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Indian Complexes

February 25, 2009

Writing for The Times (UK), Tunku Varadarajan feels that Indians are the most complex and complexed people (link via Confused):

Maybe it’s a result of 200 years of colonialism, but Indians are world champions at caring – really caring! – about what foreigners (more accurately, Westerners) think or say about them. They will live blithely with impressively foetid slums in their midst, thinking nothing of the juxtaposition of Victorian-era poverty and world-class, 21st-century living standards. But the national outrage stirred when a Western film-maker uses “slumdog” in the title of his film is an incandescent sight to behold.

That foreigner’s neologism (“slumdog” doesn’t exist in real parlance in India, although gali ka kutta, or alley-dog, comes close) is thought to heap more shame on the land than the slums themselves. And yet when that same film, with that same neo-imperialist title, is fêted by tuxedoed Americans at an awards ceremony watched across the globe, Indians burst with pride. Eight Oscars, yaah! Isn’t that a record? Isn’t A.R. Rahman the best composer in the world? Isn’t Bollywood bloody wonderful? And aren’t our slums a lesson in how to overcome adversity and cruelty?

Aren’t our slum people stoical, resilient, self-reliant, courageous, fraternal, resolute and inventive? Aren’t our slum people the world’s best slum people? [Times Online]

I would guess that the hypocritical Indians that Tunku Vardarajan is talking about are actually not a block. There are those who disliked the film (for technical, aesthetic or other personal reasons) before Oscars, and continue to do so now. There are those were were offended (on behalf of India) by the title and/or the content of the film before the Oscars, and continue to do so now. There are, of course, those who love A.R. Rahman’s work, both before Slumdog Millionaire and in it. And there are countless other such categories of opinion on every issue (including the depiction of slums in the film) pertaining to Slumdog Millionaire.

As to the awards themselves, plenty of people don’t care. Plenty of them do. Sure, in a large set of more than 1 billion people, there will be some hypocrites. But probably not enough to generalize “Indians” as a “complex” and “complexed” people on that basis alone.

I am also assuming that Tunku Vardarajan is drawing his conclusions not on the basis of first-hand research, but on the basis of the tone of media coverage received by the film. I am fairly certain that he can’t point to a specific person whose opinion pieces reflect the kind of complexes and shifts of opinion that he is talking about. You’ll find that such divergent opinions are usually held by different people. That the media choses to highlight one sort at a certain time and another sort at another time, is not the fault of “Indians”.

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  1. Confused
    February 25, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Overlord,

    Your attempt to reason with rants is an attempt to curtail my right to free speech. It is still permitted in your kingdom, I assume.

  2. February 25, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Sire,

    I take exception to the fact that you do not feel Indians are all ‘complex’ and ‘complexed’.

    This is an insult.

    Wait to hear from my lawyer.

    Yours etc
    A complexed Indian.

  3. Overlord
    February 25, 2009 at 7:46 am

    @Confused: You have special permission under Article WTF43 to rant as much as you like!

    @Bongo: I would delete your offensive comment, but it will be useful in court as evidence when I sue you. :D

  4. February 25, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Does the professor understand the concept of Venn diagrams

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