Wednesday, August 24, 2005

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.


Sneha said...

nice writing...sraight from the heart!

Wed Aug 24, 08:12:00 AM EDT  

Update 2: Yes because its my space and I dont particularly take kindly to driving up your blogs traffic---

"India although the greatest country"---talk about jingoism.

Wed Aug 24, 12:03:00 PM EDT  

And oh..if you bother to look through my blog you would find many contrary opinions everywhere....flame wars and the like (I am a MCP..I hate Islam...blah blah)--none of which I deleted.

However instead of posting anything like a comment, you stick a link I interpret that as way to drive traffic to your site. I cant condone that.

If you have objections, (like many others), put your objections *in* the comments on my post.

Wed Aug 24, 12:07:00 PM EDT  
Ideamani said...

Ok, this post is now on your blog - The reason I posted the link is because its written like a post, not a comment. And trust me, my blog traffic is of no concern to me.

Wed Aug 24, 02:16:00 PM EDT  
Olinda said...


First time I've seen your blog. Interesting post on Born into Brothels.

Wed Aug 24, 02:32:00 PM EDT  
Ideamani said...

Welcome to my blog, Olinda

Wed Aug 24, 02:58:00 PM EDT  

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wed Aug 24, 03:04:00 PM EDT  

And trust me, my blog traffic is of no concern to me.

Yeah sure. I trust you

Wed Aug 24, 03:05:00 PM EDT  
anya said...

After having read GreatBong's review of the movie -- and reading yours now .. I must say I should watch this documentary of sorts.
I agree on A much larger issue is the attempt by the affluent in India to brush the poor under the "India is Shining" carpet.
Need to think more on this.
Also, adding you to my blogroll.

Wed Aug 24, 04:36:00 PM EDT  
Ideamani said...

Anya, the movie is very much worth watching.

Wed Aug 24, 06:27:00 PM EDT  
Guru said...

hey greatbong

screw you man

Thu Aug 25, 11:24:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous said...

the point is if zana briski would have shown the number of indian social workers, who are working hard for the upliftment of the poors in india, her docu-feature would have lost into oblivion. the point is, like a smart westerner she took out the points what the MAHAN west is doing for the upliftment of the Needy east, and got an oscar. Of course i credit her innovative idea of giving camera to the kids and making it a film, but her acute business sense should be also credited. Only naives fail to understand the business these kind of westerners do with the poverty of india. indeed we have problems, but we are trying to solve it in our own ways. do the writer of this bolg thinks that indians are still waiting when a western rookie will come and help them out? indeed there are westerners who have extended a genuine hand of help to this cause; but for sure business ppl like ms briski is not among them.

Fri May 26, 08:40:00 AM EDT  
Ideamani said...

Well, anon, what have you done for the upliftment of the poor ? It seems like you have missed the theme of my post, which was screw the motive, praise the effect.

Fri May 26, 11:18:00 PM EDT  

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