University of Hyderabad PhD student Rohith Vemula left behind a series of Facebook posts that captured his sense of life, and romance. His musings also provide a glimpse into his relationships and reveal his innermost thoughts.
Below are some excerpts from the book “Caste Is Not a Rumour, The Online Diary of Rohith Vemula” edited by Nikhila Henry. Chapter introductions written by Nikhila Henry, the dated posts are from Rohith’s Facebook wall.
Of Life, Romance and the Self
Rohith Vemula was born to Radhika Vemula and Mani Kumar Vemula on January 30, 1989. He was mostly silent about life back home in Guntur, a town in Andhra Pradesh that produces the largest number of chillies, and a place he went back to every year even after he joined the University of Hyderabad’s MSc Biotechnology programme and where he later did his PhD in Science Technology and Society Studies.
His mother, a Mala (Dalit, Hindu) woman, had separated from her husband, a Vaddera (OBC) man, in 2000 after five years of marriage and had three children including Vemula’s elder sister, D. Neelima, and younger brother, Raja Chaitanya Vemula.
Vemula referred to his mother as one of his two ‘life-buoys’ – the other was his friend Sheik Riyas. It is in trailing one-liners, posted as captions with the few photos he shared, that Vemula introduced impressions of life at home, a place where he lived until he was 20. His mother’s job as a tailor and his almost always absent father’s private security guard uniform, all figure here.
Vemula described himself as a ‘hopeless romantic’; he loved people, music and wine. While his political activism and academics formed his core identity, he also riffed about playing cricket, bonding and partying with friends, falling in and out of love, and his faith in humanity.
Vemula writes passionately about it all, his language replete with pleasure and pain. After all, he was a young man in the prime of his life who found strength not just in Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Karl Marx and Carl Sagan but also in A.R. Rahman and his song Marhaba ya Mustafa. He was optimistic about finding friends and having a good life in UoH.
a. Of Home and Other Matters
January 30, 2008
Rohith Vemula is happy with what he has… (he is) gifted.
July 22, 2010
I joined Hyderabad Central University (HCU). The environment here is fantastic. Nice people around. Feeling quite happy and seeking some good friends here.
March 6, 2011
Today I got chance to bat as an opener [in a UoH match –Ed.]. Thanks Praveen and Rohit [friends –Ed.] for their support.
June 17, 2012
I’m against domestic violence. I’ve seen my mother’s suffering and I would like to be a part of the change that has to come. Real manhood lies in making a woman want to be with you (instead of forcing her to).
March 13, 2014
[He posted a series of pictures –Ed.] I was trying to click picture of my mom’s best friend, a kitty. She calls it ‘rascal’. But the kitty is the only creature in my home who listens to my mom. It ran off. It never plays with me.
We have a fridge and that makes our home dearer to the colony. Don’t touch all water bottles in the fridge as most of them are neighbours’.
Almost all times (TV) remote will be with the kids next door. Dad’s uniform, security guard in a hospital. [With an image of a public tap –Ed.]. The source of water and the place for exchanging conversations.
This [sewing machine –Ed.] was the main bread-earner for our home before I started getting Junior Research Fellowship (JRF)…This is my mom’s favourite occupation. She used to say ‘machine’ can make women powerful. She is a teacher now. She teaches sewing and embroidery to the women around.
b) The Romantic
April 14, 2009
It’s better to be alone than to be with somebody and feel lonely.
February 6, 2014
I know it is unfair to talk like I understand you. I realize that your problems are greatly painful. All I am trying to convey is ‘you are not alone’, there are millions of people going through equally unbearable situations at this very moment. Wish you happiness.
March 23, 2014
She asked with her usual caring voice and intriguing eyes, ‘How are you??’
He swiftly looked down, smiled and said ‘Fine!’ as I saw her smile that can compete with the freshness of a paper flower.
‘Sorely broken but somehow surviving,’ he heard an anonymous echo; not sure if it had come from inside him or from a very distant place. Never mind, there is not much difference between the two.
My conversations with the dew-eyed stranger in the mirror.
March 26, 2014
Sometimes a small thought comes and challenges our sanity. What if I can time travel to my past? For someone with a slightly chagrined childhood and a tiresome teenage, this is a normal question. If only I had not met some people and watched naively as they drifted away!
Would I start all over if I get another chance to go back to a time when the whole world seemed beautiful? The sun, moon, stars, skies, flowers and colours were not just mere spectators but participants in the celebration of my life, all through the season of love. Anyone in his good senses would have loved to relive those moments. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t like the thought of travelling back into my past life.
Today I may be left with a bruised past but earlier I had completely nothing to remember. Today I sleep and wake up to disturbing dreams, but there were times, I had nothing to dream about. Today, I have hurting memories, I get bad dreams, I bleed blue and I get depressed but back in those days I was indifferent. I was unmoved. I was unloved and untested.
How many times have you answered a tricky question posed by your messy brain with a deceitful deep thoughts and circular logic...???!!!!!
Broken and Buried
April 18, 2014
‘I was warned about you, you know,’ she said looking at him amazed, as if he was the one who put all the stars in the sky.
And with his typical half-smile, nuzzling her hair, he whispered, ‘But you’re here, anyway.’
And I heard someone grunting in the sky. Must be the moon showing them to the stars
July 3, 2015
She collects hearts. She never cares for them afterwards. Like footsteps in wet sands, like smiles of children, she attacks lives. Like a breezy rain on a lonely night, a soothing that burns.
Everyone knows that she takes lives away, ripping sense out of your life, yet no one has ever escaped her. Like death, like love.
Some say she has an agenda, like saving the world. How to tell her that I am also a part of the world? Some say she loves everyone. Why am I not everyone? Every lip I kiss taste like loneliness. Every hug I make is shrinking me further. Every glass of alcohol seems like an elder with an advice I need to decode.
Should I be sorry that I didn’t befriend her in this life? Or Should I be happy that I got a reason for one more life?
Loose Translation from Unpublished Pages [Written originally in Telugu and later translated to post on Facebook –Ed.]
c. Musings on Self
April 21, 2011
I discovered one thing today. I have an exam curse. However [hard –Ed.] I study, I can never write an exam well. I am really sick of this education. Why did I enter into this study field? I feel like an odd person in this mob.
March 12, 2012
Life is like a cigarette that is lit on one end. It will end if you smoke it or otherwise. Likewise, life will come to an end even if you enjoy or simply watch as it goes by. The choice you make is entirely up to you. Choose wisely. By the way, I am a good smoker.
April 15, 2012
My words have inner meanings. My silence has good reason. In the end, everything will make perfect sense. Just have some faith in me.
February 23, 2013
Look around sometime as you will see people like this [old and living in poverty – Ed.] around us. We may not be blessed with money to spare but a smile or a warm pleasantry will give them hope and happiness. Talk to old people as you will acquire knowledge from them and your talk will soothe them. Old people are like babies with life experience. We should take care of them as much as we can.
February, 24, 2013
We are living the most stupid of times in the [history of –Ed.] human existence. We are driven by insecurity and not enthusiasm. Driven by money and not passion. We have forgotten how we once used to live. We used to get one tenth the money we get today but had time for a happy afternoon nap. We weren’t obsessed with fame and popularity as we cared about compassion and integrity.
We were not scared of questioning and fighting evil. We were not scared of helping others or losing money. We never competed with others as we thought we were all family and there was no need to be greedy.
We shared our wealth, food and love. We were patriotic but not blindly so. We celebrated festivals as get-togethers and not for political reasons or to show number strength.
Ek baat soch lo [Think –Ed.] What are we doing now? Are we really living or passing time as zombies?
May 25, 2013
When was the last time you met the demon inside you? The one which you always try hiding from society, from family, from any other person – that dark, strong, weird version of inner self. When was the last time it surpassed your social barriers and conquered your thoughts, acts and behaviour? When?!
March 3, 2014
I am made up both of light and darkness, of compassion and jealousy, of goodness and ugliness, of love and indifference...What you get out of me depends on which side you touch.
October 27, 2014
We are made up of Stardust and Dewdrops. We are amazing, even without having any worldly accomplishments. Because we are not ordinary.
January 31, 2015
[Thanking 18 friends –Ed.] Thank you guys for making my birthday special and memorable. Last year was one hell of a ride for me. I was knocked down. I fell, became aggressive and was also dragged into uncalled for situations and had some sad moments. But it also gave me the chance to realise who will stand with me and who just wouldn’t. Whenever life tried to be unfair with me you people lifted my spirits up. Thank you again for staying thick with me and for never giving up on me. ‘It is a happiness to wonder; it is a happiness to dream’ Allan Poe. Let us keep dreaming together.
March 15, 2015
I tried to be calm and cool, but my history won’t let me. d. High Spirits and Rings of Smoke
February 15, 2013
The taste of water after drinking a beer is always wonderful.
Excerpted with permission from #CasteIsNotARumour – Online Diary of Rohith Vemula, edited by Nikhila Henry published by Juggernaut Books and available on the Juggernaut app.