Stylish Babus


There’s something about Parvez Dewan (appearing in above pic), the J&K cadre IAS officer who is currently officiating as the Secretary, Tourism (Government of India). He has authored several books, written lyrics and undertaken offbeat research on various topics. You can’t not take this man seriously. IF YOU thought this man in the photo is a star or a model, you are grossly mistaken. No prize for guessing, but tourism secretary Parvez Dewan who is turning 60 this October is one of the few stylish bureaucrats that corridors have today.

It was November 2009, skin-headed bureaucrat of 1975 batch Ashok Sinha, was called the most stylish secretary-level bureaucrat then. Sinha, the then food processing industries secretary, looked stylish thanks to his shaved head and French cut beard. Is Dewan the most stylish among the current lot?

amitabh-kant-knowyourlawAmitabh Kant

Those who track Delhi’s power lanes closely will tell you that Dewan is not the only babu following the style of corporate honchos. Industry secretary Amitabh Kant, for example, is more a CEO than a bureaucrat in every sense of the term. You won’t find heaps of files with red tapes on his table. Not just that, Kant like a CEO in a corner room, decides the colours of his sofa set, and the kind of wall hangings, paintings and sculptures dotting his cabin.

Among the earlier batches, former finance secretary Ashok Jha and ex-industry secretary Ajay Dua were the two bureaucrats known for their style statements. And years after their retirement, they are still regularly spotted in Delhi’s golf circuit.

By the way, many in the corridors may find principal secretary to PM Pulok Chatterji a confirmed workaholic and introvert to the core, but don’t underestimate him on style. After all, some of his colleagues have spotted him smoking pipes!

ashok-chawla-knowyourlawAshok Chawla

And, was there any occasion when a serving bureaucrat found a place in an outdoor advertisement? Yes. After the Union Budget was presented four years ago, 1973 batch IAS and the then finance secretary Ashok Chawla figured in an advertisement of a post-Budget debate making a precedence of a senior bureaucrat finding a place in large billboards in many busy roads of Delhi and Mumbai. Einstein look alike Chawla’s image was a perfect fit to the outdoor advertisement for the event held in Mumbai.

And here is one more style statement of a bureaucrat. Former urban development secretary M Ramachandran who invariably wore formal suits, was once spotted wearing a smart casual red and black half shirt! The reason? The bearded babu was to present the Man-of-the-Match award in an IPL match held in Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.

Parvez Dewan’s cultural contribution –

Several years ago, Parvez Dewan was so intrigued by certain projections of people that he saw on the big and small screens of India, that he undertook a research study to get to the bottom of it. This was 20 years ago. He began collecting data vis-à-vis the media’s portrayal of the various castes and religious groups of the country.

His study was based on 786 Hindi films, 300 episodes of popular television serials and 300 commercials. And the groups that dominantly emerged from the study were Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Tamilians, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Sindhis, Marwaris, Parsis, Hyderabadis, Chinese settled in India and Maharashtrians. A study of his research yields some interesting results.

What did Mr. Pervez find?
His findings showed that in a great majority of Hindi films, the Christian men are unattractive and invariably seen clutching a bottle of alcohol. “They are also portrayed as petty criminals, as against the gang leaders who are almost always Hindi-speaking Aryan caste Hindus. That presumably signifies power. A Christian man will rarely marry a caste Hindu woman and when he does, the marriage will end in a disaster. On the other hand, Christian women are projected as fair-skinned and generally with loose morals – the smoking, drinking types,” he said.

Muslim men are shown in typically ‘Muslim’ attires. “They are either old, handicapped, subordinate, sterile, impotent or stereotypes in hindi films homosexual. If they are not any of these, then they are often fathers of too many children. Less than 20 per cent of the Muslim men are portrayed as young, but even in this category, they are depicted not only as backward but as fundamentalist, mazhab ke pakke types, so much so that many of the opening shots of several films start with a Muslim offering namaaz,” Pervez found. Another trend noticed and a trend which seemed to increase since the release of the film Tezaab, is the portrayal of Muslim men as terrorising the local population.

Sikhs are generally portrayed as well-meaning dullards. Also in all romantic affairs between a Muslim/SC/ST/Christian girl and a caste Hindu boy, it is she who chases the boy and not the other way round. On the other hand, some Muslim film producers/directors have portrayed prostitutes and ‘fast’ women as chaste Hindu women in the films directed and produced by them. Some of the Muslim producers/directors like Nadiadwala, Mehboob and KA Abbas have also portrayed upper caste Hindus as oppressing the lower castes.

Parsis are invariably portrayed as silly and old. The Chinese settled in India are usually evil and shown as gangsters.

Dewan’s findings  also focused on the biased projection that wasn’t limited to religious minority groups, but included the non-Hindi belt. By and large except for the Hindi-speaking Aryan caste Hindu, nobody seemed to have been spared. And even in this category, the Kayasthas and Kshatriyas seemed to be the safest.

On the other hand, the depiction of Tamilians in the media was perhaps the worst, for they were not only referred to as ‘idli dosa types” but lately they stereotypes in hindi films been to be shown as dons. And Dewan argued that this is/was factually incorrect, as his survey established that the great majority of dons and bootleggers were not Tamilian Hindus nor Tamilian Christians and Muslims.

His findings also brought into focus the stereotyping of Sindhis and Marwaris as miserly folk. Scheduled Tribe women were often depicted as desperate to get the higher caste Hindu hero. But whilst the ST women are portrayed as clean and forever bathing near river banks, the men were shown as unattractive and dark. Hyderabadis were invariably portrayed as clowns and made the butt of many a joke. Maharashtrians were shown either as domestics or police inspectors.

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