Ghalib – 15: The Scream of Silence

This week’s verse requires us to remind readers that on The South Asian Idea we do not aim to provide an interpretation of the selected she’r. Rather, we use it as a point of departure to discuss the contemporary relevance of issues suggested by the verse.

Of course, for the sake of completeness, we do provide links to the most complete and accessible literary interpretations at A Desertful of Roses and to ones that explore related themes on Mehr-e-Niimroz, our companion blog in the Ghalib Project.

This week’s choice is the following:

kyuuN nah chiikhuuN kih yaad karte haiN
mirii aavaaz gar nahiiN aatii

why should I not scream because I am only remembered
if my voice is not heard

Let us use this to explore relations between the rulers and the ruled in our land today.

The majority of the ruled are voiceless. When they do raise their voices, they are either ignored or labeled as a handful of miscreants who need to be dealt with an iron hand.

When they remain silent, their silence is taken as a sign of approval – they are trumpeted as the Silent Majority that fully supports the policies of the day.

Thus the ruled find themselves in a no-win situation. It is not that they do not have grievances but voicing or not voicing them in public makes little difference to their fate. So they voice them silently telling whoever cares to listen that no one cares about them. These are the screams of silence. But those who control the reins of power do not listen to the screams of silence.

What is the way out of a no-win situation of this sort? Why, in an electoral system, is there no political party that gives voice to the voiceless? Why are huge numbers of the Silent Majority so irrelevant in a system based on the vote of every individual? How is such an outcome possible in a democratic system? Why are the screams of silence falling on deaf ears?

Is there a role here for the Civil Society that exists between the deaf rulers and the silent majority?

Is there a model in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that gave voice to marginalized blacks whose screams had failed to make an impression on the WASP elites? Is there a parallel between the Black Panthers and the Dalit Panthers? Was there a relationship between the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panthers movement?

Is Barack Hussein Obama, born out of those mix of movements, saying something to South Asians?


Post A Comment