Socially relevant soap operas?

Let me state, at the very outset, that I hate soap operas with a passion. I rarely watch any and the few that I have come across make me want to scream. On that note, I quite agree with Rashmi Bansal when she says that soap operas need to be responsible to society. The soap in question is titled "Balika Vadhu" and is aired on Colors. It deals with an 8 year-old bride who is put to sleep by "Sasuma" with stories about Rajkumars and is forced to eat after her husband and the other elders of the house and on the plate used by her husband.

The reactions to this are surprising. I am rather shocked to see viewers defend the serial on the grounds that child marriage still happen in India despite the fact that they are banned. Of course it happens in India. But to say that it is acceptable on television because it is a fact is stupid. Let me extend that logic a bit. Bride burning happens in India. Would you accept it if the protagonist in a serial planned to kill the bride? I would not. The fact that something happens does not make it right. What I find even more galling is the fact that the serial is sponsored by the Women and Child Development Ministry, as Rashmi points out in her subsequent post on the issue. The Ministry allegedly wants to create "awareness" about the plight of child brides in India. I doubt portraying a child as a normal bride with normal adjustment problems amounts to spreading awareness. In addition, the protagonist is a child. Ever heard of the rights of children? How can you even think of portraying a child as a normal bride? A child is supposed to enjoy her childhood under the care of a parent and a loving family. What exactly was the Ministry thinking when it decided to extend its support to a serial like this? Sigh!

My grouse is not just against this serial. I hate all serials, as I stressed a while ago. All of them uniformly treat women as some sort of Sati Savitri. Those who are not are the villains of the piece and spend all their time planning to take revenge on other women for some assumed wrong. And if the likes of Ekta Kapoor are to be believed, all good women take all that bullshit lying down and emerge victorious. During my many brief encounters with the K-serials, I came to one, albeit rather comical, conclusion. That all good women wear unpretentious round and red bindis. They wear sindoor in their maang and worship even philandering, corrupt and abusive husbands as God himself. the vamps on the other hand, wear highly elaborate, Sudha Chandran style bindis, in designs ranging from the sun to snakes. They may wear sindoor in their maang too but their husbands are normally hen-pecked and do everything their wives tell them to. Trust me, I have done my research. All K-serials are like that. Now, you must be wondering if I spend all my time watching these serials. The answer is no. You don’t need to. Just pick any random soap opera and watch it for 30 seconds. You will find proof for my thesis. To summarise, I think that the goodness of the television character is inversely proportional to the level of complication of the bindi. I call it Amrutha’s inverse proportionality law. Howzzat??

Of bride (bridegroom) hunting…

Just saw a series of absolutely hilarious posts on bride hunting. The Fool recounts how he "saw" prospective brides, 7 in all, and came out unscathed, still a bachelor (I think.) Read them here, here, here and here. I envy this guy. How can anyone write so well?? Sigh! Thankfully, I have never been at any end of this ridiculous concept. I have a boyfriend. So, no bridegroom hunting for me. Yippee!!!!

The dreaded C-word

Wondering what that is? Caste of course! We Indians are obsessed with it. By either denying it exists or insisting it plays an important role in everything we do, or by simply refusing to discuss the issue openly, we somehow convey that it is an uncomfortable idea. I just came across this post by Preethi. It is not a rant. She somehow seems more tolerant of it that I am. But, what I find rather intriguing is that people go all the way to England and Scotland and France and make friends based on the caste of the individual. She says an acquaintance of Indian origin asked her for her caste. In her place, I would probably have taken offence. I can’t really explain why, but I find it insulting when people ask me what caste I belong to. If I choose to reveal it in the course of a conversation, that’s my choice. But, I don’t see what difference it makes for those who talk to me.

She goes on to state that,

"During an expert interview I was warned that the caste system is very prominent amongst the South Asian diasporas in the UK but I never imagined it would be such a guiding force for young, second generationer’s."

I can’t get over that. I am probably just very naive, but I somehow imagined that people become more open to other cultures when they travel. I was apparently wrong. I have relatives in the US and in Canada who take pride is forming Tamil Associations and Brahmin Societies and discouraging all contact with those who don’t conform. What are we doing? Why the hell can we not treat a person as a human being rather than as a Brahmin, Hindu, or other? I probably come across as cold when I say this, but during my 2-year stay in Paris, I never found the need to bond with other Indians through social gatherings aimed exclusively at Indians. Of course, I have many Indian friends there, but the presence of a non-Indian never made a difference to the gathering. It was a meeting of friends, not one of Indians away from home. I somehow preferred it that way. My brief visits to the Maison de l’Inde were far from welcoming. I found people far too nosy and noisy. I faced questions regarding my origins, caste, parentage, language et. al. It did not matter that I was Indian. I had to be Tamil, Kannada, Hindu, Brahmin or something else. I had to "belong". To one of the numerous groups. I wonder why. No, I am not from JNU. And no, I am not from Delhi either. I did not study at Stephen’s or LSR. And yes, I come from the apparently conservative city of Madras. And yes, I still use the two names interchangeably. I refused to be typecast as a Tamil, Kannadiga, or Hindu. I am just me. Is that so difficult to digest? I don’t get it at all.

It is disheartening to see the caste system being not just preserved, but also reinforced every day of my life. People want to know what my caste is. My students want to know what I am. Is it not enough if I am their teacher? How does my caste matter? With the overzealous government wanting to bring in reservations in the private sector and in schools, I am being surrounded. Everywhere I go, my caste matters. I don’t care any more whether X, Y or Z gets a seat in a college because of reservations. But, I would like to see my children grow up without that all-important question put to them. When I do have kids, they will not have any answers to give. Will they have to explain each day that their parents got married out of caste? Will they have to justify our choices each day of their lives and feel apologetic about not having a clear answer to that question? I certainly hope not. But, to be truthful, I see no improvement. I am losing hope.

On marriages, love or otherwise

Ok. I know the whole world and his dog are debating the abortion issue. So, must I too? No thanks. I am not qualified to comment on either abortion or pregnancy see as I have had neither. So, let me not venture into that dangerous territory. This post by Nita, on the other hand, is something I can talk about. She wonders if love marriages are any different from arranged marriages because short-listing according to one’s preferences is going to happen anyway.

Well, I agree. And I don’t. Confused? Actually, I have pretty ambiguous views on the issue. Personal experience dictates that I defend love marriages passionately. No, I am not married. But I am in love. So, I can talk. Oh yes! I can. First, Nita asks if someone looking for a potential partner would not hang out at a place he/she like so that chances of meeting someone with similar tastes is greater. Well, I really don’t know. Not many people are actively looking for a mate. Ok. Let me modify that statement. Not many people I know who eventually fell in love, actively looked out for a mate. It happened. To me too. You can’t exactly blame me for going to work can you? That’s where I met him. So, I am really not sure people mentally shortlist people before falling in love. If I may say so, he is not the kind of person I would have considered perfect 5 years ago. But once I met him, everything changed. Including the idea of perfection. So, are we filtering unsuitable candidates? I somehow doubt it.

And as far as physical attributes are concerned, I suppose it is true to a large extent. Of course everyone wants a husband who looks like George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Abhishek Bachchan, hell…I don’t know. Whoever you think is good looking. I have no clue what I liked when I was in my teens. But I certainly know that that dream is nothing close to the reality I so adore today. About that teenage bit. Everyone wants the latest heartthrob as husband when they are 13. Whether they would actually marry the person, given the chance, when they are 25 is anyone’s guess. And mine is, no.

Having disagreed with Nita for so long, let me say that I found that example rather amusing. She knows someone who wants a guy with a head full of hair!! Excuse me? How do you actually think so much? As far as I am concerned, if I gel well with the guy, that will do. Wavelength. That’s what I call it. And I have an extremely cheeky question. What would you do if the guy lost all his hair after marrying you? And developed that forbidden paunch and put on lots of weight? Ditch him? A question to ponder. 😛