Monday, October 16, 2006

Rang De Basanti Salaam!

That was the name of a programme aired along with RDB on Gandhi Jayanti day on STAR GOLD. It was supposed to talk not about the making of the film that has been chosen India's official entry for Oscars, but about those who are keeping the spirit of the film alive.

It sounded funny, if not ridiculous. To have a film like Rang De Basanti on the (only?) day we are supposed to get high on non-violence. Going by the film, I tried to guess who were those people the programme would try to showcase. Naxalites? Less likely. The film's spirit lied not only in taking law in one's hands or in violent means of action. Like many other films that claim to address the "real" issues that concern the nation, this one also echoed the urban middle class sentiment that the corrupt politicians were THE problem we faced.

Worse, the people who swore by RDB in the real world were the foot-soldiers of the anti-reservation army. You mean, them?

I wanted to check it out but was terribly tired. TV was on, I was off. Yet shots of a singer from Punjab caught my attention. His name was Bant Singh.

He was lying with both his hands and a leg cut off. Apparently his daughter was raped by the "upper" caste Jat Sikh landlords, and his fight for justice earned him this.

He was singing a song with a flash of smile on his face.

A few days later I got a mail from my friend-- the subject line read "Urgent: Bant Singh's rehabilitation". "Bant Singh's courage will be a source of inspiration to all but we need not be mere spectators to the tragedy unleashed on him. We can express our solidarity by helping him access the best possible medical rehabilitation, so that he is back on his feet. Doctors have pointed out that with the current developments in medical technology, it would not be impossible to fix artificial limbs, both arms and legs, for him..", said the mail.

A link in the mail led to an article A Torso Flaming With Spirit that appeared in Tehelka.

Jithe khun hain meren veeriyan da Vishiya sadkan te haqan di luk banke Buchar khaneyan chon jithe lok mere Nittar rahe itihas di thuk banke Maa dhartiye sada suhagne ni Mere yaaran nu janam tu deyin uthe… [from another Tehelka article on Bant Singh].

So what if he can't hold Jagmeet in his hands again, the dalit singer has not given up his fight.

For once I thanked RDB for helping me know this man. And his daughter.