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The Inscrutable Enslaved Indians

The rich Indian shall spend her honeymoon basking in the sun draped sands of the beaches in Mauritius and Seychelles and Pattaya and elsewhere.

She shall go saree and shoe shopping in Dubai and London. Depending on her social class, she shall sashay down the London High Street (is that where the top brand-name shops or boutiques or whatever they are called are located?) and shoo in to Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and then Bergdorf Goodman and also visit the Bijan boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

These are surely the immutable laws of nature --> enforced more stringently by the ruling gods of the universe than other may-be laws such as those said to have been discovered by Newton upon the fall of an Apple iPhone. Indians will surely continue to perform these activities even in the 22nd century. Or till all the hydrogen in the interior of the sun runs out and the dying sun blows out like a grotesque, bloated corpse in another five billion years and devours Earth itself.

There are ways and options available to the odd-man out to avoid the noisy market square. There are bylanes which one can try and use to quietly go about one's aimless, rambling affairs.

People seem to have an obsessive need to post photos taken while they were on these globe-trotting expeditions on to Facebook which is faithfully and unfailingly stored by FB's servers in humongous data centers in rural North Carolina. People will share on FB an image of a tree's root structure which has the caption: "share if you can see Ganesh."

If you wish to save yourself from such maddening, asinine balderdash, you have to limit your 'Friends' to a maximum of 20 on the said social networking site.

But what if idiots take over the land of television as well? It is more or less settled that TV is an arid landscape that is parched with too little of substance. 

The religion spewing channels are a world unto themselves which provide a unique and valuable insight into the state of mind of millions of Indians. It's not a pretty picture. Millions of Indians are invested emotionally in these (often bare bodied for some strange reason) charlatans spouting utter nonsense.

Then there are the mass market entertainment channels with their family-intrigue laden daily soaps. These are apparently designed to appeal mostly to the womenfolk of India who tend to be the stay-at-home kind in vast numbers. The intrigues depicted on these family soaps are of an exceedingly trivial variety and the fact that these nitpickings are found appealing by millions of people in India is something quite scary to contemplate.

The sports channels in India are entirely devoted to the religion of cricket. That nearly one billion Indians consider it worth their while to bother themselves with a few worthless individuals hitting a ball with a bat says much about the quality of Indians -- and what it says doesn't make me hopeful about the future of this country.

The other passion Indians have is for the set-piece oversimplified tales of romance and incredible fight scenes that is the story of Indian movies. The average Indian movie portrays the message that a man and a women should kiss and have sex with one individual in their life and that should happen AFTER MARRIAGE. An extraordinarily 18th century-ish idea but which seems to have been taken to heart by the masses of India.

Sometimes -- rarely, I admit, but still -- you'll find a movie's hero and heroine locking their lips rather than moving away at the last minute or the camera cutting to a honey bee or a bird or a flower (though that is still predominantly the case).

I don't think it occurs in Bollywood movies -- wherein a heroine is shown to be in love with one hero in the initial part of the movie and she is lip-locking with him and in the 2nd part, she happily moves on to another man and kisses him. That might be TOO MUCH for the intellectually-challenged Indians. It might give "ideas" to impressionable youngsters --> might even give ideas to young, married couples. And imagine what then! What if that DESTABILIZES the ENTIRE social structure of India!

And so we trundle along as a society -- already well in the 21st century and yet more or less pretending to be in the 19th.

But my surprise was aroused when I happened to see a travel show on CNBC TV18 on October 2, the day that is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, making it a national holiday. I don't know if this came to the program schedulers as something of a surprise -- but clearly, October 2 comes around every year and they should be able to plan ahead regarding how to fill the time on that date if it happens to be a weekday and the stock markets are closed.

CNBC surely could have shown some content from its rich archives -- may be some interviews conducted by Anuradha Sengupta with, say, the elegant Shashi Tharoor, or the superb Vikram Seth or the beautiful Sanjana Kapoor. The channel surely has a lot of options. But what I got to see in the afternoon was a travel show made by the BBC for a British audience.

The show was about a couple of hosts covering India on four wheels and talking about the 'changes' being brought about in India on account of the increasing ownership of these four wheelers. So the hosts start out from the capital New Delhi and branch out in two different directions. One goes west towards Rajastan while one goes east into the heartland of Uttar Pradesh. The male presenter is a quiet sort of thin Britisher who ventures all the way east to Varanasi which is of course a must-visit place on any Western visitor's itinerary to get a flavour of 'religious' India.

I can identify with their morbid fascination with the rituals of Hindus after death -- with the fascination with cremating the dead in Varanasi. It's a fascination I share. Then he visits the Sunadarbans and even a remote mountain in Odisha where the conflict between traditional ways of living of the tribal people and the disruptive forces of development is playing out.

He will by and by make his way to Chennai along the eastern coast of India in his old Ambassador clunker of a car where he will meet up with the lady anchor. She meanwhile reaches the must-visit tourist city of Jaipur where she does an obligatory segment on street kids living under the flyover near the railway station. Then she reaches the city of Udaipur and meets up with a member of that tribe of the most useless Indians -- a former Maharaja. He lives up to the image of a Maharaja and has a collection of Rolls cars to go with that image. She sits in it and honks its horn and shows much excitement and mirth and all her front teeth. For the nth time. She is what is known as an 'outgoing' person. I think.

And she drives her Mahindra SUV on the newly built highways of India and drives towards Mumbai and we get to see people driving on the wrong side and people traveling in dangerous ways in general. Every Indian who lives in India is of course used to seeing these. She reaches Mumbai and goes to meet a Bollywood hero wearing an appropriately weird outfit which she also wears while meeting that old, useless former king-thingy.

She reaches Bangalore after conquering Mumbai and mentions how B'lore is India's answer to Silicon Valley and has lots of call centers and software 'writers.' We see Bangalore police on a Saturday evening setting up check posts on the roads to challan drunk drivers. The usual scenes follow. Nothing to rival what is on offer on those shows where we get to see what American drivers do after getting drunk or otherwise -> what gets recorded from the cameras on the police cruisers.

After other assorted comments, she drives her way to the Chennai beach and the show is over. But not before she offers her final judgment: "Indians just don't know how to drive." And I am left stunned. I am stunned as to why on Indian TV we need to show a show made by the BBC for a British audience. A show in which one of the anchors is a British Indian woman who's a loudmouth which is apparently an acceptable and may be even encouraged quality. Luckily, such woman anchors are few and far between. The only other anchor who irritates me in a similar manner is Sarah Jacob of NDTV, their U.S. based correspondent. But luckily, Indians have gained self-confidence in recent times and concentrate on themselves now a days like any other self-respecting, self-absorbed nation (think America). So there's little and occasional reporting about events in America which means Ms. Jacob's face is rarely to be seen in prime time.

It's quite difficult to imagine that an Indian TV program made by, say Zee TV, about America, where a couple of anchors travel across America on a road-trip is shown on some American network like ABC, NBC, or CBS.

Why do we in India have to watch travel shows about INDIA(!) made by the BBC? If Jeremy Clarkson shoots an episode of Top Gear where a Jaguar has a toilet fitted to the rear, Indians get offended which is just being silly and over-sensitive but why is it not a problem when an Indian female living in Britain makes over-the-top generalizations about India?

Is this proof, if proof were needed, that Indians are especially possessed of a slavish mindset? The French had a Revolution where they dethroned the royalty and created a Republic. The British are still clinging on to be a moribund and irrelevant monarchy, but that's only because the Monarchy smartly have converted themselves into Monarchy Lite and they are trying to make themselves look hip and the British are crazily attached to their weird rituals and traditions. The Chinese emperors are strictly confined to the history books while the Japanese emperor is also a constitutional figurehead. The Americans gained independence from under British rule and were smart enough not to start a monarchy in America. The Iranians unfortunately had a pretty bad Shah; so they overthrew him and went for a crazy Mullah. That's what is called jumping from the frying pan to the fire but that's what happens when you believe in religion in general and Islam in particular.

What about India? There have been kings and emperors FOREVER here. Indira Gandhi tried to abolish their substantial holdings. But many of the former royal families and the former rulers of various princely states continue to wield considerable powers in their localities -> they are like local satraps or chieftains. Smartly, they often enter into the hurly burly of modern Indian politics and the democratic drama of electoral politics.

But it's a mystery as to why the free citizens of India would vote former maharajas into the Parliament. It shows how strong the grip of the former rulers was that they were able to translate the power they previously had into winning votes in a free and fair election.

Also, it shows the slavish mindset of the people who choose to indirectly say that we want to be ruled by these kings and emperors. Alas, India is very far indeed from being a true democracy like Switzerland.


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