Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘We have had leaders like Jignesh Mevani and see what they have done to us’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Leading Tamil Nadu

TM Krishna is a great singer, but his constant attempts to appease certain interests through his anti-Hindu tirade are worrying (“The TM Krishna column: Not Rajini or Kamal Haasan, what Tamil Nadu needs is its own Jignesh Mevani”). Krishna wants a leader like Jignesh Mevani. Does he know the language Mevani used against the prime minister? Does Krishna want abusive leaders in Tamil Nadu? The choice of leader does not befit Krishna’s stature. He enjoys immense respect in society, especially from Hindus. Great way to pay them back. – KR Ramesh

***

Development should be the top priority for any future leader of Tamil Nadu. TTV Dhinakaran’s cool and unruffled appearance in TV shows indicates that he is a leader to watch. TM Krishna, in his bias, seems to ignore this. – Natarajan KS

***

TM Krishna should focus on what he is good at: singing. People love that. Why does he want to poke his nose into everything? He has been trying to grab attention. But my friend, politics is dirty. Please stay away from it. – Jayakumar AR

***

It is now common knowledge that the people who assembled at Marina Beach to protest the jallikattu ban were organised by divisive groups operating in Tamil Nadu and it was no spontaneous gathering. The protests against NEET were also by vested interests. I thought that after the Jayalalithaa era, there would be a cleaning of Tamil Nadu and the national parties would make some strides here. But alas, that has not happened. Tamil Nadu may have to wait indefinitely for a sincere government that will serve its people. – PD Amarnath

***

I do agree that the choices available to Tamilians are limited. But the Assembly elections are in 2021, by when many things are likely to change. Leaders always emerge from the masses. Moreover, we don’t know what the outcome of the 2019 parliamentary elections will be. People of Tamil Nadu are not fools to accept leaders only from the film industry. Tamilians now differentiate between real and reel heroes. Gone are the days when people would immolate themselves for their leaders. The people of Tamil Nadu want a leader who can protect their interests. Many don’t realise that people are forced to chose the lesser of the evils. The RK Nagar bye-poll results are a fine example. – Pandian

***

The mindset of Indians needs to change. Most people are okay with offering a bribe to get the job done. Unless there’s a massive shift in this way of thinking, things will continue this year irrespective of whether Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth or Jignesh Mevani is in power.

Do people want clean governance? Yes and no. Modi, to a certain extent, is dependable, but he is also a human being with limitations. He should spend time in Tamil Nadu and carry forward some of Jayalalithaa’s projects. Develop the rural economy. Stop rural migration, provide low-cost homes, roads, solar electricity, banks, schools, colleges and hospitals. We also need more warehouses and remunerative prices for agricultural produce. Stop pollution. There is much more that can be done. – Govindarajan Venkatesan

***

My job allows me to travel all around Tamil Nadu and India. Wherever I have travelled, I have not seen any sign of oppression by Thevars, Gounders. Where did the author get the idea that there is oppression? I have seen casteism in northern India and parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, but not in Tamil Nadu.

It’s high time people keep caste away from politics. I have different reasons for not welcoming Rajinikanth or Kamal Hassan into politics. But TM Krishna’s solution is more dangerous. Above all, his support to Jignesh Mevani tickles me. What are his credentials? Becoming an MLA is no big deal, TTV Dhinakaran did just that. – Raghunathan KR

***

This article is shallow in its approach to a very serious issue. It is pathetic that the author underestimates the importance of an anti-corruption plank merely because people have accepted it as a way of life. Obviously, they did not have a choice. Forget the queue-jumpers and bribe-givers. Does the common man approve of the toll he has to pay for every little thing he needs to get done from the government? More importantly, does the author not realise that corruption is a huge societal overhead and a drain on the economy, making the common man pay more for the ordinary things he buys and the services he avails of?

Now, coming to Jignesh Mevani. Is the author eulogising Mevani after studying his contribution to the cause he has been espousing? He should look at the work of social reformers who have changed the lives of people without generating any ill-will. Take for instance the model espoused by Narayana Guru of Kerala.

Today, we need the Guru model more than the Gandhian model. It would be great if people would study a subject properly instead of coming to a perception-driven conclusion. – Easwara Narayanan

***

We don’t need leaders like Jignesh Mevani. We have already had leaders like that and see what they have done to us. Leaders like Jignesh only know caste-based politics. We need caste, religion and race-free politics. – Bharath Gowtham

Caste question

This is a poorly researched and preposterous piece (“Does the US have a caste problem? An Indian scholar thinks so”). This professor of the University of Hawaii is probably so far removed from India that he lacks the comprehensive faculties to differentiate caste from jati.

What exists in India is is jati, which is much more than caste. The jati system is not just segregationist practices based on work, but also an institutional agent triggering centripetal forces in society. This means that on occasions, the segregated jatis do converge under a single roof.

Under the caste system, there can never be an occasion where the cobbler’s contribution is considered on par with that of a goldsmith and there aren’t any occasions where various castes come together for a cause.

The problem lies in Indian universities and its academicians who are blinded by the English language and are so busy with the endorsement of Canonical literature that they are largely not aware of the realities of the humans in humanities that they set about to teach the masses. – Abhishek Sangavikar

Testing times

I thank the board for retaining the old system of evaluation (“Told to stop meddling in primary education, CBSE withdraws its unpopular evaluation policy”). I am a primary teacher associated with a CBSE school. Evaluating a child’s performance using different strategies is good. But preparing a child for Class 10 doesn’t mean that a child in primary school should be treated on a par with a Class 6 or Class 10 student. Psychologically, the child is not prepared to bear the burden of learning what has been taught throughout the academic year in one go. We want to make their foundation strong not only through written exams but also by focussing on their creative thinking, gauging their understanding after each concept is taught and researching a topic through group work, among other things.

These steps will help spark an interest in learning in children as they will avoid cramming. Teacher can sort out topics for varied evaluation processes in the beginning of the year itself. This will not only help children understand the concept but will prepare them for the competitive world. Today, this technique is applied in all corporate offices, business centres and even in the IT sector. Rather than focusing on the child’s performance in the Class 10 boards, we have to teach them to face challenges in the world and to shape them as a complete individual. – Unni Pramodh

***

If we are going to cancel the assessment pattern now, towards the end of the academic year, it will create confusion among teachers, schools and parents. It may also create a bad impression of the CBSE. We are still not clear on what needs to be done for Classes 6 to 8. – Akbarali Charankav

Education reform

I have worked in the NCERT for 25 years as professor, head of department and then dean academic (“Centre wants to merge three school education schemes – but experts say it is not a good idea”). I have seen and experienced the impact of all the three schemes. I strongly feel that all the three schemes should be merged and implemented with strict monitoring. This will fix the responsibility of the implementing agency and ensure quality. – Hukum Singh

Looking back at Doklam

The Doklam stand-off was necessary for the Chinese political leadership to curb the People’s Liberation Army after the National Congress of the Communist Party on October 18, 2017 (“India, China ‘experienced enough’ to handle hurdles like Doklam standoff, says new Indian envoy”). Most national security strategy watchers could have deduced this.

India’s decision-making body today is not like that of the pre-2014 period, which permitted the erosion of national and political will to tackle China. The present national security adviser has no illusions about China’s capacity, capability or political intent to implement and safeguard Chin’s national interests.

China is three times stronger than India in these areas and unless a catastrophic situation Balkanises that country, it will be very difficult to match them anytime soon. However, with the Doklam issue, China came across a different India that combined diplomacy with military capability in a geographical area where the Asian giant was at a disadvantage. The Chinese political leadership had to prevent escalation by ensuring that their Army did not indulge in any brinkmanship.

China realises now that the national security policy-making apparatus in India comrpises of alter egos of the prime minister and the Ministry of External Affairs is meant for the softer side of diplomacy, done only to gain credibility through dialogue.

Yes, China is a concern for India and hence the foreign secretary and the ambassador Gautam Bambawale are on the same frequency as both are old China hands. Realistically, it will be long before the India-China border issues are resolved no matter how many billions of dollars are sunk by China on CPEC. Most interesting will be to see how the Modi government utlises the former foreign secretary whose term recently ended. A person who has competence with intelligence along with experience and good judgement cannot be discarded. Let the Asian drama unfold. – Gautam Sen

Sound and soul

Beautiful article. It shows that every artist’s creation, be it a poem or composition, needs an intelligent and compassionate critic (“Audio master: ‘Bandini’ is about crossings real and imagined, literal and metaphorical”). The writer is certainly someone who not just understands the poetry but also transmits the beauty of the composition into the minds of readers with simple words and without effort. – Milind Hiray

Movie reviews

This review was inane (“‘Kuldip Patwal: I Didn’t Do It!’ film review: We don’t care who did either”). Why talk about the fake moustache? Do you think everything in Padmaavat is real? What about Salman Khan’s moustache in Sultan or Amitabh Bachchan’s get-up in Pink or Piku? I have seen this before and there are great moments in it, none of which you thought deserved a mention. If you do not care, you should not have written about it. – Adesh Firang

The other

“Degenerate”, “treacherous”, “demented”... you said it all (“Ranveer Singh on playing Alauddin Khilji as a ‘sexy villain’: ‘Lust was one of the starting points’”)! That’s what the “other” is, isn’t it? Thank you Ranveer Singh and Sanjay Leela Bhansali for your valuable contribution to revisionist Indian history. We don’t need research any longer. We will just see your films for the truth. – Ghazala Akbar

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.