Friday, June 01, 2007

Get offended

The last few years have seen numerous cases of people getting offended for weirdest acts of crime; be it the offense over Ravi Shastri eating beef, Richard-Shilpa kissing, Saching cutting tricolor cake, or even Narayan Murthy playing National Anthem musical. There are many more cases of these kind, but the ones listed above are definitely representative of the ones dominating public memory. While the first one was seen as offending religious sentiments, the second one was about culture and the latter two were about national symbols. What is peculiar about these cases is that not only is there no hint of intention to cause offense, but the offense reported seems to come more out of the insecurity and inferiority complex of the people getting offended. What else can explain people getting offended on a thing like cutting a tricolor flag. I love my motherland, and if I had independently come to know of a person cutting a tricolor flag, I would have admired his love for India.

But the people directly involved are also not the only ones to be blamed for this. Unfortunately, our socio-cultural upbringing lays more stress on looking up to the west than being pride of our own culture. So when we see a person aping west by eating beef, paranoia reaches its peak as we start feeling insecure that someone our own has deserted us for the west; ditto for an Indian women receiving a kiss in public. Also since we look down at our country's past when compared to the west, we are again quick to take offense at something remotely offensive. Something that happened in 2002, should have actually taken place in 1947.

Moreover, it should be the intention that should count and not the end result. There are many things we see and experience regularly that would technically amount to religious (or national) blasphemy if seen with a different perspective. When a potter or sculptor makes giant Lord Ganesh statues for Ganesh Chaturthy, they have to invariably step on the chest (or sometimes the head) of Ganesh to make it perfectly. When Diwali arrives, every other local newspaper publishes a full page Goddess poster which ends up in the waste paper bin or the raddi-trolley. Ever visited a primary school? Just see the children singing the National Anthem and you will start rolling listening to the mistakes they make. Think yourself as perfect? Just sing the Anthem yourself. If it is even a second longer or shorter than 52 seconds, it would be my pleasure to sue you. Of course, there is a good possibility that once that I have pointed these out, some people would have already begun their hunt to get offended.

The only way I see out of this to start taking pride in our own culture and stop teaching our children that we Indians are inferior to our western counterparts. What was started by the British to save their crown seems to have been dutifully followed by our countrymen even after independence. While nearly all developed countries do official business in their native language, India still clings to English.

Interestingly, I quizzed myself on what would come next: the BIG thing of taking offense. My search did not last long. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you this video to take offense to.

Needless to say, this video is an insult to our country. Not only does it distorts the way our National Anthem is sung, it even has regional dialects thrown in. What is more, this one has big names involved (Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, A R Rahman, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and many more), enough to get you good publicity if that is your sole motive. Grab this opportunity before someone else does.

I can hardly wait to see a news coverage on this video controversy.