This is the season when the nation remembers its heroes. As I watched another Republic Day parade on TV, a parade of images of events of the last year passed before my eyes.
These were images of how India is portrayed in the media, films and books. These images shape the relationship, we as citizens, share with our country. People buy into these attitudes.
We’ve seen responses to the 26/11 terror attacks, ranging from the genuine to the maudlin, from jingoism to reminders of the importance of tolerance. We’ve seen songs, funerals, discussions; we’ve even seen the police parade some ‘suspects’ before cameras. These ‘suspects’ were later freed, but immediately lost their jobs and were shunned, as if proven guilty. We haven’t been told their stories as yet, but should be.
The Satyam swindle too shook our confidence in the stock market, implying dirty deals between big players and politicians. But then, you could say, an Indian won the Booker Prize and upped our sense of pride.
The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga is a gripping and darkly humorous narrative about an underprivileged driver from the wretched hinterlands of the country who makes it good by murdering his employee — then sets up shop elsewhere and succeeds. Sure, it puts out facets of India that we prefer to keep hidden, but the outlook is completely cynical.
Slumdog Millionaire, gunning for the Oscars, has got the thumbs up from most audiences for its rocking storytelling and music. But others think that under its high-gloss packaging, it exploits its setting, stringing together the many negative clichés that characterise our country.
I end with these lines from a recent Arabic poem by Sa’di Yusuf:
A candle for two lovers in a naked flat,
A candle for the falling sky,
A candle for the beginning?
A candle for the ending,
A candle for the last communiqué,
A candle for conscience,
A candle in my hands.
(The writer’s website is www.priyawriting.com )