Water – Story of Subalterns

“Can the subaltern speak” revolves around the subaltern subjects who are oppressed, marginalized and unable to raise voices for their betterment. The article further discusses a group of subaltern and explains how women in Indian customs have been marginalized when the husband dies which reminds me of a movie called Water released in 2005. \

Water is set during the colonialism period. It depicts two kinds of subalterns and how they speak for themselves; one who is marginalized because of the caste systems and the other is widows who live their live in an asylum with no means of survival. According to Hindu custom, widows have three options: to marry their husband’s younger brother; to get burned on their husband’s funeral; or lead a life of self-denial. Hindu culture does not allow a widow to remarry. Instead they have to leave their homes and family and live in an ashram near Ganga as they are isolated from the society. They have to sleep in the cold gloomy rooms on the floor, shear all the hair from head and wear two white unstitch cloths. They are not allowed to run. They are prohibited to eat lavish food and any kind of sweet. They are supposed to have the simplest meal possible, only once in the whole day. They are considered so filthy and impure that they cannot even touch other people hence not even allowed to work anywhere and therefore rely on charity and they have to follow these customs for as long as they live.

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The movie revolves around two widows Kalyani – the prettiest and the only widow allowed to have long hair as she goes to the Brahmans (superior in caste) to spend nights and earn money for the rest of the widows and second is a seven year old Chuiya.

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The movie takes a wide shift when Kalyani falls in love with Narayan and decides to remarry and leave the asylum despite the opposition of the widows and society. She commits suicide when she finds out that he is the son of the Brahman for whom she has been prostituting herself. She tries to speak for herself but fails and for once the subaltern couldn’t get the agency. She spoke up but couldn’t get heard. As Spivak quoted in the paper states that subaltern can’t speak. They are voiceless and even if they try to speak, their voices are never heard.

Now Chuiya is supposed to step into prostitution to earn money after her death. What Kalyani was trying to do in her life happens after her death when Shakuntala saves Chuiya’s life by emancipating her and sending her away with Narayan. This time the subaltern got the power not only to speak up but to make herself heard as well. Had the subalterns were not able to speak; the widows in India would have been still living in the same situation. However, it is the matter of scenario, location, time and customs when subalterns raise their concern.

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