Lindsay Pereira: Missing the wood for the trees
In our country, we prove, time and again, that issues of importance pale in comparison to diversions that anger us with ease
What does the world think of India? This isn't a question we should ask ourselves because, as our politicians repeatedly tell us, the world is of no importance. This probably explains why none of us has stopped to think about how so many of our countrymen have gone out of their way to make our country a laughing stock.
The Kurla subway showed signs of disrepair within two weeks, but our government hasn't said a word about it yet
A film no one has watched yet has been grabbing headlines for weeks. It is supposedly based on a fictional character, because that's what filmmakers do for a living. It has been cleared by the Censor Board, which we have because millions of us can't be trusted to watch a film without the permission of a government body. And yet, there are a large number of men and women who want the film banned, the filmmaker beaten, and the leading lady's nose to be separated from her face, because they believe they have been slighted.
This would have been a big issue if some of the people upset about the film were half as angry about how living women in their communities continue to be treated. Female infanticide hasn't raised their hackles, honour killings are laughed off, and the inability of their wives, mothers and daughters to walk down streets in safety after sunset are all real problems that have been brushed off. What has angered them is a movie based on the protagonist of a poem that was written a few centuries ago. The world finds this amusing, obviously, but who cares about what the world thinks?
A representative of a major political party threatened to chop off the nose of a sitting Chief Minister a few days ago, because she dared to invite the filmmaker to screen his film in her state. He hasn't been condemned for his action, because we now live under a government that thrives on intimidation, and encourages threats against women, students, minorities, Dalits, or anyone who dares to question the status quo. The world may label this form of governance as fascism, but we shouldn't worry about that because other things matter.
Closer to home, many of our city's residents lost their lives in another accident that could have been prevented, but wasn't because our government was busy launching a social media campaign about its many successes. We were angry about it for a week and have now moved on, because we are comfortable with the idea that nothing will change. The deaths of so many people on account of government apathy in any other country would have prompted law suits, immediate action against erring officials and a radical overhaul of public transport. We can't be bothered though, because there's a movie we have to protest against.
A pedestrian underpass connecting western and eastern Kurla, that was planned back in 2002 and finally opened this month, showed signs of disrepair within two weeks. The roof began leaking, exhaust fans failed to function, paan stains lined the walls and there were no security guards to be found. It took the BMC R9 crore to construct. That sort of ineptitude would call for an inquiry and the rolling of heads in any country that cared about its citizens, but our government hasn't said a word yet, because it's too busy trying to figure out if we should all be allowed to watch a film or not.
One would assume, going by the anger the treatment of this fictional character has generated for weeks, that we are a nation deeply invested in the safety and protection of women. And yet, everything from our birth and literacy rates to falling numbers of women in the workplace, an ever-increasing gap in wages and our complete inability to ensure the protection of women in almost every state, is proof that the exact opposite is true. So, the world will have to acknowledge that we don't care about women, but it won't bother us.
Here's another piece of information that should make us proud. A recent survey by anti-corruption global civil society organization Transparency International gave India its highest bribery rate among 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. Apparently, nearly seven in 10 people who accessed public services in our glorious country had paid a bribe. This will probably affect the way the rest of the world looks at us, and will certainly change the way all Indians are perceived. That shouldn't matter to us though, because we have more important things to discuss and sort out first. Like that movie.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to email@example.com