Thursday, 18 March 2010

Bandit Queen

You think you're having a tough day when everyone disappoints you and you freak out about where the hell and who the hell to turn to in your life and then you realise there are always people with more troublesome, harsher, 'real' lives than yours and that you are in fact nothing but a total drama queen.

Phoolan Devi was a low-caste Indian woman heralded by the masses as an incarnation of the Goddess Durga. She rose from poverty, rape, abuse and degradation to infamy as an outlaw, avenging her honor, raiding the rich with her gang, and sharing the spoils with the poor. She was assassinated in a revenge killing in 2001.

I remember catching Shekhar Kapoor's Bandit Queen film late at night in my early teenage-insomnia-leading-to-disturbing-film-watching-years and being shocked and fascinated by the movie. It was only a few years later when I was old enough to understand the severity of the social injustices demonstrated against her and the impact that her own decisions of avenging them made for both women and ethnic minorities. The horrific plight of one woman who did use violent means to highlight her cause spoke out for the millions of other women who faced and continue to face these ongoing social injustices that unfortunately are still deemed acceptable in countries like India; the ridiculously rigid fanaticism of the Caste system, child-adult marriages, the mistreatment of women as second class citizens and the shockingly disproportionate gap between the rich and the poor.

My father is Indian and my mother is Nepalese and although they have only lived in India for just under a year of their 30 year marriage, my parents are still made to feel actuely aware by first and second generation Indians in this country that they have married out of caste and it is still severely frowned upon. I doubt the views of a second generation immigrant musician female of mixed Asian parentage will ever be able to cause ripples or speak volumes but tonight, I light a candle for a woman whose life and death certainly brought some of these ongoing social injustices to the surface even for a short time; PHOOLAN DEVI.

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