147 Monday Musings- Cartoons and Caricatures
This might slip into the certitudes of shoulds and musts, but that is the price one pays to write on something that has been written about so much, that one more attempt only draws out sighs and yawns. The Indian parliament erupted in hurt on the issue of an cartoon that got published almost half a century ago being included in the NCERT books, which depicts Nehru pulling up Ambedkar on the delay in the framing and scripting of the constitution. As if the outrage itself was not tragic enough, Kapil Sibal went out and apologized for the inclusion of the cartoon, the two academicians behind the inclusion of the cartoons in the text book resigned and to add insult to injury, a few lumpen elements went ahead and vandalized the office of one of the academicians.
There is enough in this incident why anyone in his right mind will find reasons to be disturbed about. The cartoons in question are half a century old, based quite on facts and the actors concerned themselves never took offence during their lifetimes - and these must be reasons enough why we must ask in exasperation 'what’s the bloody fuss about?
Second where will this end? If we start feeling offended on everything that ever happened, on fears and phobias, complexes and hurts, based on real or imagined events, then I guess we are creating a worldview so downright intolerant, touchy and sensitive, that joyful living will always elude us.
This incident is not a random, isolated event - it’s a part of larger pattern that is being played out with uncanny and scary regularity. Sentiments of all kinds seem to be waiting for being hurt, feel insulted and wronged. Identitities of all kinds are so fragile that only one question can trigger mayhem, only one cartoon can trigger hurt and insult. All scrutiny, academic delayering, discussion on anything related to belief, faith, icons, leaders, are out of bounds. The industry of faith and idol worship seems to run on the fuel of suspended inquiry and meek submissiveness. If we are incapable to question and learn from the past, if we are incapable to scrutinize and analyze our present - then it will be of little surprise that we are also hopelessly incapable of chiseling out a great future. Our faiths are not perfect, neither were our icons and role models, but despite their imperfections they left a legacy. In questioning an analyzing them we are paying them the ultimate homage of engaging with their legacy. It’s better than paying lip service to them or being apathetic to it. We must be comfortable in questioning the holy cows and accepting our past, its people and faiths. Irreverence is not always bad - it’s a sign of a very confident people.
The last thing about this incident that left me with a sour taste is the realization how incapable we as a people have become in laughing at ourselves. Cartoons lighten the day for us; the intent is to take light hearted pot shot at very serious things. As Rufun wainwrith says "There's no life without humor. It can make the wonderful moments of life truly glorious, and it can make tragic moments bearable.” I fail to understand the composition of people who cannot take a good hearted dig at themselves. In failing to see the funny side of life, the banter in inanities, the humor in small mercies, we reveal a lot about ourselves. We might have fought the cartoons, but in the process have reduced ourselves to caricatures of what we can be. Let’s be better than that.