Saturday, 8 March 2008

Two Faces of the Left

Does the Left have a coherent policy vis-a-vis the US? On the one hand, they’re ready to end support to the UPA government over the 123 agreement, which will finally see India acknowledged as a member of the nuclear club. This has led many others, some of them the good and the great and many wiser than yours truly to wonder if our communist parties are acting as a Chinese fifth column. Evidently, the Left is unaware that China has already signed this agreement.On the other hand, the West Bengal government welcomes a trade team from California. Are policies that are good for West Bengal or China not good enough for India?

This kind of blinkered vision is not restricted to the Left--it also operates elsewhere in Indian politics. It appears that, 60 years after Independence, some people have now decided it is time to break India. They would like a status that is similar to that of our founding fathers, but alas, they lack vision!

International Women's Day

On this International Women’s Day, we should really try to understand what the entry of women into the political and economic lives of their nations has meant. Many have reached the heights in their chosen professions and many women have also lead their countries. Others are trying their best to fight gender biases through education. Many more have taken up careers hitherto confined to men, that too in traditional milieus. This, in a society where there is little, if any, protection for women within the law. However, the very fact that most people now see the raising of children and the running of a home as being equally important as being a breadwinner is also a victory--these often thankless tasks have been solely a woman’s preserve. But men, too, feel a need to spend time with their children--they have no wish to be as distant as their grandfathers 60 years ago. Hence the demand for work-life balance and the need to spend more time with the family. The fact that more women choose to work from home is also a victory--they not only do the unpaid labour of managing the home and the children but are also economically productive. This issue has already become important in the West, where women retirees face a steep fall in their pensions because of time taken off to have and raise children.

Taking a Leaf...

Yesterday, I saw an interesting documentary on the History Channel, Bollywood mein Hindi, which documents the impact that the use of Hindi in Bollywood movies has had on the status of the language worldwide. This documentary has been screened as part of the 8th World Hindi Conference, in New York. Of course, the Hindi used in Bollywood movies varies widely, from flowery Urdu, to down-to-earth Bhojpuri, Bihari and Mumbaikar-speak, to Hindustani--this is not really the Sanskritised Hindi popular with Doordarshan newsreaders of yore. While watching this documentary, I could not help but think over what Shyam Benegal had to say--that rather than make movies in a regional language, he preferred to make movies in Hindi, because the market was larger. I wonder why film-makers, who make movies in the regional languages, do not take this comment to heart. They should do what Rajiv Menon, director of Kandukondain Kandukondain, did--make a movie in the language of their choice but use subtitling so that it can be seen all over India. As it is, those of us living in the Hindi-speaking heart of India do not have easy access to facilities to learn regional languages--there are no school programmes to teach Gujarati, Tamil, Punjabi or Bangla to schoolchildren that I know of, nor do the various state governments fund Sahitya Sabhas to teach or propagate their languages outside their state boundaries. The only other method we can use to learn or understand regional languages is through music and films. If music companies were to issue music tapes and CDs with translations thrown in, that would also help. In fact, why don’t the makers of movies in languages other than Hindi get together and set up a channel on the lines of World Movies, which shows non-Hollywood and non-English language movies with subtitles?

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