I entered the theatre screening "Chak De India" expecting to watch an Indianised version of A League of Their Own and wasn't I delighted to be disappointed ! I enjoyed the film , flaws et all admiring the courage of a director to take on a subject that does not occupy much mindspace in our country. I was getting tired of all those "crikety" movies ...infact I never watch cricket these days. Once upon a time long long ago when cricket was a seasonal affair and cricketers still wore white when playing, I was die hard fan. I can still name the entire West Indies team who toured India in 1988/89 but ask me anything about cricket now and I'll let you have my version of "whycricketshouldbebannedinindia" but I digress this post is not about cricket.
In the movie , Chak De , there is a scene wherein all the players selected have arrived at the coaching camp and are being introduced to the coach and they go " So and so ...Punjab"; "so and so ....Railways" ; "so and so ...Haryana"....one by one the coach asks them to stand aside till one of them says "Vidya Sharma...India". Here the coach says that this is what it should be...first your country and then yourself and then if there is any space....your region.
This struck later in the evening when my mother was wathing one of those reality singing shows on TV and asked me to vote for one of the Bengali candidates who was on the verge of getting eliminated. Bengalis have to save Bengalis was her logic...see how the other regions are supporting their contestants ?
What about talent ? I asked her and she replied that if he is a Bengali then he is talented. My mother is not alone, there are millions like her out there who sit in the front of their TV screens, mobiles in hand voting for the candidate from their part of the country while the telecom companies and the respective TV channel laughs all the way to the bank. In fact, all these programmes seem to deliberately promote this regional bias so that the votes and in turn, the moolah keeps pouring in ! Talent be damned.
This regionalisation is everywhere...
in the selection of our teams for sports . So in a team of eleven players, we have quotas for the North, South, East and West Zones so that players are selected not according to their abilities but according to the quota available. One wily ex-cricketer had his son change his residence so that he can come into the Indian team through that Region's quota ! That the son never made it as a boy in blue is another story.
in jobs - you will often hear people complain, "oh he is a maharastrain na...that's why the boss chose him for the foreign assignment, boss like to promote people from his own community"
in films - we have certain communities portrayed with certain cliched characteristics ...the drunk Goanese or the seductive Anglo-India who speaks a "clipety-clop" accented Hindi.
A friend told me how she had to struggle with the deliberately created language barrier in a particular city where she was forced to move . She was in an advanced state of her pregnancy and needed to travel by autos to her work place(to which she had had to take a transfer) and the doctors. The auto/taxi drivers and even her colleagues knew that she could not communicate in the local language and even though they understood Hindi or English very well..they just refused to communicate with her in anything but the local language !
We are a generation which has turned tradition on it's head. We have married into differrenc communities...we have moved to new places and adpted so damn well...we have discovered new foods and flavours....we have learnt languages...most of us know the geographies of atelast three different cities...we have friends and family all over the country...we have grown geographically but not in our minds.
I have decided to do things a little differently from now on...the next time I am asked ... I'll say , " I am an Indian who speaks Bengali ! ". Let's see for how long I can manage that one .