicals are those who subscribe, knowingly or otherwise, to certain ideological tenets. In the past, the primary among these were graded inequality or hierarchy i.e. superiority of Brahmins and upper castes, inferiority of lower castes and women, purity and pollution, exclusive rights to education, primacy of the shastras etc.

Some of these are still widely prevalent in India but there is also a smarter, modern avatar of the Brahminical, self-described as the ideal Indian, who enjoys the privilege of birth among the elite and its attendant access to the best resources and opportunities, but attributes all success to ‘merit’ and considers ‘undeserved’ and ‘lacking in merit’ minimal redress for disadvantage of birth for the underprivileged, say in the form of reservations, but is happy to support ‘poverty alleviation’ schemes. Who will point to real but statistically rare cases of exceptions (how many OBC/SC/ST MP/MLA/IAS and their kids are there in all of India?) as proof that caste no longer matters, or even that the tables have turned. Who will consider assertion of rights and equality by the disadvantaged as ‘dangerous radicalism/revolution/jealousy’ but assumes the burden to ‘guide them in the proper way’.

While its grip has loosened somewhat due to anti-caste movements and democratic politics, this ideology still has hegemonic salience in India. By its very nature, the hegemonic ideology tends to be considered “normal” or “how things work, have been, will be”, not just by those who enjoy the privileges, but also by those who bear the brunt of it. Reform and dissent is often carefully managed using social, political, economic institutions, which are primarily controlled by the elite, some in obvious and others in surreptitious ways. Historiography is no different, and conditions who we are taught to think of as being role models. At one level (say in school textbooks), those who upheld the ideology are presented in polished form (Tilak), those who challenged it are shorn of their radical edge (Ambedkar) or left out altogether (Phule).

When some people manage to break out of the hypnosis and challenge the ideology and seek to unmask its managed reform/dissent, they are quickly cast as anti-social, anti-national and the like. The aggressive assertion by some Dalit-Bahujans we see today is in line with the modern tradition of the challenges posed by the likes of Phule, Ambedkar, the Dalit Panthers, Kanshi Ram, and many others. Of course, there will be some who will go about it with more anger than others, and there will be some new misunderstandings. However, ignoring the signal for the noise is not going to help.

As a society, we have to collectively figure out how to ensure the best outcome, which is a more egalitarian society. It will take a whole lot of rethinking and unlearning, but the resources and the tradition already exist. Dalit-Bahujans are leading the way. Will the Brahminical renounce false pride and follow them into a future to be proud of for everyone?

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What is the Telangana movement about? The grievances.

Should there be a separate Telangana state or not? While expressing themselves in various ways, family, friends, and acquaintances from Andhra Pradesh sheepishly admit that they are speaking without much depth. The events of the last few years seem to have had a stupefying effect on many of us. It might be useful to set aside the question of separation for a bit and, instead, ask a more primary question “Why is there a Telangana movement?”. Apart from the knowing and willful indifference of a few, there is a general tendency to blame it all on immoral politicians or crazed ideologues. This is not to say that such people do not exist, for they do, and have promoted nothing short of a persecution complex among a section of vulnerable Telanganis. However, equating the movement with them is a mistake. The effort has to be made to comprehend what they are channeling successfully. For those truly looking for the answer, there has to be a further question – “Why has the movement lasted, in one form or another, for more than 4 decades?” Whatever their merits or demerits, all answers will necessarily be based on the grievances.
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Telangana, Regional Identity, and the Telugu Language

* The focus of this article is on the discord. A companion article or a more comprehensive one also showing the positive exchanges, assimilation, and bonds between the regions over the last 100 years would be of great value.

** The idea for this essay came about in thinking about questions on the history and role of Modern Standard Telugu posed by Sridhar Sankranti, as part of a discussion with Aditya Devarakonda. Thanks to both of them.

* * * * * * *

This is an attempt to chart the role of language in the discord among Telugu speakers from different regions, especially in relation to the history and evolution of the Telangana movement. It is not clear (to me) if and how regular literary exchanges happened between the two major Telugu speaking regions of the time, Telangana, also known as Nizam Andhra, and British Andhra, in the 19th century. Taking the 1930s as a starting point, I consider a sampling of excerpts from books and essays on Telugu literature and language, and try to connect some dots with commentary. My ambitious aim and hope is to aid a better understanding of the origins of discord peculiar to Telugu speakers, and to promote harmony among them, irrespective of the eventual political arrangement as a unified state or as separate states.
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Posted in తెలంగాణ, తెలుగు, telangana, telugu | 12 Comments

Gabbilam III

continued from here: parts I, II

(Gabbilam in the original Telugu/transliteration/my translation)

గౌరీనాథుఁడు కాశికిం జనెడు మార్గంబందు రా మేఘపుం
బాఱన్ జుక్కలతోఁట నాటుకొని మింటన్నీకుఁ గంపట్టు నా
దారిం బొమ్మొకవేళఁ జూచెదవు భూతస్వామిని న్నీకుఁ జ
త్వారం బేర్పడి దారిఁ దప్పెదవుగాదా భానుఁడేతెంచినన్

gaurInAthu@mDu kASikiM janeDu mArgambaMdu rA mEghapuM
bA~ran jukkalatO@mTa nATukoni minTannIku@m gaMpaTTu nA
dAriM bommokavELa@m jUcedavu bhUtasvAmini nnIku@m ja
tvAraM bErpaDi dARi@m dappedavugAdA bhAnu@mDEtencinan

Gauri’s Lord goes to Kashi that way, it is said, and
in that cloud length you will see, a garden of stars planted in the sky.
Take that route one time and you will see the Lord of spirits,
watch out! you might get blinded and lose the way if the Sun arrives.

ఛత్రములవంటి నీతి పక్షములు విచ్చి
నీవు బ్రహ్మాండమునఁ బయనించు వేళఁ
జిత్తజల్లుల ముమ్మాయి ముత్తియములు
జలధరస్వామి నీమీఁదఁ జల్లఁ గలఁదు

chatramulavanTi nIti pakshamulu vicci
nIvu brahmAMDamuna@m bayaniMcu vELa@m
jittajallulu mummAyi muttiyamulu
jaladharasvAmi nImI@mda@m jalla@m gala@mdu

Opening umbrella like wings
when you travel across the immense sky,
the Lord of the clouds will shower on you
sprays of wonderful rain water pearls.
Continue reading

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Telangana: Fighting cultural hegemony or courting cultural suicide?

What can one say about the self-hatred of the Telugus? The bankruptcy and collapse of politics in Andhra Pradesh has made a monster of the Telangana movement. It is incomprehensible how the elected representatives have not been able to have a single, in-depth discussion on an issue of this magnitude in the State Assembly. The absurd drama now has some actors running to the Center like so many cretins and others taking to the streets, promoting jungle law. The result is this festering wound. Those who claim to fight cultural hegemony no longer seem to have the balance to even condemn, let alone prevent, the degeneration into cultural suicide.

Can words capture the stature of those great Telugus whose statues were demolished or disfigured? Do we have the capacity to mourn for each one individually? One of them, Gurram Jashuva, a man whose poetry can move even stones to empathize with the sufferings of the oppressed. The irony! A few lines in the post below failing to explain to Jashuva what happened and why. In keeping with the abyss that we are in right now, I feel the need to add that I am from Telangana.

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అంతే జాషువా అంతే

అంతే జాషువా అంతే
నువ్వు గుంటూరు వాడవు
నీతో మాకింక పని లేదు అంతే
ట్యాంకు బండు మీద మాకు కాళోజీ దాశరథి కావాలె
వాళ్ళు లేకపోవడం నీ తప్పే అంతే
నువ్వేంది, నీ కథేంది మాకు లెక్క లేదంతే
అంతే జాషువా అంతే

ఇంతే మేమింతే
యావత్ భారతంలో వివక్షల అంతం కోసం
నువ్వు చేసిన పోరును తెలుసుకోము
తరతరాల అత్యాచారాల పతనం కోసం
నువ్వు సృష్టించిన కళను పట్టించుకోము
నీ అమర విశ్వనర గళం వినిపించుకోము
ఇంతే మేమింతే

అంతే జాషువా అంతే
దారి తప్పిన ఉద్యమాలలో
ఒక దిక్కు
వ్యర్థపు సంకుచిత భావనలకు
మరో దిక్కు
స్వార్థపు రాజకీయ క్రీడలకు
ఖరుచైపోయె తెలుగు యువత వేడి రక్తం
బలైపోయె బంగారు భవిత స్వప్నం
అంతే జాషువా అంతే

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