Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gandhigiri - The New Meme

This is a conversation I just finished with a friend:

“We had a railway boycott in Vasai-Virar area.”

I had heard of the boycott from the papers, but didn't think much of it. Can it change anything, hehe, I thought cynically.

“What was it about?”

“The railways haven’t increased the number of trains. They should since there are four tracks now. Daily a lot of people are dying, falling off from trains.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, because of the rush people hang out of compartments, they lose their grip, or are hit by the electric poles. And, tell me, who will care for their families.”

‘Tell me how did it go, this boycott?”

“Ah, yes, we resorted to Gandhigiri, you know, we went back to Gandhian principles of Satyagraha. We squatted on the tracks and persuaded the people not to use the trains, telling them it is for their own sakes, as ‘Munnabhai did in Lage Raho Munnabhai’.”

“Was this Gandhigiri successful?”

“Yes it was a hundred per cent success.”

As far as buzzwords and memes go, Gandhigiri has caught on. I had several issues with Munnabhai MBBS when it won so many awards. I found it unethical in that a thug was being associated with the values that Gandhi had championed. The goon wasn’t shown as having reformed; instead he went about indulging in his “goondagiri.”

But “Lage Raho Munnabhai” had a nice twist. It showed what was called “Gandhigiri” and it seems to have caught on, um, to use a cliché, like wildfire. I hear the word referred to in trains, in restaurants, in theatres, in fact, everywhere. Guess it has transformed itself into a meme of sorts ("a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.")

I guess “Gandhigiri” can do a lot to counter the inimical spread of “religious fundamentalism” in the country. I know, I know. Fundamentalism is an ogre that has to be countered, butchered and killed. No, I am not referring to fundamentalism of the Hindutva kind alone; there are fundamentalists in churches also. Don’t believe it, attend a church service, and you will find out.

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