Nandita Das

Embracing Kabir

  • February 1, 2012

Since the 27th of February, 10 years ago, Gujarat’s divide on religious lines has deepened like never before. My cathartic response to the madness was my directorial debut film Firaaq, which explored relationships after the obvious violence was over but anger, prejudice and fear lingered on. I refrained from pointing fingers and tried to evoke empathy for the victims of such hatred. I believe violence begets more violence and that was central to what I wanted to say through the film.

Often acute anguish forces a creative response and so in a different way, ShabnamVirmani, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, responded to the same madness. She travelled with folk singers who have sung Kabir for generations and created the Kabir project. And that was the inspiration for organisingKabir Festival in many parts of the country. It includes screening of musical documentary films, talks and discussions by prominent speakers, and live concerts by folk and classical singers.

Now many have informally come together to form a Kabir Community, an inclusive and open group. I am so happy that I am part of this collective, and so today I write as its member, appealing all to embrace what Kabir said so simply, so profoundly. He is even more relevant today than in the 15th century, as we live in more polarised times than what he saw and responded to.

Most of us have read Kabirdohas at some point in our elementary education, but it is only now, having lived life a little, that I am truly being able to appreciate what Kabir said so effortlessly. His insights and principles of life resonate with my own explorations and experiences. Recently I have been reading a lot more of Kabir and it is helping me channel my inner unrest. He has responded to almost every existential dilemma, both simple and complex. He stayed away from orthodoxy and spoke the people’s language, addressing issues of daily life and excluded no one. His profound words stir the conscience and touch the soul. KabiraKhada Bazaar Mein, Maange Sub Ki Khair. Na Kahu Se Dosti, Na Kahu Se Bair (Kabir in the market place, wishes well for all. Neither friendship nor enmity with anyone at all). 

For me it has been a reminder of the true essence of life and a process of rediscovering Kabir. It is helping me understand and accept my inner self, and thereby its mirror, the world around me. Of course, this is a long and difficult expedition, but at least I am on my way! Fairly early in life I had found my sense of purpose through my work, but in a spiritual way, I connected more with my inner self only about seven years ago. Somehow one shied away from ‘spirituality’, a word that is either put on a pedestal or mocked at. But over the years it is this intertwining of the inner and the outer journey that is giving my life its true meaning.

So today, when I look at acts of violence and intolerance, I feel I cannot counter it by more hate or anger, however justifiable it may seem. Neither can it be forgotten or forgiven for lack of empathy and understanding. Despite the fact that I struggle with this contradiction, I feel it is time not only to speak out against all that is wrong, but also celebrate all that is right. The Kabir community is one such space where the inner and outer journeys can converge. It can be contagious, bringing sanity to this world, with poetry, music and philosophy of the likes of Kabir.It isn’t an easy task to choose, but here is one more doha to further whet your appetite for Kabir: ChahGayiChintaMiti, ManvaBeparvah, JaKoKuchNahiChahiye, So Jag Sahansah (One who has given up desires, has no worries; one who wants nothing, is the real king).

Virata Parvam


Director: Udugula Venu

Language: Telugu

Character Name: Shakuntala

Key Cast: Kundan Alexzed, Chakrapani Ananda, Banerjee

Feastivals and Awards: NA

Film Stills: 9

BTS: 11