1200px-Flag_of_India.svg.png

INDEPENDENCE DAY 

OF INDIA, BY AN INDIAN, FOR INDIANS

- Shravan

I have a lot of things to say about India that would be considered, for lack of a better word, unkind. Actually, scrap that, there is a better word: sedition. And while I’d love to write an article regarding all those things, I’m pretty worried for my well being and the well being of those around me. So I decided that for Independence Day (well, a week after Independence Day, but let’s just overlook that for now), I’d come up with a list of small things I like about being an Indian.

 

Number one: Indian soap operas are the peak of art.

Controversial opinion, right? Well, think about it a little more. TV shows are either supposed to make you laugh, compress tons of action into minutes of content, or make you feel comfortable. The mega-whirring, jarring cuts that depict the same incident (according to authentic studies, this “incident” is an aunty dropping a plate/cup 90% of the time) in different camera angles and different colour schemes have the comedy and action factors locked down! As for the comfort, you can’t deny that there’s some sense of charm and positivity you can derive from watching a grandparent genuinely enjoy soap operas.

 

Number two: All Indian movies are musicals.

It’s not everyday that you come across a Hollywood movie with authentic music and extravagant dance scenes; in fact, the folks over at America™ dedicate a whole genre to that kind of film. We don’t do that here. Every single box office banger I’ve seen has at least 10 songs on it, at least half of which are certified bangers (and by this, I mean Rowdy Baby specifically). Ponder over that for a minute and tell me that Hollywood movies are “better”.

 

Number three: We have some beautiful slang.

My house is a place wherein I am regularly called a donkey (endearingly) and told quite often that I have high cholesterol (again, endearingly). Amongst my friend circle, I’ve also been called a cheater-cock, and been told by tens of people that I’m a tubelight. Various teachers have accused me of eating their brains and/or sitting on their heads, neither of which I’ve done even once. Memorizing things became “by-hearting” and “mugging up”, assurances turned into “pakka” and “mother promise”, and Sushant Singh Rajput turned into “an important piece of news”. Wacky, right?

 

Number four: Auto-rickshaws are inarguably the best mode of transport.

I learnt very recently that auto-rickshaws were just an Indian thing, which absolutely baffled my mind. It’s not very often that I say foreign countries should learn from us, but I have no idea why other countries don’t have autos. They’re economical, quick, and fun to ride. They also have three wheels, and if you’ve read previous articles of mine, you’ll know I like that number a tad bit. Plus, trying to seat myself on one-fourth of the front seat of a share auto so I can travel 2 kilometres for the cost of 5 rupees is a memory that gives me more delight than I can express in words.

 

Number five: We have the best stand-up comedians.

If you’ve watched Comicstaan, you’re probably gaping at this point in pure disbelief, and I don’t really blame you - that show’s about as funny as your grandmother’s WhatsApp forwards. I am here, however, to tell you that Comicstaan is about as good an indicator of Indian stand-up as India is of democracy, and that the stand-up artists we have are just better than those of any other country. Sure, John Mulaney’s funny or whatever, but I will take to my grave that nothing is funnier than Rahul Subramanian encouraging a crowd of a hundred people to scream like a banshee whenever a DJ asks them to “make some noise.” Also, Kanan Gill.

 

Number six: Food.

You all saw this coming, and I couldn’t not include it. Indian food is as integral to contemporary Indian culture as misinformation, and we treasure it wholeheartedly. In fact, it’s one of the only things that everyone in our country relates to (that and the aforementioned misinformation) - whether you’re young or old, Hindu or Muslim, North Indian or South Indian, as long as you’re human, you’d find it impossible to deny a nice, crispy dosa. The power of urad dal, am I right?

 

And there ends the list.

 

I’ve been trying for a while to justify this article with a central motive, or a central theme to tie this all together with a nice clean bow. But maybe there isn’t one. Maybe it’s fruitless to try and convince you that there’s stuff to cherish about India. Maybe you really just don’t care about soap operas when colonisation ripped us apart and exacerbated discrimination and segregation in our country. Maybe you couldn’t give a shit about auto-rickshaws when our Government is literally systematically tearing apart the pillars that hold our democracy up. 

 

And I don’t blame you. I like to imagine that these little things that I’ve talked about are forces that take a group of diverse people and give us something to be proud of, but I’m probably wrong. They might just be lone threads by which we’re all hanging to forge a sense of belonging amidst the divisive environment we’re in. As we begin to doubt whether the country we’re living in is truly good, it’s easy to say “Of course it is! Where else would you find a Kenny Sebastian?” but it’s harder to scrape past the sensationalism and ask ourselves whether India really is what we think it is.

 

But hey, most importantly, if you’re a fan of Rahul Subramanian, let’s talk. For the sake of our nation. <3

INDIAN MASTERPIECES

- Akshaj

Well, as an Independence Day special, I could possibly talk about some of the much more pressing issues in India, but in the spirit of Independence Day (the fear of being thrown into jail), I decided “Hey, Indian songs? Some of them are hilarious. I should write about that!”. Let’s start with the song that defines Indian culture better than anything else ever can.

 

So the song “Pappu can’t dance, saala” is, of course, what I was talking about, clearly. This song defines everything that is right about India. Ah, yes, being muscular, popular, spectacular, and a bachelor - the defining traits of every single Indian citizen. This song is about Pappu, a person who is everything that makes one appealing to people, except for one thing: he cannot dance. Now, this song, however stupid the lyrics may be, is way too catchy and I love it so much. The best part is that the exact same lyrics are said both in Hindi and in English. “Pappu can’t dance, saala” being the chorus (of course the title of the song constitutes the main part of the chorus as with all modern music) and “Pappu nach nahi sakta” which, well, means the exact same thing. We couldn’t have ever got the meaning of the song without it.

 

Now onto the second song. Let’s talk about “Why This Kolaveri Di”, a song that played a humongous role in shaping my childhood and making me who I am today.

Calling this song anything less than a masterpiece is a mistake greater than calling veg biryani pulao (like for real, they are two different things). I will say, every single lyric in this song is nothing short of a work of art. Some notable ones though are, “White skin-u girl-u girl-u, Girl-u heart-u black-u, Eyes-u eyes-u meet-u meet-u, My future dark” and of course, “God-u, I'm dying now-u, She is happy how-u, This is song for soup boys-u, We don't have choice-u”. These lyrics are so absurd, but it just somehow makes it work. The song makes it a point to stress on the last syllable of every word, which of course gives it an authentic South Indian feel.

 

Okay, for a song that offended a lot of people, I find it immensely hilarious because we as South Indians know what North Indians think of us almost perfectly because of this one fabulous song. “Lungi Dance''. The song starts with the famously iconic lines “Mucho Ko Thoda Round Ghumake, Anna Ke Jaisa Chashma Lagake, Coconut Mei Lasi Milake, Aajao Sare Mood Banake.” Now, this is what I call a national treasure. Not only does this beauty have a million more amazing lines such as these but it is the very fact that it was considered a tribute to Rajanikanth and South Indians that just makes this song stand out from the rest. In all seriousness, I hate this song with a passion and I will be very annoyed if any of you play it.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have, of course, the parody of Lungi Dance by the amazing comedian SA Aravind. Now this, without all the sarcasm, is a genuinely good parody and a must watch. With the extremely repetitive “Lungi Dance” being replaced by “Chapati” and it being dedicated to everyone who dedicated Lungi Dance to us, I’m not joking when I call this song a masterpiece.



 

Let's get to recent trends, shall we? You must have heard of “Bachpan ka pyaar”. The song has been everywhere in the past few weeks after the artist Badsha collaborated with the young maker of this tune. Now this is the epitome of the type of songs being discussed here. It has everything, from a 5 year old singing a very pitchy melody which immediately gets stuck in your head, to Badsha’s signature catchy Hindi words that somehow have no meaning but sound absolutely amazing. This is what we should be celebrating in India.

 

Okay now before we end a few honorable mentions. There is, of course, “Hafte mein char shanivar hona chahiye” which is just mwah. Also, the song that compares you to a soda “Coca Cola Tu'' is, simply put, a really emotionally heavy song. Then we have “Apdi Pode”, of course who could forget the song people think South Indians spend their entire life listening to. “Jalebi Baby” Is another perfect example of this, it is just absolutely chef’s kiss. Also, any song by Vennu Mallesh is immediately a national treasure and if you disagree, you are wrong. Right - so those are some of the songs I feel are so stupid and fun that they actually work very well and the lack of logic and content to them is what makes them so great (the riverdale of music if you will). I hate them so much that I have started to love them. Please listen to these if you haven’t yet besties you will not regret it. <3

0000.png

NEGATIVE NATIONALISM

- Grace

Last week was "Independence" day, and there was rightfully a lot of discourse on the value of this independence along with a lot of displays of nationalism. That got me thinking, what is nationalism? And what does nationalism mean to me? And why didn’t I feel the special connection to it that a lot of people did? Was it my ideology? To me, nationalism felt like identifying with my nation and seeing myself growing with it. By competitive nature, it made sense that nationalism was also to the detriment of the interests of other nations. A large portion of the speeches and the campaign put across the message that India was “better” and it would out beat other nations easily because of the qualities it had. But was it always detrimental to other nations, or just other communities?

 

I decided that it wasn’t entirely me being directly opposite to the government on the political spectrum. Nationalism isn't entirely a leftist or a rightist thing, it's been associated with different movements all through history. In the 1920-40s, it was allied with right-wing tendencies, but more recently it's been allied with left-wing, communist, anti-colonial movements. 

 

Was it because I saw nationalism as bad rather than a good course of development for the country? 

There isn't a lot of grey area in the discourse on whether nationalism is good or bad - the bad is Hitler and the Holocaust, and the good is the Zionist movement that created modern Israel, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

 

Nationalism can uplift the idea of working for the greater good. Citizens would be less resistant to paying taxes and redistribution of income would probably be much easier. But I like most of my characteristics grey, so I believe that nationalism is a tool that can go both ways. Good nationalism builds a state and helps organize a community and help it move towards good, democratic values. The bad sort of nationalism is a power-hungry ideology that seeks to eliminate and crush rather than include. 

 

If I looked at a more cynical interpretation, I could say that nationalism is good when it works and bad when it fails. For a long time, the excuse of nationalism has been used for acts of brutality, marginalization, and has led me and a lot of other people to question its morals. It should seek to unify the people and become all-inclusive. However, since independence, we have become more conscious of what brings us apart.  Our democracy is built largely on parties pulling strings at different communities in whatever way benefits them. And the biggest party that calls itself nationalist is "majority oriented". This too could have been one of the reasons I didn’t identify at large with it. I clearly wasn’t a part of this majority. 

 

Wait, let me go over the majority oriented thing again. As for a representation of India, the "majority" that comes to mind is a Hindi speaking, Hindu guy from Uttar Pradesh. He might also like the idea of being the majority, but is he? Hindus are about 80% of the Indian population, and the majority doesn't speak Hindi or come from Uttar Pradesh. And that's not even mentioning his caste, he might be part of the 10% of Indians that are Brahmin. 

 

And there’s Hindi, something I never identified with but felt essential anyway. And also, one of the topics I went down a rabbit hole about while researching for this article. There are about thirty-five official languages in total (not the 1637 that Shah Rukh Khan mentions) and they're spoken by over a million people. They're not dialects or subsects, they're full language systems. And the native speakers of these languages are almost all minorities. A lot of people understand and speak Hindi, well, thanks to Bollywood, but the technicalities are largely unfamiliar to people in the South and the North-Eastern states of India. 

 

So what's the solution? What is the perfect alternative that keeps everyone included equally and allows for comprehension everywhere? A medium of communication that is equally distant from all spoken languages so that everyone is easily included without being ignored would be ideal. We see this ideal in China, where there's a common script that allows people that couldn't comprehend each other while speaking to write to each other. Consequently, alliance networks in China have been multilinguistic since the Middle Ages. Russia, on the other hand, has a lot more linguistic diversity than China and its language is written in several scripts like Arabic and Latin. This diversity put in obstacles to forming alliances across linguistic boundaries. There were instead a series of nationalism movements for each community which helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union and previously the Romanov empire along ethnic fault lines. 

 

There are perfect solutions to each of these problems, and feeling disconnected and excluded isn’t just a “me problem”, it’s a problem for all the minorities that make up the majority.

 

Something else that might push this all-inclusive sort of nationalism along would be the people in power supporting civil organizations that connect to people across ethnic divisions. 

 

This representation of the supposed majority is what we see in the central government at large and that's why people don't identify with it. Looking from my perspective, there isn't a lot of connection I'd have with the current government. However, if I saw someone from my community, even just from South India, talking about issues we faced here, I'd be a lot more likely to identify with my nation then. Andreas Wimmer, a professor at Columbia, found that almost all stable countries have the most inclusive of the communities within them. 

 

I'd also feel like much more of a nationalist if the government (not foreign NGOs or the private sector) provided public goods equally across the country, rather than just where they had a majority (free vaccine who?).

 

In conclusion, inclusivity and equality need to be at the heart of nationalism for it to work properly, have smoother functioning and have an overall passion for the betterment of the country. We'd all be a lot better off if we felt like we belonged, and righteousness probably would make you feel better than the morally grey.