The Art Of Spotting A Slight Where None Was Intended

Yesterday, I was witness to a rather fascinating conversation among the three sixteen-ish girls who were standing next to me in the bus. Now, I’m not sure what sparked their discussion but from what I could infer, they were diehard fans of Alia Bhatt and were discussing about the controversy set off by the ‘Radha’ song. But before I could gather what the controversy was, a rather..erm…well-built aunty with an equally well-built handbag got in between us, thus ending my rather harmless eavesdropping session.

And since I had nothing better to do (Now you get an idea about the degree of my joblessness!), I came home and summoned the Google Devi, vowing to get to the bottom of this. And I did. What I read made me want to bang my head on the wall, on my desk, anywhere, but then I’d hurt my head and probably have an aneurysm. (Yes, I know that I watch way too much Grey’s Anatomy) So I thought I’d share it with you all and make you want to bang your heads on the wall. You know what they say – safety in numbers and all.

So here goes a list of some of the ‘controversies’ triggered by the songs in the recent times. Oh btw, my dear reader, you are forewarned. What follows is my rant rather than a decent blog post.

Let’s start with the song that started this rant. According to Hindu Janjagriti Samiti (HJS), in the song Radha (Student of the Year), lyricist Anvita Dutta used the word ‘sexy’ to describe Radha, thus making a derogatory reference to the mythological character Radha of Hindu religion. That doesn’t really astonish me because I had been expecting this ever since the very first time I heard this song. But what had me doubling up with laughter is Ms. Sushma Swaraj’s take on this – Apparently, while addressing a function of RSS, she mentioned that there are references to Radha (in the film) not knowing how to dance and being invited to the dance floor to learn dancing and that such references are attacks on Hindu beliefs. Incidently, Sushma Swaraj also had a problem with the movie Oh My God because the lead role (portrayed by Paresh Rawal) is shown to be an atheist. Erm…melodramatic much?

The music maestro A.R Rahman too has been subjected to his share of meaningless controversies. Hosanna, a chartbuster from Gautham Menon’s Ek Deewana Tha (yes, the lukewarm Hindi version of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya) has been objected to by the Catholic-Christian Secular Forum, which has said, “It has hurt not only Christian, but also Jewish sentiments.” CSF general secretary Joseph Dias was quoted as saying, “We aren’t going into the lyrics or vulgar picturisation of the song which are also objectionable. But we’d like to point out that Hosanna is a prayer in the Bible and sacred to both Jews and Christians.” Excuse me, but are we talking about the same song here?? What vulgar picturisation?? Have I been sold a bogus CD? Fraud! I know my rights! Consumer court – I want a refund!

And then there is Marjaanifrom Billu. Or was it Billi? Whatever! The movie had already been dragged into courts as some barber associations objected to use of the word “barber” in the title (It was initially titled Billu Barber). What is so objectionable about calling a barber a barber is beyond me! Anyway, I’ve heard and seen this particular song many a time and try as I might, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. So I searched and searched and finally found that the lyrics in limelight are ‘Rab ki hazoor mein kasme jo khayee.” I really don’t know what is so terrible in these lines to offend a section of the Muslim audience (I found a lot of explanation about how the word hazoor has been used to describe presence rather than the Prophet, but I don’t know enough to comment on that. Plus, my Hindi is rather basic), but offended they were!

If you can’t slam a movie for hurting “religious sentiment”, then the next shot is racism. The title song of Madhur Dixit’s Aaja Nachle irked certain communities in Uttar Pradesh so much so that Ms.Mayawati called for a nationwide ban on the movie. Allegedly, the title song humiliated Dalits. Now, of course, I couldn’t rest without knowing what the lyrics were precisely. The lyrics which was responsible for all this hungama is the seemingly harmless line hidden somewhere in the title song which goes like ‘bole mochi bhi khud ko sonaar hai’ which roughly translates to ‘the cobbler tried to pass off as a goldsmith’. Assuming that you are as confused as I am, let me try to explain to you how calling cobbler ‘mochi’ turned out to be so derogatory. See, the cobbler or shoemaker often makes things made of leather. Leather is made from hide. Hide comes from cows. Person who profits by death of cow is traditionally… not popular, shall we say? To add things up, we have here a person who makes an important product from an unpopular resource and further, in the context of the song, tries to pass himself off as a goldsmith in order to score a date. Whew! A glass of water, someone?

So there you have it. This is why they collect taxes every year (and in numerous names). There may be numerous powercuts all day long, roads may not be tarred, women maybe raped every 10 minutes…but the government will somehow find the time to watch a Madhuri Dixit film first day, first show and raise a voice in protest if it feels Mrs.Dixit has cast a shadow on your honor. Impressive!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a million references in a million different songs that have affronted numerous sections of the society for reasons which seem exceedingly trivial. It feels like a trend nowadays to judge a movie even before it is released, as was the case with Vishwaroopam, and portray it in a negative light as opposed to allowing the audience to watch the movie and judge for themselves. Is our faith and self-respect so fragile that it can be dented or shattered by something that whizzes through the cinema screen for an hour or two? We speak about unity in diversity and open-mindedness and yet when push comes to shove, it is my-group vs. your-group!

I particularly have a problem with the controversies sparked off by alleged ‘disrespect to religious beliefs’. I, for one, believe that our faith is wholly personal matter, which no one can tarnish unless you let them. It is common consensus that there is but one God (if you believe in Him, that is!) who, incidently, is probably ROFL-ing at all the rubbish that is being done for his benefit! And please don’t get me started on the intolerance towards atheism. But, more of my verbal diarrhea on religion and society later. (A word of advice – if you are around when I start pontifying about religion and society, run.)

Honestly, how the use of a word in a song reflects the thoughts of a society, I fail to understand! Remember the Rang De Basantidebacle where the government was ‘concerned’ as the movie seems to send out the wrong message to the youngsters as it shows the shooting of the corrupt minister? Also, do you remember how one group of demonstrators, taking cue from the scene in which the protagonists hold a silent, candlelight vigil at New Delhi’s India Gate, carried out a similar rally to voice their protest over the acquittal of the main accused of the Jessica Lal murder case? How much more proof do you need to realize that the Indian society has enough sense to discern the good from bad on its own without every other word being censored?

What good can ever come of all this mollycoddling??

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Every year, on the second week of May, my Gmail inbox is bombarded with ideas for Mother’s Day gifts, cards, vouchers, blah blah blah. And every year, I delete them right off without even bothering to open many an email. This happens for the reason that no one in my family ever celebrates the Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anybody’s Day because they (and by they, I mean my achan) feel (VERY strongly, if I may add) that these celebrations are ‘brought on by commercialization which is manipulating the rudimentary emotions of love and respect among the human beings by confining them to a particular Day of the year as opposed to spreading them year round’. If you think that was harsh, then wait till you hear about what happened when my sister and I, who was around 11-years-old then, tried to celebrate my parents’ anniversary by getting them a present and *hold your breath* a card! ‘Coz, you see presents are dangerous but cards are fatal. But that is a story for another Day (pun totally intended :D).

This year, I am kinda jobless at the moment, as you might be aware, so I decided to spend some time going through those emails and take a peek at what all this fuss what about. What attracted me among those newsletters where not the striking pictures or offers but some well chosen definitions for the word ‘Mother’ because, to be honest, I had never thought of ‘mother’ as a word. I mean, Mother was always my amma. It never crossed my mind that this word can be interpreted in so many different ways. And one of the descriptions which caught my fancy goes thus.

“Mother is a title given to someone as a mark of respect for their age and wisdom” 

When I read this, the first thought that crossed my mind was that if that was the case, then I have a number of names and images to associate the word mother with. And that, my friends, is why I’m taking this stroll along the memory lane to pay tribute to some very fine ‘mothers’ who’ve touched me in ways too many to list.

The first image that comes to my mind is that of a reasonably tall, well-built lady with curly hair and a heavenly smile – Savithri Namboothiripad, my LKG teacher. Incredibly gorgeous, she was blessed with good-looks that would put Aishwarya Rai to shame and what she lacked in beauty, she made up with her incredibly loving nature. How we first met is a story which my amma loves to recount in every gathering. (Humiliating their children in front of perfect strangers is the No:1 past time of all parents. But of course you know that.)

The story unravels thus – I am said to have been a rather happy-go-lucky toddler who didn’t have any qualms about being hugged by strangers or being around unknown people, and so on the first day of LKG, I was the only one among the mass of bawling, drool-spitting mass of humanity with a grin on my face. Savithri teacher is said to have been so startled and charmed by this phenomenon that she asked me, innocently, “vava mathram enda karyathe?” Apparently, I took this to be a bad thing and immediately started bawling for God-knows-what reason and Savithri teacher came to be known as the teacher-who-made-the-smiling-kid-cry.

I still run into her at the supermarket and such, and she still remembers me. Scratch that – she still remembers all her students. By name. One of my fondest memories of her is when I spotted her riding on her son’s bike through the Swaraj round. I was in an auto unsure of whether I should call out at her or not when she turned, looked straight at me, gave me a heavenly smile and big wave. That is how cool she is. Kind, smart, amazing…I run out of adjectives when I describe her.

Another incredible person I want to introduce to you is a supermom in its truest sense. She is one of my oldest friend’s mother. Everyone in my batch knew her. She was one of the warmest, friendliest, most outgoing mothers I’ve ever seen. She always knew the name of every single friend of her daughter’s, she was always the first to volunteer for any school activity, she threw the best b’day parties – Mini aunty was THE mom. I got along really well with her, right from my KGs. I’d often call her daughter (who is my friend) and Mini aunty would chat with me for a while first. Her demise was my first brush with grief that refused to translate to heart-wrenching sobs but crept up, often unexpectedly, like a very painful thorn in the shoe.

As I grew up and started spending more time at my friends’ place than mine, I got to many more lovely mothers like Viji aunty, who has literally seen me grow up from a chubby kid to…well, to the person I am now (she even has pictorial evidence of the same.. eeks!), Subi aunty who has (again) known me right from my pre-KG days, Velyu (short for Velyamma :P) who has coped surprisingly well with my compulsive addiction towards a-certain-dish – amazingly compassionate women (with exceptional cooking skills. Aah..!) who, in my amma’s words “have been born with more than their share of patience”.

 And then, of course, there is the first mother (like The First Lady :D) – my amma who has treated me more as a friend than a daughter from the time I can remember. She is less of a cuddly/spoil-your-child-a-bit mother and more of a you-want-something-done-then-better-do-it-yourself person (especially when you want her to wash your socks). Extremely passionate about what she believes in, she taught me, by example that it’s important to say sorry if you have wronged, age non-withstanding. She taught me that it doesn’t matter if you are not the best – what matters is getting up in the morning and trying. She’s super- intuitive in some instances, totally oblivious at others, she’s a total tube-light when it comes to chalis and is obsessed with knowing exactly what you mean when you say something – once, in a fit of rage, I told her to stop chorialing me and she was behind me for the next few days, wanting to know the exact meaning of chori. She is the first person who comes into my mind when I hear the words ‘unconditional love’.

I could go on about all the wonderful people I’ve met who have a special place in my mind forever, but since this is neither the place nor time to write a novel (plus, I really don’t want to stretch your patience), I wind up by wishing all the wonderful, gorgeous, and empathetic mothers all the good in the world. I’m sure you know this, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times but I just want you to hear it one more time – We love you. It’s just sometimes we don’t know how to say it. Sometimes it just comes out screaming or crying. So the next time you hear us screaming, know that what we are actually saying is “I love you, Mom”.

Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂