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 baand 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.
Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma popped into the news when he said we must value “Bharat ki Sanskriti”. The five 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.)
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 5:00 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.
He could have added more respect should be accorded to the women and girls in the house.
That’s good but our children are often not respected. At best they are bullied, at worst they are slapped around.
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, then pontificate.
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. How many children in government schools are taken on trips to museums? I think, 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. One wonders at Sharmaji’s rampant imagination where fantasies of romping, wild children are roaming the streets at night because their parents don’t share Indian parents’ values. 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.
“Brothers and sisters, when we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. People come out with different arguments, someone indulges in psychoanalysis, but brothers and sisters, today from this platform, I want to ask those parents, I want to ask every parent that you have a daughter of 10 or 12 years age, you are always on the alert, every now and then you keep on asking where are you going, when would you come back, inform immediately after you reach. Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son. He also has parents. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and 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.
It seems Narendra Modi’s ministers are not in step with him. So strong are their prejudices, that they are not listening to their own leader.
While Narendra Modi said in his speech: “This country has been built on such foundation of ancient cultural heritage, where we were told of only one mantra during the Vedic period, which is indicative or our work culture, which we have learnt, we have memorised: Sangachchhdhvam Samvadadhvam sam wo manansi jaanataam. We walk together, we move together, we think together, we resolve together and together we take this country forward. Having imbibed this basic mantra, 125 crores of countrymen have taken the nation forward.”
All good except the last sentence. There is no evidence of his own ministers and party members of having imbibed this mantra. 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 anyone who disagrees. 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!”