Monday, January 23, 2012

So it is Jay Leno now...

Many Indians, living in gated neighbourhoods and nurturing illusions of being liberal and progressive, often rate the Late Show of Jay Leno as one of their favorites.

There is no doubt the guy has got a sense of humor that can be quite whacky at times. Now, he is rapidly emerging as the latest hate figure for Indian twits, or is it tweets?

Jay LenoIn a recent show, Leno has apparently shown visuals of the Golden Temple at Amritsar and suggested that it become the summer residence for Mitt Romney, the guy who could become the Republican candidate to challenge Barrack Obama in this year’s presidential elections in America.

The Golden Temple is the holy shrine for Sikhs across the world and all hell has predictably broken loose. Sikh organisations in America have reacted with outrage and demanded an apology from Leno. Even Indian authorities have jumped into the fray and criticised this Jay Leno stunt. Everyone is unanimous in saying that it is wrong, callous and unethical to hurt the sentiments of other communities and ethnic identities in such a manner. There is little doubt that Leno's antics are worse than being merely flippant and corny.

But do we have to start yelling again that every Tom, Dick and Harry is involved in a conspiracy to hurt Indian sentiments through racist or insensitive comments? Just a while ago, the BBC show called Top Gear was slammed because the hosts were accused of peddling racist and cultural stereotypes that portray India in a poor light. Indian authorities even demanded an apology from BBC which is apparently yet to come. One of the things that the hosts did as they drove around India was to carry a portable toilet in their cars. How shitty can their racism be, isn't it? Then again, there was that event that literally resurrected the career of Shilpa Shetty, thanks to some racist remarks passed by the late and unlamented Jane Goody in the British version of Big Boss.

And why stop at that. I think Mulsims are as much Indian as Sikhs are. So where is the harm in calling for the absence of Salmaan Rushdie from the Jaipur Lit Fest; at least that looks better than calling for his head. Then again, Arun Shourie got just deserts a few years ago as Buddhist supporters of Dr B.R Ambedkar threw shoes at him because Shourie had the temerity to disparage Ambedkar (it is a different matter that Shourie somehow finds ammunition to disparage Muslims, Christians and others, all except Hindus!). I have not finished. Many Christian organisations had demanded that the book Da Vinci Code and the film be banned from India.

Many, many years ago, Christians - who are as much Indians as Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are - had successfully persuaded the authorities to ban The Last Temptation of Christ. You can be proud of one aspect of Indian secularism at least - all religions and communities have the equal right to be offended and demand that the State must do something. The State - being uniquely and indisputably secular - usually complies!

I have just two points to make here. The first is a request to fellow Indians to do what in Hindustani is called "apne ghireban main jhank ke dekho". It is our deep rooted mentality of being colonial slaves that makes us pay so much attention to what the West says. Look at how we behave like demented juveniles when the likes of Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey land up in India. I swear to God - all Indian Gods included - this is true. I drive up to a dhaba in my BMW even as some scruffy, smelly hippes who are obviously white arrive at the same time. Invariably, the waiter first goes to them for orders. And then why do we crib when the West is less respectful towards us? If Jay Leno had said something similar about Jews, his career would have been blown to smithereens.

The second point is even more important. Indian civilisation has always been considered unique because it has always encouraged space for all thoughts, all ideologies, all dogmas and all religions. Mutual respect and tolerance has been the cornerstone of our civilisation. Are we not losing it all because some stupid jerk somewhere says something derogatory about us?


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