Four days ago, I watched English Vinglish. In this new world of first weekend-hit films, this movie is still running to full houses in its third week, simply because of Ms. Sridevi, who is just so damn good. I liked the film and even had a lump in my throat when Ms. Sridevi gave her “English” toast.
And then I started thinking about the film…not always a good idea, because once the emotional effect wears off, the flaws start becoming apparent. For example, there is unnecessary jingoism…during the visa interview and during the immigration process after landing. There are also stereotypes galore and racism…the rude black lady in the coffee place.
But what really has stayed on, is the word, “judgmental”, which comes up when Shashi, the character played by Ms. Sridevi, hears it uttered during a film she is watching and then asks her niece to explain its meaning. The film’s main subtext is that it is wrong to be judgmental about people based on their inability or ability to speak English.
We are constantly judgmental. It is part of our DNA. Most of this happens intuitively and subconsciously allowing us to categorize and compartmentalize people and situations, without wasting too much time, enabling us to engage in social intercourse without being constantly stressed out about those we are meeting or interacting with.
First impressions do matter. A taxi-driver is unlikely to have heard of Harry Potter. A Nepean Sea Road resident is unlikely to know where Dahisar is. A woman in a short skirt is a slut. We slice, dice, compartmentalize and judge all the time. We are wrong sometimes, as in the last two examples, and especially when we apply generalizations to large groups of people, but usually, when we deal with individuals face-to-face, it does not take much time to “judge” those in front of us…usually correctly.
And so, when I interview people for jobs, I am completely judgmental. The way a person presents himself / herself and the first words the interviewee utters, pretty much tell me what I need to know about the person, even without reading the curriculum vitae. Rarely do things change during the course of the interview to make me believe that I judged someone wrongly.
We keep being judgmental about our police force as well, assuming them to be boorish or corrupt or hard-nosed encounter specialists, especially in our films. We have to keep reminding ourselves constantly that this is not really true and that policemen are human beings like us…some good, some bad, some indifferent!
Yet, the events over the last few weeks, keep cementing the stereotype. The raid on the LIV bar and its aftermath, the arrest of Mr. Ravi for sending a tweet, Mr. Aseem Trivedi being charged for treason and countless similar examples, make us wonder what the hell is wrong. When we have serious crime happening where the perpetrators never seem to get caught or if they are, seem to get away easily all the time, how do our keepers of law and order even find the time to bother about these “moral” issues? Why is all of this so important suddenly? Why is it that the police lands up on the dot at 11.00 PM to stop a dandia, but never responds fast enough when called at the time of a rape or a murder or a gang-fight?
I would like to be the kind of non-judgmental person Shashi wants us to be. But when it comes to our men in uniform, it is becoming very, very difficult to not to be judgmental!