Where do you stand on the spectrum of opinions on nightly debates at nine? For one, I am not certain.
Especially when Indian culture and its identity is concerned.
On the evening of 12th July the debate hashtag was #KamalHaasanSpeaksToArnab. The topics were familiar and evocative: Bigg Boss, womens clothing, morality, tradition, et al. Hindu Makkal Katchi, HumHindu.com, a BiggBoss actor, LGBTQ activist, a political party, an author, a religious leader of some order, an advocate, and a socio-political commentator – all were present or represented.
Indian culture in all its varied glory, built over centuries, isn’t for any one to comment on. We all come with our views and I am happy with its boundaries, pillars and posts being readjusted every single day to reflect present-day sensisbilities. Foremost, for me, is that there ought to be no place for aggression in such discussions, whichever side of the line you stand.
My concern is not with those who represent India that I frankly don’t fathom: the Pandit Ajay Gautams, or Laxmi Narayan Tripathis; their views are esoteric and steeped in traditions that my McCauley-putra sensibilities consider foreign. Even so, there ought to be room for logic. So, when Pdt. Gautam cites Cable TV Regulation Act 1995, section & sub-section included, which allows for considerations of morality & decency, then surely his point of view affords some standing; but his loud outbursts and insults don’t.
But I will steer away even from consideration of law books, for I am not well-versed with the nuances of the law which, I have gathered, are themselves open to interpretation.
So where do our debates fall short?
For me, the views that disappoint me most are those that come from spokespersons of the India that I do recognise: the Ira Trivedis, the Priya Maliks. It’s their unabashed evoking of the imagery of the Kamasutra, or Khajuraho, or contemporary social evils like rape that ultimately prove to be inefficacious. These uni-cellular thoughts have become our go-to defences of modern Indian proclivities, and it’s these that I wish we won’t lean upon from now on for reasons ostensible: the Kamasutra treatise and the temples of Khajuraho were built at the time when India produced its great classical civilisations. During this period India is estimated to have had the largest economy of the ancient and medieval world, controlling between one-third and one-fourth of the world’s wealth. What a glorious time it must have been! Having seen the erotic arts on the walls of the Khajuraho temples, I agree with historians that argue in favour of a highly developed mind, one that was wary of boundaries and questioned them incessantly with each stroke of the chisel. But that’s much like the Indians of today. Except for the ignored realities of present-day India.
Much has stayed the same in the past millennium and much has changed.
It slips my mind, and even google’s, but a social commentator summed it up diligently when he surmised the India of today: one that exists in five centuries simultaneously and one that is witnessing several revolutions concommitantly. Are we, as modern Indians, cognizant of that?
The debate on the evening of 12th was ultimately surmised by author Advaita Kala. She stated convincingly that India, which has withstood much in the past five centuries, is strong enough to withstand Bigg Boss and we should be secure in that knowledge. She proceeded to further qualify all present arguments put forth by the right-wing as ultimately political. And she’s right.
But that too doesn’t concern me.
My present concern is where we as a society find ourselves.
My concern is our relentless pursuit of progressive ideals by the increasingly urban India.
My concern are proclamations such as those made by the author on the panel when she labelled ideas of India held by “the other” as ‘warped’.
My concern arises when the sexual assault cases are considered proof enough of pre-existing corruption of culture that cannot be further corrupted by the unmistakably shallow undertakings of bigg bosses.
My concern is that maybe much is lost in translation as spokenpersons of the right and far-right attempt English.
My concern is that that the 3-second audio lag in satellite beams that interconnect participants from disparate corners of the republic might be long enough to enflame non-existent misunderstadings.
And that’s wbere I stand vis-a-vis my culture in a pool of concerns – social, historical, political, technological. Where and how do you?