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Poison is nourishment that makes one ill

Poison is nourishment that makes one ill

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Georgy Kuruvila Roy

The 1984 Malayalam popular movie “Noketha Doorath Kannum nattu” ends in an altogether tragic note. It seeps into us through this wonderful scene where the grandmother of the protagonist mixes sleeping pills in the food and serves it to the protagonist Girly (a perfect name for a character who hasn’t as of yet attained femininity). The father waits for her outside to pave her way into femininity -the mother does all of this with affection whereas Girly tell her “I am feeling afraid”. The film thus ends where the girl is taken away by her father but does it really end? The tragedy leaves us with the hope of life and thus the pills become not the poison that kills her but the one which nourishes her for life.
But is the poison that really matters? The expression of this tragedy through that doesn’t it seems to be our childish longing to keep the girl as the girl not allowing her to go beyond it towards femininity- the name Girly sounds concurrent here. Isn’t the popular exclamation “Let it not happen to anyone else” a testament of that? The mother has to do it and the child’s hatred for mother is as irrational as it can get as it is the expression of a love which is “immoderate “with “exclusive claims and tolerating no sharing”. Freud’s answer to it is can be seen in a scene before when Girly sees the traumatic in the protagonist Sree. Her world around her grandmother comes to an end, she realizes that all her girlish masculine ways cannot be continued and she has to change. This is expressed through the hatred of the grandmother, the defense of her father and all that- the moment where she sees the penis thus is the significant moment. Freud expresses this wonderfully in the following lines:
Her love was directed at the phallic mother: with the discovery that the mother is castrated it becomes possible to drop her as an object, so that the motives of hostility, which have long been accumulating, gain the upper hand.
If Sree is the lover he is soon going to be deposed to an agent of castration complex who leads her to the father. The father from whom she has ran away “following her inevitable disappointments from him” and takes refuge in the “Identification with her phallic mother and father”. What follows is a homosexual relationship here not with another woman but with the mother herself. It is not really surprising that the song “Aayiram Kannumayi” from the movie is more famous for its sexual overtones than its eulogization of motherly. People often see it as an expression of their long waiting love but while it is an expression of the mother waiting for her child. The song appears when she is in her infantile fantasy with her mother then further the tune sounds when she is meeting Sree ,when her mother doesn’t allow her father to meet her and later it is taken out by the public as a testament of love. What Freud says about the significance of this preliminary attachment with the mother accounts for the popularity of it:

 We did not know that it (the preliminary attachment to the mother) would be so rich in content and so long lasting could leave behind so many opportunities for fixations and dispositions. During this time the girl’s father is only a troublesome rival…. Almost everything that we find in her later relations to her father was already present in this earlier attachment and has transferred subsequently onto her father. In short, we get an impression that we cannot understand women unless we appreciate this phase of her pre-oedipal attachment to her mother.
Modi and Bharat mata ki jai

 But is this Freudian mother similar to the Bharat mata ki jai rants that Modi is so “famous” of doing in all his rallies. Rather it is not for the latter does not take into consideration the lack in the mother. Mother here is not a figure who could be gone back to but rather a signifier which leaves us with lots of energy displaced into the world. Here going back is regression as her function will only enable her to disappoint us, to take us back to the Oedipus situation from which we have already been disappointed. Modi is represented as the “brave son of Bharat Mata” and the distraught pack of children who follow the “mother’s preferred favorite” are all but the same. Modi’s politics always wants to go back to the mother rather than find what the mother has left us from our childhood to desire in this already “poisoned” world. In other words the other is given more importance than it is required, for this is an attempt to please the other expecting it to satisfy all our desires to make us full and content. An impossible ideal for the other has already left us with no option but to lack, desire and die for the other also lacks. . She was the mother who gave us the poison -nourishment which made us all ill. She is not -from a frudian position- important as an ideal of perfection which will satisfy us but rather as the ideal of imperfection that we all live in.

 Modi has used the mother to start his campaign a mother whose call lifts the masses towards their dreams, we are all living at her behest now like small babies- without sexual differentiation in a freudian sense- imagining about the good life that the mother can promise us; some basking in her, care some complaining about the lack of love that the mother has provided us. The mother who has moved in to the unconscious after a point: the mother who had left us all thirsty and will leave us all thirsty and this thirst which becomes our desires. For the mother for Freud is the one that leaves us with the traces of her love and care which has to be abandoned but whose real still remains with us in the unconscious. The movement time for a politics of the unconscious: a time where the repressed love for the mother has been incited to a society which can never take it up for already it has aged beyond childhood fantasies. But no we are living in a time of childhood phantasies the fantasy of rejoining the mother which can always only lead to the Oedpus complex and the further regression of society- for beyond a figure she is just a function.

 Our disease

 In the movie the fatal disease is that which takes Girly first to the grandmother later away from her love back into the hands of her mother and father. For Modi, it’s the political disease that takes us all back to the mother. Isn’t the disease our displacement of the father’s disease onto the mother? When the feminists in Kerala say that the family’s control over the grown up women is what is important to understanding Kerala society, don’t they exactly mean this? The disease is not actually the girl’s but ours: the disease which does not acknowledge in us the richness of the earlier attachment to the mother which sometimes can take rebellious positions. Freud had cautioned against the over exaggeration of these disappointments as a “girl who is destined to become feminine is not spared them”. The disease where Girly remains Girly as we as fathers and mothers can’t face the traumatic and be happy with the symbolic power us has got. Modi represents such hordes that get traumatized by the sight of a woman who goes out with men; the RSS says this precisely when they get vociferous of no live-ins and LGBT marriages. The Bajrang Dal does the same when they ask the Muslims to go to Pakistan. The trauma that every upper caste faces when they hear the word “Dalit politics” is also a symptom of this disease. This is the ideology that we live in today, where the imaginary of the father and mother become more significant than their symbolic function?



 Sigmund Freud, femininity, The Standard Edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund freud, vol.22 ed. James Starchy.
Louis Althusser, Freud and Lacan in Writings on Psychoanalysis: Freud and Lacan,ed., Olivier Corpet and Francois Mtheron.
The women’s studies reader. Ed. Mary e John.



Georgy Kuruvila Roy is pursuing PhD in CSSS, Kolkata.

Pictures courtesy: the internet.