19 September 2008

To the Writers, From a Reader- Post Vogue India's August '08 Issue

I first read about the controversies surrounding Vogue India fashion shots published in the August edition in New York Times. A google-search later, i found a lot more written on the subject. I was not amused. As an educated, earning member of a middle class family in India, I simply fail to see what the fuss is about. The blogs read the ‘toothless old woman’ as a representation of ‘impoverished’ India. The girl with the ‘dark circles’ and the little boy in ‘ragged clothes’ prove their states of destituteness. The New York Times points out, "How does one sell something like a $1,000 handbag in a country where most people will never amass that sum of money in their lives, and many are starving?" The wealth politics in India are rapidly augmenting-- with many living on "less than $1.25 dollars a day" Now this is how I see it- “They could be roadside beggars; a gaunt toothless old woman thrusting her hungry toddler towards the camera, while her ragged, sad older daughter looks on with matted hair and dark circles around her eyes.” Most of the articles online (eg: here) on this subject have this line as the opening statement (I wonder which one was the original). Im surprised to find the western world and most importantly, indignant Indian journalists perceiving poverty in a smiling old lady, or in a girl in her everyday clothes. Understood, that the girl’s mother obviously didn’t have a fashion designer to advise her of the latest trends in children's clothing. But is it fair to deem a typical Rajasthani family poor based on such blind prejudices? Many Indian grandmothers are toothless. But does that mean all/most Indian families are poor? Hungry toddler? What the heck was that about? I have deep dark circles around my eyes. Does that mean I live in perpetual poverty? The so-called humanitarians write that its pure vulgarity to show commoners model for luxury goods. They would never be able to afford such an expensive item, they say. But did these critics really believe that an average Indian ‘model’ from the fashion world will be able to afford a 4 lac rupees worth hand bag? Or that the shoot might have been justified if the accessories were modeled by a member of the Ambani family or the Mittal clan?? What difference does ‘who models for what’ make to anything? “Nearly half of India’s population — about 456 million people — live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank figures released last week.” states the New York Times. But did the writer realize that India is a country where its people can buy 1kg of rice for just Rs.2/- from it's ration shops?? That, for every single American employee hired by corporate America, there are 5 equally competent employees hired in India? IT companies of the world are utilizing India’s human resources to the hilt. Does that mean that young India is suffering from irredeemably poor economic conditions and will starve to death? India enjoyed a GDP of 9% last year, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Then why is everybody talking about India as if it were a third world country which deserves sympathy from the world? Chuck world peace or world economies. All I want to say to the world at large is that, it is one thing to publish pictures of ordinary people flaunting expensive accessories and another to call them “gaunt”, “hungry” or “roadside beggars”. Which act was more insulting?