I finally caved and watched Bombay Begums. (For some reason I thought the show was going to be similar to The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, and I refused to put myself through such misery for a second time.) Once I was finished, I excitedly went to the internet, as you do, to seek validation for your opinions by seeing that they are shared by others. But what I read caught me completely off-guard. The show had been boycotted for inappropriate representation of children by the National Commission for Protection of Children's Rights (NCPCR), and some said that it displayed pseudo-feminist values. While I am completely unsurprised by India's unchanging perspectives on multi-faceted women who are more than just 'pure' and 'holy', I was particularly shocked by the boycotting called on by the NCPCR. I found this laughable. But I didn't laugh. Instead, two concerns came to mind.
First, the blatant oblivion to the reality of how youth live their lives and what they truly go through. No, it's not turning a blind eye. Because which Indian would miss the opportunity to curse at kids who ruin the rich Indian culture? It's oblivion. It's ignorance. It's fear. It's being confronted by a reality that they hadn't even begun to consider and have no idea how to respond to. Rather than exploring the reality, considering the depth of it and how it must be impacting the youth, and implementing possible solutions, the NCPCR chose to reject the depiction and disapprove of it.
The second, horrifying concern is the fact that this is what the NCPCR is focussing on right now. Putting aside the many, many violations experienced by children in India, COVID-19 has been haunting the nation. Hundreds of thousands of deaths destroying families and the lives of so many children. And what does the NCPCR choose to focus on? A Netflix show depicting children in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
While the nation collapses on itself, the systems of government seem to be flailing for something, anything, that gives them public support. And of course, the arts suffer. They are after all, the easiest to target. The backlash will always gain some sort of support from mindless drones following the mob because they want to maintain an ancient façade.
What has become of the Indian mentality? Why have media become such a focal point when there are so many aspects of the nation that require so much more scrutiny? If I'm being completely honest, when I first read about the boycotting, I was confused. I didn't know what they could possibly be talking about.
Perhaps Indians should consider refocusing their attention on solutions to actual problems – addressing actual violations of children's rights, rather than throwing a hissy fit over a genuine and real depiction of today's youth.
Bombay Begums was delicate in its treatment of the child character, Shai. Her problems were real to her. Her responses were sometimes poor and childish – but then, she is a child. Although her world was small, it did not lack depth. The show took an unashamed look at what associations a child could make with her periods and maturity and desire. It acknowledged these emotion and the struggles associated with them. Children don't deserve for these emotions to be disregarded. If what it takes is for a parent or guardian to come across this depiction to understand the wide range of problems a child might face, then this is nothing but positive. It empowers children in ways they may not yet understand. It does not take their rights away from them.
Perhaps the NCPCR should utilise their resources on more meaningful concerns rather than waste these resources on boycotting shows which tell real stories of real experiences.