1. I am not trying to be patriotic here.
2. I am not trying to preach here.
3. All I’m trying to do here is to be honest.
I saw “Chak De India” yesterday. Too late to write about a movie which was released almost a month ago, you may say. But who said I’m going to write only about the movie? This post is about some of my musings after watching the movie.
The movie kept intruding into my thoughts for quite some time after I finished watching it, not allowing me to think clearly about anything else. This has happened so many times before, whenever I watched a movie which was educating or expressing. Entertaining movies, even when its storyline remains in memory, won’t haunt me like the other two. Haunt…it is literally the word which best expresses my feeling after watching the movie.
“Chak de” is the typical sports movie which is completely predictable, has several moments of adrelanin rush and where underdogs come out big. But more than that, it mentions (sometimes highlighting, sometimes as passing comments) several shortcomings of the wonder that is India, starting from the suppression of women, to the tepid acceptance of the people from peninsular India and the North East, to the media playing the devil and ruining one man’s life.
Two initial scenes struck a chord for me:
1. The scene where the North-Eastern girls, Mary and Molly ask “Does it ever feel good to live as guests in one’s own country?”
2. The scene where the guy comments that Tamil and Telugu are the same.
(RNI) RESIDENT NON-INDIANS
Now, feeling alienated in a place where you have spent your entire life, is not new to me. I am an Iyer, a person of Tamil ethnicity, but nevertheless a Keralite.
We are a small community of Tamil-speaking people who have been in Kerala for generations. (Like… from my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.)
We have been in Kerala our entire life, we have learnt Malayalam, we follow the culture of Kerala. We are in most rights Malayalees, with some added culture and customs of Tamil.
Yet we are neither accepted as Keralites in Kerala, nor as Tamilians in Tamil Nadu.
My Malayalee “friend” (or is he, really?) calls us “Paandi” (A not-so-nice term for a Tamilian), and say we don’t belong there. I can speak and write better Malayalam than him. I’ve often found it amusing when a shopkeeper tries to communicate with us in half-Tamil, even if we talk to him in fluent Malayalam, as if we didn’t know that language well.
Tamilians often make fun of the corrupted Tamil which we speak at home.
Some dudes/dudettes from our community call themselves KBCT (“Kerala Born Confused Tamilian” after “American Born Confused Desi”) just to show off that they are cool. (Or is it “kewl”?)
LIKE PEAS AND CARROTS
About the ignorance of North Indians about anything south, I guess the ignorance is mutual. We too don’t know much about North, except perhaps from the history books. But knowledge is not the factor here. You can get the knowledge any time. Many North Indians look at us with a kind of fascination as if we are some exotic people. I think this mostly is a resultant of the difficulty of South Indians to talk Hindi properly, which prevents a Northie and a Southie from mingling as much as two Northies do.
The casual questions that my colleagues ask me mostly pertain to:
1. How Kerala has a lot of Christian population
2. How come I don’t eat meat. They thought all Keralites were non-vegetarians.
3. A fascinated musing on the high literacy rate of Kerala.
4. Making fun of the heavily accented English of most Mallus.
5. Whether I know how to climb coconut trees (Duh!)
I myself have asked questions to Northies which might have sounded really stupid to them. I’m not blaming anyone here. I’m just wondering, and marveling at the sheer complexity of the Indian society. Like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump says. They really go together well, but not quite.
I learned the what and why of “Unity in diversity” in India in my history lessons. But I still don’t know the answer to the How! That’s why India is a miracle to me. All Indians are bonded in the eyes of an outsider, albeit being a very loose one, but inside, it’s just a mob.
Few comments I heard from some friends and the media about the movie, almost made me laugh. The media and the vast majority of youngsters are just as predictable as the movie. For some, it was a movie that every patriotic Indian should watch. But for others, it was a movie made with the exact ingredients of a money-making movie. There was little or no third opinion.
These are the same people who have debates about India over a cup of coffee.
They can be broadly classified into two. One group, where people feel immensely proud to be an Indian, and show that only by sending SMS/Forwards which ask you to forward this to 10 people if you are a “true” Indian, blogging and proclaiming that you should watch this movie if you are a “true” Indian. I was one among them, posting once about a youtube video right here in this blog. I have moved on realizing that knowing your India is not enough, you should move your India forward.
The other group, think that India is going to the gutters, and there is no way they can stop it. So they should also live their life in the little time India has left to stay out of the gutters. Who the hell cares about India? They care only about themselves. I don’t even want to talk about this group. The reason is not their selfishness, but rather their pessimism about India.
Still, I wonder whether a patriot is someone who watches/reads about and relishes some patriotic deed done by characters in a movie.
I read a review which said that Chak de is a must watch for every patriotic Indian. What the hell does that exactly mean? How does a binary deed, that either you watched a movie or didn’t, dictate your Indianness?
While I completely agree that Chak de, or Rang De Basanti for that matter, will invigorate the love for your country in you, be honest in telling me how long does that vigor stand? One month? Or maybe two… Then after a hiatus, someone else again makes another movie, and again another round of discussions, blogs etc. go on babbling about how proud they are to be Indian.
I’m not blaming their pride. I’m blaming the ephemeral nature of their pride, which stays only in their words, and not their deeds.
People will now counter saying that this is as patriotic as a civilian can get. We can never be as good a fighter as those great people who took beatings and those who died for our country. But I’m not talking about fighting against corruption, black money and blah blah here. Those are strenuous territories to tackle. Rather, do something at the grassroots. There are much easier things that you…me…we can do, and be patriotic. A patriot (and this is not a wordweb definition) is someone who does something good for the country, or his society. And sending SMS/Forwards is not doing any good.
We can keep our surroundings, if not our city, clean. Even if it is not clean, don’t mess it up further, uttering that old engineer guy’s seemingly bright phrase, “infinity plus one is still infinity”. You can be the lone good guy in traffic without breaking traffic rules, even if it means you are taking more time to travel. A single person army cannot improve things by following rules. But do you know what it does? It will give you a sense of satisfaction that even if you’re not doing something great, you’re not worsening the situation. Does it do any good? Yes it does. Humans have this amazing nature of imitating others. After all, we were evolved from monkeys. What you do, your friends (whatever meager fraction it is) may start doing tomorrow, their friends on the day after that.
People who do these and more, are the everyday patriots. We have a fire inside us. We just have to sustain it with splinters. I can also say that you will get occasional fuel from movies.
All I wanted to convey here is that remember, talk your talk, and work your work in your India every day, instead of remembering only when “patriotic” films are released.
Now for the title. Apart from being a pun, I meant that we should chuck out our bullshitting, our bland talks and do something worthwhile, for our country. However minuscule it is, doesn’t matter. And if you got it inside you, go for better deeds.
JUST DO IT, INDIA
PS: Oh, and the movie… It’s good. Go watch it.