Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sermons as assault

Yesterday was the first Monday on which I switched on the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa programme on Zee Marathi and became gradually depressed. In fact I was so depressed that I turned off the sound for a very long time and then only turned it on when the children were singing. I could not bear this ultimate adult aggression on the five young children whose only fault is that they are wonderful singers.

The Sa Re Ga Ma Pa programme in all its avatars has been a milch cow for Zee. Marathis love music. And everybody loves children. So this edition of the programme in particular has garnered viewers from every corner of the country and the world. Monday and Tuesday nights have become very special. You can see that on the mornings that follow, when walkers round Shivaji Park animatedly discuss the previous night's performances.

Over the last couple of months, the children's popularity has zoomed so high that they have become something of an "item". They are invited as a group to all kinds of dos to sing and be blessed. Zee must be very happy with the publicity it gets. The organisers must be happy because, if the li'l champs are singing, crowds will automatically come. And the parents? It's difficult to say. Some might have reservations; but they go along. We aren't used to standing up to money power even on behalf of our children. However, there must be some parents at least who believe that their children are fortunate to be getting all this "exposure". Zee is repeatedly thanked by them for running the programme, forgetting that Zee is living off their children! Two shows ago I noticed that all five children looked under the weather. For the first time ever, they sang below par.

All along, the judges have admonished the children against letting their success go to their heads. "You are terrific singers and all that but we would like to tell you and your parents that this should not be allowed to interfere with your childhood. You must guard that." Oh yes? Then why was an assault launched on their childhood last night?

It was Republic Day. Time to celebrate what India means and can be made to mean. Time to admire our Constitution which has given us rights which many the world over do not have. But that was not what the children were allowed to celebrate. They were not given the right to sing their own favourites to celebrate the day. They sang songs about Shivaji and soldiers who die fighting for the country. They were taught these songs by Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar who sat between the judges and gave a lengthy exegesis on every song that was sung. Mothers of army and air force men were special invitees to the show. They were called upon to speak about why their sons had chosen to join the armed forces and how they had dealt with their death when it occurred. The little singers stood beside the anchor for the entire length of every speech that was delivered. Our children are trained for adult preaching. They are also trained in self-preservation devices. But all the same, I'd like to pass on one that I used pretty effectively during such crises in my childhood. I'd recite the last stanza of Jabberwocky to myself, making "it" stand for the tormentor of the moment:
One, two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went gallumphing back.

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