After reading so much of written word on Slumdog Millionaire, I finally did watch it. There were endless debates that I had read before I saw the movie, debating if this is poverty porn or if this is just showing the real India, which the few of us would like to shy away from. This post is not a review of the Oscar winning movie, but my views on real India and the questions that I have pertaining to the same. I have had these views for sometime now, and all the current debate just provided the required trigger for me to sit and write them down.
Media and to some extent travel industry tries to call the India that lives below the poverty line as real India. India that cheats, India that is ready to do anything to amuse a foreigner and India which is supposedly suffering all the time is more often than not called real India. Without saying so, they say that the rest of the India is unreal and though it may exist, you may not count it in India or lacks the so called Indianess. This springs a few questions in my mind:Do the girls who were assaulted for drinking in a pub does not from the real India? I think most of them have never stepped out of India, have lived within the confines of their families for most part of their lives, have made their way through the not so women friendly atmosphere of this country and have carved out a place for themselves where they feel independent enough to go out and do what men have been doing for ages and have never been punished. What makes them less Indian or what is unreal about them?
Are the busy executives and entrepreneurs who are creating and running businesses not real India? Today they may be zooming on Indian roads in their fancy cars, living out of suitcases and airports across the globe, but they have slogged their way through the same system which after all the liberalization still remains a difficult one to go through. Just because you can see only what they have earned for themselves and not the hard work that they have put through to get them, does it make them less real.
Are our film stars not for real? Just because we get to see only the well managed glamorous image of theirs, and we never get to realize the effort they have to put in to come on top of a highly competitive industry with no job guarantee, and no privacy, does it make them less real? They work as Indians, primarily for Indians, earn their livings from Indians and create the visual imagery of various shades of India both for us and for the world. What makes us feel they do not exist for real?
Are the kids working in our sprawling call center not real India? These kids are slogging for hours, doing some not so exciting work tirelessly at absolutely odd hours, something that does not come naturally to them and to their families. We may not like all their mannerisms, but they are as much Indians. They had the courage to put themselves into something that they had no idea about, the country had no precedence of and they are dealing with people they do not see and cultures that are completely unknown to them and still are raising the living standards of their families.
The politicians who are supposedly leading this country and are often give the impression of being corrupt, power mongers and misleading instead of leading are as much Indians, they thrive on their acceptability by the rest of Indians, and incidentally are the official representatives of India. They are very much for real.
Yes, the poverty laden India is also a part of India, as much as these small shining communities. While we should work on moving people from first category to the second, we should not write down the second segment as unreal India. It is as much real India. A well educated global Indian who today has no inhibitions and wants to take on the world is as much Indian and represents a part of it.
Each of us are different threads that are woven together to make a fabric called India, and that fabric would not be complete without any of them. I do not like it when people feel I or people like me are not ‘Real India’. Like an old Daler Mehandi song, we are all different colors that make this colorful country, and without any of us, this place would be little less colorful.
Do not discard some colors because they are shining, but do work towards making sure that every color is bright and smiling. Economic conditions are not a complete indicator of the happiness, they do play a role and at times a pivotal one, but not hundred percent. Economic disparities exist in every society, have existed ever since the human kind has existed and would continue to exist. We all need to learn to be happy regardless of where we are born and to whom we are born, and similarly respect the existence of others as they are, and not judge them relative to your existence.
PS: My view on ‘Slumdog Millionaire’: It is just another movie, which picked up lot of usual masala from our Hindi movies, is illogical at lot of places like them, establishes no identity for its characters, who switch from Bambaiya Hindi or accented English back n forth. While ‘Jai Ho’ may have brought Rehman a wider recognition, I think he has a body of work which is far better than this one, I love his haunting music in Dil se, his folk based songs in numerous movies. But then this is my personal opinion and am not someone who has seen too many movies to be able to criticize.