Pray for Neasamani: As Modi trends nationally, Tamil Nadu prays for Neasamani
The Politics of Protest and the All That Was Left Unsaid: What is #Pray_For_Nesamani, and why is trending at number one on Twitter?
There’s always been something about Tamil Nadu.
Remember when the DMK celebrated Karunanidhi’s 94th birthday with a huge celebration back in 2017, open to everyone except the BJP? Remember the years and waves of anti-Hindi agitations, from 1937 to as recently as 2014? I don’t have to point out the constant tug-of-war between the Dravidian movement and Brahmanical ideologies seen in the state.
Tamil Nadu is the state that plays hard to get. It’s an incredibly rich mass of culture, of history, of strategic and economic importance - and it knows it. It’s the State that has proudly wielded affirmative action, and raised the bar of educational and professional qualification. Tamil Nadu accounts for 26 of the 100 top-ranked universities of higher education in the country, as per the metrics set by the National Institute Ranking Framework.
Tamil Nadu has also been the state to most fiercely buck against the nationalist idea of a hegemonic, homogenised India -- while it embraced migrant labour with open arms, it has placed unshakable importance on situating state culture within a greater narrative of plurality and secularism.
Against this backdrop, there’s just something wonderful about the fact that the number one trending hashtag in Tamil Nadu today is #Pray_For_Neasamani, while the rest of India is wrapped up in the furore of PM Modi swearing in his new Cabinet. Nesamani is a fictional character, from Friends, a Tamil movie released in 2001 -- a rather tragic character played by the maestro of comedy, Vadivelu. The whole state seems to be tweeting for the health of this doomed contractor, who was plagued in the movie by hammers falling on his head and a cast of inept helpers.
Now here’s why this is wonderful: protest doesn’t always have to be violent, or erudite, or vindictive, or even expressed. Sometimes, protest can be that pulse of society that just ignores what they don’t want to accept -- a society that would rather pray for a fictional character on Twitter than pay homage to a leader they didn’t choose.
That’s what is special about Tamil Nadu. It doesn’t just play hard to get -- it is hard to get.