Sunday, July 26, 2009

Selective Altruism...

 DISCLAIMER: A very disorganised and disoriented post ahead!

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.
-George Bernard Shaw


                    I have wondered about the same since I was in school. If I were to be born in Germany, wouldn’t have Germany qualified as the greatest nation for me? Wouldn’t then Deutsch be the most poetic language of all? And how proud would I be of the fact that my Great Nation Germany, and not India (As Indians like to claim), is the cradle of mankind. India for me would be the dirty, poor country of the Third World then. I would be ready to die for the cause of Deutschland. Same would be the case if I were to be born in Pakistan. I would be appalled at India’s insensitivity towards human rights, I would back Pakistan towards ‘saving’ Kashmir and cry indignantly every time India would accuse us for exporting terror.

         But then, wise people have argued with me over this. One even said, ‘God chose you to be born in India, which incidentally happens to be the greatest Nation of the world.’ I kept quiet then not really understanding the reason for God’s unprecedented generosity for me. On a more serious note though, I believe that Patriotism is a very artificially created virtue and it is maintained through a network of lies, falsehoods and assumptions. It is a menace, actually.

              It is great to love one’s motherland but why is everyone so arrogant about it? We don’t get to choose the place of our birth, so why gloat about something that was decided by fate? It’s not wrong to love one’s country, but why does the love have to stop at the border? Why is the hatred for the neighbouring country considered to be the barometer of one’s patriotism?                                    

Isn’t the Patriot the one who loves his country and would not hesitate to lay down his life for it’s cause? And isn’t he the same guy who has the moral authority to raise hell, run amok, and destroy public property in frenzied outbursts of morality? If not anarchy, isn’t Patriotism ‘Selective Altruism’?

       It is natural to think of Army men as the most patriotic of all people given the nature of their vocation. But is not the Old Man who stubbornly refuses to pay bribes to corrupt Government Officials a Patriot as well? Or the little Kid who plants trees in his garden after learning about deforestation in School? Or the Common Man who silently wipes a tear when terrorists hold his city to ransom? Perhaps, the zealot who bellows his lungs out about India’s cultural superiority over the rest of the world is greatest patriot of all.

For me, it’s selective altruism. Yes, that’s what it is.. Selective Altruism!!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ramchand Pakistani..!


I got back to watching movies after quite some time. I want to see ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ but the movie seems to elude me big time! So, the Sunday afternoon was spent watching ‘Ramchand Pakistani’. To be honest, I was not too keen to watch the movie as was the case with ‘Khuda Ke Liye’. But what enticed me was the fact that the movie was Pakistani and therefore would help me in my Urdu lessons! :D                                                                                                                    The movie is about an eight year old Pakistani boy Ramchand who inadvertently crosses the border and wanders into Indian territory. The boy’s worried father follows him and both are arrested by Indian officers.

                  What follows is little Ramchand’s struggle to cope up with the trauma of forced separation from his mother and the fact that he is being held prisoner with his father in an enemy country. It portrays a family that is at the bottom of a very discriminatory religious and social ladder and the irony is compounded by the acrimonious political relations between India and Pakistan. Worse, both the countries are tantalisingly on the brink of war following the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2002. On the other hand, Ramchand’s devastated mother tries to wage a solitary struggle for survival.

                 The film also makes some glaring error/stereotypes when it comes to Indians. A seemingly educated Police Officer refuses to touch Ramchand upon learning that he is an untouchable. The very promiscuous Officer then assumes the role of Ramchand’s mother in jail. With her ridiculously low necked Police Uniform, she perfectly depicts the depraved Indian Woman for the conservative Pakistani audience.  Curiously, the Bhuj/Kutch police speak Hindi in a very prominent Bambaiyya accent. It is so prominent that even I (A Bombayite) found it to be very heavy. Of course, it is another stereotype that Indians are poor speakers of the language.

                      The Jail life is shown as a vacation and is fun. Perhaps this was deliberate by the director. She focuses more on the Human relations and the bonding between Ramchand and his father, the promiscuous Warden and the fellow prisoners and police men. Some scenes are truly poignant. Like the scene where Ramchand’s father teaches him to ride a bicycle or the one where Ramchand is released. The Father plays his role to perfection and one actually feels sorry for the Pakistanis languishing in Indian jails. Nandita Das does justice to her role as well, but it is the young Ramchand who steals the show. His big, button-like eyes, childish tantrums bring out the kindest in you.

My Advice : Ignore the stereotypes, they are pretty harmless and watch the movie for Ramchand and his father..!