Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Clatification on my take on Shilpa Shetty /Big Brother reality show

Got a couple of mails from friends who read my blog on the Shilpa Shetty-Big brother issue. Those mails made me realise i should clarify my position.

I am NOT anti-white. But i hate ethnocentrism; and if i am anti-white, then i'd be guilty of what i hate- ethnocentrism.

My blog was an effort to interpret the unfortunate episode in the context of the colonial hangover as exprienced both by the former coloniser and the colonised. Hence it was inevitable that i use the terms from the colonial rhetoric. The concept of white superiority is axiomatic to the imperial discourse about White destiniy to civilise the colonised world. Remember Kiplings words about the White Man's Burden?

Like my friend pointed out, India too has its own style of racism. I agree, in a different context - in a social context which does inform the political. But in that particular Blog, i was dealing only with the realities of the Imperial hangover. And the White refers most certainly to The British who are still trying to sort out the whole colonial experience.

All whites were not racial- not even at the height of Imperial glory. There was always a questioning in England of the ethicality of the whole imperial enterprise.

History is not something we can wish or will away.A dispassionate effort to come to terms with it is part of human experience.

My blog was only one such effort.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Thank you, Mr. President

After a break of almost two years, I was in my college on a three week assignment which involved constant interaction with all the Departments – the Student body, Teaching Staff, Non teaching staff and the Management. Right from the word go, I noticed a change - a positive change. Couldn’t put my finger on it. Then one day, a student came to me with a strange question, “Ma’am, what is the greatest thing a person like me can aspire to be?”. Was caught off guard. Never in my quarter of a century of teaching experience has a student raised a question like that. Any way, I blurted out the stupidest thing that came to my mind. “Aim for the impossible". The girl seemed pleased with the answer!!!

I reported this conversation to the warden of the hostel she belonged to. She too seemed satisfied with with my answer. Yes, she said. A brilliant question. A brilliant answer. Hasn’t Kalaam said it is a sin to dream small??

Yes. Suddenly, things fell into place. The words of my friend from the maths Dept to the effect that we must translate dreams into thoughts & thoughts into actions, fell into place. That’s the change. The whole college - every dept.- was quoting President Abdul Kalaam. They appear to have taken him seriously.

He has ignited their minds!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Shilpa Shetty Show - Strength from History

I was away for almost a month. Away from the Newspaper, TV, internet. Away from the reach of media. No. I was not on top of the Himalayas or in the deep forests of Papua New Guinea. I was in Kerala, in the midst of print, electronic and virtual media. But the assignment which took me there left me with less than 4 hours of sleep each day, and Newspapers, TV and internet were luxuries I could ill afford in that type of a time schedule.
Did I miss these? At that time, no. I do, now. Retrospectively. At the mention of Big Brother and Shilpa Shetty. Strangely enough that’s the only significant story I seem to have missed real time. Looking around now, after the storm has settled somewhat, I find that reactions to the Reality show are many. Some feel proud of and vindicated at being Indians. Some are amused that a Shilpa Shetty and not one of those ‘in’ high profile actors should have stolen the march over the whites. Many are gleeful that it takes very little for the whites to show their true colours, to lose their cool. There are many who feel jubilant, particularly when Indian newspapers play up the reception Shilpa Shetty was accorded by the British public and parliament.
But the happiest are those(like me) who feel that British racism can, at long last, be openly discussed in decent circles.
Amidst all this confusion of reactions, I try to sort out my take on the episode. Well, am I surprised at the Indian actor’s cool way of handling the insults? Well, no. Not really. Indian collective psyche/unconscious is informed by the history and experience of centuries of racial subordination. Survival techniques against racism and colonial rhetoric also form part of this knowledge. The result is a certain stoicism which come from the knowledge of having occupied a morally superior position in the historical context of the Empire.
Also, there is no match for a refined and groomed Indian anywhere else in the world.
I can see many an eyebrow shoot up at my last statement. With my limited exposure to the world, how can I say that? Well, I’ve had the opportunity of attending several international seminars and conferences(in India), attended by the best in the respective fields from all over the world. On all these occasions I’ve seen that the Whites are incurable imperialists, now smarting under the loss of the empire. I remember ,on one occasion, when an Indian participant in the conference questioned a so- called healthy practice presented by a White participant, the latter looked annoyed, and his reply was ‘Mr. so & so, I don’t think I can give a satisfactory answer to your query, ‘cos there is nothing my country can learn from yours, and yours from mine”. Very politely, Mr. so &so replied that he thought that the whole purpose of the conference had been to see what could be shared. At which the White turned blue in the face. Seeing the danger signals, the chairperson of the session intervened.
Now to get back to my take on the issue(actually who is interested? just that I need to think aloud – it’s my pet topic), we Indians, as part of the ex-colonies, are rewriting history. While England is grappling with how to deal with her past, India is showcasing hers. We are writing bout how we resisted a cultural erosion - how we withstood four centuries of white domination; how we came out of it but superficialy scathed. We make proud movies about Gandhi, Bhagat Singh , Mangal Pandey (and a Lagaan) while the British think tanks are debating on how best to put across the shameful history of imperialism to the new generation British learners without tarnishing Britain’s image as champions of human rights.
Shilpa Shetty is of the stock proud of their past and Ms. Jade Goody belongs to a people trying to whitewash the sins of the empire while sulking in private over the loss of the empire, and cursing(in private ) the turn of events which equated colonization with violation of territorial and human rights.