CNN-IBN journalist Sanjeeb Mukherjea has “written about” (since anything passes for writing, these days) Sivaji on his IBN Live blog. I was taken aback as soon as I read this:
We Aryan Indians are terribly clannish in our collective ignorance of Dravidian cinema and stars. Hence we are “kanstantly” overhyped about a certain tall dapper man in his 60’s who has a voice of an angel.
But I plunged ahead hoping that he was actually making some sort of satirical statement against racist/regional stereotyping and I would come to it in a minute. No such luck.
The pompous moron goes on to reinforce stereotypes about language and accent and throws in satirical gems like this one:
You Dravidians are really fast on the pickup. We are sooo lagging behind. “Khooool” you are.
Read the full post here.
Of course even members of the media are entitled to have personal opinions. But when these opinions are shallow, asinine and racist, they should not be given a public platform by one of the country’s largest media houses. It baffles me as to why CNN-IBN has decided that all its esteemed journos are wonderful writers who have useful (let’s not even go near ‘intelligent’) things to say. Why should a bunch of idiots be allowed to strut their inane, boring and, in this case, downright offensive stuff using the CNN banner? Is there a lack of good columnists in this country? Shouldn’t CNN-IBN have some standards, for god’s sake?
The point is not about whether or not I like Sivaji. I have not even seen the movie. The point is the totally unnecessary (and erroneous) references to racial history, the mocking accent simulation, and the ridiculing tone targeted at “Dravidians”. I’m disgusted. And worse, I am ashamed.
It’s the burden of collective guilt. When I first moved to Bangalore from Bombay, smug about my cosmopolitan credentials and largely ignorant of the real world, I was surprised at the skepticism and resentment towards “north Indians”. The backlash was just beginning to rear its head and I stumbled right into it sometimes.
But as I spent more time here, became more of a resident and less of an immigrant, the perspective changed. I began to notice the attitudes that northerners harbour towards southern customs, language, culture. For example, relatives are “concerned” when they hear that my mother eats sambhar rice for lunch at work. They would probably fall off their chairs if I told them I like rasam more than fish curry (though I love both). Recently, at a wedding in Bombay, I was horrified to find that the groom’s Malayali relatives were being called “Madrasis”. As a Bong brought up in Mumbai and married to a man who’s half Palghat Iyer-half Bong, I am privy to different sides of the story. (We?) “Aryan Indians” don’t look too good so far.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many people north of the Vindhyas have an unassailable conviction in their own superiority. This is largely based on no logical premise at all (unless you count the fact that some people’s ancestors were more blood-thirsty and barbaric than others’). At this point, I could quote statistics about Karnataka or Tamil Nadu’s economic prowess or human development index as many are wont to do. But I will desist because I have always opposed the north-south divide in the first place.
It’s attitudes like Mr Mukherjea’s that fuel a backlash, that make Kannadigas view “outsiders” with suspicion and make Tamilians protect their language more fiercely. This is the reason that people from the south pull out their trump cards whenever they can and thumb their noses and go “so there!”
In the end, nobody wins. What we get is a whirl of trump cards and a gaping chasm that splits the country in two.
Coming back to the post, there were about 105 comments when I checked, most of which protested against the inherent racism, made fun of Bengalis (predictably), and told Sanjeeb to get his perspectives in order. I liked this one from someone called Goodfellas:
Dear SanjeeV Saar,
I was tot-totally shacked reading your post saar. But I must congratulate saar, for such racial thinking. I, with all by “black” heart agree saar, that movies like JBJ, Tara-rum rum rum pum pum um (forgive for accent saar – small persons saar, make mistake saar) , dhoom-thwo arre saar, jewels saar! Shud be sent to Oscars saar. Saar, movies like AKS saar, come only once in a life time saar, what a movie saar!. Singing is fantastic saar! AR Rahaman, Hamsalekha, Manomurthy, Illayaraja all shud take lessons saar.
Yes saar, we kaanstantly make mistakes in English saar, what to do saar? We cannot say ‘V’ as ‘B’ saar! One doubt saar. Is it “we” or “be” saar? Is it “We Indians are not racist or Be Indians are not racist saar”?
But saar, one thing perplexes me the most saar. If we are soo bad in English saar, how will the American universities give entry to us saar? 60% of Indians that go for America for higher studies saar, hail from Karnataka, TN and AP saar!! How is this possible saar? I know saar! The computer simbli loves the way we pronounce “Khooool” saar and gives us high scores in English proficiency tests saar!
Saar, if I make a list saar, list too big saar, IISc, IIM, IIT, DRDO, ISRO, BHEL, BEL, HAL, CARE – all defense companies saar, are in south saar. Very bad saar, they shud have been in kolkatta saar! “Be cud have locked them out decades ago saar”
One more thing saar, why is crime rate saar, very low in south and high in north saar? Statistics say saar, that every 4 mins, a crime gets reported in UP, Bihar, MP, Delhi, saar!no statistics are available from Bengal saar, they do not give reports at all saar!
Is it that you “Aryans” have a racial commitment to crime saar?
‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature’
Get a life dude
And this one from SM:
This is quite stunning…. I understand that the movie may not be to everybody’s liking but that doesn’t mean you insult a section of your countrymen. I am rather disappointed that a journalist can be this callous and can harbor such views. It is sad, that a journalist whose profession is revolutionizing the India that we know in more ways than one has such views. I was of the view that a journalist of today’s India knows how important a role he is playing in transforming the ills of the country. I can’t stop raving about the recent causes that the media has fought for and won. But this distinction made by a journalist certainly dampens my regard for you because I now realize that not all of you are ideal.
On another note, it was a good thing that the web site allowed your blog to be published. I know now that there are many self obsessed individuals like you who think on similar lines and were very happy to read your blog. An educated person in a responsible profession you are … doesn’t suit you.
Who would like to encourage a spineless organization that harbors people carrying racist views!? I am not being irrational. The very fact that a person like you is associated with the channel is enough for me to distance myself from it. I am a common man, who lives in the ideal world. The media I follow should be the ones who are high on moral values and practice what they preach. I am sick of hypocrites.
And this is how the media continues to build a special place in our hearts.