Krishna on M.S. Subbulakshmi

Lot of outrage and support for these remarks by the musician T.M. Krishna on the life of Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi. [Link]

I am not sure why there should be. He is not saying anything new. Moreover, the question that came to my mind is ‘So what?’.

(1) May be, he is unaware of how communities, groups form, coalesce and how that makes them commit sacrifices for each other. That is how nations and societies bind.

As with many (may be, almost all) things in life, there is both good and bad in group identity.

If one wished to belong to a group, one had to follow the group’s customs, practices and methods. That is how one belonged.

Humans may forget narrow identities when confronted with a common threat – like natural calamity. But, otherwise, group identities matter and they have been a reality of life when societies got organised and when sapiens learnt to farm. Once they grew roots in a place, they became rooted and group customs, norms and practices are all about rootedness.

Without identity and belonging to a group, humans lose their anchor and feel rootless. Too much immigration and outsiders into a community can destroy and have destroyed its order, stability and its cohesion.

Recommended reading: Jonathan Haidt’s ‘The Righteous Mind’. Indeed, coincidentally, on the morning of the 30th, I came across this article about the end of ‘The end of history’. It talks about the importance of ‘Nation-states’. It applies to smaller ‘groups’ or ‘groupings’ too.

These sentences, in particular, are relevant in the context of Mr. Krishna’s remarks:

It is not very helpful to speak of training people to think of themselves as citizens of the world. This might be good for globalizing your markets and your labor force, but it is not so good for fostering a sense of place, or for forming a proper regard for your neighbors, not to mention those who came before you and made your way of life possible. Citizenship is always particular and exclusive, citizenship “of” something, of some place, some jurisdiction, one entity rather than another. To call oneself a citizen of the world, as Diogenes did, is a grand rhetorical flourish, but it amounts to little more than a sentimental metaphor, and may be a way of dodging the commitments that come in tandem with our embrace of our duties and loyalties to particular people, places, and things—a way of loving humanity while despising actual people. ….

… It is hard to see how a vast collection of people could ever be persuaded over the long run to make sacrifices for the common good, if that commonality is not somehow rooted in fellow-feeling, in a sense of “us” that is something more than shared belief in a philosophical abstraction. [Link]

These paragraphs reinforce the relevance of groups and communities except that a nation is a larger version of that with even more common elements than smaller groups will have.

(2) Whether she was forced into being part of a Brahmin family or whether she chose that life because it offered her certain things she wanted in her life (while denying her certain other things, no doubt) is something we would never know. She is not around to corroborate or deny.

To each his version of history even if facts are immutable.

In fact, even if she were around, it would be difficult for her to say whether she regretted or felt vindicated about the choices she made. That would be with the benefit of hindsight whereas actual decisions are made in real time and there is no way to verify if the counterfactual would have been better for her.

Neither Mr. Krishna nor anyone else, for that matter, could either prove or disprove that.

6 thoughts on “Krishna on M.S. Subbulakshmi

  1. Everything is relative – starting with the rhetoric ” who is a brahmin?”

    He is entitled to his viewpoints. I , the reader, am entitled to ignore his views.

    To me, personally, what matters is the on-stage performance of the artists. Their persona is their prerogative.

  2. When I read his article, the bad taste of using an individual life as an example of a problematic social practice, especially when she is not alive to present her side of the story, and his lopsided views were off-putting.

    Two things struck me 1] He seemed to imply that MS was forced by the Brahmin community to re-invent herself and to distance herself from her family, and 2] Brahmins are the sole community that practice casteism in TN.

    Firstly, as MS is not alive, all of us can just speculate. Moreover, as a brave woman who chose to walk out of her mother’s house and forge an independent life, she was aware of her rights and choices, and she exercised them.

    Secondly, when he talks of casteism, he ought to present the complete picture. Tamil Brahmins do not engage in honour killings, khap panchayats etc. At best they ostracise their family member who chose to get married outside the community. That is a personal choice. Why does he use Brahmins as the poster community for casteism and not talk of the casteism practiced by other communities and religions? Does he have the knowledge and courage to do so?

    TM Krishna comes across as a semi-knowledgeable (or semi-ignorant if you are not charitably disposed towards him) rabble-rouser. We will do ourselves and the society a great service by just ignoring his statements.

  3. Absolutely, you do! Maybe I did not express myself. His comments were on tgevpersina, and my point is – while he is entitled to his views, I would ignore.

  4. I guess that we feel persuaded to comment on a blog post that commented on Krishna’s remarks shows that we want to engage and not ignore him. We have to ask ourselves if we really want to ignore as a way of avoiding the issue or because he does not matter. I do think that he matters. He has been awarded the Magsaysay honour, right or wrong. He is commenting on the community and on a icon of the community. Without getting personal, we should engage and that is what I attempted to do.

  5. As I wrote in response to the comments of my friend Dilip, I feel that we are engaging with him in a way, by commenting on this blog post, etc. Clearly, it matters and it rankles. In fact, you make very good comments. Thank you for them!

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