The news of the slaughter of children in Pakistan has shocked us. I was in Bihar when the news broke, and was surrounded by people who were stunned into silence.
But now I take a look on Twitter and I see—is it just a handful of people, I know it can’t be that many—but my feed contains intolerable messages from some Indians that refuse to acknowledge the humanity of these victims.
I dared to look again, and I see other messages—messages of shock, horror, and solidarity coming from Indians on Twitter. These are the messages that will prevail. I think they already are.
I tweet about Hindi, Bhojpuri and Maithili literature, and I tweet almost exclusively in those languages. I love discussing Indian literature. Many Hindi speakers express to me their regret over the lack of attention payed to these traditions in India. But there is endless interest, respect, and love in India for literature, and also for the village song traditions that I study. I witness it every day when I speak with people online, and I have seen it every day during my past month in northeast Bihar, where I have been visiting and working with singers, poets, and novelists for the past ten years. I am inspired by these individuals, I learn from them, and I follow in their footsteps.
When some of those intolerable messages are addressed to me, when some of them come from people I interact with online, whose own love for literature and folklore has inspired me, I don’t know what to do. No. No I do not share these views just because I study Hindi. Someone told me that nothing I say will alter their views. They are right.
So I will say nothing. I’m shutting down my Twitter account for a week. I’m taking my lead from the magnificent @BlackGirlDanger. I know it’s not the same. And I’m barely standing in solidarity—how could I stand in solidarity with slaughtered children and their families? I just don’t know what else to do.
Someone else might want to prepare salutations for upcoming milestones in Hindi literature. Dharamvir Bharti was born on December 25. His Kanupriya and Andha Yug are incomparable. They will change your life. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born on the same day. Do read some of his poetry. It’s beautiful. Remember writer and revolutionary Yashpal on December 26. And on December 24th, read a few passages from Jainendra Kumar’s Tyagpatra.