24.10.06

Ooh...aah...India

There are these promos on TV. Celebrities are telling us to root for India in the Champions Trophy: "Ooh...aah...India...aaya India". Supposed to be major emotional appeal, but ends up sounding like an ad for some pain in unmentionable regions.

It sickens me because some corporate organisations believe they have to tell us to applaud our country. Does it mean they assume we would not? Does it mean that watching some famous people is all there is to nationalism? Is a game a yardstick for how we must feel about India?

I don’t know how many of you recall an old ad where Saif Ali Khan was rooting for our men in blue. I had addressed the issue then…

How did you react when you were told you needed a few lays? You smiled. Yes, SMILED. You thought it was a fun thing. No, you thought it was good for your self-esteem, your…gulp… country. This was irresistible. A few lays and from a mere punk you had been transformed into a patriot. Potato chips that threatened you with cholesterol were now your weapon to make the globalised world into an Indian.

The ad being aired during the World Cup matches was clearly distasteful. Saif crunching on those wafers tells a White man cheering for another team that the munchies are so irresistible that he would not be satisfied with one. The bet is that if he asks for more he would have to wear the India T-shirt. Soon, the whole stadium is in blue screaming for our team -- Whites, Blacks, Browns.

What do I find offensive about it? One, we conveniently want a cohesive whole backing us at a time when we are digging our past and fighting amongst ourselves. Two, does nationalism mean over-riding others’ rights? Do we need the crutches of other countries to be able to say we are one? Do we need SMS messages telling us to wear blue condoms and f… the Pakistanis, as happened at that time? Do we need to offer special prayers to win against an ‘enemy’ when we never do that for droughts, train tragedies, people dying of extreme cold and souls getting burnt because of the intense heat? Do we paint our faces in the colour of the national flag when any of our worthy citizens get awarded for their efforts, when a village gets drinking water, when dignity is restored to displaced people?

I don’t need two-bit advertisers, politicians, bending-over-backwards-to-please Muslim organisations, pretending-to-uphold-the-culture outfits, lighting-candles-holding hands ‘liberals’ to tell me what the nation means to me. I shall continue to ask inconvenient questions, stick my neck out, not allow anyone to accuse me of being an ‘appeased minority’ because I believe I can be true to something only if I am not blind. And yes, I like the colour green and I like the crescent moon. But if anyone dares to tell me that this indicates that my place is across the border, then I shall ask them to go take a walk. For they only want to smile during hollow victory marches, while I weep with my country, and when I watch the rainbow in the sky, I know the true meaning of colours. As the rains merge with my tears, I don’t need to prove to any part-time patriot where I belong.

So go ooh…aah…ouch…

6 comments:

  1. EID MUBARAK to you and all!!

    Very creative blog

    Warm regards

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  3. Farzana, What I find interesting in some of the things you say here is that you address the dangers of an extreme nationalism, expressed through the media among other things (a nationalism that wishes to impress something upon the world, but fails to see certain things within) but that you are not like Virginia Woolf in that your country is not the "whole world" Your country is India. And I like that.

    Having said all that, why is it that you yourself need to show how patriotic or nationalistic (there is a difference, I'm told) you are? I do that myself in terms of Pakistan and I wonder why I feel the need to do that. Is it really necessary to do so even as we're critiquing something in our societies? These societies where even if you were in the "majority" you are questioned in terms of your loyalty if you are critical of certain forces. Can we be free to speak what is on our minds and be free of the "guilt" that we perceive is going to be heaped upon us for having done so? I don't know, I've thought about this quite a bit both on the other website and reading you here.

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  4. Arshad:

    Eid Mubarak to you too. Hope it does in fact turn out to be an ooh..aah moment when you have melt-in-the-mouth food -- both culinary and one for thought.

    Ana:

    People who know me well find it funny when I have this 'India is my country' attitude. I do not try to show it (if I did I would have been a roaring success at it, which I am obviously not). It is an internalised affinity, and that is what gets my goat -- when such loyalty is questioned. If I huffed and puffed my way as a patriot it would be like, wow, but I'd much rather waste my breath on more breathless (and breathtaking) activities.

    However, I do not care much about a simpified patriotism, and I won't let anyone tell me how to go about it.

    I do appreciate the idea of globalisation (imagine, it makes one get to know all kinds of people!), but you are right the whole world is not my country. They are good tourist destinations, perhaps a bit more sometimes...but you have one family you are born in...the rest are relatives, friends, acquaintances and other unmentionables...

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  5. I think I may have taken what Woolf said slightly out of context, given the time and the reasons she said, "as a woman i have no country. . ." (Three Guineas) But I guess my point, which you got is that we do have a "country", a place we call "home." And it is an internalised affinity, as you say. I guess what brought Woolf to mind was the way in which you question this notion of nationalism, and who gets left out.

    And I, too appreciate globalization in the sense of what we can share and learn, and who we get to meet and know. . . and that is also where I think my appreciation ends.

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