Saturday, February 28, 2009


"Jiho" means "May Victory Be Yours".

I have some thoughts about this movie that are flying all over the map right now.

The slums of Mumbai are the sort of environment that few people can imagine without having seen it. People live in tin shacks covered with moldy blankets next to garbage dumps. Children swim through poop. Bathrooms are collective and there is no sanitation. The stink alone is unspeakable.

Human beings should not be living that way in an abundant world ~ and the world is abundant. There are sufficient resources on this planet to feed every man, woman, child and beast. The social structures have to place that as a value and currently they do not.

I found the premise of the movie rather silly, given that most of the children in Mumbai are not educated and struggle daily for basics. The idea of someone having the energy to memorize a lot of trivia is a bit unrealistic. But that aside....

One thing the creators of this movie did understand is that consciousness raising without action is meaningless. Talking about a problem, ruminating about it, hand-wringing about it is useless.

The producers of the movie have created a school in the slums of Mumbai in an effort to offer free education to all the children of the region. It will provide them with a chance to begin the process of improving their lives. In my opinion, that is to be praised. The producers didn't make a big issue of it or try to use it as a means to elevate themselves. If I am understanding correctly, it's really not a well-known fact.

The one thing that concerns me is inaction and lack of cooperation on part of the Indian government. They still operate under a social system that predestines a person's status in life by birth. If one is born into the wrong caste, there is no chance of change, no opportunity for growth or self-determination on any level. At the risk of making some people mad, I'll say that it is a disgusting, barbaric and unconscionable social system that should be challenged by every human rights group on the planet.

Karma can be used as a battering ram, just like anything else. It can be used as an excuse to ignore glaring social problems by determining that someone deserves his or her fate because of past deeds in another life. That's not a belief system. It's an excuse.

In my opinion, it's crap.

Karma is a system of cause and effect, not a meritocracy.

We all have a duty to alleviate suffering whenever and however we can. Not to rack up brownie points but because that is our purpose here.

Maithri quoted a Sufi saying that I particularly like and it seems to fit this occasion as well.

"Past the seeker as he prayed,

There came the helpless and the hungry and the homeless,

And seeing their suffering he cried out to his God saying

"Great God, How can you see your children suffering and not do anything to
help them?"

And God in His heaven replied "I did do something.

I made you."

I hope that if seeing the movie that won the Oscar does anything, it will convince all of us on a very personal level that we are responsible for the way the world works, that we can and should make a difference. This isn't a Horatio Alger tale. It's a morality play.




MARY G said...

Well made point. Sometimes it seems as if the Canadian government is on a karma kick as well. Kids should not be hungry, uneducated and suffering from easily prevented illnesses. Ever! And there are, in my community. I spend a lot of time trying to fix it, at the fishing pole rather than the fish level.
I do like this post! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Karma is one of those things that it takes a while to get a handle on.

It doesn't mean "you get what you deserve," although selfish people like to see it that way because it justifies their excesses.

The best way I heard it explained it, "Where you are now is the result of decisions you made in the past; where you will be in the future will be the result of the decisions you make today."

Swami Vivekananda put it this way: "Karma is the eternal assertion of human freedom. If we can bring ourselves down by our karma, surely it is in our power to raise ourselves by our own karma."

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I especially like your statement that karma is a system of cause and effect, not a meritocracy. It IS an excuse to do nothing and feel virtuous in the bargain.

I didn't know about the school set up by the movie producers, but am happy to learn of it. The most eloquent words delivered with passion are meaningless if we don't DO something about the situations that so badly need changing. Sadly, most people are not willing to get their hands dirty.

Woman in a Window said...

i remember reading an article in Time or some such magazine a few years ago while waiting to see my doctor. It was about India's Untouchables. I was sobbing and sick and utterly defenseless by the time I saw my doctor. We forgot to address my health issues when I went in because all I could do was discuss this with him, and him with me. But we were both at such a loss. Other than being decent and good, speaking up when it's possible to be heard, what is there to do? I wrote a post a while back about how debilitating it is to feel so deeply but yet to not know how to fix things, or help fix things. Tell me Chani. Tell me, and i will do it. I ache still, all these years later.

Jen said...

Wow, I was just having this same thought in a different context. We tend to divide things and to look at our own little corner of the universe. We also try to solve things without bringing in opinions that will chafe with our own. Neither of these are good survival skills and neither will help heal the world.


Billie Greenwood said...

My first thought after reading this post was, "This is why I love Chani."

Defiantmuse said...

I had a really difficult time when I traveled throughout India...for many of the reason you mentioned here.

Carla said...

Very well said. I love the quote at the end.

Leann said...

I've not seen this movie nor heard much about it. Perhaps I live in a shell, but I do agree with your precept.

Anonymous said...

We can always start with our own neighbors, our own community. Like the crazy lady with the octuplets, she can probably use some help. Sometimes I find myself walking past a person in need who is asking for help or food, meanwhile I am caught up in altruistic thoughts of the Gazans or the children of Mumbai. How wrong is that? We have to start with the people right in front of us. And if we help the moms we help the kids. But first we have to suspend judgment. That is the most difficult, isn't it? Karma or no karma, people make bad choices all day long, but their children should not have to suffer for it.

LittlePea said...

You bring up some of the very problems I would have when I hear people use the word Karma. But I agree with Ivy, what is in front of us is a good place to start.

SuperP. said...

I haven't seen this movie, but I will now. And, I love the quotes. Love to you, Chani.

Sukhaloka said...

Hmm... gotta correct a couple of misconceptions right here. This time, you've got my Indian blood boiling :).
1. Children don't have to swim through poop. Anywhere in India. Unless it's some "amazing race"or "fear factor" type dare, heh. That was a "film-ey" exaggeration.
2. The caste system is way more complicated than you've put down here. The government does not perpetrate it, unless you call the remedial measures in favour of Scheduled Castes(the erstwhile disadvantaged castes) discrimination. There is very much an opportunity for growth and self-determination, especially in middle-class urban society.
Besides, from my rudimentary sociological knowledge I'll argue that the discriminatory caste system was imposed by the British during the Raj as a divide-and-rule policy. In the original Vedas, the word "varna" was used, and it simply meant one's occupation. There was nothing hereditary or hierarchical about it.
3. The Hindi version of "Who wants to be a Millionnaire?" starring Amitabh Bachchan, was a majorly majorly popular show at one point. Becoming a "crore-pati" was a popular cherished dream. Given that short period in TV history, I feel that the selection of the theme is fairly justified.
We have a very strange mixture of the rural and urban, religious orthodox and "emancipated", feminists and wife-beaters. "Slumdog" has raised a LOT of hackles for focusing on the bad sides and sensationalizing it.

Oh, and it's "Jai Ho". "Jai" - victory, "Ho" - may it be. Admittedly, it isn't close to Rahman's best work. Try "Dil Se" or "Roja" for a taste of what he CAN do!

Sukhaloka said...

And just as I clicked "publish", I realize I didn't put in a word about the main thrust of your post. Which I totally agree with. We all do our bit, but until corruption and capitalistic exploitation are taken away.. I dont' see how this can be remedied. I could give all I have, and it would fail to restore even one poor family to a position where they could be assured of food all their lives.
A pity, because India is a land of plenty unlike any other.

painted maypole said...

when i saw the movie I was surprised by the harshness of the slum scenes... the violence, the poverty, etc. NOt that I didn't know it existed, but I didn't realize it was in the movie. Um... rack that up to not really thinking much about it, huh?

it's so true that our society has just come to accept this, and while it's not quite the same in america, obviously, we've become pretty used to and OK (as a collective society) with the poverty that so many people live with.

love that story, by the way.