Last week, I was reminded of a column I wrote in the early days of Paronormal Activity, titled ‘No Sorry Please, We're Indian’ (August 8, 2010), about RR Patil refusing to apologise for a traffic violation.
I had surmised that we Indians find it hard to say sorry because our feudal culture makes us fear loss of power, or terrible retribution, if we admit a mistake.
This week though, there was no shortage of ‘sorrys’. Does that mean the world has changed? Well change is a trickster, so each ‘sorry’gave us a different answer.
The first ‘sorry’, was Arvind Kejriwal’s. Widely reviled for past screw ups, he returned with folded hands to saying sorry to Delhi's voters. What first seemed mere dweebiness, backed up with a consistent engagement with the public and a reframing of their own terms slowly became resonant. What made Kejriwal’s sorry work? In public life, sincerity is an arguable entity.
Today a part of our society is making the shift from the feudal to the entrepreneurial self. A party that seems able and willing to modify its contours in response to the subterranean rhythms of social experience, shows themselves to be of the time, as AAP did by reframing their agenda.
This is actually a more old-fashioned, maybe even grounded idea of the market, where the customer/voter rules, and the party/product must be modified to serve the customer's needs.
This is the new idea of politics perhaps exemplified by AAP, counter to an older feudal idea of both Politics and Market exemplified by big parties and big corporations where bloated entities reap profit from the land, doling out cruelty to those who protest and favours to those who support, engaging from behind high walls and security through call centres and spokespeople.
Who did not find themselves in sync with the times were AIB, who had to say sorry to the Archdiocese of Bombay for having offended the Christian community.
Ab kya bolein? Thanks to the Censors, we have been condemned to demonstrate our progressiveness by supporting the AIB Roast, whose humour is as flimsy as their politics. That's because both these things come from the same place - a rooted engagement with your context. The AIB folks are somewhat talented and intelligent and have often shown spark and gumption, but too much of their work has become derivative of an American template. From this comes an offence that is clumsy—hence requiring apology—rather than potent — hence allowing for a certain firmness, especially in our complex times.
So, who didn't say sorry, then? Keju might have, but KJo didn't. He and Arjun did get scolded by Aamir bhaiya (apne ladke ko hum khud samjhayenge, family will deal with family). And like the AIB, it was Ajay Maken saying sorry, taking the blame for the Congress flunking out big time in the Delhi elections while the Family remained invisible, not backing nobody. Dekhi zamane ki zamindari, eh, AIB and Mr Maken?
Kiran Bedi also did not say sorry but unlike Ajay Maken she called out her foster mai baaps and asked them to say sorry. The BJP did not say sorry either, but even better - we meant to lose. Belying the laughable “we have now arrived in a post-caste, post-feudal Utopia commentary” commentary post the May elections (how many eyes can one person roll you know) the BJP revealed that they were not conceptually unlike their predecessors the Congress, though they might (fair enough) represent a different section of society.
Good thing the trickster change always has a question about your answer. And it’s not just any sorry, it's the right sorry, computerji.
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.