A two hundred strong crowd had assembled around in a semicircle to watch half a dozen ‘Goras’ wearing dirty tattered clothes, squatting on the ground with their hats turned upside down and a couple of placards saying “Please give us some money to go back home….we are broke”. It was beginning of the sixties and I as a school boy was part of that crowd opposite the coffee house in the middle of Connaught place where Palika bazaar stands today- watching all this in amusement. Out of this six Goras sitting on the ground, begging for money I noticed that four were Sahibs and two were memsahibs.
Coffee house those days was a good hang out for the journalists.One of the guys from the press stepped out of the crowd and clicked a photograph. In a rage of fit one of the firangis sitting on the ground got up shouting ‘you bloody man give me that camera, hand over the reel now’. He caught hold of the fellow, roughed him up nice and proper before taking out the reel from his camera and shoved him hard back into the crowd saying ‘You want to publish our photograph in the news papers as if we are beggers’.The man was stunned and was terribly scared to even respond.
Not a single person came to the rescue of that journalist, not even one out of the crowd of two hundred stepped forward.Instead,some of them were giggling and some even cheering-right in the middle of our national capital. I was wondering what they were cheering for.
I could never forget this incidence which amply demonstrated to a young boy what we actually are- Slumdogs . Dogs who won’t even bark when they are kicked. Slumdogs never barked at the Moghals, never barked at the Portuguese and never ever barked at the British. I got further convinced about this when I saw movies showing Shahid Bhagat Singh being taken to the gallows by Indian Darogas serving under Indian Jailers. I couldn’t ever understand why they were doing this to their own countrymen. Many of them were even proud of doing their jobs, licking the boots of British officers, to earn their good will, to earn their appreciation waiting for their ‘Shabbashi’ like puppies.
Almost fifty years later on the 26th January- our republic day- I had the same uneasy feeling. I felt like a slumdog. I saw people falling over each other- and mind you sane people- praising a movie which had nothing good to talk about….in fact a repulsive display of western arrogance. Every Indian channel was giving its full band width to Slumdog millionaire – a movie which makes you feel sick as an Indian. I was wondering what this cheering was all about as I had wondered in front of the coffee house almost fifty years ago.
Success of a movie which has been made to display every negative of our society- prostitution, begging, maiming of children and much more is being celebrated by all and sundry in India. In one master stroke slumdog millionaire has created more than one billion slumdogs living in India and abroad. “ Jai Ho, Slumdogs Ki Jai Ho!”
In the name of the art and the holy Oscar, we have lost our sense of self respect. Such good actors like Anil Kapoors and Irfan Khans are still looking up to that one nod, that one thumbs up from that gora sahib, as if begging…. “Hamen Oscar de do Sarkar” like those darogas in the central jail of Lahore where Bhagat singh was lodged.
Please don’t give us the bullshit that this is the reality. We all are aware of the reality, we know the problems of the country, bad governance, poverty et al. But must we show ourselves being raped! And celebrate?
As a young boy I was confused. Today I am angry. Very angry at every slumdog, whether he is a Slumdog poster boy or a slumdog socialite appreciating this movie or a slumdog journalist writing about it or a slumdog film critic giving four and a half stars for the rape of our self esteem.
How do we allow people to insult us in our face without even protesting!Many people from the west still feel we are a country of snake charmers and we have barely been able to make a place for ourselves on the global scene when this one comes. Such rotten portrayal of our society will in no way help boost the self esteem of our brethren settled abroad. In fact they would have to hang their heads in shame. Oh we belong to the country of slums.
There are protests by the socialites when an actor is shown smoking in a movie but not a flutter when a firangi kicks us in the butt. Two hundred people couldn’t call a ‘white beggar’ a beggar fifty years ago and today one billion plus of us don’t have the guts to protest when whites are showing us as a rotting society which actually is not that bad.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that the producers don’t ask for an exemption of entertainment tax and the government in turn in its exuberance doesn’t grant it. Technically such a depressing discourse cannot qualify for any such sops.
We Indians love fancy names and terms coined by the western world, especially which sound cool. Even if they make our mockery, we love it.I give full credit to the director and his team for giving us such a nice name- slumdogs. I as an Indian wont take this because I have the ability to at least protest. I may not be able to bite but I am a slumdog who can at least bark.
PS- Can Karan Johar or Mira Nair, Mani Ratnam, Vishal Bhardwaj make a film on slums and ghettos of America? I dare you.