Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Open Letter to Anupam Kher: I Come in Peace


Anupam Kher at the Tata Literature Fest (Image: Huffington Post)



“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” 
George Orwell 

Dear Mr. Kher,

Like many of my peers I grew up seeing you grace our screens, playing everyone from a closed-minded father to an incorruptible cop and a lovable scoundrel. So I write to you as someone who genuinely admired your on screen characters and also looked up to your generation of actors.

Incidentally, I also agree with you that India needs Modi at this moment, to champion development, cut through red tape and reduce corruption in order to usher in phase two of the liberalization that the brilliant Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh birthed, championed and shepherded. I too want Modi to succeed so that India can succeed; it is in this context that I would like to better understand the motivations behind your recent off-screen antics.

Granted India is a free country and nothing stops a person from speaking his mind, however mindlessly he may choose to do it. But there is good reason why we are not aware of the political or religious beliefs of most public figures. Unless you are an activist, self-proclaimed Godman or a politician, sharing these views has no bearing on your profession; one could argue that public figures who use their fame, beyond raising social issues, are taking advantage of the goodwill we have given them.

To be clear I have no problem with your speaking out, even though I find your interpretation of free speech nauseatingly narrow and your defense of the current government glaringly one-sided.

What offends me is the fact that you are making the world believe India is a weak and cowardly nation. A nation filled with wimps who are offended at the drop of a hat, and led by such a weak Prime Minster that he needs an actor to defend him. Beyond this, I confess I am also truly confounded by your goals for the following reasons. 

First, I am sure we can agree that the level of national pride China (or North Korea) touts its citizens have for their country is unquestioned. But we all know that it is forced nationalism, driven by brainwashing and fear. Here is the startling proof of China’s nationalist lie: by one estimate more than $1 trillion in capital left China in 2015 – a foreign education for a child can serve as a first step towards capital flight, foreign investment, and even eventual emigration.” (Source: Economist article). Similarly, if we continue down this path, the pseudo-nationalism you are now touting in India will cause the brightest and best to flee. We see the same in Pakistan, Iran, Russia and every other ‘deeply’ nationalistic nation.

Don’t you think that India has suffered enough over the last few decades of brain drain? Now under Modi we have a real chance to make progress by bringing back the brightest and best minds – do you really want to become the catalyst and poster child for another exodus?

Second, I have no doubt that you were offended by the words of a few students at JNU, as you claim. For me here is the bottom line - it does not matter what the purpose of the student gathering was or what slogans were chanted; even if it was convened to question the death penalty of a terrorist or if they called him a martyr, I am willing to allow it and here is why.

I agree that it is heinous to glorify a convicted terrorist, but mere words cannot shake my belief in the strength of India. More importantly, it is only through debate and dialogue that we can challenge and change views we disagree with. I prefer to know what people think and feel, rather than forcibly stifle their voices, only to have them bottle it up and then vent it in more dangerous ways. 

Granted, my line of thinking requires having the courage to hear what we find most offensive, and also requires a deep belief in the fundamentals of our democracy, the power of our nation and our current leadership’s ability. So I can only surmise that you do not share the same faith in the power or fabric of our nation, the deep roots of our democracy or in our current Prime Minister’s 56 inch chest (Source: NDTV article).

The point is that irrespective of how you or I felt about what transpired at JNU, do you honestly believe the solution is to jail our young minds, misguided as they might be, using a law our British rulers created to silence our dissent?

All I ask is that you show some faith in our nation, and our Prime Minster. Give him time to do his job, and stop making it harder for him by causing unnecessary division and strife. Most of all please stop making us Indians look like wimps who are offended at the drop of a hat.

Because if we continue to choose to take offense to words, if we choose to stifle anger and forcibly suppress dissent – we will fuel the anger and find we are responsible for turning once harmless words into much more dangerous actions. 

Sincerely,

A Fellow Indian

p.s. On a more personal note, you seem to be a rather sensitive chap. One who gets offended quite easily and regularly. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on public defenders, lengthy trials and diverting precious few police resources from fighting crime, you might want to consider hiring a psychologist. I am sure you can afford the best shrink in India and if these sessions help you grow a slightly thicker skin, you will also have the gratitude of the small minority of citizens who pay all the taxes in India.


6 comments:

  1. Well put..someone needed to give him back..

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  2. Nikhil, as a politico, he is an ass. He fumbles, foot in the mouth. Mr. Kher has had nice moments in acting. I have liked him in that role. He should stick to that profession.

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  3. Forgive him God for he knows not what is saying.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Interesting about the 56 inch chest...maybe we should select political figures based on chest size...every other decision seems random.

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  6. Advise to grow a slightly thicker skin! wah then every body can advise its opponent, and say I am right don’t get offended meet some psychologist and grow thick skin.

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