Two interesting blogposts on Sepiamutiny were the genesis for this post. Also read Deep_Thought for a similar take.
The first is on Atul Vyas, an Indian who died in the recent train crash in the Los Angeles area of the United States, and the second is on Minal, who was one of the 32 victims of the shootout at Virginia Tech. Both articles are essentially eulogies, by people who did not know them when they were alive.
While the general idea of the posts is as far as I can gather, to remember those who passed away in tragic accidents - the specificities and general tone of the articles I find objectionable.
The article on Atul Vyas, a bright med-school aspirant is essentially the AP article on him supplemented by the blogger's own jarringly disproportionate emotional reaction to those details. For someone who came to know of Atul's existence only after his death, the "my heart turned to mush" reaction is a bit much.
Yes, Atul Vyas was an Indian twenty year old boy who loved waking up late and weird dancing, and was well-loved in general. He was bright and smart and while it is generally acknowledged that his passing was a loss to the world, I believe that as long as we did not know him, this whole "he was an Indian victim, and we are all Indian so, of course, we will all behave like we all knew him in person" reaction is extremely patronising, and by virtue of such, certainly disrespectful to the deceased himself, whose identity was certainly more than the cloyingly cutesy stereotyped-twenty-year old image that is being projected to generate mass emotion in all his "brother Indian expats". Not to mention how annoying this must be for all his friends and family, the people who genuinely knew him and miss him for the person he was.
This farce is taken about a couple hundred steps further in the article on Meenal, who the blogger has adopted as her - wait for it -"Choti Behan". Meenal's love for earrings and icecream have been lovingly culled from, of all things, her orkut profile, and all her scraps have been carefully examined and appropriately sobbed over by the blogger. The whole article has the approach of a hastily researched 'Human Interest' project (1 orkut profile, 1 newspaper article, 3 blogposts) tossed with as much overdramatic breast-beating as discretion will allow.
The only motive appears to be the generation of large-scale sympathy for one of the very few brown victims of the tragedy.
While the general idea of remembrance of people who have passed away in tragedies such as these is no doubt commendable, the whole tone of the article is more than annoying. It is cliched, syrupy and cringe-worthily teary for someone who didn't even know the victim personally. While I would certainly like blogposts written on me I die, I'm damned if I want to be adopted as a "choti behan" and cried for purely because I was Indian and brown. That's just insulting.
Posts of this kind have one main problem, namely the disproportionate focus on the brownness in anything. The tragedy and the other victims are mentioned and then summarily ignored while the blogger labours in his endeavour to "humanise" the sole brown victim for the benefit of the collective tear-glands of the entire expat Indian community. There is nothing that distinguishes the brown victim from the other victims except the brownness. In a world where racial profiling is legitimised and all guys in beards are Osama Bin Laden, this sort of passionately ethnocentric mourning is disturbing. If loss of life has transcended colour and ethnicity, so should remembrance and mourning.
Sympathy is fine, but sympathy dumbed down for the Lowest Common Denominator transcends funny, and cannonballs right into pathetic-land.
The bottomline is - leave the eulogies to the people who are qualified to write them. Anything more is patronising and disrespectful. The only exception to this rule is available to The Hindu, which will inevitably, when you die, inform the world that you have "attained the Lotus Feet of Rama." :-)
But then, that is The Hindu. And really, how can you not love The Hindu. :-)
Another self portrait
1 month ago