Monday, March 16, 2009

Mini-blog: New CBC TV series on India

Well, better late than never. The BBC, CNN, and other news channels were talking about the rise of India and China about five years ago. The CBC (Canada's state-owned broadcaster, our version of the BBC, not quite like NPR) did a series on China a while back. Finally, they've figured out than a documentary on a country that houses a billion people, give or take, or about a sixth of the world's population, is worth doing, if for no other reason than to educate "average Canadians" (read: old stock Angl0-Celtic and "pure wool" French-Canadian) on the Indo-Canadians in their midst, their strange smelling (but tasty) curries, their weird and wonderful costumes, their funny accents, and their elaborate weddding ceremonies, ripped from the latest Bollywood blockbuster.

Oh, before I forget. If you missed it (the first two episodes aired last night, the next two next Sunday night), here's a link to the CBC's website for the series:

For the most part, there wasn't a great deal that was novel or revelatory for anyone who knows India. But, for those who don't, the series, or at any rate the first two episodes, present a generally balanced view of the paradoxes and puzzles of contemporary India. The usual suspects, such as the ills of the caste system, poverty, deprivation, and so forth show up. As well as the scourge of Hindu fundametalism. An interesting lacuna is no discussion of Islamic fundamentalism, nor of the 26/11 Mumai terrorist attacks. I suspect the film was made beforehand. Also, in my judgement, insufficient attention to the colonial history, and how a knowledge of this is essential to frame the current situation. Let's not forget that the flames of Hindu-Muslim enmity were fanned by the British Raj, in a successful bid (well, for two hundred years or so) to keep the country from uniting and kicking out the colonizers. And as a parting gift they tore the country in two when they left. (Well, they had help from Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi -- but that's a tale for another time.) Churchill famously predicted that India would descent into chaos when the British left. I'm glad to report that he lived long enough to see his gleeful prophecy fail, although I doubt he would ever have admitted it.
Anyway, despite my cribbing, a series that for the most part is sensible and pens a cautiously optimistic epistle of the world's largest democracy. I'll stay tuned. Especially to see what Vijay Mallya's Goa mansion looks like from the inside (I've only seen the outside gates).

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