A film I got to watch (or should I say, rewatch?) recently, was Slumdog Millionaire. And I remember that people around me (especially the Indians) went gaga over it. For good reason, I should believe...a Bollywood film that delves that deeply into the filth (quite literally, in some scenes) of human life in the worst of India. Of course my people would want to jump onto that bandwagon. Thing is...when this film debuted, I was still a little too young to understand everything that was happening in the film. There were some things that were just too beyond my comprehension the first time around. Why were people going crazy, beating people up, slashing them to bits? Why did the older one turn on his brother cause of the girl? I didn't really see it from any other lens than that of 'hero', 'girl' and 'victory'.
It wasn't until after I'd grown a bit, had a chance to cross puberty, learn a bit more about the world, about the Muslim-Hindu tensions of our country, as well as the issues of inter-societal discrimination faced in the country, that I realized the true extent of themes portrayed in that film when I watched it again a week or two ago. While most might see it as just a film about a child of the streets getting stupid lucky (albeit after countless seemingly insurmountable struggles), and getting his proverbial ''dog's day''. And it is.
It is also however, a tiny window into the life of what Indians who have been forced to live there and no where else as a result of their financially non-existent standings, or those who have simply never been out of the country, and seen what lies beyond. There is a line from one of the characters in the film, who works for a crime boss as one of his key lieutenants. He says "Now, its all business. India is at the centre of the world now, bhai. And I...am at the centre, of the centre."
All I could think when I saw this for the first time since I grew out of my childhood naiveté was, "Well, that's a load of horsesh*t. This guy clearly has no idea what being at the centre of the world even means." He's the lackey of a lowly crime lord, and one who only really owns a single district of a city and a couple houses internationally. There's a lotta fish much bigger than him. Hell, there's probably bigger fish here on the cryptocurrency scene. How are you at the centre if you dance to someone's else's tunes? It's like when humans believed the Sun, Moon and the entire universe beyond revolved around us.
I am an Indian. A 'pureblood', if you will, with two Indian parents having both spent their beginnings in India. I however, have spent much of my life abroad. My only memories of India until I returned in recent times were childhood ones, where traveling coach or first class didn't make a difference to me. Where having to struggle to find an auto-rickshaw, or being made to go from one government office to the next endlessly in pursuit of a simple transaction and processing of a single legal document was of little consequence to me. Where having to deal with daily power cuts, Internet connectivity inconsistencies and a myriad of other 'inconveniences' only seemed like more adventure to my enthusiastic little mind. Having spent my last few developmental, formative years in an upclass metropolis, where facilities, amenities, and luxury weren't just freely available, they were the norm, returning back to the land I was born in felt like a waking nightmare of realizations, as all those childhood memories, though realized for what they represented, were relived in spectacularly immersive 4D VR fashion, and new truths suddenly hit me like a train on steam-steroids.
Those Indians who get to leave the country and experience life in more developed, accomplished and liberal countries, are like members of an otherwise backward society being given a luck-of-the-draw pass to a classy, exclusive club, while those that remain are like the frog who never experienced life outside the well. When I returned, I realized that I was a frog of the well who'd been scooped out by circumstance, who had beheld the marvels of the ocean, and guided back home the prodigal son of fate's master stroke. And now I stood once more amongst the frogs of the well, who would never be able to understand what the well is by comparison to the ocean. For an incomprehensibly vast number of my people, a life full of constant rights infringement, power cuts (provided they have power at all), having to work and fight endlessly for your most basic needs and wants from the country, and continually being at the mercy of a government whose first and only concern is making money and gaming the system to make even more money is the norm, and there is no other life beyond that. Its a damn horror story. We're in some ways like North Korea, except we're forced to stay not by executive order and enforced law, but by circumstance forced down our throats and fed to us with our daily bread. The few of us who climb out, see that the grass really is actually green on the other side, and that the standard here is a sign that something is seriously wrong.
We're a developed country. And really we have been making progress since our liberation nearly seven decades ago. Its just that said progress is severely hampered by something this whole time, with regards to the fruits of said progress reaching the people fairly. Those who only know life in the country may never know how much till they exist on a regular basis outside of it. Domestically, we've fallen behind a great deal despite the national accomplishment we have been capable of, and have demonstrated in recent times, especially having recently legalized homosexuality here, and less recently, but still notably, launching into space a record 104 satellites in one go on our flagship launch vehicle, the PSLV. And even while celebrations for both events were underway, there were likely a few people dying somewhere in the country due to a lack of available medical facilities, or because a police report wasn't processed on a 'suspicious' case involving a critically wounded victim in time for said victim to receive the necessary medical aid they'd need, or because some individuals were given preference over other lower, 'smaller' people. We have potential to be more. However, a great many of our people aren't even aware of their rights, far less concerned with pursuing them.
People who visit from nations not of our own, seldom ever see the harsher side of life the downtrodden masses of 'small people' are subject to on a day-to-day basis. They stay in good hotels, are privy to the best possible transport, are often spared the power cuts, the net inconsistencies, the poor circumstance, and are treated to the best of our ability by virtue of the colour of their skins, the quality of their clothes and belongings, and the amount of money they can potentially shell out for services rendered to them. They see this place through the tourist lens. They very rarely see India through the eyes of someone on the inside track. And I realized that said tourist lens was the same lens I'd viewed it through everytime I visited as a child. I saw glimpses of the downsides, but from a perch of stability, financial standing, and a knowledge that I would be going back to something better and more plush thereafter, and the security of that fact. Having finally been placed in a circumstance that had me 'going back' here, and being made to exist once again as a citizen of this land, that experience of the insider lens suddenly hit me, and it slowly started to dawn upon me the true extent of what was happening here.
I have been graced with the privilege of knowing people who come from more western countries. I was acquainted with their standards. Their ways of life. Even as a child, I had always looked upon the 'world of the whites' as this mystical place of enlightenment and fortune. And while I have heard countless whites complain about this, that and the other, including at times their circumstance (it is human nature to complain too, after all), it is my discovery that the starshine I had in my eyes whenever I saw this fantasy world in movies and TV wasn't entirely misplaced. I came back from my exposure to the western world, its culture and its ways, enriched, elevated in thought and method, and capable of recognizing true quality and class, as well as grooming and procuring it. It is a standard I believe my people ought to start living up to as well. One of my friends is a German. He tells me stories of how Germans view things, as does my dad, and the emphasis they lay on efficiency. They nail down the design as they want to it to be to the last tick. Here in India, if it holds together, generally does its job without too much of a noise or a problem, its usually given the thumbs up. I believe that is something we could use. The British standard of adhering to time as strictly as possible? I believe that is something we need. The American standard of go big or go home? That spirit is what we must set out to do things with. The Western standards of tolerance, progressiveness, and openness we only hear stories of...must become our norm. Only through accomplishment of all this will our country truly advance. Only after we have accomplished a deeper realization of what humanity has come to stand for, out there, internationally, can we know we have truly embraced it domestically. That is a dream I sincerely hope becomes a reality, soon. Because it is something we need.
This has been Callistanix, with the inside track on my hometurf. Upvote, and resteem if you think this was enlightening in any way, and lemme know in the comments if you have experienced similar such revelations as well.