Author : Vijendra Agarwal
Vir Das, only in his forties, is too young to be called senile but his monologue, “Two Indias,” in Washington, D.C. has touched the nerve of millions. He named the show “Manic Man,” with synonyms such as overexcited, hyper, agitated, hectic and/or frenzied, defining his own personality. To his credit, a well-educated individual Das has been called, “simply hysterical,” “the funniest kid in India,” “India’s answer to Jay Leno,” in different media. A well-travelled Das has enjoyed a good reputation in comedy, TV shows, movies etc. until he blew it up with statements like, “I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them during the night.” What an undignified, horrible, and demeaning thing to say about women! We discuss this and some of his less comical but more controversial statements from the Manic Man show.
First, One India versus Two Indias? India was one “big” country before the man-made historical blunder of dividing the country in two (India and Pakistan) on the basis of religion in 1947. However, India has indisputably emerged ‘One India’- indivisible and undeterred, although geographically smaller than before. Within that, the diversity of religion and regional cultures, customs, and languages make One India multi-dimensional and unique. India, like any other society, has its share of the good, bad, and ugly but that does not warrant a characterization of ‘Two Indias.”
Following a tremendous trolling of Manic Man’s comedy, Das tweeted, “The video is a satire about the duality of two very separate India’s that do different things. Like any nation has light and dark, good and evil within it. None of this is a secret.” However, it came a little too late after the damage was done. What he calls satire is perhaps a reflection of his own confused and conflicted state of mind and dual personality- first making the controversial statements and then defending it. To India’s credit, it is a well-grounded, vibrant, dynamic, and stable democracy, that too the largest in the world, and has stood to the secular principles.
Let us review some of Das’s fallacious citations about two Indias. First about the incidences of women rape in India. While it cannot be denied that the menace of women being raped exists everywhere but it is neither unique nor as significant in India (although even one is too many) to warrant “rape” as a topic for laughter in a comedy show. Statistically, based on 2010 data, India’s rate of reported rapes is 1.81 compared with 27.31 in the United States for every 100,000 people. While there are many variables on how such data is collected but the fact is that the U.S. has a significantly higher rate of rape than India. I ask what motivated Das to present a negative image of India on the U.S. stage?
By no means, India is plagued with rape incidences as Das implied in his comedy show. It is an interesting coincidence that while Das was doing his comedy show in the Kennedy Center, the State department’s travel advisory (November 15) included rape as one of the fastest-growing crimes in India. It went on to say, “Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations.” Das’s controversial comedy made instant headlines in the State department affecting India’s tourism.
“I come from an India where the AQI is 9,000 but we still sleep on the roof and look up at the stars.” No doubt that India’s Air Quality Index (AQI) in New Delhi and surrounding areas these days is nearly at the peak, as high as 400-500 (hazardous level), why over-exaggerate it to 9,000. It seems that Das’s 9,000 AQI is picked from thin air with no relation to reality. He also appears to be totally ignorant about, and insensitive to, Indians who may not have a roof on their head due to financial constraints and/or willingly sleep outdoor for fresh air. What is laughable about people’s financial misery and/or what they like to do?
“I come from an India where we bleed blue every time, we play green but every time we lose to green, we turn orange all of a sudden.” This refers to India’s most revered sport of cricket, particularly when played between India and Pakistan. This kind of creative but inverted humor can only add to the fervor and rivalry between India and Pakistan but more importantly between the Hindus and pro-Pakistan Muslims living in India. Is Das trying to fuel a religion-based divide and hatred in India and then label it Two Indias?
The exaggeration, left-handed compliments, inverted and insensitive humor, and/or a manic man’s comedy, I wonder what motivates Das? Is it the handsome money he gets paid, the desire for short-lived notoriety through controversies, being funny in a sad way, the duality of his own personality, or his plain and simple ignorance about India? Das cannot and must not be excused for making a mockery of India and purposely presenting the negative image of India on U.S. soil. If Das had any self-respect and respect for India, where he was born, raised, and earned his fame and fortune, he lost it because of his maniac man comedy image. Was he doing the show to increase his popularity with controversial citations in the name of comedy? In the end, he proved to be no different than most in the Bollywood, who have used Indian soil to get educated, become rich and famous but then characterized India as intolerant, unsafe, and what it is not even as a comedy.
A little piece of advice for the manic man, Vir Das, that he comes from only One India which is home to about 1.3 billion people of all faith, One India with a demographic dividend of young people, One India which holds the General Presidency of the 53 nation Conference in Britain; One India which won the highest number (188) of votes in UN Human Rights Council; and One India with the fourth rank among the most powerful countries after the U.S., Russia, and China. There are no Two Indias except in the mind of the manic man with a dual personality who only damaged his own self-respect. May he and others like him forever realize that there is only ONE INDIA, an indivisible, peaceful, secular, and democratic nation ready to stand tall among the nations.
This article was first published on PGURUS
About the Author:
Vijendra Agarwal, born in village Kota (Saharanpur, U.P), left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He was a faculty and academic administrator in several different universities in PA, TX, NJ, MN, WI, and NY, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during the Clinton administration. In November 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. Vidya Gyan is a calling to give back to rural communities which gave him so much more. His passion for writing includes the interface of policy, politics, and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement.
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