Like Kangana, Vir Das should be allowed the right to believe in the India he sees

POV

Like Kangana, Vir Das should be allowed the right to believe in the India he sees

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Vir Das knew exactly what he was in for when he delivered his “I Come From 2 Indias” monologue. He knew that it would grab the eyeballs of foreigners who have no other work but to indulge in some India-centred schadenfreude. Vir Das knew exactly how the audience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC) would cheer him as he used irony to tug at their heartstrings. Of all the fodder he could’ve harnessed for his half-funny jokes, he decided that deriding India’s most inconsequential stories would be hilarious for a predominantly desi audience; one that yearns for an American Dream-based idea of India but won’t actively help in building it, even as it quietly reaps the welfare benefits of being American.

Vir Dar knew exactly how the optics of his satirical trip would play out in the media, as the most offended experts would extol the virtues of nationalistic pride and the trolls on social media would froth with excitement. After all, how dare he make generalisations about inconvenient issues like rape, rising living costs and farmer protests?

Vir Das knew exactly how idiotic the timing is, to take jibes at distractions like soaring petrol prices and safety for women when Aryan Khan is out on bail, Rhea Chakraborty has not resurfaced, and smaller drug trails are to be chased?

Vir Das knew exactly how idiotic the timing is, to take jibes at distractions like soaring petrol prices and safety for women when Aryan Khan is out on bail, Rhea Chakraborty has not resurfaced, and smaller drug trails are to be chased? Doesn’t Vir know that just like “sickularism” is a revolting “libtard idea”, freedom of expression is an outdated and should be removed from the Constitution. That it has no relevance in the modern, demonetised and demoralised India of today. Ask Kangana Ranaut.

Who is this Vir Das anyway? Just some diminutive man with an attitude no one cares about and performances that aren’t even effective most of the time. He’s essentially Kangana without the National Awards; the loose cannon without the legitimacy of the powers that back her. He says these uncomfortable things and thinks that by setting them to rhythm and meter, he’s some modern day Vikram Seth. No, he isn’t. He’s just another Swara Bhasker, saying it as he sees it and not caring about the repercussions this could have (and it always does, rather frighteningly) on his own family.

Vir Das knew exactly how irony is so lost on people who are not accustomed to having a laugh at their own expense.

Yet, Vir Das knew exactly how the lawyers who will not do pro bono work for genuine social causes like those of the farmers or sexual harassment, will quickly file complaints of derogatory speech and slander. Vir Das knew exactly how irony is so lost on people who are not accustomed to having a laugh at their own expense. We cry about our image but do little to manufacture another. A bit like Australia on the cricket field. We laugh and sledge at everyone else, but should the joke be on us (which very often it is because of our own follies), we’re uncomfortable. So, we complain and rant to the mums (read: authorities/government) in our lives who then swoop in to defend their laadla spoilt bachchas who have not been taught to tolerate a contrarian viewpoint.

One would imagine writing jokes has a lot to do with understanding one’s audience and crafting speeches that would be most effective in reaching out to them. So, in all his wisdom, Das decided that writing about the beauty of India’s dichotomy will actually sound poetic to the ears of people who are tone-deaf about the country they see, and the one that exists.  Because their idea of patriotism is like that Indian cricket team-supporting NRI who moved to England for better prospects. The point is that just like Kangana, Das has the right to believe in his own idea of India, however flawed or contrarian to a majoritarian perspective.

Vir is a coward for presenting a nuanced satirical speech on irony because we’re a country that talks of educational policies from a ministry that openly accepts leaders who believe education is elitist and overrated. Either this comes from a genuine lack of material for jokes or more woefully, from a space of young romance, conviction and heartfelt optimism about love being unconditional—with warts et al. Wistfully, Vir speaks of the two diametrically opposite halves of this India like a mature man who embraces all facets of a whole.

Wistfully, Vir speaks of the two diametrically opposite halves of this India like a mature man who embraces all facets of a whole.

He comes from an India that praises Kangana Ranaut’s years of venom as freedom of expression, yet it cannot handle a 6-minute assessment of the country’s current affairs. He comes from an India that is offended by his gangrape at night comment but issues rape and death threats to his family in the day.  Vir is every one of us but he’s also none of us. After all, he comes from an India that can threaten his existence, but also and India that believes everything he said, was well within his rights.

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