Penis. Vagina. Sex. Crap. Ass. Breast. Beef.
These are just a few of the words that you cannot say on Indian television because they’ve been deemed “obscene” by a bunch of people who can’t even spell the word. We’re constantly told that this is for “protecting sentiments”, which is India’s third favourite pastime after making babies and killing off the female ones.
So yes, with Western programming, words you’d normally find in a Class VI biology textbook are censored, the burnt half of Harvey Dent’s face in ‘The Dark Knight’ is blotted out, while Indian content is mostly just a bunch of ugly, annoying characters going over the top (and that’s just the Lok Sabha channel)
So, if you use TV content and the level of censorship as indicators of progress, it becomes clear that we, as a society, possess all the finesse and erudition of a monkey flinging around its own feces. But hey, at least the sentiments are ok, right?
Well, not really. Our sentiments are like Sania Mirza’s joints – it doesn’t take much to hurt them. You like beef chilli? Nope, you can’t have it, because there are more of us and we’ll beat you to death with lathis – once we’ve dislodged them from our bottoms, that is. You’re gay? Well then, we must raid your private parties because, c’mon, no one ever won an election thanks to the LGBT vote bank. Oh, and what’s that you say? Salman Rushdie is coming to India? Excellent. Here’s my Minority Outrage card. Your move, Congress.
And we all know how that farce played out. Rushdie, one of the biggest draws at the Jaipur Literary Festival, was asked to stay away because of “security concerns”, much to the disappointment of fans who were looking forward to watching him mud-wrestle Chetan Bhagat. (Ok so I haven’t been to many literary fests, but I imagine this is what happens there.)
At the time of writing, Rushdie’s visit was very much on, although both the organisers and the government seemed to be in a tizzy over security arrangements. Last I heard, they had decided to scare away attackers by having Shobhaa De stand at the entrance, minus make-up.
Our leaders know it’s a good idea to hedge their bets on jingoistic non-issues, because it gets results without having to do real work. Consider Madhya Pradesh, a place that boasts of having nothing to boast about. In M.P, the punishment for cow slaughter (and this includes consumption as well) was recently upped to seven years, which incidentally, is the same as the minimum sentence for rape.
See, I didn’t know that eating beef was as bad as raping someone. I never saw a film in which Gulshan Grover sneaks up on a woman, and then commits the heinous crime of eating a steak in front of her.
We’re the ones to blame for this. Of course, when I say ‘we’, I don’t mean myself. I’m talking about people with stupid sentiments.
If your sentiments are based on Magic Overlords In The Sky who will get angry because someone, somewhere might be seen as going against the teachings of books that are clearly the work of generations of shroom-addled storytellers, then yes, your sentiments are stupid.
(Don’t get me wrong – you’re still entitled to believe in magic elephants, winged horses, prophetic teddy bears and what not, but I’m also entitled to call it insane, without the fear of being turned into human seekh kabab. That is how free speech works.)
Before I end, I’d like to apologise if this column has hurt your sentiments in any way. Now stop flinging around your poop. You want a banana?
(Note: This is my HT column dated 22nd Jan 2012. E-paper link here.)