The Indian Dream


I’ve always been a big fan of Hollywood. A lot of us are. Hollywood seems to influence a lot of our aspirations. It’s pretty much our model for comparison, right? America ki buildings dekho, aur yahan! 


We’ve heard all about it before, haven’t we? ‘The American Dream’. It’s such a coveted idea. It’s what the escaped Hollywood movie convict wishes for, committing more crimes to achieve it. It’s what Vito Corleone came for to America in a ship from Italy in ‘The Godfather.’ It’s what a protagonist lives with before tragedy strikes, and the tragedy lies in him not being a part of it anymore. It’s a perfect culmination of free ideas and opportunities.


But what about the ‘Indian Dream’? I thought about the Indian dream. What should it be? What does it stand for? Had a lot of ideas, too many. I even did a Google search for ‘the Indian Dream’, and what I got is the result for a discussion on a forum and a low-budget series called ‘The Indian Dream Hotel’. The topic on the forum asked “What according to you should be the Indian Dream?” The topmost voted answer suggested that “Indians should put a hold on dreaming and work on doing things.” Felt a bit disappointed. Apparently we shouldn’t even dream.


I thought a little more about what it should be and how the idea of an Indian Dream applies to the latest situation. What would be the average of ideas that represent the freedoms, opportunities and comforts, leading to this complexly unpopular term or belief? Maybe it is difficult to derive that from the population of more than a hundred crore people. It’s easier to get things scattered.


Everybody goes their own way, and maybe they should. “To each his own.” Well, “To each his own in a legal framework” to be honest. Or maybe “To each his own in a legal framework, that may not be up to date and stands on the idea of a society that is failing.” One last detail “To each his own and only ‘his’ not ‘her’ in a legal framework, that may not be up to date and stands on the idea of a society that is failing and so does the system itself with loopholes and obsolete laws.” That’s a mouthful. A true mouthful. And it’s bitter.


Is our freedom real? I’m not sure. Last I checked, there were outcries against comedians for jokes made against celebrities. Well to be fair, these celebrities were legends and I’d be angry too if something was said against my favourite singer or sportsperson. But was something wrong said against them? No, it was a stupid impression of the celebrities in a video on a social-networking platform, that was not really too funny to be honest. It’s a joke, and comedy is supposed to be bit shocking and rebellious; even small jokes on a kindergarten level involve a twist in the story that was not expected or doesn’t goes off with the original line of thought, making it a joke and not a drab story. But not in our country, apparently. We like stories, jokes hurt us a little too much then they should. Was the FIR necessary? Would you throw a stone at someone who made a ‘Knock Knock’ joke?


At a very young age in a Political Science class, we were told that some European countries like France had very little censorship. That really blew my mind. Oh what blasphemy! They let the children watch anything there? They must have no morality at all. And then I grew up and realized that censorship was everywhere. I couldn’t see a few adult scenes on the TV. Obscenities were censored, raunchy scenes were omitted and certain body parts were blurred or pixelated when exposed; which is all fine because I grew up with a TV as a kid and it’s hard to imagine children being exposed to things, that I could now have access to thanks to the internet. I don’t mean just pornography (that was occasional), but uncensored versions of the media I found blocked in the mainstream media sources. A bleep sound or a cut annoyed me, because I could not fully understand the idea the makers wanted to express, or the emotions behind every word, action and display. I wanted to judge myself if those things were good or not. It’s like, I wouldn’t really like a person walking to my shopping cart and removing an item from it, telling me that it is not good without giving me a real chance to try it for myself.


Soon censorship increased a lot more. Even though supposedly, India has selective to substantial filtering when it comes to censorship levels (source: Wikipedia), I think they are much more stringent. I remember, theaters were the only place you could catch movies uncut, the TV versions being edited too much to hold any real plot; but that didn’t stay for long. Movies started being cut massively in theaters too. Even those marked ‘Adult’; even those under the certificate that literally says the movie is for people who are ‘Free and capable to make his/her own personal decisions’; or that came from Hollywood. So you just can’t catch the latest James Bond movie, with the part about James Bond being the ladies man that he is. So I began to spend a lot of my time online. I would catch almost everything on the internet and I am even guilty of illegal downloading. So theaters were occasional. I went to some movies. But these were mostly Bollywood movies overloaded with unfunny, unintelligent, distasteful innuendos and euphemisms throughout, lacking good plots or messages. And now we want to censor reality completely out of our lives.


I know an artsy film with a message that, any other country would get about 20 minutes of screen time in an Indian cinema, no matter what certificate you give it, but a film that bases itself on the reality of our own country? I’m talking about Udta Punjab. Wouldn’t we want to know what the director has to say about the very serious epidemic of drugs in an area of our country? Apparently not. With a lot of hue and cry and support, the movie made it to the screen with minimum cuts. But this is not the first time a movie was banned or edited beyond recognition. This was an example of a movie that made it through. There have been many lost under the pens of unworthy people who decide what is right for us, and they probably will for ages to come.


So let’s narrow down our ‘Dream’, make it more practical and chuck out the term ‘Freedom of speech and expression’ from it. That seems fair, right? Let’s be on the safe side and let’s never question or admit our problems through the direct and indirect expression, because it offends many.


Many in the general public claimed that Punjab has no drug problem. Staying in Punjab myself, I agree with them; I have known people who have been doing drugs for years now, but they are not addicts. Modern Punjabi music glorifies substance abuse, but it’s all ironic and satirical. The youth has more chance of falling into drugs than finding a job, but that’s just life isn’t it? We seem to live in a country where any expression or display is immoral and anything or anybody is a god. Let’s go ahead and tackle the comforts that would be a part of our ‘dream’.


Clean water? A worldwide problem, but definitely up there and important aspect of quality of life. 


Shelter? That’s a difficult one but very important in our hierarchy of needs. 


Food? That is the trickiest, the crisis of food. Will we be able to feed ourselves and provide ourselves with required nutrition? No, that’s not a question we should ask. What is the food that is acceptable to eat in the eyes of others and will I be alive the next time I indulge in them? That’s more apt for today’s India. You see, most religions dictate the dietary habits of their recipients. And further there are personal beliefs that determine how serious we are about the religious guidelines, and it is much closer to us. Now, I don’t think religion should dictate diet as seriously as it does in the country, but that is a personal belief of mine. I eat almost everything from vegetarian to non-vegetarian that is palatable. Some vegans and animal-activists bitterly question if I would eat a dog or a cat, I usually answer that I won’t since I don’t find them ‘palatable’; that’s the key word here that alludes to the meaning of the word that means ‘acceptable’. Pork is not palatable according to Muslims and Jews. Beef isn’t palatable according to Hindus. But it is definitely palatable to people of other faith and personal beliefs. It has been food for many for a long time and is considered food in most countries. No, not in India. Because it’s slaughter offends the followers of a religion that exist in obvious majority in the country, and the influences political scenario (allegedly). It offends them that you eat food that they would never touch, in the privacy of your own homes. So much so, that you can be mobbed and killed for eating beef in your own home. Forget the ridiculous 5 year imprisonment that you face for possession of beef (Drunken driving and theft will give you 2-3 years), we won’t let you go through any legal system. It’s as if the same person from the shopping cart analogy earlier came to me, looked at my shopping cart, saw chicken and then proceeded to stab me in my neck. I have a problem with yellow daal, never liked it. I don’t like the way lentil plants are ripped off in the process to obtain them. If I can get a majority of people to agree with my crazy personal belief, you will never ever see it in the country. In fact it shall be banned! Anyone who eats it will be mobbed and killed before any legal action. What democracy is this? A utopia! The utopia essentially means ‘a place that does not exist’. India is already striving towards becoming a ‘utopia’.


What about opportunities? Quite frankly they don’t matter anymore, at this point. 


Everything pretty much looks bleak. ‘The Indian Dream’ is turning into a nightmare. How did we get to this? We are a country that is home to the Kama Sutra, and we ban pornography on the internet. We are a country that is known for having multicultural societies, but we mob each other and ban each other’s aspects out of our lives. We were a country built on the idea of free thinking and freedom of thought and expression, and we ban what expressed ideas are and dictate how they are supposed to be seen.


What’s with this moral policing? What’s with this constant fear of having ideas and sharing them? What’s with this idea that you are not yourself in your own country because of ‘them’ and ‘they’ care and ‘they’ll think’, and never even facing who ‘they’ are? Why this lack of acceptance? Whatever happened to dreams?


And back to ‘the Indian Dream.’ What it is? We have yet to know. For right now the only thing that the Indian Dream should have, is the freedom to dream.

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Abhimanyu Khadwal (DAV College 10)


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