Friday, January 20, 2012

A Nation of Toothless, Humorless, Selfish Bigots

One lesson which some of my best teachers have managed to teach me is that patriotism is not so much about being proud of your nation as it is about identifying what makes it difficult for you to be proud of it and going about rectifying it.
I attended 2 awesome weddings in the last month or so. 2 weddings which were as unlike each other as chalk and cheese. One was in a quaint little town in MP and the other was in badass Bombay. One baraat was attended by the entire town, albeit from their rooftops and the other was attended by a few who managed to make it on time in the rush hour evening traffic. One was so noisy that many city-slicker friends of mine refused to walk too close to the band and instead stopped over for a sutta on the way and the other had to quieten down every time it went past a major govt office building in South Bombay. One had awesome food made by humble women and served fresh by their men and the other had the most awesome spread of vegetarian food made by the best caterer in town. One was a love marriage between long time college sweethearts and the other was an arranged marriage between two Gujju diamond trader families. The one thing common between the two was the greed on the band master's face as he went hard at his drum with every passing beat. With every 20 buck note wagged in front of his nose, he went on and on with all the strength his malnourished arms could muster. He would thrust his right breast pocket in front of you just so you would put a couple of those notes in his pocket. What is a few 20 buck notes for the diamond trader's son who carries millions worth of diamonds in his pockets and travels from Mumbai to Surat to save some duty? If you find money being thrown at women to make them dance vulgar, I dont know how just because the gender has changed it becomes any less vulgar.
Which brings me to the essential point. In our mad pursuit of that prophecy of becoming the next superpower, are we even conscious how many values, ideals and most importantly, people are just falling by the wayside?
We are waging so many battles on censorship which are basically battles on how we want to be perceived. So there is a Kapil Sibal-social media row, a Salman Rushdie-Jaipur Litfest row, a Top-Gear India row, a Hussain painting row which did not let him die on his homeland; and millions others that the likes of Shiv Sena fight on a daily basis. We as a nation have no sense of humour, no willingness to see another view. If a democracy has no space for multiple opinions then what differentiates us from China? And if nothing differentiates us from China then remember that our Tiananmen Square has still not happened. That civil unrest has never really consolidated into a proper threat yet. And that is something we are setting ourselves up for with this sort of climate. 
I can imagine a show as harmless as Boston Legal can never be Indianised as it will raise in our middle class living rooms on a daily basis the caste issue, the sexuality issue, the Hindu-Muslim issue - now we dont want the "upwardly mobile, aspirational, nuvo riche" middle class questioning these things, do we? What sort of pathetic nation wouldnt even let a director/writer/painter put across his opinion without fearing for his life?
And we arent even done with building a nation yet and we are spending so much time building a perception? Lets first build a nation that works and then go about window-dressing it so that we look nice to ourselves and others. 
So i am sure you have heard of how peasants in Maharashtra commit suicides unusually often. So on an unsually cold winter evening in Bombay, there we were chomping down with vigour on our Pav Bhaji on the most awesome Pav Bhaji place i know. The kind that i missed so much in Delhi that i spent an obscure amount at Kingdom of Dreams to just experience a semblance of that taste. But I digress! Being a rather slow evening as Bombay doesnt know what to do with so much cold just as Delhi doesnt know what to do with so many puddles, we got to talking with the stall-owner and he told us how the vegetable prices in the markets crash every year during this time. How the farmers always have a bumper crop this time of the year and there really isnt a good price they get as the supply far exceeds the demand with China stuff flooding the market. So imagine this family of farmers sitting in Vidarbha somewhere staring at a pile of ripe tomatoes in their field. (I could imagine in a Kissan ad, the farmers should suddenly start celebrating Tomatina fest with that pile, right?) Imagine them staring at them during the day and during the cold winter nights. "Winters in rural Vidarbha can be particularly cruel," the MTDC brochure says. "Temperatures can go down to even 5 degrees in the nights." Imagine the farmer's son peering at the pile of tomatoes thinking surely those should be worth something. Surely they could get him rotis and rice and onions and potatoes. He doesnt even know people who eat chicken are also people like him.  Instead he is shivering on this sleepless night as tonight its his sister's turn to use the single rag of a blanket the family owns. Now imagine the farmer looking at his son's quizzical eyes. Wouldnt it be easier to die than to give him false hope? Wouldnt we all do the easier thing if we had the choice? How many ever social media companies Kapil Sibal sues, he still wont change that kid's perception of the pile of tomatoes.
And then we say we should kill those bloody Maoists. Hehe, we are funny!

Indian farmer


Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more!! Thought provoking!

Miti said...

Great stuff kunj.. Very well-written.
Two thumbs up!