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‘Success’ by Hook or by Crook – The American Dream Is Here!

January 9, 2015

Success by hook or by crookWhat is the answer that comes to your mind when one asks the question: What do Indians love the most? There could be many answers to this question. Some would say food, some would say films, some would talk about their penchant for sports and arts, but in all these preferences you would find the underlying thread of ‘success’. That is money. Material wealth has become the yardstick of success in India.

With people in every walk of life in India the one common thing that you see is the mad rush to make as much money as they can manage so that they are able to achieve success in life as is widely understood these days. Some examples would probably make it clearer:

Education

Education is perhaps the single most important aspect of one’s life. It is supposed to help you grow as an individual and later on make you good enough to choose a profession that will help you sustain a decent life. However, nowadays education has assumed a completely different meaning for the parents in the country. For them it is the avenue to enable their kids to earn the maximum possible money when they grow up – this mentality is to be seen mostly among the upwardly mobile middle classes.

Even when it comes to higher education, most parents pressurize their children to take up engineering, medical sciences or business administration so that they can earn, they presume, plenty of money in life. Subjects such as social sciences are a strict no-no because in most of the cases the students of these disciplines are able to lead only marginally respectable lives and not the opulent ones that their parents dream or desire for them.

Howsoever, that is the thought process of most young professionals today. They want to work at a certain job not necessarily because they think that they can make a positive contribution or they can leave a mark. The basic idea is to make as much money as possible and that too as quickly as possible, to make sure that one gets to buy a plush flat, a stunning car or two and marry the girl of their dreams. It is like the American dream – only it has become the Indian dream now.

Cinema and music

Cinema and music are supposed to be much more than mere forms of entertainment. They have the potential in them to be the vehicles of greater social change. With regards to cinema the regional language film industries such as in Bengal and Maharashtra try to fulfil these duties to a certain extent with subjects drawn from everyday life and by using a mode of representation that is stark and hard hitting.

However, the main film industry of India – Bollywood – does not have any such concerns and continues to churn out mindless fare year in and year out. There are a few exceptions such as Imtiaz Ali, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vishal Bharadwaj and Raju Hirani. The ones who dared to stand outside the purview of the commonly accepted such as Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap are now slowly being appropriated into the fold and one feels that in the foreseeable future there will be no independent filmmaker in mainstream cinema. There will be no different thought.

The scenario is similar in music as well, where it is all about Bollywood albums – there are no individual artistes coming out with their albums like it used to happen in the 90s when there was a thriving market for parallel commercial music, which was well nigh enjoyable.

The main issue in this instance is that it is all about entertainment and keeping people happy, which, in turn, would ensure that the turnstiles are flowing and business is booming. There is no thought put in to make socially and politically relevant films. There are certain filmmakers such as Farah Khan who have the notion that critics want a film to fail and they are always looking for work themselves, thus scoffing at the very idea of a different thought process and fresh ideas. The mindset of the audience is such that even if some few films are made in this way they perform so badly at the box office that the filmmakers turn to more commercially viable modes.

Sports

The most popular sports in India are cricket and football and the most followed sporting tournaments in India are the Indian Premier League and the Indian Super League. While the fan following and the exposure that local Indian talent is getting from these tournaments is laudable one needs to ask what happens to the time-honoured tournaments such as Ranji Trophy and I-League.

The case is similar in other sports as well, where the major corporate tournaments are hogging all the limelight leaving the local championships in the shed. After all, these enterprises do not boast of the best talent from the world, are not played in plush stadia (by Indian standards) and the stars of Bollywood and other ‘Woods’ do not attend these. The question that remains is can’t the local associations and clubs, which have kept the game alive for so long before the corporate houses came calling, be empowered to raise their standards to the same level? Perhaps the profits, for the powers-that-be who take the decisions, are not so much as is the case with the corporate leagues.

Marriage and personal relationships

This domain is perhaps the biggest representation of how besotted we are with the notions of power and prestige as a race. For most marriage-worthy girls as well as their parents in India the main question is that security and men are chosen by that dictum as well. The basic idea is to make sure that the daughter is secure and wealthy. The ideal groom in India looks like Hrithik Roshan or a Bollywood hero and earns like Bill Gates.

What these people never realize is that there is nothing secure about life. One bad decision, one unfortunate event and it could all go topsy-turvy. All the money could just vanish in thin air. It is in these situations that the strength of your relationship is tested and if the basis is wrong – like being premised on money – then it is supposed to come falling down like a house of cards sooner rather than later.

The case is similar with men as well. Only the prettiest women are desirable as brides. The basic idea is that they should be able to show off their wives and girlfriends to everyone and make others jealous. The problem with such a mentality is that once the physical beauty starts to wear off they start looking for others of the similar ilk thus causing friction in marriage and at times in extra-marital love relations as well. The basic dictum that the person in question should be a good human being first, has gone out of the window. This is also the reason that the institution of marriage in urban India is in an abysmal condition right now.

A few years back Raju Hirani had made the film, 3 Idiots, which sends across a priceless message – don’t chase success, chase excellence and success will follow. The film was a huge hit and highly appreciated, but the message has been lost. We continue in the race to be ‘successful in life.’ It’s Goodbye to the Old Order!


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I am from Kolkata. Like any other Bengali I love my fish, eggs and bhaat and sweets but I also feel proud to be a part of the biggest melting pot of the world - India. It is true that I need to go a long way before I finally call it a day but I have come some way and am sure will travel further. Cheers :)

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