India’s Triumphant Cultural & Political March:
From The Slums Of Bollywood To The Red Carpet Of Hollywood
By Imran Anwar
(New York) It was nearly 30 years ago that my first writings were published in a major Pakistani newspaper, the once defunct and then reborn Pakistan Times. The writings continued during my time with the Jang group, in particular MAG Weekly, in the late 1980s, until I left for the United States.
All during that time, despite all my criticisms of whoever was in power at that time in Pakistan, my writings were always full of hope, desire and confidence of a great future that Pakistan had ahead of it. I also often wondered about why people older than me, some who had also travelled abroad, were far more cynical and much less hopeful.
All through that time I had always been the staunchest supporter and the defender of the name of Pakistan, whether it be in writing letters to the editors of foreign journals and newspapers critical of Pakistan or trying to convince foreign diplomats and journalists, as well as Western citizens, about how great Pakistan was going to be.
One of the important yardsticks, which would perhaps now be called a Meter stick under the metric system, was how we were doing in comparison to India. I distinctly recall how Pakistan had always been a pro-western, America-allied, fairly liberal, capitalism driven society.
India, on the other hand, was a country we competed with on the field of sports, the battlefield, as well as for international influence. We used to laugh at the ugly, dinky little cars that the Indians made, instead of importing the fancy ones we were driving in Pakistan.
Yet in the last 20 years that I have lived in America, India has made amazing, impressive and steady marching progress towards becoming a major global player – in almost every industry in the world. Pakistan during that same time seems to have sprinted downhill – faster than any Olympic athlete could.
It should have been a matter of concern for us when India, the long staunch Soviet and Communist ally, became a major trading partner of the United States, a country on which we had long relied, and whose foreign policies we had often followed. India developed a pool of engineering and other professionals, providing services, engineering, talent and operational capabilities to the world’s largest companies.
In doing so they earned billions and billions of dollars for their country. During this time, we in Pakistan saw the decline of the educational system, the breakdown of institutions, if any existed, and simply the beginning of the end of what might have been a great future.
It was a matter of personal disappointment, almost shame, for me that the day that India launched its first astronaut into space was also the same day that Pakistan went to the International Monetary Fund to beg for survival money. Shame.
During the same time that we were making a name for ourselves, for kidnapping and beheading visitors to our country, India launched, and continues to run, one of the most impressive media campaigns to promote tourism in its country.
Titled “Incredible India!” this campaign appears in major newspapers, magazines and many other places. It simply takes almost exactly the same kind of tourism places and situations that Pakistan could offer visitors but turns it into a must-visit, mystique-filled, once-in-a-lifetime, cultural experience image.
During this time despite the proliferation of private TV channels in Pakistan, another field where the Indians have done an amazing job has been their film industry. They have leveraged it not just in making a name for themselves, but marketing their country and becoming a source of talent abroad. In addition, in exchange, they are bringing even more visitors and foreign exchange to their country,
First their hottest movie stars started appearing in Hollywood films. Then, despite many Indian movies being barely concealed copies of Hollywood scripts, India was able to convince Hollywood to make many Indian-themed movies.
Then they tied their greater and greater visibility in Hollywood, ever improving quality of Bollywood films – which were getting screened in America. They then mixed in marketing of India and its culture and cemented it with the welcoming of American tourists and filmmakers. This was an amazing recipe to lead India to one of its greatest global public relations successes just a few minutes ago.
The Academy Awards ceremony has just concluded in Hollywood, California. As this publication is going to press, the whole world (including a television audience of probably 1 billion people, along with the many millions more who will read newspapers and see photographs online) has seen India emerging as a triumphant victor on yet another field. This time it’ the red carpet of Hollywood and the Oscars ceremony.
Even a movie called Slumdog Millionaire, set against the backdrop of the intense poverty that can be found in India, has turned into a global publicity and financial victory for India, its culture, its movie industry, its tourism and its economy.
And this is not just about showbiz or something that has no global or historic significance. India’s clout, its visibility, its popularity and its new-found confidence – even from something as simple as a movie award – is manifesting itself in its ability to dictate to the world.
India can now even dictate what President Barack Hussein Obama‘s team can or will discuss with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan – who are now in Washington DC.
India not only did not attend the meeting, it made clear to the American government that Kashmir is not to be discussed. The American administration agreed to that. In the meantime the same American Administration has expanded the missile strikes it will carry out within Pakistan – while Pakistan’s shameless politicians are merely fighting over dissolving assemblies and not even worried about justice, the one promise that people had asked to be fulfilled, from Karachi to Swat.
The early copies of tomorrow’s New York Times show the exactly opposite paths that two countries born on the same day in history have taken.
The Indian movie industry’s massive triumph on the Hollywood red carpet is one headline related to India. On the same page, the news item related to Pakistan is about a secret United States unit now in Pakistan to train its commandos to battle AlQaeda and the Taliban.
While American companies, and even individual creative types, are literally discussing over cocktails this very minute the next project they want to do in India, the few people discussing Pakistan are wondering if Pakistan will even survive as a nation.
I wonder if I will be around in 20 years to write a similar analysis. And I wonder where in history, geography and world affairs Pakistan will stand on that day. What do you think?
Imran Anwar is a New York based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and firstname.lastname@example.org . You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/imrananwar