Saturday, February 21, 2009

Holding a mirror to yourself - Slumdog

The NYT tries to understand why we Indians hate Slumdog

To be honest, I didn’t think it was a great movie as far as Oscar nominated ones go. Considering the stilted english (as opposed to accented), the bad acting by the lead etc. But I did think it was an honest and plausible portrayal of the situation surrounding the characters.

I was surprised by some of my friends’ reaction to the movie. While they borrowed phrases like “poverty porn” and used the argument of western condescension which used tired old cliches like the taj, bachchan etc… they WERE honestly disturbed by the picture of India that the movie painted.
… which is endemic to the middle class and higher in India. Most of us have absolutely no idea how our drivers and housemaids and electricians live. Seeing them on the screen disturbs our “middle-class sentiments”. There is no acknowledgement that we, the middle class are a privileged 40-50 million in a country of a billion. We’re interested only in stories of Vinod Dham and Sabeer Bhatia and gossip about our business houses’ latest acquisitions abroad… and forwarding fake spam on how 30% of NASA is Indian and the value of the Hyderabad nawab’s fortune.

Helplessness? Apathy? Romanticisation of poverty to hide guilt? I don’t know but “Slumdog Millionaire” as an international phenomenon is discomfiting.

Again, most of the Indian middle class would like very much to subscribe to the right winger's idea of India. A great country where there aren't any cultural dissonants like Muslims and embarrassing truths like our Dalits. Where all of us live like the NRIs in the Karan Jonar-Yash Chopra movies. Which is why you'll find wide support for the "nationalist" right wing loonies of the sangh from the middle class. This is even more drastic in our NRI brethren who hypocritically would support all kinds of minority protection, anti-racism measures etc. in their adopted homes but would generously contribute moral and monetary support to the Sangh which does the exact opposite of supressing minoroties and glossing over our societies damnable truths like untouchability, casteism, indentured servitude and feudalism.

As for the organised protests and forced shutting of theaters, I tend to agree with Mr. Sinha’s analysis of our dear Hindutwadis attempting to deflect attention from their actions which for probably the first time are being seen on mainstream internation screens. Its an embarrassment to them. Movies like Bombay, Parzania and Black Friday might exist but that an open truth to be shared among us Indians and we'll then proceed to give it a cursory acknowledgement. But to be seen on the silver screen all around the world? And just when Advani is launching his web2.0 initiative? The right wingers are giving people around the world more credit than they deserve. They're assuming the people of the world or the NRIs will put two and two together and actually see that Advani is the same leader that helped inititate the embarassing scene of riots in Slumdog. Don't worry my dear saffronites, we resident Indians and much less our NRI brethren are all too caught up in fighting off the 100 Re. increase of our housemaid's salary to notice you a******s tearing our country apart.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Sigma Protocol... in action.. in India

"...The Second World War was a conflict that had clear rights and wrongs and yet many of those involved were utterly indifferent to what was at stake. There were numerous corporations whose only concern was to maintain their operating margin. Some, alas, even viewed it as an oppotunity to be exploited-an opportunity to increase their profits. The victors never adequately came to grips with this legacy of corporate double dealing. It was never convenient to do so." Her sardonic half-smile reminded Ben of his brother's banked sense of outrage, his smouldering anger. "Why not?" "Too many American and British industries might have had to be seized for trading with the enemy, for collaboration. Better to sweep the problem under the carpet. The Dulles brothers, you know, made sure of it.

Fictional? Entirely. Believable? Almost. From the Sigma Protocol, a fictional book that stretches ideas and ideologies to their limits.

With their endorsement of Narendra Modi, some of the titans of Indian industry, including deeply respected ones like Ratan Tata have proved that capital knows no boundaries. Political and more importantly Moral.
Encouragement of this kind for hate-mongers and genocidal prima donnas like Modi spur and concretise the radicalisation of places like Gujarat. It provides the Modi-apologists and supporters with a ready excuse with which they deflect the attention from their atrocities.
An argument can be made for capital being agnostic to moral and political issues, which is in someways desirable too. But does the current issue make business sense?
From L.K. Advani's Blog

Like all rhetorical BS coming from the BJP, he doesn't answer the main question in the title itself "How"
Instead he takes the easy way of describing its outcomes and crediting Modi for it. Are the Gujaratis so insecure that they can't realise that its them that's the reason for Gujarat being the industrial state it is? That they need to give credit to their development to Narendra Modi who has been in power for less than a decade? Are they willing to give up on their pioneering mercantile history of more than 400 years so that they can subscribe to Modi's version of Gujarati Asmita? I sincerely hope that isn't the case but the vast majority of responses of Gujaratis to Modi's antics in articles online and offline seems to prove otherwise.

"Good governance, Development and Security" is what Advani credits to Modi. The minorities, not just the muslims but the dalits and tribals have been marginalised further. Even China has a deppely ingrained policy of assimilating minorities so that they don't see themselves as having fallen back with respect to the majority community. Its a direct reason for social upheaval. We have a glaring example in the naxalite regions. Repressed communities WILL lash out eventually. It may be the communists who catalyse it, the missionaries might unwittingly consolidate the non-muslim minorities leading to a community-wide realisation of repression, the minorities might consolidate themselves behind a modern day Ambedkar or the democratic process might itself come in handy to consolidate them, Gujarat already being the birthplace of the Nav Nirmal movement. Irrespective of the cause, its an eventuality.

Business houses are supposed to be intelligent about the long term. Unlike us humans, in the long term, they're NOT dead. Do they really want to be mired in what is already shaping up to be the Hindu version of a Taliban state?

Business houses established in Gujarat should be looking to move out not the other way round. Its simple economic sense. People say that corruption is lesser in Gujarat but that is the newspaper version of the truth. Corruption is centralised and streamlined in Gujarat which makes it entrenched and harder to fight in the long term. Another point of view is that of course businesses USE corruption to further their ambitions, therefore it is only the more professional businesses that will need to keep off Gujarat. Those that do use underhand methods to further their businesses will find a readymade and friendly infrastructure in Gujarat.

Modi's Gujarat is unsustainable. As a social construct, it is a nightmare. As an economic construct it is dream... in the short run. Professional businesses intending to be in it for the long term and becoming global enterprises will do well to steer clear off the current state of Gujarat if they want to have sustainable businesses and do not want their names associated with a state that covertly promotes repression and is an international name for human and religious rights violations.