Perspective

A few days ago I watched the Veer Das Netflix special “Losing It”. While he is probably the best when it comes to stand-up comedy (the reason Netflix is going for the second special with him, of all the artists), there was a part where he couldn’t stop whining about the beef ban that’s in place in the majority of the states in India. Now, he’s not the first person to do that. In fact, many left-wing so-called intellectuals have been doing that and ironically the same people also diligently share photos or post tweets about how they are enjoying beef in India (which essentially contradicts what they are saying).

Now, I do agree with the whole freedom of eating part and to a very large extent, I support it. I’m saying “very large extent” and not “completely” because we should be cognizant of the fact that with every freedom, comes the responsibility as well. While we can surely enjoy the freedom we want, freedom is never (or shouldn’t be) absolute. A driving license gives you the freedom to drive but it also holds you responsible to drive safely. A voting right gives you the freedom to vote but also holds you responsible to choose the best of all candidates fighting the election since the country’s/state’s future depends on your decision. A job gives you financial freedom but also holds you responsible to manage your expenses. And all the debates I’ve seen so far about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of eating – talk only about freedom and conveniently forgets the responsibility.

Theoretically, I should be able to eat pork right outside a mosque or in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood. I should also able to eat out in open during Ramadan in the same area – I have the freedom to do it.

Can I do it? – Yes.

Should I do it? – No.

And not because of the backlash I might receive or worse, I can get killed. Even without those fears, I should not be doing it. If my freedom is making someone uncomfortable, I would try to think of ways to get some solution that will not hurt that person and also doesn’t make me compromise a whole lot.

Essentially, at some point, we should also think about what kind of a person we want to become.

And, to take it to the next level, what kind of a nation we want to build. India is one nation that has always been accommodative to a multitude of cultures. When Parsis were getting converted or executed by Islamists in Iran, they made India their home. India is the only country where Jews found safe heaven and never got discriminated. This is the country where countless faiths have been able to live peacefully. And a part of the reason why this has worked is because of mutual respect extended by most of the other religions as well who haven’t been infected with the disease of evangelism, forceful conversion, and disrespect for other faiths.

Secondly, we also need to take time to understand the history behind why cows are considered holy in India. It’s not surprising that the animal that has been the second most important source of livelihood for millions after agriculture, is worshipped. And it’s not just the milk. Cow dung was used for flooring as well as on walls in the houses as a mode of insulation from the scorching heat outside. It was also used as a source of heat for cooking besides the wood. Cow urine was used for therapeutic purposes in ancient Indian medicine. And of course, the cow has reproductive capabilities. With one animal playing a very important part in the daily life of Indians, cow essentially reached a motherly status and one doesn’t kill a mother to eat her flesh.

To a large extent, the emotions people in the western countries have with dogs, Indians have with a cow. But while protesting against Yulin festival, that doesn’t even happen in the US but all the way to the other side of the world, is cool, protesting against beef is not because it doesn’t have a western endorsement.

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Misplaced Protest

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Finally, after two weeks of unending protests, boycotts, vandalism and accusations, since its release, I managed to watch PK two weeks back. While I was already planning to watch it for sure, the protests that followed, added more spice to the entire plan. I am sure it did the same for millions as well who watched the movie. Unfortunately, I had been a bit too busy with my life which didn’t allow me to watch the movie early and then to complete this post on time.

There had been a lot of hue and cry (or should I say anger and violence!) over how it is an out and out anti-Hindu movie and highly offensive to the religious sentiments of the majority. In India, you can mess with anything but religion. And when your movie’s theme itself is satire on religious malpractices, you must expect firecrackers (metaphorically) irrespective of whether you are correct or not.

But this isn’t the first time. Before PK, it was, Oh My God. However, OMG did it in slightly less explicit manner than PK. Also, OMG was a little more balanced in terms of taking a dig at religious malpractices. Having said that, doesn’t mean that PK has been biased. Unfortunately, Rajkumar Hirani gave the ammunitions to the extremists by casting Amir Khan as a lead actor. That’s where OMG survived the ire with Paresh Rawal. But, at the same time, purely from the acting point of view, no other actor would have been as great as Amir to play the character of PK.  The movie rightly points out the religious malpractices rampant across the country which leads to so much waste of money, time and energy every day. That amount is way too high compared to what the movie has earned so far.

I came across the following, the other day, which makes a failed attempt to take a dig at PK.

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The only logical answer to this would be – Well, yes, do that and don’t watch the movie. If you are able to get the message the film wants to convey and follow it as well, without watching the movie, work is done for the makers of the movie anyway!

 

The Concept of Religion:

It needs to be said today that religion is for people and not the other way round. PK explained the concept very easily when the protagonist mentions that if you take away the religion from people, they will feel hopeless. Even if false, presence of God, gives them hope – a reason to live. But the question is – which GOD? Unfortunately, people who are into the business of religion don’t know the answer to this question – as shown in the movie when Saurabh Shukla was speechless. Such uncomfortable questions being asked through the movie will affect their business negatively and make their survival difficult – which led to such protests.

 

Religious Disrespect:

The unfortunate allegation on the movie is that it has been disrespectful to the religion. The truth that I see is that the movie is disrespectful to people who do business of religion – the character of Saurabh Shukla. But more unfortunate is the question by protestors is that why other religions are not maligned? It exposes a dangerous mentality that if rest of the religions were equally disrespected, it would have been fine? Hinduism says “ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti” (Truth is one, there are many paths to reach there). This, inherently, assumes respect for all other faiths and non-tolerance to disrespect for any religion.

 

A Dig on Amir Khan:

The fact that 99% of the movie cast and crew are Hindus completely ridicules the allegations on Amir Khan. In addition, about 75-80% people who have watched the movie would be Hindus who have not found it offensive. The reason is that they are not the ones who are doing the business of religion. It is also the reason why the movie has been all time highest grossing till date.

 

Lord Shiva Scene:

I had heard a lot about the Lord Shiva scene that was alleged to be highly offensive to the Hindu community. Needless to say, when I watched that scene, all I could see is a person playing a character of Lord Shiva in a function and being chased by someone who thought he is the actual Lord Shiva. Imagine a situation where you show the photo of Lord Shiva to a 2-3 year boy and tell him that this God will solve all your problems. What reaction would you expect from him when he is in real trouble (say his toy is missing) and this person, playing a character of Lord Shiva, comes in front of him in the exact same get up that the kid saw in the photo?

 

To be honest, if one WANTS to get offended, she/he can get offended by every single movie. Every movie will show someone or the other in bad light. Here is the small list:

Pyaar Ka Punchnaama: Highly offensive to girls

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: Offensive to girls who don’t behave girly (SRK is never attracted to Kajol till she behaves like a girl)

Vivah: Strengthens the prejudice against dark skin girls

Dhoom Series: Offensive to Mumbai Police. Shows them in bad light every single time.

Hum Saath Saath Hai: Offensive to adopted children

Gangs of Wasseypur: Offensive to the people of Dhanbad

Rohit Shetty Movies: Offensive to car manufacturers

Sajid Khan Movies: Offensive to everyone

 

On a serious note and looking at the brighter side, sense has prevailed in the majority of the Indians and protested against the protests in a non-violent way by making the movie the greatest success of all times in the Indian cinema. That is the best answer Indians can give to religious intolerance that the country’s culture disapproves of.