Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘Blaming colonialism for the current state of affairs in India is easy’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Royal debate

I profoundly disagree with almost everything written in this article (“Embroidered into Meghan Markle’s veil was Britain’s bid to celebrate its bloody colonial history”). Sadly this journalist (Aparna Kapadia) seems extremely misguided and ill-informed. She has used this royal wedding to gleefully pull out the colonial card. Seventy years after the end of British rule, the colonial card is still being used by individuals who don’t have the strength to believe that their destiny is in their own hands and does not have to defined by there past. Blaming colonialism for the current state of affairs in India is easy, but it is more painful to accept the corruption and mismanagement that has gone on after decades of Independence.

The membership of the Commonwealth has increased over time with member states happily being part of it. The Commonwealth plays a part in bringing these countries together if they agree to uphold “world peace, liberty, human rights, equality and free trade”. And crucially all member states are equal and not governed by the British. The Commonwealth place a positive role in many sectors of society, in this troubled world.

This is Commonwealth the current British monarch presides over and the young British royals (including Megan and Harry) want to uphold and symbolise even in their own personal wedding dress! The embroidery on her veil was a symbol of unity and togetherness in a world that is increasingly divided. It definitely does not represent a celebration of colonial past – which is an absolute ludicrous statement! Kapadia only has to look at the service and charity work that the royals have done in the decades after Independence – they have led a life of servitude, not domination.

Secondly, what type of “reckoning” would she like to see? Financial compensation? Land? Formal apologises? I fail to see how any of these will reverse the misdemeanours of colonial Britons or what it has do with this generation of British royalty.

Finally, if Indian weavers were so badly treated during the British rule, why were they not supported and resurrected once the Raj ended? Indians have had 70 years of self-rule, what have they done in all this time? This article only serves to put forth misguided, nationalistic attitudes and needs to be reconsidered. – Dilan Dabare

***

While flogging this theme, one should also ask: Has any conqueror had benevolent intentions? Isn’t it always about power and pelf?

Aren’t foreign policies all about self-interest at the expense of the other? If there are any benefits, they are by-products rather than the goal. For example, India’s English language skills.
How much healing and economic recovery can happen with a mere apology? Unless attitudes change, apologies are tokenisms. Like our prime minister condemning heinous acts weeks, even months, after their occurrence, mainly as a political strategy.
In the post-colonial era what is happening in our country today? Read one Arvinda Adiga novel and we have the answer. Or even better, a Mahashweta Devi story.

Is it okay if the exploitation is a domestic product and not imported? Do our craftsmen get what they really deserve even today? It’s the middlemen who rake in the moolah. So many are deserting their family tradition and seeking greener pastures because the ancient skills are unviable.

Doesn’t the country in which the writer now lives represent imperialism too? Ultimately, most rulers are saints by compulsion rather than by choice, while the masses go with the flow. When and where does the blame game stop? – Usha Subramanian

***

I find it highly offensive and insulting (and factually incorrect) that Aparna Kapadia states that “of the many British-era atrocities, none were more consequential and impoverishing than the destruction of the local handloom and textiles of India”.

One of the worst atrocities of the British era was the Bengal genocide, where an estimated two-three million people died of starvation as a result of British policy of funding the war on the backs of the colonies. Either Kapadia is ignorant or believes that Bengali lives do not matter as much as textiles and handlooms. This article is offensive in its current form. – Kuheli Dutt

***

While Aparna Kapadia is absolutely correct when she notes that “most people in Britain still think the British Empire is more something to be proud of rather than ashamed of,” Meghan Markle’s veil with the hand-embroidered flora of the 53 Commonwealth countries can be read differently from Kapadia’s interpretation. If we were to read it as a celebration of colonial rule then we must read the Commonwealth itself as such, instead of what it purports to be: “a free and equal voluntary co-operation” of countries bound by history and heritage.

The veil can be read as being in conversation with both colonialism and neoliberalism. It is in conversation with the former because, by acknowledging the Commonwealth, it acknowledges the existence of free autonomous states and does not erase their presence. It is in conversation with the latter because, if the veil was made in Europe, which it was to the best of my knowledge, it means that no poorly paid sweatshop workers in so-called third world countries spent hours sewing it in miserable conditions. It symbolises the fact that our countries must no longer be seen simply as storehouses of rich resources to raid or repositories of cheap labour. Kapadia is right to describe the sordid history and sad fate of textile workers during British rule in India. The Commonwealth does not deny or erase the history of British rule in its subject countries but attempts to move forward from it for the future. Whether or not it has been successful in that mission is another matter altogether. – RB Singh

Kashmir conflict

Do you think Modi is a madman to be spending thousands of crores on creating non-military infrastructure (“‘Development, development, development’: Modi repeats an old fallacy in Kashmir”)? What do you suggest ? If the government had not been spending enough on Kashmir, your articles would lambast Modi for forgetting the state after elections. If he does fulfil his promises like this, you development is not enough. Do suggest what the government should do in Kashmir – gift it to Pakistan? Because that seems to be the undercurrent of several articles on Kashmir on Scroll.in – Nihar Akunuri

***

I’m not sure what the article is trying to suggest. There should be no development in Kashmir? What is the disagreement here? – Prashant Kalkar

Temple run

Every religion is a way of life. But many religions have failed to accept it as way of life and are practicing with faith, superstition, aggression and community expansion through forceful conversions (“‘Rahul Gandhi was foolish to visit temples’: Writer Vivek Shanbhag on the Karnataka election outcome”).

Speaking on a particular subject in isolation is injustice. We are comparing everything from liberty to economy and lifestyle then why not religion, which is a day-to-day practice and directly affecting community and behaviour? Why not talk about tolerance in other countries, like Muslim or Christian-majority ones?

Both Christianity and Islam took birth as a reformist religion, with an aim to tackle the society’s ills. The founders formed the religion for tolerance, cooperation and unify the society under one umbrella of faith. While these religions had taken to expand by conquering boundaries in old times, they have now resorted to conquering populations through conversions.
Therefore, Hinduism is only defending its survival in its homeland.

Mutual tolerance should be followed by all communities irrespective of race, caste or religion. Unfortunately, the sense of belonging based on religion does exist in society. Intellectuals like Vivek Shanbhag should make a public plea to people to shrug off the feelings of belonging based on religion and encourage a mass movement to have not just tolerance but acceptance of multi- religion, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-lingual society in the globalised world, which has been a challenge even in developed economies like the United States. – Geeta Krishna

***

Why are secular activists so crude and offensive in their remarks against those with whom they disagree? For example, Shanbag refers to Anant Kumar Hegde’s remarks as “crazy statements”. Is there not a more civilised way of expressing the same idea? Another example is “Rahul Gandhi is being foolish.”

Also, with regard to his statement “they oppose a Muslim boy marrying a Hindu girl”, I believe that inter-religious marriages must be allowed, but what is the necessity for a Hindu girl to convert to Islam after marriage, unless she comes to the conclusion that Islam is the religion she wants to adopt? Can’t spouses be of different religions and coexist, with their children adopting any religion of their choice when they grow up? Secular activists either do not subscribe to this view or at don’t express it lest it hurt Muslims. Secular activists should not follow the same language as die-hard communalists to make a point. Politeness in discussion is the hallmark of decency. – R Venkat

***

I read with great interest Vivek Shanbag’s perspective and his argument on the Hindu religion. I am a devout Hindu but not a fanatic. I believe Modi and RSS are the only ones left who can safeguard my culture and ensure that my descendants would continue to be Hindus in the future. My fear is that if we maintain status quo with the Congress and other groups, other religions may overtake Hindus in number, wiping out the religion, scriptures and the culture. – Muralidharan K

Karnataka saga

The Supreme Court should not have intervened and exerted its supremacy over other branches of government (“Yeddyurappa’s resignation brings up the question: What if Supreme Court had not intervened?”). Politics aside, by overruling the governor’s decision, it has crossed a line. If for every decision we run to Supreme Court, there is no need for a governor. – Sangeetha

Looking ahead

The story begins by describing the BJP’s performance in Karnataka as a “debacle” (“Karnataka debacle looms large in meeting of BJP’s coalition partners in North East”). This suggests that the author and publication are driven by an agenda. There is no way that BJP’s performance in the recent elections can be called a debacle. The fact that they weren’t allowed to form the government does not make it a debacle. It was the only party that had increased its vote share. If anything, it is the only party that increased its trust amongst the people. How is that a debacle? Maybe it’s a cultural nuance that in Indian use of English, to emphasise a point, the actual meaning of the word is overlooked, which also cannot be excused in my opinion. – Sanjay Parekh

Varanasi tragedy

It is interesting to know that a FIR was filed against the corporation’s staff for not following the traffic norms in February and a warning was given in November (“Varanasi flyover collapse: Police say they had warned the firm about safety violations, filed an FIR”). The incident thus raises several questions. Why did the corporation not take the warning seriously? Why did the corporation’s staff not follow the norms? What was the police after learning that the norms were not being followed?What should be the duty of the state to prevent loss of lives in an accident? Announcing compensations and suspending a few people is not going to prevent such incidents in future. Some serious effort is needed to prevent more such deaths. – Rehan Ansar

Young and restless

The first Dhruv Rathee video was perhaps a spoof on demonetisation and my first impression was that this has been made by a Congress activist (“Meet Dhruv Rathee, the 23-year-old YouTuber whose videos are infuriating Modi’s admirers”). But on reading about him, my chest swelled with pride that we have youngsters amongst us who can challenge the might of political heavyweights. As long as there is even one Rathee amongst us, there will be hope for democracy in our country. God bless him. There are striking similarities between him and my child, who is almost 18 wants to do something meaningful in his own way. – Mohammad Aslam

***

I regularly watch Dhruv Rathee’s videos and find his political analysis appreciable for his age. The truth is always right, but tolerance is low in our country at present, so he should be prepared. – DR Brahme

Literary debate

This is a realistic analysis of the role of Bengali intelligentsia over the years (“A politician questioned the credentials of Bengal’s most respected living poet. Everyone jumped in”). However, is it possible to associate with the current developments and remain rooted with a futuristic vision that is yet to unfold? The dilemma will always be there, proving many intellectual prophecies wrong. Thus it is hazardous to take a side and not be baffled at the turn of events. Reality cannot be fathomed from a singular perspective. Yesterday’s jargon has become useless today. We must reconcile with the incomprehensible multidimensional current reality with the unknown future that is to unfold. – Manoranjan Dutta

Stranger things

What’s the news value of this piece (“‘I’m Kalki avatar, can’t come to office, must do penance so India gets good rain’: Gujarat official”)? Being a doctor, I think this person in question is either delusional or is a bad liar. So you are either making fun of his mental illness or else promoting his slacker attitude. Please don’t let such journalism seep into your system. – Pranab K Prabhakaran

Memorial row

I condemn this abominable act of constructing a memorial for a politician with a history of criminal activity (“‘She was declared a convict’: Jayalalithaa memorial on Chennai’s Marina beach faces legal challenge”). Her memory must never be celebrated in any manner throughout this state. – Sundara Murthy

***

This is a very nice article on the opposition to the memorial. Annadurai and MGR, to some extent, can be credited with the growth of Tamil Nadu. But Jayalalithaa and her party ruined things. There is no need for a memorial on the beach. I hope the Madras High Court gives a favourable verdict. – Kasthurirangan Ramesh

***

Does the Indian Penal Code have any provision to stop the use of taxpayers’ money to build a memorial for a convicts? Citizens of Tamil Nadu are not allowed to gather on the Marina Beach to protest, but politicians can be buried there! That too using government funds. – Paul Dhanasekaran

***

Here is a paradox where one lived in luxury in the name of being a public servant and was eventually also convicted by the country’s highest judicial authority, but is posthumously being considered for a grand memorial, burying all moral and ethical standards just to get a political edge over others at the cost of the public . A fair public opinion poll is needed in this regard even if the legal battle fails. Such structures, by and large, will be looked at for no more than their architectural value and people will throng to it not to pay their tributes to the departed leader but only as an another monument, adding one more feather to the cap of Tourism Department. – Parthasarathi S

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Sponsored Content BY 

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.