I don’t know about you but when the Central government decided to ban all cartoons from school textbooks, my reaction as a well-informed journalist was: WHAT! They have cartoons in school textbooks these days?
Because, when we were in school, textbooks contained — you could not have guessed this — just texts. Occasionally, there used to be some illustrations. But in the smudged-ink-printing of those days, looking at the picture of B R Ambedkar many of us couldn’t but conclude that the man, who was one of the architects of the Indian Constitution, used his spare time to turn up on screen as actor S V Ranga Rao.
Also, I must point out here that in those days history classes are where we — why not? — honed our drawing skills. The caricatures that we attempted on those pictures/illustrations would amount to serious criminal offences these days. My long-time bench-mate Ravikumar acquired the status of a legend in our circles principally for what he did to the image of Mumtaz in our 7th standard history book.
Coming back to the controversy at hand, looking at the cartoon of Nehru-Ambedkar-snail, the most logical question that begs to be asked is: Is snail not an animal?
I mean if it indeed were, PETA and other animal rights groups would have by now created such a ruckus that the unwary might be forced to think that the cartoon actually depicts Nehru and Ambedkar committing the cruelty of stopping the snail from writing the Indian Constitution. Maybe, PETA has so far not asked for any ban on the cartoon because its people are still researching whether the cartoonist (Shankar Pillai) had used an artificial brush or one that had the fur of the endangered panda or platypus.
But before we get all het up or sound snarky on bans, is it not a fact that you yourself wanted to have a few things banned? I will confess I did, and do. In fact, I have always wanted the guys who use their fingers (as if scratching the air) to denote the “double quote” while speaking be shot without any question.
The point is, in a liberalised world we should not wait for the government to do all the work for us. We must start chipping in, by banning a few things ourselves:
Straight off the bat, we should ban inflation. By which I mean we should forthwith stop compiling inflation figures. This may not exactly lead to reduction in the prices of household items. But without inflation figures to report about, our newspapers will at least be less boring to read. As a journalist I can also confirm that two of the main reasons for falling readership are: Inflation reports and editorials. But we blame TV and internet.
While we are at it, we should also consider banning billiards and snooker. In general, snooker and billiards can be played in an atmosphere that is technically available only at funerals. But how can you consider it as a sport at all, when its players have to turn up in outfits more formal than the ones people wear for their own wedding reception?
I know what you are trying to tell me. You are asking me why is there no law banning RJs at pubs and discotheques? Exactly. I am there with you. When people are inebriated or chatting/dancing with the other sex, the last thing they notice is the song being played in the background. At any rate, RJs don’t pull off anything that cannot be managed by a multi-disc CD changer. (Plus, what people know as RJ these days was mike settukaran back in our times).
This list is, as you can see, is only partial. You can add many more things — the Republic Day parade, Suhel Seth, the Union Budget, the scenes where Sivaji Ganesan plays the mridangam in Mridanga Chakravarthy, sandwiches that they offer in commercial flights, Suhel Seth (you can never afford to take any chance with him. And, banning him once may not be enough), buy-one-get-two offers (morons, even your grandfather will not be so generous to you), all discussions and debates on who is better, Ilayaraja or A R Rahman, that girl in the beauty pageant who claims that she wants to emulate Mother Teresa and PowerPoint presentations on totally unsuspecting participants at meetings and seminars.
In general, we must keep banning things and reach the stage where we have nothing more left to ban. I think that is the only logical way to end bans in this democracy of ours.