Gayatri Raghuram’s mother has tried to justify Gayatri’s verbal abuse of her Bigg Boss Tamil housemate Julia. She also claims that the others are faking and putting on a show, while Gayatri is being true to herself.
Ananda Vikatan spoke to Gayatri’s mother, Girija, about Bigg Boss, and Gayatri’s participation. While Gayatri and Julia have had arguments before, this time people have taken strong offense to Gayatri describing Juliana as “cheri”. The word has now come to mean of low class or low caste, and is usually used as a term of abuse by someone with both class and caste privilege, in order to humiliate their opponent.
Girija begins the interview by saying, “Haven’t siblings living in the same house fought before? Can a girl never get angry? Does she always need to behave like a robot? Why so much anger for saying just that one word?”
That one word, however, is a loaded, casteist slur. It has been used time and time again to belittle one’s opponent.
Girija defended Gayatri’s use of the word, and said that the actress used it because she was provoked. Further, Girija said that Gayatri was a “normal” girl and the others were targeting her because she [Gayatri] is a member of the BJP. Girija also asked if the media had no other job but to write about Gayatri’s use of the word to insult a fellow housemate. She said that this showed that the world had not changed enough.
This is a bizarre, entitled argument, given that the world has changed enough to allow people to question the casteist behaviour of dominant caste persons. If anything, in other times and circumstances, Gayatri could have gotten away with much more abuse – verbal and physical – against someone she perceives as lower caste.
Meanwhile, comments on Facebook about this particular episode pointed out that Kamal Haasan, who is considered to be a rational, progressive person, was complicit in this casteist behaviour by letting the channel use the incident to promote the show’s ratings.
Note: The word சேரி (cheri) might have meant different things in the past. The Facebook post linked to above gives one meaning: living together – சேர்ந்து வாழ்தல். Other connotations are that it denotes an “exclusivity” – formerly to denote an area of residence exclusive to rich people, or to people of a certain community or profession, but for the major part of modern times, the word is shorthand for ‘slum’, and used to refer to economically and socially oppressed people and their settlements. To persons from the oppressed castes and classes, the word cheri is a term of abuse often used by those with power over them. To upper class, upper caste persons, the word cheri may have no strong meaning, but that is entirely because of their particular privilege.