Saturday, September 25, 2010

DALIT NIGHTS AND PEEPLI LIVE

It's not just Rahul Gandhi who is attempting to learn about India at an age that he should have been running it. Babus too are beginning to do so, rather late in the day, theirs as well as India's. Will others follow suit? Is this the dawn of a new hope for India's poor?

Rahul's exclusive education is, of course, costing India a bomb. His sanitised one night stands in dalit homes and similar outstation on-the-job classes cost a crore rupees a day. All because when he should have been been learning about India free of cost, he was cocooned and had his gaze fixed to the West, where he headed after college, and where stayed so long that India forgot about him. But Mummy remembered. And now the country is paying for his real education only because the dynast has to made somewhat capable of exercising his birth right to rule this country, no matter what the cost, no matter how long it takes.

So what if there is no evidence yet that thousands of crore rupees later, he has had even one serious Eureka moment or that he has learnt something that has opened his eyes to see how badly the all-knowing Indian elite has failed India's millions criminally, that has got him to speak practically about and put in place political, governance and administrative structures that work for them, not their oppressors. All that he seems to have learnt so far is that elections can be won if more tax payers' money is pumped through the same sieves that have been deliberately designed to ensure that little reaches whom it should.

Now, India can't afford to spend so much to educate lesser mortals. That's probably why other politicians and bureaucrats prefer to discover India and what Indians want, families in tow, in London, New York and Paris, rather than in Dantewada, Imphal and Machchal. Dangerous places, you see. In any case, what can sub-humans teach them, the well-educated who know all about art, culture, philosophy, economics, democracy, governance, and, above all, freedom? What can be there for them to learn about and from India when they have already concluded that everything that India needs to learn is from them and the West? So what if China next door has already started teaching the West once again? That's no place to go to for a holiday; the Chinese can't even speak English.

Unfortunately for some of them, Peepli Live, a Bollywood film nominated as India's entry for the Oscars, has put on global display India's ugly, hidden warts that they didn't want to open their eyes to, that for them are little more than irritating, inanimate statistics, to be hastily buried in the glamorous ones about the scorching growth rate, Indian billionaires sprouting explosively, the unexpected mobile revolution that has overtaken India despite them, the growing English-speaking middle class that is culturally more at home in Palm Beach than Palwal. And it is forcing some of them do what nothing could for decades.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission is one of those who have discovered how useful this Bollywood flick is: "The movie talks about the perception of people on development programs. Hence we thought this will be quite useful for Planning Commission officers." The finance ministry is also likely to arrange a screening of the film for its officials. More ministries and departments will soon follow for sure.

Wow! Isn't it great that just before they take the next flight to Frankfurt and Rome via Tokyo, to get fresh insights into the problems faced by poor Indians, and find solutions for pulling them out of the pit they have been stuck in for so long, our officials are actually going to take a real look at the mess they have made? So what if it is in the comfort of Lutyen's Delhi? So what it is only on a screen? Let's not be cynical. They are taking full two hours out of their precious time for the forever neglected Natha who has become the superstar of the moment. Do they really need to go to Peepli and spend even two unlivable days in a real village to know what they have always known? In any case, can anyone learn in two hours or two days, even if they really want to, what Rahul has not been able to learn in a decade?

Be realistic guys. A Mahatma Gandhi comes along only once in a millennium. And wasn't he a terrible dad? What did he do for his family and and leave for it save a pair of wooden sandals and a couple of other worthless items? But for boring rituals that have to be endured twice a year, does anyone give a shit about him? Had he been sensible, would another dynasty sporting the same name have been ruling India today? Wouldn't his descendants have been talking about merit and modernity even as they were sneaking into St Stephen's College through cooked up quotas? Naked fakir as India's 21st century leader? You are out of sync.

The poor can wait some more. What's the big hurry? They should be grateful that some droppings will eventually 'trickle down' to them, no matter how hard people try to catch them en route. Things can't happen overnight; files don't fly you know. Rahul's Dalit Nights have not been able to put them on the runway; Peepli Live is not going to give them wings.

Related reading: Natha needs Deng not democracy

'