Guest post by ANUJ BHUWANIA
Cellphone videos of the celebrations at India Gate after India won the semi-final against Pakistan
So cricket is the opiate of the Indian masses, and India’s left-liberals (henceforth LLs) can’t deal with it. Or with popular cinema or religion, for that matter. All of which are things that these oh-so-serious people can’t quite seem to fathom. The only cinema you should enjoy are art house/multiplex films with the right ‘social message’, the only religion you can profess is Sufism and the only cricket you are allowed to enjoy is West Indies winning a test match, because CLR James has apparently said it’s ‘empowering’ or ‘anti-imperialist’ or some such. These trivialities – cinema, religion, cricket – are just there to distract people from the really important issues. We should all only obsess about ‘important’ topics like nuclear energy, the 2G spectrum scam or the UID.
I have been following the reactions to the India-Pakistan match with rapidly growing irritation. I wholeheartedly supported the Indian team against Pakistan, like I always have, and would have been devastated if India lost. Does that make me, and crazy Indian cricket fans like me, psychotic, war-mongering and immature? Sure, the media buildup was cynically jingoistic. The post-semi-final madness on Delhi roads, was for example, so aggressive as to appear almost violent. And the crowd behaviour in a few cricket matches, notably the 1996 World Cup semi-final at Eden Gardens, has been absolutely shameful. But the LLs’ inability to deal with India’s obsession with cricket is symptomatic of a greater disconnect. They just cannot understand when people talk of Javed Miandad’s last-ball sixer in Sharjah as a collective traumatic wound, because, for them, it’s false consciousness. There are even those who call cricket a ‘middle class’ obsession in India. Wishful thinking, so that they can flog their India vs. Bharat cliche one more time. Did they see the roads of any major Indian city on Wednesday afternoon?
There is perhaps an analogy here with riotous Indian celebrations of the ‘traditional’ sort. Holi, for example, which is seen as a scourge by most LLs, is indeed a disastrous day when large numbers of women get attacked in many North Indian cities. But I would still say it’s the bhang and the alcohol, the drenched bodies, the crazy colours and the all-round excess that LLs just cannot deal with. Unfortunately, unlike Diwali, they can’t sneer at it as ‘conspicuous consumption’, and nowadays it’s uncool to call something barbaric or premodern, so they just deploy the misogyny stick to beat it with. Which indeed is often not inaccurate, but does that make Holi intrinsically such a terrible thing? Anybody who has had a Holi experience free of fear, in the Jawaharlal University campus for example, or at a friend’s house, knows it can be the most exhilarating festival. One can, of course, go the other route and celebrate Holi for its transgressiveness and carnivalesque nature – which are all good things because, you know, Ranajit Guha and Bakhtin have said so. (The LLs’ fetish for transgression justifies anything done in its name). But must Holi be celebrated because it’s ‘empowering’? Can’t we simply claim it because it’s such good fun? Shocking as it may seem, fun may be not such a bad thing as an end in itself!
I remember going to Chittaranjan Park with an Iyengar friend during Durga Puja a few years back. He was horrified by the crowds and the mela atmosphere and the lack of appropriate religious behaviour. He insisted that in the temples he frequents in the south, its about being in a peaceful place and a quiet communion with God. What he saw during Durga Puja was really a perversion of true religious experience.
The reformatory zeal of the Indian LL elite, to remake the social in its own (boring) image leads it to lament the general lack of ‘maturity’ ad nauseum. When will the LLs stop infantilizing the people they have to work with? ‘The solution’ for them too, perhaps, is “to dissolve the people and elect another?”