A plethora of articles have found space surrounding the recent comments made by Hardik Pandya on the popular television show, Koffee with Karan which has landed him into trouble in the cricket world. Although his cricket future does not seem to be in jeopardy at the moment, his comments come at a very crucial cross road of the increased awareness of the women’s rights amidst the wave of #metoo movement in India. However, what is lacking in these articles is the need to understand the structural public space which allow the inception of these comments to germinate and the permanent supply of viewers sustaining misogyny.
The title of this article is partly inspired from a famous novel by Milan Kundera, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” It is pertinent to explain the construct surrounding the title at this juncture which explains the essence of the article. Two words which assume importance in this title are, ‘unbearable’ and ‘lightness.’ The intended object (in this case person) is at the same time unbearable and light. It is unbearable because the comments made by Mr. Pandya stand beyond toleration but at the same time it is light, in the sense it bears only partial side of the story. Let us engage in a simple deconstruction surrounding the comments and the role of the actors to understand the essence of the title and the plethora of discussions in the social space.
The show (like many others televised) reeks of a neo liberal market essence. These shows run on TRP’s which determine the popularity of the show thereby bringing in huge chunks of revenue in the form of advertisements. The popularity in this case is judged by the number of people watching the show. The inference at this point suggests that there is a demand for these shows. A steady flow of customer who can be sold anything and everything in the name of entertainment. The comments have been possible to be made with utter pride in a nationally televised show is because, customers buy these gossips who fail to realize that it is in fact their lack of awareness which is being challenged at every step. They have not been conscious of the fact that what is sold in the name of entertainment is nothing but means to create more and more customers bereft of consciousness. This will ensure the maintenance of the market created by the producers of the show. The moment people will begin searching for the rarest element of aesthetics in these shows, it will in fact challenge the market. I’m sure Karan Johar is sitting somewhere in his highly posh apartment sipping his evening Koffee and smiling in the success of his tactics. It is on these controversies that he rides his bonus. And then similar like minded people will meet him for the evening party who will share a hearty laugh about the whole incident in an equally misogynist environment.
Now let us understand the actors involved in the said episode. Hardik Pandya boasts about the fact that there is a normalization and acceptance of such behavior in his domestic environment. Hence it is equally important to know that the actors were not just the ones in front of the television screen but behind the scenes as well, who have regularly allowed this distorted machoism to find a private space in their environment. The primary actor may have been Pandya but the role of the secondary actors cannot be ignored in bringing up this actor. The reaction of the other actors, Karan Johar and KL Rahul, present in the scene were equally scary because they seem to enact the role of primary audience who revel in these sorts of comments. They provide the primary actor the necessary confidence that whatever he is doing is normal and ok and hence should not be taken too seriously. After all it is simply for entertainment. They fail to realize the sociology of the comments being made – the hidden patriarchy, the candid misogyny, and the misplaced machoism – inherent in these comments and reduce it to pure and simple entertainment. We come across these comments in our daily lives and among the most trusted person because they are passed and accepted as light humor and hence nothing to be serious about.
The element of silence is understood when one keeps quite despite having been aware of the context and issue. However, the dominant culture created in our societies has robbed us of the consciousness and hence we have normalised this within the bigger construct of societal structure as something which is acceptable. We will raise our voice and break the silence only when we know that there is something to protest against. If it is acceptable as a norm, one does not find the need to protest. However, one might argue that, do people always protest even if they are aware. The answer is a resounding No. But this will come at a later stage. In the first stage the need is to identify the problem. And identifying the problem does not stop with blaming the actors. It should and must include the narrative of the side who find solace in accepting the ‘normalcy’ in these constructs. And it is this side which ensure a strong market for these comments. In the present case, it is the domestic space of Pandya and the commercial space provided by these kinds of shows. One might also argue, are you suggesting they are innocent and hence should be absolved of all the critical discussion that is going on around them. The answer once again lies in negative. What I am trying to analyze is the fact that until we understand the structure which allows these comments to survive and comfort, simply identifying the actor will not help. They are mere carriers who shoulder this structure. Even sadder part of the discussion lies in having to challenge the role of the women in this, many of whom will be equally comfortable and therefore will fail to find faults in these comments.
Let us end on a positive note. The fact that some people are able to realize the inner contradictions in these comments is a success story. We are at least debating and arguing about these issues providing space to all plausible opinions in a civilized manner, stands testimony to the fact that we have come a long way. More needs to be done and done in a right way towards the right direction. In his Twitter apology, Pandya said that he had ‘got carried away.’ Although I am not sure if Pandya has read Kundera’s book, but he definitely seems to have followed Kundera, as the latter said in the book, “When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object,”.
Suparna Banerjee, Doctoral student, Centre for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany. Email: [email protected]