Born Into Brothels
I watched "Born Into Brothels" a few weeks ago. I loved it - Its a documentary set in the Calcutta red light area, Sonagachi. It was shot by an American woman who has lived in the brothel, on and off for the last several years.
The brothel, of course, looked horrible. It was filthy, there were junkies eveywhere, the women used foul language in front of their children and there was no escape route for the children. Most of the girls ended up becoming prostitutes and the boys became pimps/junkies.
The American lady, who is a photographer by profession, started making friends with the children of the prostitutes and ultimately ended up teaching them photography. I was amazed at how talented each of the kids was with the camera.
The movie, in spite of its theme was quite upbeat and at the end of the movie, I was quite happy rather than being sad as I expected to be. I thought that the overall treatment of Calcutta and India was quite fair overall - There was no attempt to show India as being anymore dirty than it is, or the government being any slower than it is.
And then I read this blog post, by "Great Bong", and although he attempted to project an image of being extremely neutral and objective, it was clear that he was upset with the way the movie portrayed Calcutta. I love the way he talks about everything but the core issue - Starving, struggling people.
In his post, he accuses Zana Briski, the photographer of deviating from the main subject in order to focus on the bad things. He also says that the movie comes across as "Look at how the European woman is saving the souls of bottom-feeding Indians." "All the good, noble characters (her and the principal of a school) are Europeans."
So, my questions are ...
1. So what if she focuses on the bad things ?
2. Why are Indians so defensive ?
3. Why are we analyzing Ms. Briski's motivation ?
4. Should the world see our poverty and squalor ?
Lets face it - India although the greatest country, has countless problems - That doesnt mean we need to walk away from it or give up on it - But, that is the truth. And the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging it.
Indians need to stop being so defensive about the country - Especially, the well educated, well fed ones - Whose only concern is that pictures of the true India - Dirt and filth will spoil their opportunities to sell BPO solutions or will necessitate them to answer tough questions during pseudo-intellectual cocktail sessions at Harvard.
Screw that !
India needs change, a lot of it.
India needs help and a lot of it.
And if the way to get help is to come out with the begging bowl and show the ugly underbelly, so be it.
And, why are we worried about Ms. Briski's motivation ? Its not even relevant to the starving millions in India - A much larger issue is the attempt by the affluent in India to brush the poor under the "India is Shining" carpet.
India is progressing, but we are in no way shining. And we need to acknowledge that - That would make us powerful.
Can these pseudo intellectuals promise to eradicate poverty ? Can they feed everybody who needs food tonight ? Guarantee that nobody will starve or shiver to death tonight ?
If they can't, then they need to shut up and let Zana Briski or anybody who chooses, to do their charity work unheeded and uncommented upon - If you can help, help. If not, let others help, no matter what their motivation is and even if it means that you are forced to search your conscience and makes you feel like a traitor.
Have you saved anybody from a brothel ?
Zana Briski has.
Update: I posted this link as a comment on "Great Bong's" blog and he promptly deleted it.
Update II: He requested that I post the content of this post as a comment, which I have.