Let us now pay homage to cliches
Which shows us that cliches are dexterous like good-looking Yogi, sorry I mean, yoga influencers. Consider how easy it is for "No Country For Women" to become "Caste is Dead".
Because clichés are like an Instagram filter. They diffuse all the lines and warts and complicated reality from the picture. Consider the cliché "No country for women", which has been popping on my timeline like burps at a buffet. You do not need me to tell you this is in response to the rape of a young woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. That is to say, the rape and murder of a young Dalit woman by Thakur men from her village. This much detail is too much weight for a cliché to carry and its wielders scold you with "Why are you bringing caste into it? #AllLivesMatter na!"
Which shows us that clichés are dexterous like good-looking Yogi, sorry I mean, yoga influencers. Consider how easy it is for "No Country For Women" to become "Caste is Dead". Even the once articulate Ms Ranaut trotted that one out (I think she might have meant caste is death, which is a truth readily un-acknowledged). How simple the cliche makes it to not join the dot of a young Dalit woman so brutally assaulted that she is paralysed to the dot of police not filing an FIR because they said she is "doing drama", to the dot of police locking up her Dalit family and burning her body in the dead of night with the efficiency of cruelty. Suddenly, you understand why people say dead of night, right? Yeah, I know. The police would be as summary with the dominant caste of Thakur perpetrators of this crime. That is the very reason that equality of treatment of castes, that the District Magistrate threatened the Dalit family who lost their daughter ("the media will go, but we'll toh be here only na") while, Thakurs carried out a protest unimpeded on Friday, despite Section 144 being imposed in the area to prevent protests. What favouritism? Bhai, it's all about merit. The killers have shown their meritoriousness in raping and killing. The right to protest has not been, ahem, reserved for them. They don't need it.
Clichés can be like lullabies. Why else would people and channels who displayed more brain power than all participants of the Bournvita Quiz contest ever, in decoding every blink and wave and WhatsApp message in their quest for #justiceforSSR simply not able to make the connections about caste? Anyway, let's not doubt their merit. Maybe their mouths are tired after sucking up to power for so long.
Speaking of power, clichés are so hospitable to the powerful. I mean consider who uses them most. Uncles at family dinners do it. Moralising professors do it. Bosses do it. People on social media do it. Producers at script meetings do it. Politicians on TV do it. Rich people do it. Many writers and filmmakers and famous artists do it, even as they make the clichéd caveats about their privilege. What gives you the confidence to utter clichés as if they are insightful, original or even urgent? Cliché is the privilege of those with power in the hierarchy of things.
How to free ourselves from clichés? May be, by not rushing to sloganize when you can listen, trade the comfort of well-trod assumptions for hard work and reflection and study, swap judgements and declaration with compassion and humility. Allow yourself to be moved, challenged, transformed into newness, into liberation.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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