Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of India, Truth, and Tears

Happy Independence Day, people.
To be honest, today was just another holiday for me, a day to sleep-in and relax and do whatever I want to. The only "patriotic" thing I did - if at all it can even be called patriotic - is put on a bright patiala-suit that made me feel very feminine and desi. At least for the few hours that I wore it (for a non-Independence Day event I had to attend.) Apart from that, I didn't even hear any songs of desh-bhakti and all that jazz. I am not one for exhibitionism on any occasion. I don't understand why I should sing the national anthem today or attend a flag-hoisting event or feel all prim and "proud" about being Indian. Such activities have nothing to do with what I feel about my country. (Besides, isn't "being Indian" an accident of birth? Each one of us could just have easily been Chinese or Nepali or God forbid, Pakistani? :P)
I think patriotism should be a private thing that you have your own definition for, not something that makes you take to the streets yelling "Bharat Mata ki Jai" like the group of student "activists" of a particular party I saw while having breakfast this morning. They went on to shout zealous slogans of "Desh ki raksha kaun karega? Hum karenge, hum karenge!" I wish I could tell them to go join the Defense forces if they were all so passionate about "desh ki raksha" and all. I suspect that they meant "raksha" of a different kind - like protecting that elusive thing called "our Indian culture" from western influences, or preventing our women from wearing short skirts and drinking alcohol because lo and behold, that is so not "Indian".
That is why I believe we have a very warped sense of truth here in India. We like to live in our ideas of what is the truth or what is "right" even when there are glaring evidences of the contrary. We are not accommodating of variations in our "truths" and often, myths and legend get mixed into them too. Even for simple things, we are not good at being honest: when someone asks if they can come over to our place, we go ahead and say yes even if we are busy, and then proceed to complain about how people are impinging on our time. When we really don't like something, we can't be straight-forward about it, we like to beat around the bush. We are obsessed with saving face in society and upholding a good reputation and "character" even if it means being outright fake.
And then, there are tears. We don't tell the truth but are highly emotional about it. Any wrong can be covered up with an outburst of tears. Any injustice can be borne with swollen eyes and private sobs. Our films rely on our emotional tendencies to become blockbusters; our politicians use them to manipulate us, and our media capitalize on them to fool us. I recently got around to watching the much-talked-about show Satyamev Jayate on YouTube. I watched the full first episode on female foeticide and then half of the second episode on child sexual abuse. Unlike most people, I am not an Aamir Khan-fan. I think he produces and acts in good films now and then, but I also think he is a sharp businessman who has calculative motives behind everything he does. That's why I didn't trust SMJ to be all that people were making it out to be and refused to even watch it since the 3 months its been broadcasting.
Yes, I am a cynic and a skeptic and strongly believe that problems can't be addressed by making t.v. shows about them. When I asked my friends what's the point of SMJ anyway, most people said: "at least the show makes us think about all that is wrong."  My question is, don't we think about all that anyway? What good is the show doing by just further driving the point home? If Aamir Khan wants to make a difference, why doesn't he go out there and monetarily, directly help the people who need it, rather than putting so much effort into a fancy show and demanding crores of rupees per episode?
My concerns were somewhat appeased after I watched the first episode because I did find that the show is good and has a point - it's not all just talk but a little bit of action too. But what I didn't like is the tears. The close-ups of audience members with tragic expressions and leaky eyes - ghastly. Mr. Aamir Khan discreetly wiping a corner of his eye with a knuckle - ridiculous. Somehow, I do not believe in tears when they appear on television shows. It's still tolerable when the victims are the ones who get emotional while recounting the horror they have endured, but why the host and why the studio audience? Such horrifying, disturbing tales should not induce tears, they should induce anger. Crying over problems seems like a way of accepting their dominance over us; being brave-faced and outraged is surely more constructive. At least in my opinion. I think I would take SMJ a lot more seriously if they did away with the studio audience completely, if Aamir Khan didn't get emotional, and if they brought in videos from the field rather than making it a largely in-studio production. I don't want to see a chart of statistics. I want to hear people telling me their views right from where they are. There's a little bit of this incoprorated into the show already but I think we need a lot more.
I know that if I have such a problem with the way Mr. Khan does his thing then I should produce my own show rather than pick faults with his, but I just felt like voicing my views about it this Independence Day. SMJ has the potential to bring about real srategic changes to crucial problems but its not going to happen by sitting around crying and merely "thinking" about it. Life is all in the doing, and since Mr. Khan has the resources to actually do something, I really wish he adopts a more practical approach and succeeds.
In the mean time, here's to an eventual better tomorrow.
Jai Hind.

The commercialization of Independence Day - our real truth?

2 scribbles scribbled back to me:

Mitostargazer said...

nice post mehak :)
your take regarding our intolerance for variations in culture, ethics, morals and ways of living in society was spot on!
I have my own ambivalent views about SMJ, but yeah, crying studio audience isn't very convincing for such a show, in fact too dramatic.
Keep writing!

Mehak said...

thanks a lot Mitostargazer!