The Ballad of the Bandit Queen
by R.W.Fullilove (Composed 30 Sept 2001)

Come hither and listen while I retell a story,
     the legend of the Bandit Queen
A reincarnation of the Goddess Shakti,
     a beauty in every Hindu man's dreams
Her youth was a torment of rapings and beatings,
     but her spirit rose up to rebel
Struck out at those men who'd suppress and deny her,
     though underneath just an innocent girl

Born in a hamlet by the Yamuna River,
     in a region called Uttar Pradesh
Her family were Mullahs, a lowly fisherman's caste,
     so she'd always be poor and repressed
When barely eleven she was sold into marriage,
     the price just a bike and a cow
Three-fold her age, he was brutal and he beat her,
     but she never succumbed to his power

The Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi,
     is riding again tonight
In her khaki and denims, and bright red bandana,
     she's spoiling once more for a fight
Her gang are all Mullahs and low-castes,
     poor peasants in need of a meal
You high-caste Thakurs better lock up your doors,
     or Didi's bullets will make you squeal

She finally broke free and trod a hard road,
     through the mountains to be with her kin
But her family felt shame, couldn't welcome her back,
     seemed that being at home was a sin
On the fringe of society, outcast and lonely,
     drawn into a lawless furl
Looting and thieving, just barely surviving,
     what a life for an innocent girl?

Abducted and taken with her lover Vikran,
     by some Thakurs who stole in by night
They beat her and raped her, murdered her lover,
     high-caste thugs think such things are their right
Violated, distraught, yet came through it stronger,
     as ring-leader soon she was crowned
In the Cambal Ravines, the beautiful bandit,
     was sung, notorious and renowned

Repeat chorus

One Saint Valentine's day, her gang hit Behmai,
     planned as nought but a routine raid
But seeing there those who had beaten and raped her,
     her revenge echoed way past Bombay
Twenty two high-castes were taken that evening,
     dragged from their homes through the grime
Their pleads were not harkened, their screams went unanswered,
     they all paid with their lives for that crime

What an outrage that raised, a huge posse assembled,
     like Uttar Pradesh had never seen
Didi knew the terrain like the back of her hand,
     so they never caught up with the queen
She grew weary of running, each day testing her cunning,
     broke cover and brokered a deal
After years on the run, 'neath a poster of Gandhi,
     she surrendered, but never did kneel

Solo (over chorus)

Banged-up in a black hole, for a decade or more,
     never once charged with a crime
A sad destiny for a victim of high-caste,
     to rot there and serve out her time
When at last they released her, boasted her infamy,
     campaigned for the rights of the poor
With the votes of the Mullahs, the beautiful bandit,
     set out to strike the heart of their core

Her message was simple, it struck many a-chord,
     revealing the source of their pain
"Why is it my destiny to always be poor?
     They're no different, the same blood in their veins
So lend your support, help me complete this triumph,
     over gender, caste and poverty"
Once the ballots were counted, aghast stood the Thakurs,
     as Didi was elected MP

Repeat chorus

Over five very long years, such a thorn in their side,
     as she faced down their system of class
But you could tell by her anger, impatience and passion,
     one day she'd catch up with her past
The Thakurs still held sweet revenge in their hearts,
     for the dead men lost down that ravine
An ambush one morning, a bullet clean through her head,
     put an end to the brave Bandit Queen

Phoolan Devi was a portrait of courage,
     who denied and refuted her fate
Rose high, high above those beaters and rapers,
     was the focus and curse of their hate
To her critics a murderer, a notorious bandit
     and a puppet of corrupt demigods
To her followers a hero, an innocent, a legend,
     who overcame such incredible odds

Repeat chorus

On the day she was mourned, all were out on the streets,
     to grieve or just bid her adieu
Her low-caste supporters were all pushed aside,
     by the New Delhi Star's TV crew
A strike was proclaimed for that saddest of days,
     so many could witness that scene
The passing of a legend, the new Goddess Shakti,
     the beautiful and bold Bandit Queen

Repeat chorus

Final chorus
Phoolan Devi, the beautiful bandit,
     is riding in Cambal tonight
In her khaki and denims, and bright red bandana,
     she's spoiling again for a fight
Her gang are all low-castes and peasants,
     but still ruling the hills and ravines
Flying so high, you can hear them all singing,
     The Ballad of the Bandit Queen

. . . repeat first chorus ad-lib to fade

R.W.Fullilove 2001 Email at
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Last update: Sunday, 07 October 2001.
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