Yesterday I was invited to be one of the panellists on BBC’s “World Have Your Say” on a show about the Big Brother and the Gandhi Youtube controversy.(If you want to listen to the program, look at the right hand sidebar of this page, find the “Listen Again” tab and click on the Thursday link. The audio file will be there only till next Thursday i.e. January 25, 2007).
Somehow the show, which started of as a discussion on whether the “racism” shown towards Shilpa Shetty on Big Brother was simply a reflection of the culture of intolerance in Britain, soon became almost all about how racist Indians were, about India’s untouchability problem and all the other standard chestnuts. One caller said ” This experience will sensitise Shilpa Shetty to the plight of the untouchables in India and she can go back and act as an ambassador for them” and another simply: “India is the most racist country in the world”. [This incidentally was a charge that I was asked to answer.]
As a matter of fact, I was waiting for someone to invoke Gujrat and Narendra Modi just like Farah Baria of the Indian Express does in a piece that starts out with the Big Brother Controversy but ultimately winds down the well-travelled road to the well-worn “Mea Culpa” conclusion.
The most fun was when Gautamh Prasad, the man who dressed up as Mahatma Gandhi and did a strip-tease, came on the show and made an attempt to justify what he did. I asked him whether he would be able to show Martin Luther King stripping and get the same laughs as he got for his Gandhi act. Of course, we both knew the answer and Mr. Prasad’s reply was “he just had not thought of an act with Martin Luther King” (of course he has not. Because it would be suicide to do that in US)
Unfortunately, BBC did not give me a chance to come back at him with “What was it about showing Gandhi stripping that’s funny as opposed to say showing King? Why among all people did you select Gandhi for a stripper act?” which was just as well as the show’s tone was not an aggressive one at all and I would have ended up sounding like Bill O’Reilly.
In all, an interesting experience.