Friday, January 19, 2007

Shilpa-Gate 2: Karan Thapar, Get a Reality Check

With more racist remarks against Shilpa Shetty being aired in the past 48 hours on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother, you would think the English-language press in India would pause in its usual pompous declarations. But no such luck from our old guard of "Macauley's elite" baba-log.

Today's Guardian quotes Karan Thapar as saying: "What this seems to be is that a middle-class young Indian woman has come face to face with [British] working-class crassness. It is unfortunate but she is being paid $680,000 (£346,000) to go on the show."

RIGHT Karan!

Which world do you live in?

Beyond the rarified air of your South Delhi posh residential neighbourhood, the five star social scene, and political intrigue of the Dilli durbaar, there is a larger world: A world where a lot of us "middle-class" Indians take up jobs in UK, Australia, USA, and many other countries. We take up these job to promote our careers, to make money, and yes, to experience new places and things. And yes - in many cases we get paid LOTS of money for the jobs we do.

But get a reality check Karan!

Our choice to take up these jobs or indeed the money we are paid does not mean that basic rules of civility and workplace regulations or laws regarding workplace harassment do not apply.

Holding a job and getting paid for doing it does not mean we should be sexually or racially harassed or abused, or indeed be subjected to workplace bullying.

Are you really saying that those of us who work abroad have forfeited our right to be treated as human beings? That racism against us doesn't count because we "choose to have these jobs and be paid for them"? That we can be bullied, harassed, abused, perhaps even beaten up or killed because we "chose" to explore new horizons? Will you justify all acts of racism against those of us who live and work abroad as "unfortunate" but "hey, they are getting paid a lot of money"?

Lets get one thing straight: Shetty is in the CBB house to do a job. She is an actress and getting paid to do a TV show is what actors do! Yes, she is getting paid for it, just like her "colleagues" in the house.

NONE of this however means that she ought to be subjected to bullying or racism. If her "workplace" were a bank, or indeed a media house, she would be well within her rights to sue her employers. Why should she forfeit those basic employee rights simply because she is on TV or getting paid for her job?

To indicate - even implicitly - that the behaviour meted out to her is somehow justifiable simply because she "chose" to go on the programme, and because she is getting paid for it is perverse!

But then what can we expect of a "journalist" (or is that a "media personality" now) who couldn't stomach Shahrukh's "policitally incorrect" answer regarding Muslims in India!


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  2. Well said. These people do think that they are above the middle class and part of the elite. This very problem in India is one biggest impediment to our inclusive growth. This divide is in the minds, and deeply embedded. In my opinion, this is the single biggest reason of our country's sorry state.

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  3. Thanks lifeblogweb. I do think that some of our old guard is increasingly out of touch with reality (if they were ever in touch). Thats why blogging voices are so necessary - enjoyed your blog too.