My little niece taught me that learning to pronounce a new name not only shows how open we are to others and other cultures, but importantly underlines the verity that we are—despite our beliefs, cultures, traditions, and histories—never more important than we think we are.
James mama’s care for people reflected respect, love, humility, and utmost sincerity. He had no guile in him. He was straightforward, open-minded, warm-hearted, hospitable, honest, trust-worthy, and devoted.
Now, I am seated at the very place Jo lived. There are times I wonder what Jo would have done had he lived with us during this pandemic. Would he have stepped out and broken the rules, as he is known for, set by my cousin? Would he be playing his music aloud through the day? Would he step out to the gate to receive the packages being delivered? Would we have some interesting conversations on Christianity, sexuality, and just life in general? How and for what would he shout at me? How might he babysit Hope? What exaggerated stories would he narrate about himself and his friends during our cousins’ meet? How would he have responded to my mother’s illness? I, and others here, can only imagine.
The imagination of an imminent liberation by way of scriptwriting, music, poetry, dance, and other forms of art is not an act of naïve hopefulness but a deliberate stance against notions of fatalism and impossibilism that only further the aspirations of caste elites. To imagine “what can be” from the midst of oppression and absurdity is a sign of the creative power of Dalit agency. Dalit imagination is an affirmation of Dalit humanity and agency even as it transcends the limits set by caste brutalization.
If shows like Indian Matchmaking want to showcase narratives of dominant-caste men, may they be narratives of discomfort, repentance, and accountability, and not one of pride and honor because we know all too well that endogamy, seen in Indian Matchmaking, is about preserving caste honor, and honor-based killings, witnessed in Sairat, is about reclaiming caste honor.