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.