Random Thoughts

Indians, Bollywood and Cricket

Recently, I read a complaint by an Indian reader at a website that it was devoting excessive space and attention to stories about Bollywood. The site editors answered that those stories registered the most hits and hoped that those enticed thus, would devote some of their time to reading other more serious or important offerings. It reminds me of a story about a small caste ridden, male progeny obsessed, village in India. A local brahmin elder had four sons. The first three became a doctor, engineer and lawyer respectively, and the youngest devoid of mental skills opted to become a barber. The elderly father was incessantly castigated by the Sa-Varna fellow villagers for having brought everlasting shame to his caste, class and "Kula" and the village elders unanimously recommended that the father throw the youngest son out of the house. The honest father truthfully replied, "You don't understand. I can't do that because the income of the barber supports the whole family". So much for my defense of the highbrow intellectuals and their discourses and my denigration of yahoos. The website technique is a modification of one often used by stores when they advertise goods at below market prices (loss leaders) to lure shoppers, who will end up buying other goods marked up higher, because they are already in the store and want to finish their shopping in one stop. An illegal lure of this kind is called bait and switch and is a punishable offense.

The technique may work for stores because it depends on the laziness and stupidity of the average shopper, but it doesn't work in the case of web surfers. This is because it takes little time and effort to move from one website to another and the surfers basically come in mostly two categories, those with very short attention span and those who are obsessed with a specific type of content. The forum at Boloji reveals the single minded obsession with nudity and sex of many of the comment posters by their overwhelming numerical predominance. This is not unnatural, as evolution has fashioned us to be even lethally passionate about sex as the male Black Widow spider proves. I am more of an evolutionist than a moralist and have no wish to cast any stones at any of my fellow lascivious and promiscuous sex maniacs. My objection is to the vicarious and perverted pleasure they derive from anonymous confession of their outlandish proclivities. This does not guarantee them a passport to immortality or enhanced and ecstatic orgasmic bliss. It just proclaims their prurience and fear of public shame to the world as confirmed by their pseudonyms and anonymous identities. I am of the school that experience is better than idle daydreaming. If one is constrained by circumstances and meets the Satyr's satirical definition of a consultant being one who knows sixty-four ways of making love but has never met a woman, armchair voyeurism is hardly a sensible way out; unless it leads to a flimsy but more concrete basis for solving problems of one's mind with a solution in one's hand.

Anyway let us come to the more serious matter at hand. The obsession with Bollywood is not unnatural to a certain extent and many of us fortunate enough to be domiciled in Bombay during our youth, spent hours waiting for a reasonably close glimpse of glamorous film-stars for a few moments. To the best of my recollection and unscientific polling amongst my age cohorts, our interest was primarily in those of the opposite sex, to indulge in our fantasies at a later time. The interest in those stars of our own sex was based on reluctant admiration heavily laden with envy. The idea of worship to the point of building fan clubs or temples to those whose religious orientation did not even permitting them to praying in or entering a temple would have struck my generation as patently absurd, obscene, unthinkable and abasing to the point of lacking self-esteem and sense. The ever expandable Hindu pantheon and incredibly shrinking mind have no limits. This is not to belittle the artistic talents of actors, singers etc. or the hormone driven non-reflective brains of youth, but there have to be limits even to the irrationality of the young. I am not setting myself as some moral police, but bemoan the waste of generations of the young and their vast resources of energy that could be at least partially diverted to their own benefit or that of the community and nation.

In a similar manner, I am all for hours of actively playing poor cricket rather than prolonged armchair viewing, which is the current form of Roman Empire circuses and arenas. I am not against admiration of skill and high compensation for it, though I admit I am bothered by the fact that a top scientist's rewards are a pittance in comparison. Spectator sports are a form of voyeurism and when they become obsessive and time consuming, they rot the mind. Incidentally this pathological obsession with armchair voyeurism for sports and stars is equally prevalent in America, but it doesn't seem to herd the majority into a one channel blind alley to the same extent. In India, the youth and thus later in time, the older population are ignorant of history, science, arts, music and are single mindedly focused on survival at different levels of affluence and ascent along that ladder. It is this small but critical differential makeup of the population that spells the national outcomes of becoming colonizers or colonized. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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