Tuesday, 6 September 2011

India - assertively and repressively itself

I've just come back from an attempted visit to my sister's college in Bangalore which I shall not name here. Despite being fully clothed, I was stopped by the guard because of my three-quarter pants (the girls have to wear full-length bottoms with a long shirt, and the boys professional attire as part of the institutional dress code). As I disappointedly turned away, I marvelled at the young ones' displays of confident sensuality, even sexuality in their ostensibly conservative clothes.

This seems to parallel India's unique strain of traditional modernity that I am seeing unfold on my current trip more than ever before. The medium I have chosen to investigate this phenomenon, namely, television, is both reflective of, and an aggressive participant in the building of an urban middle class that simultaneously worships at the altars of consumerist aspiration and primordial identification. Needless to say, Anna Hazare's much-publicised anti-corruption campaign has captured this class precisely because it appeals to both of the above sentiments. Even though the news networks suggest this is a homogeneous group of people, confessional yet strangely puritanical about the systemic corruption in their lives, a closer look at the streets, malls and airports tells a more nuanced story. Yes, I think there is more agency behind that struggling facade than we are willing to admit. 

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