The problem with the Indian and Asian Diasporas, in general, is that they are stereotyped by the mainstream in many ways, particularly in the United States. Since they are eager to conform and become ‘ideal citizens’, they end up becoming the stereotypes. Indian characters in Hollywood movies and TV serials are shown invariably to be nerds, who are driven by their parents to become successful doctors, engineers, corporate executives. They are money-minded small shopkeepers, who spread the smell of curry where they live. So on and so forth. Some have taken to reinforcing these stereotypes to make a living out of it, such as stand-up comedian Vir Das, whose latest gaffe has raised hackles in India.
The test of comedy is that it should be funny. Focusing on being controversial because it is ‘edgy’ does not guarantee it will raise a laugh. It is quite common to make racist and self-deprecatory jokes about one’s community in the profession, but it is dangerous ground and the slightest slip can land one in hot water. Those supporting Das’s ‘freedom of expression’, or even claiming that his comment on ‘Indians worshipping women in the day and gang-raping them at night’ is some kind of reformative satire based on reality, should explain what is it in the statement that they find funny. Thinkers like Tharoor must examine their programmed minds to learn why they instinctively support this depiction of the Indian.
To imply that it is the ones who worship women in the day are the ones who conduct the gang-rapes is a clear targeting of devout Hindus. Is there any study to show that rapists in India come from this class of person? It merely is an unconscious identification of practicing Hindus with a degenerate, primitive way of life, of which they have been made to feel ashamed due to the constant imposition of the stereotype. This depiction is not ‘progressive’ thinking or behaviour in any way. It merely shows that despite their wealth and high positions in American society, Indian immigrants are still a marginalised section trying all the time to stay on the right side of the dominant race.
One can be angry at Das for his foolishness, but there should be a greater sense of pity for his condition. There is also no doubt that it will make a severe dent on his following, reducing it to just the self-flagellating Uncle Toms that inhabit certain eco-systems.