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Monday, January 11, 2010

Noble piracy or guilty pleasure: The case of Ram and Bhagwanji

This morning a friend of mine asked me if I have watched 3 Idiots, the Hindi movie. I said yes on my computer using a pirated DVD borrowed from someone. She was aghast to discover this part of me. “Not you.” Never expected something like this from you, she said. I was rather confused realising how I was unknowingly acknowledging something so unlawful, almost criminal! I’m supposed to be the sensitive, morally responsible, law abiding, patriotic individual. Someone, who’s not even travelled a single day without ticket in the local trains, someone who has never dared to disrupt the discipline in his workplace, school or college, even if no one is watching.

Yet someone like me buys roadside cheap novels photocopied from the licensed book and pirated DVDs without any signs of doing anything wrong.

Is it a systemic problem in India that discounts piracy as something criminal though the law says so? May be? Am I embarrassed? Don’t know, but I have a logical reasoning why piracy is thriving without people noticing the criminal side as if it’s a genetic disorder.

Picture this: Ram Chander Tiwari, the sixth son of landless Pujari somewhere in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Ram is the most brilliant student in the local school but rarely goes to school thanks to the poverty that has forced him to work at the local Halwai, (sweet-meat maker). The sixteen-year-old manages to borrow some book or the other from the Halwai’s lousy son and manages to appear in class ten examinations. Comes out as a topper and easily gets admitted in the best college in Allahabad city. He toils hard even to pay his fees and travel expenses, which is less than 10 US dollars annually. In the meantime Ram’s father dies and three brothers leave for brick kilns and live on their own.

Now Ram has to earn for his family while helping her mother to get her two elder sisters married. Ram does very well again, joins medical and gets a scholarship, most of which he sends home while eating one time and not joining the hostel mess. Ram works as a salesman with a bookshop as well.

Now medical books are expensive. Ram with no money to spend on his food and clothes, goes to the book shop owner Bhagwanji, a generous man. Bhagwanji gets him photocopies of most expensive books and even provides coloured copies whenever they are needed to explain a medical case. So the books which would have cost 20,000 rupees come at 400 rupees, even that is bought by Ram’s friends who share it with him.

Ram struggles for almost a decade becomes a surgeon and later a civil servant. Even now he visits Bhagwanji, who also helped him in providing access to pirated IAS study material.

One morning Bhagwanji gets a heart stroke. Someone informs Ram, then the collector of the district. When Ram reaches the small local hospital he was greeted by the chief secretary of the state. “Sir, How come you are here?” The chief said guy I would not have been what I’m today had Bhagwanji not been there. Slowly in the crowd Ram discovered hoards of civil servants, doctors and scientists making a cue to show their presence to an ailing Bhagwanji.

Bhagwanji did piracy work for a righteous cause. He did the work of Bharat Nirman, which may be rated as good as the total contribution of India’s education ministry.

No doubt he cheated the authors, publishers and breached the law, but he made an underprivileged India reach the power corridors and write policy for the country.
May be we can call it ‘noble piracy’.

Everyone must not have solved the same dignified purpose with their piracy skills in India, but they did their bit to feed, enlighten and entertain an impoverished India.

Millions of Indians with whom money has not been kind also dream to study, wear, eat and entertain themselves. They can't pay the monopolistic giants of food, water, education and entertainment a fee for this.

The stale Dabeli infront of a MacDonald, contaminated flavoured water, pirated books and DVD keeps them abreast of a changing India. The one which they want to become a part of. May this bit of piracy keep help India to tick the unreachable 10 percent plus GDP growth?

This is an age where information is power and facilitator of equality the faster it spreads the better its for the country.

May be I can afford the spend 250 rupees for a three hour show of 3 Idiots, but not many like Ram Chander Tiwari. For me piracy is ‘guilty pleasure,’ for them it’s ‘Bhagwanji’s treasure.’

1 comment:

shail said...

Whoa! That was an exhaustive list, but very interesting! :)