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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

The year 2020 is turning out to be an extraordinary challenge for individuals, families and businesses. Coronavirus has spread several other viruses – those of fear, uncertainty, hunger, jobs, lack of physical interactions in education as well as in life, and the like.

The pandemic has left traditional business models in a shambles. Supply chains have got disrupted. Businesses have shut shops. Industries with some core strengths have diversified into newer markets and products. The first priority happens to be that of servicing the critical requirements of customers while shielding the employees to the extent possible.

Economies the world over have taken a severe beating. For a vast majority, sources of income have simply vanished overnight. The virus has exposed, yet again, the fault-lines in our health, social and economic infrastructure.

The Innate Goodness in Humanity

Many amongst us have already turned cynical towards a proposition of this kind and believe that human beings are selfish. Being bombarded relentlessly by the propaganda mills run by shameless politicians, a TRP-chasing media and movie directors who keep churning out dark and depressing flicks, we often end up taking a jaundiced view of people and events around us.

Rutger Bregman, the popular Dutch historian, in his book Humankind, argues otherwise. He points out that there is a spontaneous coming together of people immediately after any natural disaster. He says that ‘cooperation has been more important in our evolution as a species than competition. What we assume in other people is what we get.’

Walter Scheidel, in his book, The Great Leveler, argues that throughout human history, the following four kinds of disasters have led to economic equality: wars, revolutions, pandemic and state collapse. Each of these, he proposes, results in excess mortality, thereby creating a shortage of working hands and, as a consequence, a general rise in incomes.

A ‘X’ Shaped Recovery?!

However, the proposition is arguable. Take the case of the pandemic stalking us at present. It is true that it strikes all and sundry. But to say that the loss of livelihoods and economic hardships faced is the same across different income levels and business verticals would be wrong. Social biases, disparity in access to quality education, health and networking and a non-level playing field for small businesses to cash in on newer opportunities in the environment – all these play spoilsports. With each disaster faced by humanity, the inbuilt inequalities and fault lines only end up getting reinforced. The plight of the millions of Indian migrant labourers who travelled long distances on foot to reach their homes during April and June 2020 cannot be erased from our collective memory easily.

Credit Suisse economist Neelkanth Mishra speaks of four classes in the society: government, wage earners, informal enterprises and formal firms. For 2020-21, he has attempted to examine which group bears how much of the overall GDP loss. In these computations, 50% of loss is borne by the government, 25% by the wage earners and 10% each by informal and formal firms. Looking beyond 2020-21, a growth slowdown will be unequally distributed between these groups.

Recovery in the economy would not be as rapid as the slowdown has been. From the computation done by Mishra, it appears that it would neither be a ‘V’ or a ‘W’ shaped one. Perhaps, a ‘X’ shaped recovery is in the offing.

A Silver Lining in the Corona Virus Cloud

Broad sweeping generalizations of a situation could also hide some silver linings in an otherwise gloomy-looking cloud. According to a study done by Badri Narayan, a social historian and cultural anthropologist and, Director, GB Pant Social Science Institute, major challenges also tend to bring out the innate goodness in human beings.

He has interviewed 215 quarantined rural migrants in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The respondents were from a diverse set of castes like dalits, other backward classes and upper castes.

By way of a conclusion, he states that ‘Caste is deeply ingrained in our social system….. but an emergency like a pandemic gives jolts and shocks to it.’

In other words, when it comes to handling overwhelming challenges, caste considerations normally take a back seat. This indicates a possibility of the pandemic facilitating better social unity and cohesion, an idea which deserves to be explored further. This proposition fits in well with the views of Rutger Bregman.

The underlying need is to build resilience and inclusivity across the vast socio-economic spectrum of our society. Our politicos, economists and social activists appear to be missing a road map to counter a strategic challenge of this kind.

(Part 4 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership) 

(Inputs from Prof G P Rao are gratefully acknowledged.)

(Image courtesy https://medium.com/@brca.iitdelhi/social-harmony-e7cbacc76287)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-virus-and-an-early-onset-of-industrial-revolution-4-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/corona-virus-leadership-traits-and-human-values

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/09/14/corona-virus-some-lessons-from-bhagavad-gita)

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The #MeToo allegations which have popped up recently in Bollywood go on to show the extent to which the virus of the infamous Director’s Couch Syndrome has not only permeated our entertainment industry but also morphed into a more disgraceful version of itself.

Perhaps a part of the solution lies within Bollywood itself. The gender insensitivity which is showcased and glorified in our movies is something which leaves us gasping for some innovative scripts. Exceptions are there. But these remain just exceptions.

When it comes to winning the affection of a heroine, a typical Bollywood hero spares no effort. He charms. He dazzles. He pursues. He flexes his rippling muscles. He shows off his biceps. He chases away a gang of baddies who try to harass his lady love. He poses as a well-endowed person. He even threatens and imposes himself.

Our heroes are adept at expressing their emotions in a song and dance routine. It would be worth our while to look up some such songs which showcase different shades of romancing our Bollywood heroes use to fulfill their romantic ambitions.

When chivalry works

The importance of a chivalrous approach towards impressing one’s lady love was etched out in the movie Shagird (1967). Sample this song:

 

The reluctant wooer

A hero of this kind is at one end of the spectrum. He could either believe that he is not good enough for the lady of his dreams, or is simply not interested in a romantic alliance. The reason could either be social, financial, or the phase through which he happens to be passing by. The burden of convincing him otherwise falls on the heroine. There are occasions when he does not mind getting wooed, though!

Saath Saath (1982)

 

Woh Saat Din (1983)

 

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

 

The sacrificing lover boy

The guiding principle of such a wooer is that when it comes to bringing some sunshine into the life of the heroine, no sacrifice is small. There are times when such selfless love is shown to lead to a failure in the relationship.

Sangam (1964)

 

Teesri Kasam (1966)

 

Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi (2008)

 

The post-marriage wooing

In many cases, love blossoms in the post-marriage phase. The hero goes to great lengths to win over the affections of his wife.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

 

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)

 

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)

When a choice has to be made between a pre-matrimonial lover and a husband, the heroine keeps social sensitivities in mind and walks into the arms of her husband. Movies like Gumrah (1963), Woh Saat Din and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam attest to this trend in the past.

The empathetic wooer

The heroine has just had a rather traumatic experience at the hands of her spouse. But support is at hand, in the form of an empathetic hero. At times, a soulful song makes the heroine fall into his loving embrace.

Guide (1965)

 

Arth (1982)

 

The quintessential romanticist

He is soft and gentle. He is often diffident but tender in his approach. His soft power often wins over the heart of the heroine in question. The impression he conveys is that chivalry works well.

Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962)

 

Baton Baton Mein (1979)

 

Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994)

 

The playful wooer

The value system of a hero of this kind permits him to tease the heroine a wee bit, hoping that he would not only be noticed but also accepted as a suitable candidate for a romantic alliance.

Aradhana (1969)

 

1942 A Love Story (1994)

 

The dashing lover

He is the one who believes that a relentless chasing of the party of the other part would bring home the bacon. Irrespective of the time and the place, he continues with his efforts with gay abandon. Flowers, chocolates and even pumpkins come to the aid of the dashing hero. He is so very self-obsessed that he is clueless about the career aspirations of his lady love. Needless to say, he wins, thereby conveying a message to all wannabe lovers that mild aggression in pursuing the heroine indeed works.

Jaanwar (1965)

 

Sholay (1975)

 

Satte Pe Satta (1982)

 

Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya (2017)

 

The tormentor

At the other end of the spectrum, we have heroes who suffer from an excessive dose of supreme self confidence. They treat the heroine as chattel and think nothing of even terrorising her to get results. Physical intimidation is taken recourse to. Stalking becomes the norm. Threats of rape not only get made but even get executed.

Amar (1954)

 

Dil (1990)

 

Darr (1993)

 

A wide spectrum of chivalry

Bollywood movies offer a very wide range of the kind of treatment that women receive at the hands of their wannabe or ex-lovers.

If a Rajendra Kumar in Dil Ek Mandir (1963) sacrifices his life trying to save the husband of his ex-girl friend, a Dilip Kumar in Amar (1954) rapes Nimmi, a principal character in the movie. If a dacoit played by Sunil Dutt abducts a courtesan in Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), a Good Samaritan played by Dharmendra marries a lady who has been sexually abused by a prince in Satyakam (1969).

If a Kamal Hasan provides shelter and care to an unfortunate accident victim in Sadma (1983), a Vivek Oberoi mistreats his wife in Sathiya (2002). If a Sanjeev Kumar does not get distracted by a lady in the buff in Aandhi (1975), a Manoj Bajpeyi abducts and forcibly marries a damsel in distress, and even persuades her to change her religion, in Pinjar (2003). It is another matter he eventually develops a soft corner for his wife.

Distorted messaging

When heroines happen to respond favourably to either dashers or tormentors, the message conveyed to the audience is crystal clear – that a macho image and a misogynist attitude help in romantic pursuits. Add to this the tendency of our directors to objectify women so as to keep the box office collections alive and kicking, and the recipe for a wrong kind of social messaging is ready.

Since films influence the society in a big way, our dream merchants would do well to churn out more movies which have gender sensitive portrayals. Scripts which are based on negative societal attitudes towards women could be readily avoided.

In a study conducted by IBM India, gender stereotypes in as many as 4,000 Bollywood movies released between 1970 and 2017 were examined. Of these, researchers came up with only 30 movies in the last couple of years where such stereotypes were broken.

According to the study, females were the central characters in 11.9% of Hindi movies released between 2015 and 2017. Back in the 70s, this figure was closer to 7%.

The solution within

The power-puff girls of Bollywood have recently done well in such movies as Jalpari, Gulaab Gang, Queen, NeerjaPink, Nil Battey SannataMargarita with a StrawMardaani, Parched, Jai Gangaajal, Ki and Ka, Dear ZindagiAkira, and the like.

Our future generations cannot be made to live in a world where men are encouraged to harass and rape women. Sexist behaviour is passé. It no longer attracts women. What does is unalloyed chivalry, where the old notions of a patriarchic mindset find no place; where violence and intimidation has no place.

This could be a solution to the #MeToo tsunami that appears to have hit Bollywood in the recent past. Perhaps Bollywood can start a self-certification process which rates movies based on their gender sensitivity.

Charity begins at home, as they say.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/bollywood-divas-join-in-at-metoo

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/the-powerpuff-girls-of-bollywood

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/women-through-the-bollywood-lens-part-1)

 

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The intermittent rays of a highly reluctant evening sun were falling on the city of a wind-swept Amsterdam. The Amstel flowed quietly. The Opera House rose from its banks in a majestic manner.

At the Rembrandt Square, a swathe of wide-eyed tourists of various sizes, shapes and ethnicities were busy getting photographed for the sake of posterity. Some liked to be remembered standing just beneath the imposing statue of the famous painter of the country. Others preferred to get clicked with the soldiers surrounding the main statue in the square. Some others fancied being seen in the company of army drummers which formed a part of the ensemble of statues at the square.

Just off the square, located on Bakkerstraat, inside a cosy and warm restaurant by the name of Szmulewicz, the owner, with a stiff upper lip which would have put even the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn to shame, was surveying his patrons of the day with a distinct frown of disapproval. He thought those visiting his place on the day were rather a noisy and boisterous lot. A sprightly and conscientious Miss Mabel was scurrying around, serving customers with alacrity and elan.

Psmith, the efficient coordinator who had organized the Drones Club meeting at the restaurant, was anxiously waiting for his invitees to join him.

Given the address, one could be forgiven to presume that he was expecting the famous detective and his companion, Doctor Watson, to join up. After all, literally translated from Dutch, Bakkerstraat is nothing but Baker Street. Alas, that was not the case, for the street was located not in London but in Amsterdam.

Nor were artists of such fame as Bill Lister, Corky or Gwaldys Pandlebury on his list of those invited to participate in the festivities.

Instead, on his list of invitees were some of the characters etched out with much finesse in the Wodehousean canon. Eve Halliday, the famous librarian from Blandings Castle, was expected. So was Aunt Dahlia from Brinkley Court. Also, joining in were Bingo Little and Rosie M Banks from India. Regrettably, Galahad, the President of the local Wodehouse Society, had already expressed his inability to make it to the meeting due to some harsh sling  and arrow of Fate he was facing at the time.

Within a few minutes of the appointed time, the group had assembled. Introductions had been performed. The couple from India was overjoyed to be meeting some members of the Society, which had seen as many as twenty-seven springs since it came to be formed.

Psmith was quick to inform everyone that due to constraints of space at the restaurant, plans to hold a dart throwing competition had been abandoned. Even though bread crumbs could be ordered, all assembled concurred that any projectile activity involving the same could be deferred to the next meeting, so deliberations could take place in a serene atmosphere, in tune with the decorum of the place. Plans to stand on the table and sing Sonny Boy were also vetoed for the same reason. Orders for tissue restoratives and the exotic fare on the menu were duly placed.

When asked about the whereabouts of the family members of Bertie Wooster’s sister in India, Bingo Little appeared to be clueless. It transpired that Bingo Little had progressed beyond being an editor of Wee Tots and had now become an author in his own right. On her part, Rosie M Banks had grown out of her previous role as an author and ventured instead into the realm of spirituality and meditative practices. Both confirmed that Bingo was still following the tradition of ensuring a regular supply of afternoon tea to his better half, thereby ensuring matrimonial harmony on the domestic turf.

Psmith, a prolific author in his own right, was delighted to present Bingo Little with his latest book, Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of The Ashes, a delectable tale of the detective unraveling the villainy behind and other events which took place at The Oval during August, 1882. Bingo regretted his inability to reciprocate the gesture, not having on hand his recently launched book, a light-hearted take on the art and science of management.

Aunt Dahlia, geniality personified, was keen to leave the gathering a wee bit early. It appeared that Anatole had planned a lavish spread at home. She feared that her absence at such an important event could make him put in his papers, thereby causing much disruption at Brinkley Court. This, she felt, would be worse than the perilous implications of the impending stand-off between USA and North Korea. The group wished her good luck.

Eve Halliday was elaborate and generous in her praise of her previous employer, Lord Emsworth. She fondly recollected her time at the Blandings Castle, and her invigorating encounters with the Empress of Blandings.

She and Psmith got into an animated discussion over the relative superiority of Plum’s screen plays vis-à-vis his romantic whodunits and other creative endeavours. As expected, the discussion was inconclusive.

The speech of Gussie Fink Nottle, delivered many years back at the Market Snodsbury School, came in for a loving mention. So were the sterling characters of such strong-willed women as Joan Valentine, Sally and Mrs Spottsorth. The conduct of such kids as Thos, Seabury and Edwin came up for discussion. One of the members sympathized with Aunt Agatha for the challenges she faced so very bravely while bringing up Thos.

There was a consensus that many of the problems faced by humanity at present – poverty, treatment meted out to the delicately nurtured, and terror, to name just a few – could be effectively tackled by ensuring that Homo sapiens followed the Code of the Woosters.

The meeting was yet another evidence, if evidence is indeed necessary, of the love for Plum’s works which transcends boundaries and can bring people of diverse origins together.

(Note: Yours truly and his spouse wish to express their heartfelt gratitude for the warm hospitality extended to them by Ms Josepha Olsthoorn, Mr Arunabha Sengupta and Ms Wil Brouwer.)

 

 

 

 

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