You really have no choice. If you are an adult who lives in theproximity of television and a child, you must bow down to one supreme being — Doraemon. Yes, other cartoons are popular, but Shinchan and Chhota Bhim, but Doraemon is a cult with wild-eyed child members. Doraemon appears at traffic signals, on keychains, t-shirts and probably one in two birthday cakes.
I first learned about Doraemon from the facebook status of my friend A, father of two. In unambiguous terms it said: “Kill Doraemon.” If you have heard the maddening soundtrack of the cartoon’s Hindi version and the sing-song Hindi dubbing peculiar to this, you will understand A’s emotions. My niece became a card-carrying Doraemon cult member, before she was two, and any fantasies I had entertained about being the coolest person in her life were shattered by that Doraemon cat.
For those lofty souls who still inhabit a world without television or children, Doraemon is a cartoon wherein a cat who helps a boy called Nobita, aided by various nifty gadgets, to solve the problems of school, friends and parental unreasonableness. Except, as I discovered, to my lasting shock, Doraemon is not a cat. Doraemon is a robot!
And he has been sent back from the 22nd century by Nobita’s great-grandson, to teach Nobita the good values he needs in order to ensure a better future for the generations of his family to come. The futuristic gadgets are fished out of Doraemon’s magic pocket, which seems to be some kind of portal into the Croma store of the future.
I can understand why Doraemon appeals to older kids, given the fantasy element, and serious attention to childhood problems like homework and parents. Until I thought Doraemon was a talking cat, I thought I also understood why my niece loved it. But once I discovered the complicated back-story and plot of the cartoon, I’ve struggled to understand what it does for a two-year old.
While I’m not very close to understanding that, Doraemon has helped me understand something about my niece, who began speaking in full Hindi sentences quite early. Most of these have been in the manner of actresses in 1940s Hindi films — “arre, main tou gir hi gayi” “arre! yeh kaisi aawaz thi?” I now understand, that this artful, exclamatory way of speaking is a new language - Doraemon Hindi.
Of course I still cannot explain why what seems so cute in a kid – because it is indeed very cute in her, even if she is not your niece — is so annoying in cat-I-mean-robot and a bunch of animated Japanese people. What I do understand is that it is now not possible for human family members to compete with D.
For my niece, there is no trial or tribulation that Doraemon cannot provide solace for. When she was sick, recently, she cried out not for water or Papa, and definitely not Maasi, but for Doraemon and we were compelled to find an episode for her on youtube. It turned out to be in Japanese but she didn’t care. I attempted to turn this contest with Doraemon (who I though now had a handicap of language) in my favour: “Do you know where they speak Japanese?” I asked. “In a place called Japan.” My niece gave me a look that made it clear I had embarrassed her in front of Doraemon.
“Not Japan.” She replied. “They speak it in the computer.” She turned back to Doraemon who understands the metaphors of existence, while her aunt remains backwardly literal. I rolled over, and accepted defeat.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.