February 21, 2009
Came back from work and switched on the TV and tuned into News. The news is full of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars. Ive seen the movie, felt it was shot, edited brilliantly and the music is pretty good even though AR Rahman is the same as ever which only means he has kept up his good work.
The movie did have its blood curling moments like the scene in which a small boy gets his eye removed so he can be a better beggar. But frankly I expected it. As a kid growing up in a Mumbai suburb I grew up with stories about how children were forced to beg on the streets and how they would be disfigured or disabled for life to be more effective to extract pity. Ofcourse anyone growing up in Mumbai has always had a time when youve looked at a street urchin and wondered. Wondered if youd survive in their hard, cruel and at times brutally tough world. I would always feel ashamed to be an Indian, to be part of a society which allowed children to be used in such a way. I mean these kids were pretty much living withing the 10 squre km area where you lived all your life and yet what a different life I lived compared to a slum dweller.
But as one grows up Ive realised that these guys have dreams and dare to follow them with a lot more guts than the average middle class guy. Inspite of the fact that life has been harsh and unfair to them. Probably the generation before mine did need to be validated by foreigners. Western validation was needed to be called First World. I guess that attitude still exists a little bit. But honestly why am I ashamed to be an Indian because of its poverty? Why should I be? When even the children who grow up in such poverty are proud of themselves why do I need to be ashamed ? I guess being ashamed about the poor is a nice way for us to feel we have our moral fibre in place. But this is not a moral issue, it actually is an economic issue. We tend to compensate what gets us angry with sadness and sense of pity. Pity is a horrible word, because it seems like a escape clause. Fact is most of us would not think twice striking up a bargain of Rs 5/- from your local bhaji wala or fruitwala who live in poverty. Fact is we pity them and most of them wouldnt care for your pity. A fruitwala who earns Rs50 a day could sure do with Rs55/- a lot more than pity which only serves the one who shows in and not the one who is being pitied upon. No, being a person who loves Mumbai, I am not ashamed of its slums. I am angry about the fact that they exist, but not ashamed. Slumdog Millionaire was a movie which wasnt showing India’s poor as people who were ashamed of themselves. It was a unabashed movie of a underdog. And no need to pity ourselves and feel outraged that see how India’s poverty is being sold abroad. I rather see a movie in which a slumdog becomes a millionaire than see a movie where millionaires tell you how its all about loving your parents.