Poomani’s ” Heat”

periyar ambedkar

कठीण आला काळ,

मातीशी तुटे नाळ,

युगाचा अंध खेळ,

डोळेच केले गहाळ.

सावात दिसे चोर,

घुबडात दिसे मोर,

लहानात दिसे थोर,

थोरात दिसे पोर.

–   Ballad from the movie ‘Court’

There is only one way to shorten and ease the convulsions of the old society and the bloody birth of new – revolutionary terror.

  • Karl Marx


Justice has always evoked ideas of Equality, of proportion of compensation. In short, Justice is another name of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

B. R.Ambedkar.

On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up.

  • B.R.Ambedkar.


The above mentioned lines portray the various ideological strands that are visible while experiencing Vekkai(Heat).Published in 1982, Vekkai is one of the indelible novels of the Tamil modernist canon.Vekkai (Heat) is the first novel of Sahitya Award winning Tamil writer Poomani to be available in English. Translated from Tamil by N Kalyan Raman, Heat is deceptively sparse, like the landscape its protagonists traverse. The title refers to the sun-scorched soil as much as the trait of red-hot anger.Land ownership is pivotal to the caste tensions that arise in the novel.Caste is never spelt out but it’s discernible. After all, there are traces of the chequered history of Dalit struggles over land control including the horrific Keezhvenmani massacre in 1968.The basic storyline goes thus,

“Fifteen-year old Chidambaram has just killed a man.His Victim is a powerful landowner who had murdered his beloved elder brother and torn his family apart.Now the teenager is on the run with his father, wandering around in the hills and forests that skirt their town.Boy and Man spend their days hiding, talking, foraging for food.Mainly they look back on the past, both happy, and sad, and reflect on their present predicament.”

So, much has been written as so called book review on Vekkai(Heat) as well critic on the recently released film called “Asuran” based on the same, which stars Dhanush in a leading role but it shall be apt to revisit poomani’s classic novella and go through its finer nuances and relate it to the historical, Social, Economic, Cultural, Political in real time as time, space and place still is marred by same inequalities on the basis of Gender, Caste, Class and Religion.

Much neglected as well as less discussed aspect of this classic is the mental agony which is faced by the Dalits.Ajay Gudavarthy in his classic “Revolutionary Violence Vs Democracy” points to the various traits of Violence.One is Structural Violence unleashed by the state on its ‘subjects’.Other type is the intangible Violence that State as well as its system of ‘Graded Inequality’ to borrow the term from Dr.Ambedkar unleashes on its Women, Dalits, Tribals, Minorities and so on.Here, too the machinery is run by High Caste Fellas who have the power to bend things to their will and subvert the ‘due process of law’,which is at work only in the case of Dalits and ‘procedure established by law’ fails its test when it is kept mum on the whims and fancies of the High Caste Goons! This comes very tersely in the concluding pages of the novel when Father and Son discuss the state of affairs and conclude that the system only works in favour of Certain people with certain Caste and Class locations though they lack the basic trait of ‘humanity’.They may kill, they may loot, they may do whatever they want but they shall go free owing to their Social and Cultural Capital as noted by Pierre Bourdieu.But for Dalits they have to bear the brunt of State’s Structural Violence as well as Psychological Violence of both State and Brahmanical Society.What saddens at last is their decision to surrender in court inspite of the follies of the system setting an example of Constitutional Morality that still runs in the veins of Dalits and gives them a glimmer of Hope !Thus the Citizens of India should be thankful to the Subjects of India for their assimilation of Constitutional Morality else Catastrophe could have been unleashed.Thus, despite constitutionally enunciated peoples rights, dalits have no right to dignity, livelihood and hence remain subjects and not citizens.

Now examining the novel in the context of Humiliation and Justice by its dissecting it in the realm of analytical clarity, descriptive realism and social commitment in the words of Upendra Baxi it questions the responsibility and morality of Society as a whole rather than trying to fit into any theories.The novel in the words of Evelin Linder points to the Rubric of Humilation.It points to the Shameful conduct of the Indian Society against a particular strata of Society which may not be redressed by mere material redistribution.Its important to recall Marx and thus put forth that here the exploitation unleashed equates Humiliation plus injustice.Thus it’s important here to recall Dr.Ambedkar’s differently privileged ‘politics of redistribution ‘ over Gandhian insistence on the primacy of overcoming cultural harms done to the Dalits to borrow the concept from Nancy Fraser.So, the need of the system needs to Transformation and not Reformation !

As described above the ontological hurt unleashed upon the Dalits by the State and Society is being tackled by the ideals of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity against the Systemic regulation and reinforcement of Oppression, Suppression by the Family Members.Both the concepts of Egalitarianism as well as Humanitarianism are at display here barring the walls of Gender, Sex locations infact Women asserting via their psychological strength and even at times showing their presence of mind which infact is a saviour for  Men during the times of Crisis.The acts of all the oppressed i.e Dalits is permeated by the Love called Dalit Love which Author Suraj yengde talks about.Its not on display on certain occasions but a everyday phenomenon.Its a love that is spiritually rooted and values the best in others and acknowledges the worst in others as a human fallibility.

Thus, poomani’s ” Heat” is not an ordinary phenomenon.Its English translation by N.Kalyan Raman and the coming of the movie ‘Asuran’ is in itself a reminder to get back to the basics and examine the tenets of the Society on which it is still based upon.It requires not only examination but staunch action, a very birth of not one but innumerable Voltaires as Ambedkar said,  who shall dare to speak against their own Religion, Caste, Class and Gender.Else if the Faith in Constitution and its morality evaporates it shall be a peril for the so called World’s Largest Democracy!

Nikhil Sanjay-Rekha Adsule has completed  my B.E(Electrical) and  LLB from Savitribai Phule Pune University(SPPU) and pursued his Masters in History from I.G.N.O.U and Currently he is studying Masters of  Law in Access to Justice  from TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES (TISS).He cleared NET with JRF(Junior Research Fellowship) in History along with SET Exam of Government of Maharashtra.He dreams of creating a BEGUMPURA  of Genderless, Casteless and Classless India.


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