Rinkiya ke Papa Isn’t Laughing — He’s Lamenting Bihar’s Cultural Assassination
Every single stanza of Rinkiya ke Papa is a deep social commentary, yet the song has become an object of mockery.
Economic indicators in the contemporary world not only indicate the quality of life but also determine the status and role of an individual, a society or a nation in the glocalised (global yet local) world. India, in the last few decades, has done reasonably well, and many states, societies or individuals have gained upward mobility and now reside in the upper echelons of the commonly desired lifestyle. However, the same economic indicators evince the perpetual penury of a particular state of India, i.e., Bihar, which for years has audaciously challenged economists, reformers or policymakers to bring the intended change to it.
The economic realities of Bihar have obscured the cultural and literary significances of this geography.
The perennial indigence of this state has hit social, cultural, historical as well as intellectual dimensions of a Bihari's life to an unprecedented extent. For instance, a non-Bihari often finds it futile to argue or accept that a region like Bihar could possess or produce valuable cultural assets. The “soft power” of Bihar is open for any apocryphal anatomisation and reductionism. Some would even ridicule the association of "soft power" with a Bihari identity. Thus, the achievements of Bihar, contemporary or historical, have been reduced to the abysmal lyrics of a few Bhojpuri songs and the dismal economic outcomes.
Bhojpuri Songs and the Message in Rinkiya Ke Papa
Manoj Tiwari's 'notorious' song, ‘Rinkiya ke papa’ (Rinkiya’s father), is the latest victim of the cultural assassination that Biharis have been facing for a long time. This song has witnessed unimagined burlesque, ignominy or sneering in the last few years. Rinkiya ke papa-featuring memes have stormed every nook and cranny of the digital world. Amid this rage, therefore, it is hard to explain the gravity of this song to the ignorant but interested audience.
Those who understand Bhojpuri know that the laughter of Rinkiya ke papa shows the decaying nature of the patriarchal society in that province. Though patriarchy in Bihar is still very intact and powerful, Rinkiya ke papa, with his laughter, emerges less virile and more civilised among patriarchs.
The beginning of the song heralds the metamorphosis taking place in the Bhojpuriya society. In the very first line, Rinkiya ki Mummy (Rinkiya’s mother) slaps her husband, and in the second line, Rinkiya ke Papa 'simply' laughs instead of striking back.
It is highly improbable to believe that a wife could slap his husband in a patriarchal society, and it is even more ludicrous to think that the husband would not hit her back.
Moreover, his laugh is not ordinary. It contains helplessness as he is not as 'manly' as his society expects him to be, and, therefore, he resorted to laughing.
Every single stanza of Rinkiya ke Papa is a social commentary. From uttering the name of the husband to wearing loose pyjamas at home, from thrashing one's husband to asking in front of the whole family that why did he not dance at their wedding, or giving orders to the husband to bring vegetables in the evening while returning from the office — these woke sentences manifest signs of turmoil in a dormant society. But, instead of getting any kind of adulation for this brave attempt, what Manoj Tiwari gets is contempt and mockery. Had these lines appeared in any other language, the creativity of the writer, the sonority of the singer or the power of a language would have been eulogised like never before.
The ‘Lollypop’ Metaphor and the Irony of Celebrating It
Pawan Singh’s ‘world famous’ Lollypop Lagelu is undoubtedly a misogynistic song. The objectification of a woman’s body with deplorable analogies in this song manifests that century-old feudal mindset where a woman would be either revered or exploited by all available means. Manoj Tiwari has also sung multiple Bhojpuri songs that contain objectionable metaphors and reflect a society that is exclusively dominated and controlled by men. He can not evade the allegations of legitimising controversial content in Bhojpuri, and his exoneration needs serious intervention. This applies to parliamentarian Ravi Kishan too, once a megastar of the Bhojpuri film industry, who is now championing the debate over vulgarity vs sobriety in Bhojpuri songs. He, too, needs to show some serious concern to improve the shoddy appearance of filmy Bhojpuri songs.
However, in the context of Rinkiya ke Papa and Lollypop Lagelu, the mockery of the former and the wide success of the latter raises serious questions about the understanding and civility of those who restrict their general judgment of Bhojpuri songs to words like vulgar, obscene or comical, yet never miss a chance to shake their body on a dance floor when a woman is objectified as a ‘lollypop’.
It is an incontrovertible fact that in the last few decades, Bhojpuri has produced a plethora of salacious songs that would hold the entire Bhojpuriya society accountable for creating this menace.
The same Bhojpuriya community will also be reproached by posterity for not establishing Mahendra Misir, Bhikahri Thakur, Rahul Sankrityayan, Bharat Sharma, Sharda Sinha, Uday Narayan Tiwari, Pandey Kapil or Arvind Narayan Das as cultural icons for the masses.
But at the same time, questions would be asked of those enlightened minds who believe that the entire lexicon of the Bhojpuri language is limited to lehenga, choli, bhauji or kamariya. Just because Bihar performs poorly on the economic indices, its cultural assets are not open for spurious interpretations.
(The author is an Assistant Professor (Linguistics) & Regional Director at Central Institute of Hindi, Shillong. He tweets @ikrishna_pandey. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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