Nissim Ezekiel’s essay titled ‘Naipauls India and Mine’ was written as a response to VS Naipauls famous book ‘An Area of Darkness (1964)’. Ezekiel wrote his essay as a response to the harsh and unfair treatment India had suffered at Naipaul’s hand, which to a greater extent is true. Naipaul mired into an area that his ancestors called home: India, the land extraordinaire. His first visit to India disappointed him for he witnessed reality as opposed to how he thought it was. Now, Danny Boyle was only eight years old when Naipaul wrote his book and was nearly five decades away from directing ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The movie was based on a book by an Indian author who presented similar characteristics of India as defined by Naipaul, or worse. However, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ lives today as India’s jewel: slum dweller kids-turned-actors who went rags to riches, Mr. India (Anil Kapoor) going Mr. Worldwide and a song that became India’s fanfare. The slum dog saw light whereas Naipaul still rests in darkness.
India is the moody nation. It is aware, it is active, and it reacts but, nevertheless, is moody. I am part of it and so are you. India is the bathtub duck refusing to sink. India is the moody common man who pays Clean India tax, yet throws garbage out on the street. India is both viral on the Internet and slow on scheduled train arrival times. The moody nation India is mercurial.
It is true when I use the word mercurial, for India is rather confusing. Of all I have discovered, India does not like assertive women. I noticed opinions on two major women empowering themed content that surfaced on the Indian shore: Deepika Padukone’s My Choice and Kangana Ranaut’s movie Queen. Both seek to address the need of being modern and independent women. But the way in which they do that makes all the difference. The ‘My Choice’ video is bold and assertive, whereas Queen is a fun movie of desi-girl gone chic. The reviews of both these films are binary opposites. Queen was adored across India, whereas ‘My Choice’ was criticized heavily. A third front emerges between all the criticism and film awards: the common Indian woman who labors for her patriarch husband but votes Queen for best movie and shares ‘My Choice’ on her Facebook timeline. Where is ‘her’ choice? Is she the ‘queen’ of her life or only lost in irony? The same moody nature is true for Indian media, Indian film industry and Indian politics. Bollywood cashes in on thicker box office records and caches out on thinner waist sizes. On the other hand, Indian voters wish for better educational facilities but vote for an uneducated candidate. A friend reminds me how the lower section of the society is a victim of this moodiness. She recalls when Dalit women are raped it barely reaches neither any attention not justice; whereas when an upper caste is raped it calls for a mass humiliation of the perpetrator. I recall my professor saying that in India, we are both the victim and the perpetrator.
Our dear Indian media swings you like a hurricane. It is the biggest contributor to the moody nation. There contribution begins in the morning with the newspaper and morning primetimes. There presentation (read selection) of news is a daily staple for most Indians. These very Indians who read, or rather consume, the newspaper reciprocate the narrow view that they are presented. Hence, a drought facing Maharashtra is the headline whereas it takes an entire village to die of floods in Assam to barely make it to a national daily. Rakhi Sawant’s plea to ban fans is more trending on the Internet than landslides in Arunachal Pradesh or rising deaths of sewers cleaners. The evening primetime of the Indian media is pure sensationalizing. In fact, it takes the guts of a moody Indian to call it news reading, whereas it is no less than a Rohit Shetty movie with loose plots, theatrics and a star cast.
You must be wondering what lies ahead for the Moody nation? Will it tremble or will India in all its complexities and diversity, gain altitude? The literary world has most often referred India as the wise elephant. It paces slow towards its goals but is steady. It is firm yet graceful. The elephant thus embodies India as a nation. However, with the current direction that India paves for itself, India will rise and glow, but only to burn itself. It operates like a light bulb that fuses in high wattage. Naipaul explains the metaphor of the light bulb in his book An Area of Darkness: “Out of its squalor and human decay, its eruptions of butchery, India produced so many people of grace and beauty, ruled by elaborate courtesy. Producing too much life, it denied the value of life; yet it permitted a unique human development to so many”. Author Gurucharan Das rightly fortunes India’s fate: “The struggle of one sixth of humanity (India) for dignity and prosperity is a drama of the highest order and of great consequence to the future of the world”.
In my opinion, India is far from being an elephant- the grandiose of all forest. Presently, India appears like a cow that graces you on our streets. It sits wherever it wants. It walks wherever it wants. It herds wherever it wants. The traffic goes around it but it doesn't move. Yet it exists in all its magnanimity, going on and on.The cow is moody and Indian, and so are we.
This article first appeared on The Assam Tribune.
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