Taj Mahal Bedda-land-da-bid.

UPDATE: Now they’re introducing a Natural7Wonders? Wellawellawell! Go on India, nominate the Himalayas…! Better yet, Malayalees of the world… unite to vote for God’s own Country…!

In other words, Taj Mahal had better land the bid.

Well land the bid, it did. The mammoth Mughal mausoleum will live on as one of the few wonders of Middle Ages that made it to the n7w list. Congratulations, India. Pat yourself on the back.

Don’t get me wrong here. Neither am I a fan of National Lampoon comedies, nor did I ‘Vote for Taj’. I understand I am late by a week to join the frustration-about-the-n7w-blogathon, but since this has been running in my mind for a long while… I decided to put it down.

First off- yes, frustration. Agreed that it’s a nice feeling to know that a part of your identity gets recognized worldwide. It’s just that there have been a lot of questions running in my mind for a while.

Question number 1: Why the Taj..? I personally cannot deny the romanticism of a massive mausoleum built by a man in memory of his wife, neither can I put in words how fraught with emotions I was when I personally visited the monument (picture that scene from The Namesake, where the Ganguli family sees the Taj for the first time). However, I strongly feel we are only subscribing to the stereotype that the rest of world wants to see us with (the kind of stereotype that makes characters like Taj Mahal Badalandabad who hail from cities like ‘Banglapuc’ in India).

Or is it we refuse to free ourselves from the chains of our myopic view of where our strengths of being Indian lie? Again, why the Taj? Why not the Big Temple at Tanjore? Why not the Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai? Why not any of our beautiful forts from Rajasthan? If the Eiffel Tower of Paris was so ‘wonder’ful, I don’t see how even our very own Howrah Bridge of Calcutta doesn’t qualify.

[I think I may have just answered my own question: is there no other modern Indian architectural splendor that we may consider ourselves worthy of?]

Second question; regarding the poor Ancient Pyramids of Giza. Undemocratic means of voting for a farcical global competition deemed these ancient mystical human creations less ‘wondrous’ than a medieval Mughal creation one-third the size of the largest pyramid. I don’t scoff at the Taj Mahal, but I think you have to be to both the monuments, like I have, to know what I mean. The question is, if there are meant to be only SEVEN wonders of the world, how do we make room for ‘honorary’ wonders? As one blogger put it so well, ‘even the Wonders of the World have the lifetime achievement category’.

Thirdly, I want to question the basis on which these nominations were ever made. I think it is absolutely unfair to put in the same category- the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, the Christ Redeemer, or any of the other nominees- for the circumstances in which they were all built are completely different anyway. Ultimately, the list now has the distinction of being the most illogically arranged set of monuments of human endeavor. Excellent. Hmmph.

I ask also, that if this is a NEW list of wonders, why include any of the buildings from the older lists anyway? New list, fresh start, new buildings. Move on. Even if it meant that India wouldn’t figure in the picture. Maybe it would inspire us to build something for a modern India.

My readings of other blogs have led me to see that the entire scam aimed at arousing patriotic emotions to the benefit of a for-profit organization, which is NOT recognized by the UNESCO, or any other such United Nations body, (a fact that one other blogger compares to as being ‘no better than MTV’s “Youth Icon of the Year”‘). The power of the internet as a medium is highly underestimated in the role it plays in the average user’s information base. If you have entered numbers in your cell phone’s phonebook as ‘dangerous’ after have received the email warning you about high frequency phonecalls, or if you threw away all your lipsticks because you were worried about lead poisoning, then you might not exactly know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you do.

Which brings me to the conclusion that the ‘Vote for Taj’ was just a bigger and more deliberate internet scam (disguised by a high profile televised finale with globally recognized celebrities at Lisbon) than the G.Vaidyaraj e-mail forwarded to nearly every Indian in the name of feeding the starved patriot within all of us.

How brilliantly executed is this? ‘Vote for Taj’ was not an ordinary internet hoax, for there was a website to the name of the n7w. It didn’t seem like a rumor or a farce, for there was to be a grand finale to the event. And yet, to think it was the brainchild of a master-businessman who played on what gets the normal person.. it almost reminds me of Annu Kapoor crying on the sets of Antakshari, while Durga Jasraj/Pallavi Joshi/Shefali Chhaya tried just as hard to shed tears in the name of those who brought us our freedom.

PAUSE POINT: why do we Indians cling to the ghosts of our collective past, and insist of revering the milestones of our past until they turn into gravestones of our very being? The achievements of yesterday are etched on the epitaphs that we carry upon ourselves.

On the subject of the Statue of Liberty no longer being a ‘wonder’ of the world, I personally find it rather hard to believe that the number of internet-accessing or mobile telephone-toting people in India far exceed the number of such people in the U S of A. Also, if it were possible to BUY votes online, priced at $2 (nearly a 100 rupees!) a vote, then I don’t see how it could’ve stopped many Americans from buying themselves a way into finding jingoistic satisfaction on 07-07-07.

While still on the subject of Statue of Liberty and Taj Mahal, I wonder how many Indian comedy films have firang characters called Liberty NewYorkville or Champs de Eileen-sys (yes, you read my mind. I am not at all amused by the name of the Indian character – Taj Mahal Badalandabad- that Kal Penn plays for Van Wilder. In fact, I think it’s disgusting).

The only reason I woke up on the morning of 07-07-07 with a smile was because it marked 30 years of my father setting foot on Arab soil. And although I may not be too proud of the fact that I was a Gulf-bred kid (for I too am marked by a stereotype- the Gulfie Brat stereotype- which I despise), it is still a milestone in our lives.

Concluding words: Stereotypes anger me. But I also realize that the world is far too big and far too complicated.. and ‘worldians’ far too ignorant and far too self-obsessed to regard every case as unique and look at new things in new light. It is in our nature to classify and organize, and therefore, classify and organize we must. And be classified and organized we must. Stereotypes will live on, whether you and I like it or not.

I can only hope that, as a people, we break the proverbial mould someday. And on that day, I’d like to watch a Bollywood comedy where the hero says to the French exchange student sitting next to him, “Aye Eiffel, vouz le vouz… kya?”


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