When I was in school and college, it was important for you to snigger at Amitabh Bachchan movies if you wanted to be part of the ‘cool’ crowd. It used to endlessly fascinate me; this masochistic assault on popular culture. Virtually everyone I knew watched all the Amitabh movies; multiple times I may add since movies on the large screen were virtually the only source of entertainment. And yet, we used to publicly pronounce during social gatherings that only idiots watched Amitabh movies. Hindi movies were cool if the directors were guys like Mrinal Sen, Govind Nihalni and the like. Since then, I have watched this self inflicted and largely artificial divide between Bharat and India grow wider even as it actually narrowed. By the time I had started working, this divide was epitomized by that Doordarshan blockbuster Mahabharata. Virtually everyone I knew watched that damned serial; India used to literally come to a halt on Sunday mornings. And yet, during social gatherings, the ‘cool’ thing was to rave about the theatre version of Mahabharata directed by Peter Brooks. I did go to see the play at Siri Fort Auditorium since it was the in thing. When I confessed to friends and acquaintances that I preferred the kitsch version dished out by B. R. Chopra, the gentler souls actually took pity on me and tried to explain the avant-garde nuances of the Peter Brooks interpretation. It was then that I decided to secede from India and become an unapologetic, unwashed and uncouth citizen of Bharat. I tell you, the feeling was liberating.
Thanks to a fractured femur, surgery and more followed by hip replacement surgery, I have been confined to bed for some months and managed to watch the Asaram Bapu and then the Tarun Tejpal drama in full technicolor glory. I also fiddled around with my iPad to follow both the monumental stories of extreme national importance on the web. It was an entertaining and revealing, if slightly troubling experience. I realised that the yawning gap between Bharat and India appeared as wide as ever; with noisy advocates from both sides displaying classic symptoms of schizophrenia and denial. When Asaram tried every trick in the book and failed to avoid arrest on charges of sexually assaulting a young girl who was an inmate in one of his ashrams, it was both amusing and disturbing to see his followers angrily claim that the whole thing was a conspiracy cooked up by the Congress party. The Hindutva types said Asaram Bapu must face the due process of law and simultaneously lambasted the media for denigrating Hinduism. Even as their tirade against the lynch mob mentality was fading, the Tarun Tejpal affair exploded first in the social, and then in the mainstream media. Tejpal was accused of sexually molesting a young female journalist who was his employee and the daughter of his friend. Incidentally, the victim in the Asaram case is also the daughter of long time followers of the Godman. Even as Tejpal tried every trick in the book and failed to avoid arrest, it was both amusing and disturbing to see his friends in the Left Liberal Establishment angrily claim that the whole thing was a conspiracy cooked up by the BJP. Many prominent journalists, activists, intellectuals and columnists said Tejpal must face the due process of law and simultaneously lambasted the media for acting like a lynch mob. When it was time for Asaram to face public humiliation, scorn and arrest, the Left Liberal types gleefully pointed out how Asaram was a symbol of all that is rotten with traditional Hinduism. When it was time for Tejpal to face public humiliation, scorn and arrest, the Hindutva types gleefully pointed out how Tarun Tejpal was a symbol of all that is rotten with the ruling elites of India.
The fact is: this is not a battle between Hindutava versus India's unique version of secularism. Nor is it a battle between the Congress and the BJP. There are many BJP voters who are outraged with the antics of Asaram and his followers. Similarly, there are many Congress voters who are outraged with the antics of Tejpal and his friends. In reality, this is the battle between aspirational India and status quo India. Aspirational India is no longer willing to tolerate charlatans like Asaram who use spiritualism and superstition to camouflage their sexual and other allegedly criminal escapades. Aspirational India is also no longer willing to tolerate charlatans like Tejpal who use sanctimony and secularism to camouflage their sexual and other allegedly criminal escapades. Quite frankly, there is not much difference between the two.
You can see this raging battle between Bharat and India in the reality show Big Boss that unabashedly celebrates voyeurism. In this show, Tanisha, daughter of Tanuja and sister of Kajol, and Arman Kohli, son of film producer Raj Kumar Kohli are engaged in a bitter battle with aspiring actors Gauhar Khan and Kushal Tandon. The fights between them are vicious. But even more entertaining are the reactions of their fans in social media. A huge majority are cheering Gauhar and Kushal because theses ‘aspirational’ citizens are giving it back to spoilt brats like Tanisha and Arman who come from elitist and privileged backgrounds. Fans have slammed the show host Salman Khan for being partial towards Arman and Tanisha because they are “people like him”. Once again, there is a lot of stupidity and ugliness on both sides. How you react depends on which side of the fence you are.
So will this war between Bharat and India ever end and who will win it? One of the most important battles in this war is coming up in 2014 – between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. The thing is, no matter who wins this battle, the war between Bharat and India will continue for quite some time.