An Incomplete Dialogue With My Bharat Mata

Sonia Roy

Sonia RoySonia is a doctoral candidate at the School of International Studies, JNU. Her area of specialization is Middle East and the democratic process.

I am in love with my nation. I love my country. I can even go as far as to claim that I have in a personal capacity never distinguished between castes and creed, religion or sex. I was introduced to the civics textbook way back in my 6th standard, and the first page of the glossy thin booklet contained the preamble. I remembered it by rote back then, and by college, I was proud of comprehending the meaning those words.

I am also blessed with a family that have never kept me hungry or wanting. I have never known hunger; I have gratefully never known poverty so far. My demands were always fulfilled as best as possible by my parents (who toiled for them.) I am that section of the unapologetic capitalist middle-class who demands commodity and a life of luxury without a second thought to the plight of the nation beyond textbooks. I studied in a Christian Missionary school, and one of the best colleges in Kolkata. I did not know anybody who could not afford textbooks, who could not pay their fees. I was happily blindfolded like our lady of justice, but to my own deliberate myopic worldview. Teaching the ‘under-privileged’ as a part of a certifiable event was as far as I went in my social duty. I am presently a doctoral candidate in one of the best (also recently alleged anti-national) Universities of my country.

I have no anger against the government, past and present. After all, it is we who elects them. Apart from a few stray incident of disorder, we are a peaceful democracy. The adult franchise elects the government. I have also been the part of the social group that has proudly taken an inked-finger selfie, and posted it to her friends on social-media. I have signed multiple petitions on online forums, shared socially relevant issues on social media, and quietly went around with my day-to-day business. I have studied under teachers who are the best my ‘Matri Bhumi’ has had to offer me, and have studied under professors who I have recently learned to be separationists and anti-nationals, who have been systematically poisoning our minds. Rest assured, my mind is not poisoned, yet. As with the general populace, I read a lot, went dutifully passing my exams, collected verifiable, legally tenable degrees. I have no claim of being an intellectual; I am just a student who knows that at the end of the academic journey I need a job to feed my capitalist yearnings. I am not ideological. Politics is politics. Just as long as I get my due in society, I am happy to sign online petitions and claim social awareness with the best of them. I am unapologetic.

I am not angry towards ministers for their fake degrees or criminal conduct. I understand that to make it big in politics you need to have a thick skin. A common Bengali saying we are raised by. I am not angered by the drama and theatrics of politicians across spectrum. If deemed profitable in the future, I might join you in corrupting or being corrupted. I like profits. I like making profits. I’m not that ethical or moral when it comes to my personal gain. I will not take a higher road. I will be honest as far as I can throw the stone.

Of late, however, I am angry with my mother. Not my biological mother, but with the disembodied mother who I will never see, but will always love.

Yes, I am taking about my ‘Bharat Mata’. I have no problem chanting her praises. I have no problem with Vande Mataram. I will cry and scream if we are to change the National Anthem, but more because I’m from Bengal. We have an unpatented copyright over Rabindranath Tagore and we praise annually our weapon attired Durga Ma. We have even claimed Jai Ma Kali (Calcutta wali) as our own. I am a feminist, and I love the idea of empowered women who have taken weapons to fight social justice. The Bengal culture, in all its inherent hypocrisy, provides strong female inspirations. The khunti (ladle) is a weapon of mass destruction, both in smashing vegetables and smashing heads.

I have no problem being asked to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, or ‘Vande Mataram’. However, I want to know from my ‘Bharat Mata’, how do I justify praising a formless mother, when women are told to marry their rapists, police advice against filing an FIR against physical violence, asking them to go home and save their ‘honour’. How do I deal with men who respond to our ‘taking back the nights’ with ‘nanga naach’? How can I justify freedom of movement in society when the metro provides us with a compartmentalised-segregated women-only freedom? How do the suggestions for ‘not getting’ raped and molested entail to dress modestly and not be sexually provocative? I might try to go by the guidelines, but tell me Mother, how do I explain to the 6-month-old baby? Of not to be sexually provocative? I am at loss.

I cannot justify ignoring the embodied (actual) women who is repressed in the society, with the dis-embodied one who cannot voice her opinion in any matter but through spokes-men and Gods-men. I want to ask you, ‘Bharat Mata’, your opinion when these ‘dirty commies’ stop studying like mindless automations, but take to chanting such outrageous slogans demanding justice and space for women in society. How do you, as a mother for the whole country, be so biased against the sons of the soil? Is that the culture you define? As our Mother, how would you like to answer when we who dare raise our voices demanding social space are called worse then prostitutes? Will you answer? Can you?

  • Papia Mitra

    Yes but what are YOU going to do after you have finished your research? Get down and dirty, risking actual oppression or just continue your capilatistic lifestyle with occasional articles?
    After all, I cynically note, JNU does hold meetings in favour of Kashmiri azadi – but after a few days in jail your student president realized that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

    • Hindusthani

      What then is your solution for 3 year old girls are being raped by ttheir own, mothers and sisters are looking away, statistics show an increase up to 10%. Is this not more worthy of attention of our society then slogans.

      • Papia Mitra

        Death sentence for the rapists.
        Psychological counselling for the women in the family who knew but looked away, trying to get at why they did so.
        Public discussions on this issue without whining about private life and shame. If the mothers and relatives who pretended nothing was wrong did it simply because they did not want their comfortable life to be rocked and the mothers of the rapists continue to defend their sons, then name them in public and expose them as what they are. It is their pampering of the men that allowed such things to continue.

        Long term is mass education for both men and women that children are not property, that rape is not the victim’s shame (that includes boys who are also sexually abused).