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Few days back, somebody sent me about a seven minute long video clip with the title “I come from two Indias”, and I sincerely confess that I was not even aware of the name ‘Vir Das’ and his comic performances till the time I clicked to see it. What I found from its content instantly reminded me of an incident in London nearly twenty-four years back while I was on a visit to UK along with some other civil service colleagues on a training programme for a few weeks. It was the morning time and I was watching a television chat show in my hotel room in free time. Basically, it was a dialogue between a NRI (Non Resident Indian) of rather nondescript and humble looks and a British host almost posing like a self-proclaimed demi-god. In essence, the former was trying to explain how everything was okay till British ruled India imparting them education, courtesy and manners so also gifts of infrastructure development as such Indian railways, roads, monumental buildings, and so on. On his part, the British host kept smiling all the time with intermittent nods reflecting an excessive aura of racial pride.

He is about fourty-two years old Indian comedian and actor who has worked in a few bollywood movies too. Born of Indian parents in 1979, Vir Das reportedly completed his graduation from Galesburg, Illinois and has so far performed dozens of comedy shows and plays. His aforesaid monologue performance about “two Indias” was staged at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC on 18 November 2021. In his controversial monologue, he spoke about the duality of India citing some of the topical issues like Covid-19 pandemic, gang-rape, farmers’ protests, pollution, and many more subjects. Some parts of his mockery and citation of paradoxes were so sweeping and indiscreet that they created immediate uproar on social media and even few complaints were filed against him with the police in India.

For illustration, a few quotes from his monologue performance are reproduced here:

I come from India:
…Where AQI (Air Quality Index) in 9000 but we still sleep on the roof and look up at the stars;
We worship women during the day and gang-rape them at night;
Where we scoff at sexuality and yet f..k till we reach a billion people…

It is true that the air quality in many Indian cities is not healthy with high pollution level in some periods of the year. In Delhi, there have been occasions when AQI is said to have been around 900 or even crossed it; so, the comedian made a sweeping remark escalating this occasional AQI by another 10 times to make it 9000. Hindu scriptures talk about caring and respecting women but neither women are worshiped during the day nor they are gang-raped at night. Yes, occasionally such crimes are reported in India and so it happens in other countries as well. Out of sheer curiosity, when I checked Vir Das I found that it is not the first time; instead, he has done it in the past before the audience abroad on many occasions. For instance, about four years back in 2017, he declared all Indians as racists:

“…we spend our lives claiming we are victims of racism yet all Indians back home are pretty fuckin racists.”

Not only the men of common prudence but also every comedian is expected to know the delicate distinction between the humour and satire. One has no right to spread falsehood in the name of comedy or freedom of expression to make people laugh by ridiculing his nation, race, community or religion. I have noticed that people like Vir Das are in the business to rendering “mental dose” to a large audience particularly in the Western countries by thus demeaning and ridiculing the country from where they come. There are some Indian journalists too who are nondescript or spent force back home but are doing good job for the Western so-called liberal or leftist media by writing scandalous and preposterous opinion on almost every occurrence in India. Needless to mention, such people are earning good name, fame and money in return from their foreign patrons/employers.

In the aforesaid case, the stated comedian made many scandalous remarks but I will just take the subject of rape to briefly analyze and point out correct position in the global perspective. Crime against the women and children is a worldwide serious malady, more demonic and barbaric ones being the rape and violence leading to murder of the innocent victims. Though the definition of rape varies from country to country, ordinarily, the rape is defined to force someone to have sex especially with a woman or girl when they are unwilling, using violence or threatening conduct. By this simple definition itself, the act is of the nature of a heinous crime against the woman or girl.

According to an approximate estimation, about 35% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime globally. Also, the trend in majority countries suggest that less than 40% of women victims seek any help and less than 10% actually seek assistance from the law enforcing agencies. For these reasons, the precise data on sexual violence seldom come and data reported at best suggest the trend of sexual assault or violence in any country. While majority countries have laws against the act of sexual assault and violence, but in most cases these laws are insufficient, inconsistent and not systematically enforced or implemented. The ten countries reported with the highest rates of rape incidents per one lakh citizens in the same order till last year are: South Africa (132.4), Botswana (92.9), Lesotho (82.7), Swaziland (77.5), Bermuda (67.3), Sweden (63.5), Suriname (45.2), Costa Rica (36.7), Nicaragua (31.6) and Grenada (30.6).

I also made a fast check on data regarding crime against the women across the world as available in the public domain. However, for the sake of brevity, only the position of UK and USA vis-à-vis India is being considered here. During 2016, the estimated population of the UK, USA and India was 65.6, 323.4 and 1324.2 million and the corresponding official rape figures were approximately 35,798, 95,730 and 38,947, respectively. Even a cursory look at the data reveals that the incidence of rape crime against the women in USA (27.3) and UK (17.0) is very high compared to India (1.8). By and large, similar position exists for the Western countries like France, Germany and Scandinavian countries. In terms of the relative gravity of crime in the respective countries, the criteria of incidence per hundred thousand population has been adopted and India ranks 94th country in that hierarchy. Though statistically, India is listed towards bottom among the countries with percentage and incidents of such crimes per hundred thousand people yet I neither support nor find it justifiable as even one such case is unacceptable.

In the instant case, I find there was an uproar on social media with a large number of people expressing anguish and anger against what Vir Das did in Washington DC to entertain US audience abroad, shine own image and earn handsome money. Some ruling party members too criticized the comedian for his indiscreet conduct. On the other hand, many opposition political parties, activists and artists endorsed and supported the comedian saying what the comedian said was true and that India under the present ruling dispensation is getting increasingly intolerant. Instead of getting into any debate or controversy of “who is right or wrong”, in view of the facts stated in two preceding paragraphs, my simple take is if there are two Indias, then there are two Americas (US) and UKs too. In fact, one would find such duality almost everywhere worldwide. Therefore, it is your individual choice if you want to become “Vir Das” for your country to earn name, fame and money.


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11/23/2021
More by : Dr. Jaipal Singh
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