In an innovative move, the government has decided to establish a new ministry. It will be called the Ministry of Behaviour and Thought Police. In catching up with the times and somewhat envious of active khaps; the growing need to keep up with controlling what people eat, wear, drink, watch, read, and the bright new addition, think, the people of India will get what they need the most. This will create jobs, development, clean water, unpolluted air, easy access to medical care, equal education for all, freedom of speech, bring down corruption, equality for girls, foreign investment, infrastructure, facilities for starting business, have I left anything out? Oh yes! No dengue epidemics. Because this new ministry will cover it all. It is now evident that this is the most important issue in this government’s mind space: Bringing back ‘Bharat ki Sanskriti’.
What is ‘Bharat ki Sanskriti’? Certainly, with globalisation barging into India with the Gucci-Chanel-Louis Vuitton band baja baraat, we have been hurtling through a startling and confusing modernity. As much of a khichdi as a woman in a Marc Jacobs mini skirt and Jimmy Choo stilettos who goes to an astrologer for the perfect time to conceive a boy and fasts every week until she gives birth to a male for the sake of the vansh. And then, proceeds to treat him far more favourably than the three daughters preceding this prince. How modern is that? So, it’s not going to be easy to wipe out ‘Bharat ki Sanskriti’ no matter how many Starbucks and McDonald’s come in to capitalise our market. Even those companies have had to tailor their standard menus to suit the Indian palate. We are royally and loyally stuck in our ways when we choose to be.
Mahesh Sharma, minister of culture and tourism (independent charge), popped into the news when he said we must value ‘Bharat ki Sanskriti’. Some of the points Sharmaji came up with bear looking at (And, I don’t mean the Sharmaji in Tanu Weds Manu, who happens to be quite adorable). “Three generations cooking in the same kitchen and eating on [sic] the same table.”
If he was in tune with the times, he would have added that the men of the house should help in the kitchen. I know many a woman who wakes up at 5 am, cooks and serves breakfast, prepares tiffin lunches for the whole family, leaves lunch for old parents, goes to work all day and returns in the evening to cook dinner all by herself.
“Reading Indian books before reading novels and understanding Indian values.”
Before reading novels? Aren’t the best Indian values reflected by regional language writers in novels? And, how can young people read books when there are virtually no libraries in small towns and none in villages. First, give the young people access to books, and then pontificate.
“Gaining wisdom from Indian museums and historical monuments before trying to learn and visit foreign countries.”
Look at the condition of our museums. Rundown buildings, dust-ridden rooms, priceless works of art and antiquities rotting due to flamboyant neglect. Indian art is kept in foreign museums in a manner that makes you squirm with embarrassment at what we do. Sharmaji himself needs to take a trip to foreign museums to see how it is done and not be uneasy about learning from others.
Sharmaji dumped yet another Babuji phata purana scolding — “Girls wanting a night out may be all right elsewhere but it is not part of Indian culture.” First off, where does he get his ideas of other cultures that allow young girls nights out? There are as many careful, strict parents in the West who establish curfew deadlines for their children to come home. If Sharmaji had had some exposure to families in the West, perhaps he would be surprised that parents all over the world share the same safety concerns, apprehensions of bad influences and determination for a successful future for their children. Yes, there is bad parenting but it is as universal as good.
Did Sharmaji listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first speech at the Red Fort last year? It was the first time a prime minister addressed a sociological issue. He spoke about how girls are treated differently from boys by their parents.
“Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going. If every parent decides to impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters, try to do this with your sons, try to ask such questions of them.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Red Fort, August 15, 2014.
There is no evidence of his ministers and party members of following the prime minister’s views. Ignorantly oblivious to the diversity of ‘Bharat ki Sanskriti’, they have doggedly spread divisive views, reactionary perspectives on women and a violent, aggressive response to any who disagree. That is well-represented and reflected on Twitter. They simply kill debate with abuse.
Giving lectures on ‘Bharat ki Sanskriti’ is just more of the banning syndrome. You tell us how to behave. You tell us how to think. You came to power due to the complete incompetence of the previous government, so that does not suddenly make you politicians into wise sages. We don’t have to listen to you or obey you. Let’s get real here. You won an election. You are there because of the people of India. Our taxes pay your salaries and perks. Please do not forget your leader, our prime minster, began his speech with, “I am present amidst you not as the prime minister, but as the prime servant.” If the people of India get fed up with you, they will simply say what Donald Trump is famous for saying, “You’re fired!”
Madhu Trehan is editor-in-chief, www.newslaundry.com
The views expressed are personal