Don’t beg for me, I have a mother

In most big cities in India traffic signals are quite crowded, and in that crowd it’s not difficult to find beggars. All kinds of beggars, those who have lost their limbs, those who are partially blind, people affected with leprosy and the most disturbing kind - a woman with a crying baby. I don’t think the baby cries because it’s hungry or because it cannot take the heat, but because she’s begging on its behalf. It cries in shame, it cries because its voice is continuously ignored, it cries because it doesn’t have the choice to end its suffering.
I saw (see) something similar to that in TV. I’m not saying this to attack a particular religion (though I don’t have any problem in doing that), but to analyze one of the most irritating elements of televangelism. This woman named Joyce Meyer gets on TV and shows footages shot in India. Yes, she was showing poor people who supposedly did not have anything to eat, had no school to go to, just begging for help. Then she goes “their lives depend on you, each and every dollar you pay will feed and ensure a safe livelihood for all the helpless families here. Your kindness saves lives”. Who is she? Is there anything I can do to stop people like her begging for my fellow countrymen? My country’s prime minister sure made me proud by politely declining all the [official] foreign aid that came rushing in after the tsunami, but does that even reflect on the western societies? I don’t think so. What shapes people’s mind is what mainstream media say and show constantly. And what to do they say? - We are a country full of poor and needy people whose lives depend on the paltry sums of money they donate (Yes they do talk about our ‘booming’ economy and what not, but I think they are just patronizing. They want to us to have our silly little dream of becoming the next super-power, but they also want us to keep sleeping)

You know what? I’m going to take my camcorder, shoot all the homeless that I see here, put them all together and start talking in Tamil “en pin irukkum elai pichai kaarargalukku udhavungal, ivargal vaalkai ungal kaiyil”; they wouldn’t understand what I’m saying in Tamil. And then telecast those footages in Indian television, seeking aid for them. Would the people here approve of something like that? Actually am really confused with the whole thing. Why do my fellow countrymen not seem to have any problem whatsoever, in appearing in televangelical campaigns hosted by some white woman? Is it because they are totally oblivious to the ramifications of what they are doing? Or Are they just tired of waiting for the government to do something about their plight? Am sure some of them wish we had an earthquake every other day, so that someone will feed them, invariably.

All those questions aside, let’s get back to our dear Joyce Meyer, looks like she doesn’t have any poor or homeless person to “save” in the whole of America. As she has run out of people to “save” in her own country she has come to India looking for people who are desperately in need of her help. In my opinion she’s no better than the woman we saw above. Our people are trapped between her greedy arms, as she goes around the around world begging for them(us).

Don’t beg for me, I have a mother.

Impulsive prejudices

I’ve constantly made myself deconstruct the structures that live in me, though I often say that I would never change, I actually do, all the time. May be I’m too proud to admit at times or may be it’s just a revelation for me, a revelation which may not actually change my final approach on something.

I got back home (my room) after visiting a very good of friend mine. He/she had burnt a couple of dvds for me, both containing songs/compositions from various artists; this probably is his/her favourite collection. It had a concert performed by a few Indian artists and one white person (there goes an arrogant assumption, while all countrymen who are white are just white, all brown people are Indian). On the Indian side, I could identify Shankar Mahadevan, Sivamani, Zakir Hussain, 'Mandolin' Sirinivas, the rest I wasn’t sure. I’ve seen them perform in other similar concerts in TV, but don’t know anything more. But I Google this guy’s name (John Mclaughlin) to know his background, before anyone else. Though it seems like a simple curiosity on my part to know about him, in retrospect, I realize it wasn’t. I’m more interested in knowing about the ‘odd’ one out, to see why he’s playing Indian classical music in his electric guitar. To read his interviews praising Indian musical giants like Ravi Shankar. I read more of his interviews, ctrl+f “India” – read the paragraph – ‘Find next’ – read the paragraph. After a while I think about classical music, to verbalize my thoughts..
“hmm let’s download few compositions of Ravi Shankar’s…”
“Ravi Shakar – Search – limewire results - …..”
“Ravi Shankar and Philips… - click download”
“Ravi shankar and Yehudi Menuhi – click download”
“Peter Gabriel ft Ravi Shankar – click download… - what? Music for the last temptation of Christ? – don’t download it – cancel download”
--after a few puzzled moments--
“what? why not? Download it you damn bigot!” (And started writing this post)
That’s how ingrained our prejudices are. It might be fitting to explain why I cancelled the download the first instance.
Because I hate Christianity? – Not really
Because I hate Christians – no! That’s not even true
Is it because the first thing that comes to my mind when I read the words Christianity, Christian, Christ, Jesus, Savior etc., is religious conversion, followed by
->All those sections of books and articles that talk about religious conversions made by Christian missionaries in India.
->The fact that Columbus and his entire murderous cohort were Christian.
->My own experiences with evangelism.
Yes, all these things put together backed my seemingly insignificant reflex that stopped me from downloading a soothing piece of music; just because it had the words “last temptation of Christ”. As I realize now, there is no good relation between evangelism and a piece of music that has the name “last temptation of Christ”, my mind made a choice that was based on this non-exsistent relation. It acts like a reflexive action itself, eye-brain-brain-spine-nerves (even more complex if we go deeper). Each of our trivial little choices have complex thoughts and prejudices that go unquestioned for years. And before you realize, your prejudices are so old that you cannot even think of the thought about changing it (Ex: trying to convince my parents that exogamy is just as good/bad as endogamy).
It also happened during my visit to my friend’s place. He/she suggested that we could eat in “Lahore Biryani house”, I said “what? Lahore? Heck no….” then after a pause “well am not in the mood to have rice…”. Why did I say “No” in the first instance?
Because I hate Pakistan? – I don’t know, probably
Do I hate Pakistan? – May be…! It’s hard to answer, I don’t have good things to say about Pakistan even though am sure there are. I enjoy reading articles which blame Pakistan for every other terrorist act in India (which may or may not be true, I don’t try to do more research, I’m much comfortable accepting it). But I don’t seem to have a problem mingling with Pakistanis, now.
I don’t have to give reasons for my hidden hatred for Pakistan, because almost all Indians would find it obvious. Regardless of the rationale behind that hatred, to avoid eating in a Pakistani restaurant [in my opinion] is plainly prejudiced or hatred misplaced.
I don’t know how many such prejudices lie buried in me, in fact I’m afraid there are too many of them which I might never discover (like I did with the above two incidents) in my life. How often do we actually try to set a ‘neutral’ tone to our actions? Whether it’s always possible or necessary to do so is irrelevant to the number attempts we make.

Earlier in this post I’ve referred to my friend as he/she, not to conceal his/her identity but to avoid the prejudice that you as a reader might hold toward this post if you were to know my friend’s sex. But the irony is that, just because I’ve used a gender neutral tone you’d assume a particular sex in your mind, you would have made that choice reflexively. In fact as you are reading this line, the part of your mind which made that choice is seeking some kind of approval.

©2009 english-tamil