Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cashing in on the poor

I was passing by one of those seedy movies theaters that you see in the seedier parts of Bangalore. This one too was festooned with streamers and serial lights, which seem to be ever present in these theaters. This time I saw a giant poster of the Kamalahaasan movie Indian. The “I” in Indian was the picture of the ‘older’ Kamalahaasan in Khaakhi. This movie is about an old man who became a killer after the some tragic circumstances in his life bought about by politicians and people in authority. The movie was a huge hit. Kamalahaasan acted as the old man, the wife and the son in a triple role. The poster was signed by a string of names from the Kamalahaasan Fan Club.

During the time this movie was released, a slew of similar productions hit the floor, all with the same theme. Man gets abused by politician, or his daughter/wife/sister raped by a politician or his son/father/brother killed by a politician, and spineless cops etc etc. These themes were sure fire hits and made many a producer rich.

Someone left a comment on Poomanam sometime back that “movies reflect life”. How true. And movie makers who are willing to harvest current sentiments always win. It is evident by the popularity of these movies that there is a great deal of resentment against the all powerful rich politicians. And it is this aspect about our people that puzzles me. If this is the case then ‘why oh why’ do the crowd that watch these movies elect them?????

When I was staying in the city last year to cut back on commute time, we had a maid doing top work in our house. During the local corporation election time I asked her who she would vote for. She named a really corrupt Corporator of our Ward. The reason? Because he got her a seat for her child in school. Now this man was the epitome of corruption and would demand money even if you were putting up a garage in your house. He would ride to power on the votes of the people in the Ejipura slum and the slum adjacent to Games Village and then lord over the Koramangala residents. I looked at my maid and realized that it was she who selected rulers for me and not me the educated and hence ‘better informed’ voter. The fact is it is my maid, the corporation sweeper on the road, the workshop man, the housepainter, the tea coffee delivery boy etc who make the choices of our leaders and not you and me. It was a depressing thought.

And it is these people who throng the theater and whistle when the baddie gets bashed up, usually a goonda protected by a politician. And by the reaction of the masses to these scenes in the movie, one would think that they are aware of the corruption and hence would vote responsibly. But that rarely happens, doesn't it?

And the politicians have never had it so good. Muscle power, Investments flows, a powerless educated electorate makes them the omnipotent class in this country today. Which is why Bangalore the Hi Tech City had dust tracks instead of roads for the past four years and looked like a ghost town.


Jeseem said...

yeah, we the poor educated powerless lot cannot do anything. so atleast we dream that we can change it. hey i pay top dollars to see a film that shows my dream on a reel.
ofcourse there is another reason why indian movies are all masala. the dump movie producers can never come with a real storyline. well buying right to novels, like many hollywood producers do, unfortunately most of bollywood producers are unphad ganwars. no wonder we hav never got any close to oscar.

Jiby said...

reading this i was reminded of a journo pal who covered oommen chandy's campaign in the recent assembly elections. he was talking of development, IT, smart city in villages and to poorer sections of the society but he was saying how obvious none of it could strike a chord with these people. They can not think beyond surviving from one day to the next, but the people who are supposed to be visionary and revolutionary, us neither go out and vote, nor do we have any influence in government.

great post...i'd like to believe we certainly can turn the tables on these politicos!

Mind Curry said...

excellent analysis silverine..this is exactly the problem of karnataka, kerala and almost every other state in india..and ofcourse india itself.

the so called "masses", made by the less fortunate, are always misled by wily politicians who offer them short term tv, 2kg rice and stuff..such short sighted "benefits" are so ingrained into the fabric of our societies.

and more importantly..the educated middle class never vote..they are apathetic to everything..they think not voting is a way of setting things right..and little do they realise they just bring down the system further; thereby empowering the goons, thugs and the useless scums of the state to rule over ourselves. i can see many such scums in power when i visit kerala.

Ganja Turtle said... the only solution is to get our colleagues to leave our offices before election, return to our native place where our names are registered and go to vote amidst the teeming thousands...seems a largely impractival idea...if there was some electronic system or a unique id card that allows people to vote anywhere in india or through any public system like an SBI, would be great...naahhh...cant blame the system too mind curry says, we ARE the problem.

Anoop G said...

if the "educated" class was voting for the "common" man, i believe the situation would have been worse..

What is really needed is to address is the "common" man's problems...

Fleiger said...

It's always easier to win votes from 1000 slumdwellers than 100 well-educated people, for the simple reason that we will require something more than just some money to go voting, or an admission to school for our children. After all, in democracy, it's all about numbers.

Like corporator of our area. He cleans all the ward except the slums in it (which he keeps as it is). He arranges pilgrimages for them, and just overlooks many things they do... next election victory guaranteed.

And it's always easier to whistle when somebody else is bashing the goondas... everybody likes to believe they are good guys.

silverine said...

Jeseem:"my dream on a reel" And they peddle dreams very well :)

jiby: And therein lies a truth...our poor just think of surviving from day to day and vote for people who take care of their basic needs...they have no vision of the future...since they don't see themselves anywhere in the future.

mind curry: Long time when my parents went to vote they found out that somebody had already voted for them, since then we make it a point to vote in every single election even the Corporaion elections. This time in Kerala, my aunt who is an African citizen voted without even having a voters ID.
What you say is true, if the middle class were to participate in elections then we could become a 'bankable' vote bank.

ganja turtle: A voter ID card acceptable in every state would be ideal. I have gone twice for voter photo ID card since the last six years , it is yet to be delivered citing problem with the camera.

anoop: I didn't quite understand your comment.

fleiger: You said it!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anoop. The problem in India is the unawareness of the poor, maybe we can call it ignorance and the selfish nature of middle class. The poor just don't have the mental picture about longterm living standards. They need to learn about saving, even if it is just a rupee, and the value of good education.

I doubt if middle class voting would help the common poor man/woman out there whose lives run on a daily-needs basis. So the poor fall for pretentious promises. It would take a long time and himalayan effort to bring up the lifestyle/social placement of the poor. By the poor, I am referring to the socially backward community. There awareness of improving standards seem to be so low. Now, I have deviated much:-)


emmanuel said...

"The fact is it is my maid, the corporation sweeper on the road, the workshop man, the housepainter, the tea coffee delivery boy etc who make the choices of our leaders and not you and me. It was a depressing thought."

why should it be a depressing thought? because almost more than 80% of our voting people are from these sections and when a polling percentage of 65 or 70 or even near to 50 percent happens and mostly when the educated keep themselves eluded from the responsibility to vote, we can only expect that. even the 20% reduce to mere 5-10%. when personal helps count for a voter from a politician, how can he/she think out of it being himself/herself a powerless citizen??? I think even educated people will do it. I've heard this many times from close people(even my relatives!!!) quoting the help they got from some politicians to get into a job or admissions for their children.

one more thing to say. i registered my name twice as an eligible voter two times after i turned 18 and i'm yet to vote as i found my name disappeared from the voters' list.
the win by P C Thomas in last Lok sabha elections (Muvattupuzha constituency)in Kerala, reflects that how he personally influenced people rather than political ideas.

so consider a hypothetical situation where everyone become rich as well as educated;then democracy can be seen only in text books. so for democracy to remain, there should be power(corrupted power!!!), sufferings, illiterates, jobless and the tears and pain which politicians don't see or don't want to see.

how can i say honestly that "I LOVE MY INDIA" or "MERA BHARATH MAHAN"?
i don't know......

emmanuel said...

sorry that i didn't appreciate this post. it's really a nice post..........

this post makes me respect you....and "poomanam" makes me admire you....and i don't know why that i always feel criticising you...... ;)

honestly, i love this blog and the posts here.....

rune said...

I know that there is tremendous opportunity to work with a community and get things underway. It is possible to stamp out corruption. But its never easy, but nothing that is worth fighting for is easy. (Nor should it be, for the fruit that lies within easy reach is never as sweet as one that takes time and persistence)

Change is possible for it lies within us.

Mark Pritchard said...

Democracy is more than just voting for representatives. There is also such a thing as democratic values, which include openness in government, a "level playing field" for all constituents, and a commitment to the rule of law.

Fleiger said...

Dumb-ocracy is the word... I love this show.

silverine said...

Kajan: We are talking about putting the right people in power and that requires informed and intelligent voting, which means the educated middle class has to become active participants in the elctoral process.

emmanual: "so consider a hypothetical situation where everyone become rich as well as educate"
I don't think democracy is an Utopia and unless all the people are born with exact same faculties the hypothetical situation of everyone being rich and educated cannot be visualised can it?. So this argument of yours doesn't hold water. The gist of the whole post is that bad leaders are undermining the good bought about by the educated minority.

emmanual: Thank you :)

mark pritchard: What you say is very true, but for that to happen in India we have to have the active participation of the educated class who can tilt the scales in favor of a good candidate and later act as checks and balances. The bane of Indian democray is the leaders we elect to power, mostly goons with muscle power who know nothing of governance or the fact that they should govern. We lack governance. Nice to see you here :)

rune: Nothing can be gained without hard work and we have a lot of work left to do in India :) Thanks for droping by.

fleiger:Good one :)

emmanuel said...

i think u missed my point. i was giving an arguement why we always 'hail' our 'celebrated' democracy. The constitution and rules of every country was developed by an educated minority.
but why did it fell into the hands of bad majority???
from the beginning, the educated minority kept aloof from the mainstream. the ones who realised the loopholes and the chances of exploiting the powerless citizens played with our government. now, the country has reached a stage where the educated minority has to lament over the issues.
who should be blamed? i think both sides are responsible....

my point was that, for democracy to remain all the sufferings should remain, which won't be addressed by any of our leaders. they follow a kind of demand and supply situations where demands include the calamities, riots etc and supplies will be the incarnation of themselves as saviours, good for nothing . the poor people will support a 'popular' corrupted leader than an unknown, educated leader. so what politicians does is simple; to remain the status quo of our society with all its bad and sad sides to remain.

as somebody put across,
"a nation or society gets a government it deserves".
i think it's true everywhere in this world.....but i don't know about the poor and helpless people in many nations of africa.... in our case everybody is responsible for that.....not sparing u and me...

one more question:
can you say definitely that the good minority has done only good for our country???
to me, the answer is 50% yes and 50% no.

emmanuel said...

i really like self criticism.....that's why i criticised the educated class which includes u and me....i don't support the politicians......but the manipulatons they do make all educated people ashamed.....

let me end my comment with a surprising note:
the indian railways had a profit or turnover(i'm not sure) of about 15000 crores of rupees, which was never heard before for any governmental organisations. the man at the helm of affairs is the most celebrated (also corrupted!!) politician laloo prasad yadav. he didn't rise the passenger fares as his predecessors did and he concentrated on the goods services of railways. he reduced the second class travel fare by one rupee. this revolutionary development was made by a politician, after five years from a report was made and submitted by some management gurus,of which some professors from IIMs were also part of, that railways can't be made profitable in future.

so what is important???
education is always important........
i think u'll find out the answer..

LI said...

Wonder why it should be a depressing thought that the uneducated minority is making the choice of leaders for us.

1)Democracy after all is determined by the majority and since they are in majority you simply has to accept what they say , hoping against hope that one day the educated people like will become majority and can have a say .

2)Even is the politician is corrupt , no longer it matters as long as he is delivering on his promises and helping people. Corrupt politicians who tries to get a seat for your maid are better than those who preaches a lot , is not corrupt and does nothing for people like you and me who are in minority or people like your maid who are in majority .

Jagan said...

okka small correction machi ..its not triple action ..the old kamal's wife was suganya and not kamal himself assuming the old man's wife as kamal , am not sure if u complimented kamal or insulted suganya :-)

rodent said...

Where do you vote? Kerala or Karnataka?

silverine said...

rodent: Karnataka, been here since I was three months old :)