NYTimes India Ink carries a lot of nice things. Sometimes though, it does not. As an example, this hectoring “An Open Letter to India’s Graduate Classes” delivered from a position of moral, ethical and overall-I-am-awesome-and-you-are-not superiority. Here is my response.
Thanda lege jaabe. Translation: You will catch a cold. Bengalis love Nature. After all, about 36.4% of their rhymeless poems, scribbled on the back of cigarette cartons and paper napkins, are about its assorted glories. (The rest are about Prem or love). But Nature, the heartless seductress, remains cold to them. Literally. Wise men have not been able to find out what exactly it is about the Bengali genetic structure that makes them as susceptible to the common cold as Raina is to the short ball. Whatever be the reason, Bengalis are mortally afraid of catching the chill. And for good reason. Which is why when the mercury dips oh-so-slightly, you will find them wandering about in gear that would look excessive at the North Pole—brown monkey-caps, grey sweaters (typically called “pullovers”) yards of mufflers and woolen socks. The Bengali might keep the windows of his mind open (like the legendary Sidhu-jyatha of Feluda lore) but, come spring, will definitely keep the windows of his room closed. Because the first breeze of spring, as his grandmother used to tell them, is deadly (praanghati).
When asked, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee also endorsed the stand, saying, “Cartoons are for mature minds; not for children.” [Link]
If there was any doubt that Pranab-da would make as great a President as Pratibha Tai, this line removed it.
I agree with the great Pranab-da. Cartoons are not for the younglings. Never has been. What kind of example do you think a duck that does not wear pants sets for children? Yes I am talking about “rakhta hoon main khulla” Mr Donald Duck. Popeye becomes powerful and aggressive after eating spinach. Hah. Don’t I know that’s spinach is just an euphemism for “London se sex ki goliyaan”? Is this what kids should be taught is acceptable behavior?
Cartoon Network? Call it the Playboy Channel.
It’s not easy being middle-class. Rising prices. Sweatier traffic jams. Global warming. And then there is that thing which keeps gnawing away at us, ceaselessly, like a rat at a sack of grain.
Guilt at how shallow we have become, how we choose that-which-is-fun over that-which-is-good. Social-media over social service. Junk food over vegetables. IPL over Tests. Katie Perry over Carnatic. Page 3 over the Editorials. “Oops pictures” over…you get the picture.
Of course, it’s never really our fault. It’s everyone else’s.
Authors write books that pander to the lowest-common-denominator. Greedy TV execs make TRP-friendly trash. Bad journalists peddle yellow copy.
If only “they” would give us something wholesome, we would consume it. And till they do, we just have to, with infinite reluctance, discuss how much weight Aishwarya Rai has gained post-pregnancy. Even though we should be talking about…mm…let’s see farmer suicides and child labor.
This pervasive guilt of course creates a demand. A demand for programming that is surreptitiously entertaining in a non-intrusive way while providing a “Look Ma, I am being socially conscious by watching this instead of a Zee re-incarnation soap” comfort-blanket to the middle-class audience.