National

Politics Of Memory: Can We Hear The Buried Silence?

The utterance of memories helps us to realise multiple subjectivities — of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, women, queer or any other marginalised community. Memory has its own politics that tells us about the silences — the unarchived truths of human emotions.

Artwork by Sunil Padwal
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They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas 
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns 
as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now. 
But history has never stopped me from praying.
 

These lines of African-American poet Saeed Jones from his poem A Memory where he explicitly talks about his anxiety of being ‘buried’, brings us to a time when our memories are contested every day. Sometimes, we celebrate walking through the individual memory lanes to find out solace of childhood, sometimes we militantly argue for a collective glorification of memories. For some, the childhood memories are torn by moments of trauma, for others it is a grey archive of pain and rejoice.  

In these multidimensional meanings of memory, we find Dalit feminist Babytal Kamble who in her book Prisons We broke reveals her complex journey “decorated with eternal poverty” in 1920s. We listen to Urmila Pawar whose book Weave of My Life tells us story of her mother who weaved bamboo baskets to earn the meagre wages that she utilised to educate her children. So, utterance of memories helps us to realise multiple subjectivities — of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, women, queer or any other marginalised community. Memory has its own politics that tells us about the silences — the unarchived truths of human emotions.  

In this series on politics of memory, we listen to the wish-list of Masood Hussain that took the shape of the threads tied in different Kashmiri shrines. In words of our Editor Chinki Sinha, “There is no dateline to sadness here.” We find the wisest grand aunt Pophtaeth in Kashmir who “had stories that no one else did”. We tread through the memory lanes of Syed Afshana who tells us the stories of her childhood in Kashmir. In her words, we could listen to the grey in coteries of memory: “Everything that holds me to my past—the Kashmir of my childhood, and then youth—cannot be despised altogether. I cannot attempt a dogged erasure and cut out realities of the past.”  

Through this journey, we try to find out the silences of archives that perhaps pushed Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot to look into the Haitian rebellion again to identify the tragic hero Sans Souci, who couldn’t find the recognition that he deserved — who got buried in the palace that later became a symbol of rebellion against the white masters. We still try to search the lover’s door that was closed in Agha Shahid Ali’s poem A Rehearsal of Loss:  

The night rose from the rocks of the canyon. 
I drove away from your door. And the night, 
it left the earth the way a broken man, 
his lover’s door closing behind him, leaves 
that street in silence for the rest of his life. 

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