Friday, 4 July 2008


It is the 21st century and we do live in what we like to think of as a liberal world. I for one, have what may be a bad habit. I generalise based on the few people that I know and the few experiences that I have had in my rather young life. While it works for me lots of times, sometimes I am rudely woken up. I imagine all of upper-middle class, educated, working, young Indians to be like me and my friends. After all, why not? Brought up in large cosmopolitan cities, in english speaking schools, college educated, working in progressive industries such as the media and advertising.

And then an encounter surprises me, delights me with the diversity and makes me ponder about the paradoxes that exist in the seemingly globalised parts of this country. And so let me narrate a small incident.

I was in office in a meeting along with my senior planner with a sales representative from a TV channel. She (the sales rep) was narrating the plot of an upcoming serial to us. She got to the crux of the plot where she essentially wanted to say that the younger daughter-in-law was made to sleep with her older brother-in-law to produce a heir for the family. What amazed me was that she could not get herself to say the word "sex" or even the phrase "sleep with" and finally resorted to "mate".

It made me think about the paradoxes that exist in India - the confluence (or confusion) between tradition and modernity; the tense relationship that exists between the two that often explodes in various forms - debates on censorship, vandalism on Valentine's day, a march for Gay rights, a controversial re-writing of religious myths etc. It reminds me that Liberalised India is still young, that we are still gestating, that not everyone subscribes to a modernity that is essential Europe and America inspired.

It also amazes me that we are able to survive as a country with so many contradictions, paradoxes and differences; that we have room for everything without breaking apart at the seams. 

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