22 June, 2021

She Opened The Sluices

Budhini Mejhan, a unique victim of the Nehruvian dream, stands for other unfortunates. This novel intensifies her story.

Tragic Herione Budhini (left) with Jawaharal Nehru.
She Opened The Sluices
outlookindia.com
2021-06-11T15:04:19+05:30

At a seminar, acclaimed Malayali author Sarah Joseph heard about Budhini for the first time from poet and political activist Civic Chandran, who had written a poem on her. He asked Sarah Joseph if she could elaborate it into a story. It was a theme that touched Sarah deeply and stayed in her mind for long.

Chandran found the story of Budhini in an article, ‘Recovering Budhini Mejhan from the silted landscapes of modern India’, by Chitra Padmanabhan, published in The Hindu on June 2, 2012. Sarah Joseph read the article several times and then emb­arked on extensive research rel­ated to the subject.  

On December 6, 1959, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru went to Dhanbad district in Jharkhand to inaugurate the Panchet Dam across the Damodar river. A fifteen-year-old girl, Budhini, chosen by the Damodar Valley Corporation, welcomed him with a garland and placed a tikka on his forehead. When these ceremonial gestures were interpreted as an act of matrimony by elders in the orthodox Santhal society she came from, Budhini was ost­racised...

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