Meeto Memorial Award 2010
1 October 2010, Dhaka, Bangladesh
How and where do I begin?
Bullah ki janan main kaun?
Bullah how do I know who I am?
Who is afterall Meeto - Meeto - Mitwa, Bondhu... memory... An ephemeral spirit - an elegant body,
a thought - a practice
a dream - a nightmare..
Her disappearance is in fact her appearance, absence an intense presence, her silence a loud speech. She is enigmatic...
Nehru once wrote from the prison to his daughter Priyadarshini- dear to sight, still dearer when sight is denied. That’s how I think of Meeto from the prison of my memory.
She comes alive as she brings us all under a spell, knits us together...for a celebration of awards.that is true Meeto.
Meeto’s professor and guide Judith Brown at Oxford Balliol spoke as Meeto was being put to rest in England "Meeto was a young woman of great intellectual range and Promise as well as poise and compassion. She had a brief but remarkable life".
As I began to reassemble my memories of Meeto, I could not believe how multifaceted she is...I do not remember seeing her study but I am sure she did. Otherwise she could not have done so well academically- She gained first class honours degree and as a graduate student in Oxford she received two most prestigious scholarship awards.
However, what people know little is her other talentsand achievements.... she danced and performed and was a dear student of her guru - akka. She sang songs in Karnataka style, in English and loved sufi music, jaazetc She worked with the Ford Foundation as a researcher on issue of Human rights. She went for classes to learn Persian and was keen to learn to read and write Urdu.
She was a great connoisseur of food and learnt and taught recipes to her cook. She worked with the Gardner at home.
In such a short life she achieved so much. Sometimes very short lives leave so much behind...
As part of this extraordinary pool of talent, she also witnessed the theatrical dance within and outside...She suffered depressive conditions and struggled with it. and then there was a moment when she gave up.
Who decides the right moment to leave the stage.
Her finished and unfinished academic work is a testimony of her commitment to map a rich history of inclusive perspective, document syncretic traditions, indefinable communities, overlapping,elusive, changing identities. She was in a sense on a spiritual khoj- an unusal exploration.
She herself is a product of hybridity - of religions, cultures, languages, histories - her grandmother and father a product of remnants of the British colonial history and kamla and her family, a product of partition, from the hinterland of undivided Punjab and small villages of Rajasthan.. She moved between these two worlds with ease and disease simultaneously.
How to speak about a child of many masis
I see so many faces in this gathering who know her as she reached out to different friends of hers and Kamla’s for deep dialogue, for fun and joy, for academic discourse and for frivolous talks. She was a great critique of her amma and her masi’s dressings, activisms, contradictions, ideologies - she held a mirror to all of us as most daughters do.
We, the innumerable masis, we all have access to only a small piece of her reality. However, precisely for this reason she is a real south Asian as her masis were world over but many of them in the south Asian Region.
Her choice of academic work took her to Punjab on both sides of India and Pakistan, she lit candles as people met at the Wagha border to defy the boundaries between India and Pakistan demanding peace, she researched the colonial gazettes and enumerative documents in Sri Lanka, as far as I remember she went to Bangla Desh for a dance performance.
Therefore the task that she left unfinished must continue. Kamla did what Meeto would have liked her mother to do. To announce the Meeto Memorial Award to encourage other young women to pursue their life’s interest, to work for changing the world’s map, inner and outer territories and boundaries ... to seek and struggle for real meaning and practices of peace and coexistence, refuse to fit identities as static, un changing., seek new horizon of simultaneity, overlapping identities, pluralities thus blurring separation. In her work Meeto talks about multicultural histories and memories, of syncretic milieu and politically transvestite communities, of incomplete conversations,.
It is most appropriate to celebrate Meeto’s life by awarding young women from the South Asian region this most prestigious award.
It is prestigious not because it comes from Kamla as a south Asian citizen but from strong feminist movements of the South Asian region. That’s where it belongs.
For you, the young women here, she is a bridge between us, a doorway, a call for creative adventure and advancement, a threshold. She has provided a challenging frame to all of you.
It signifies a sign of hope, a belief in the transformative politics for the liberation of this region from hate and conflict. It is also to celebrate the individual and collective commitment of young women to weave a feminist dream of a better south Asia, a better cosmic planet.
This is the only way to let Meeto live in you and me.