Anyone who has been a parent will abhor watching the distasteful antics of Rakhi Sawant and Co in ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh’. It is truly inhuman to see toddlers being maltreated in the manner that they are. No parent will allow the kind of nonsense that these small ‘bezuban’ children are being subjected to. Dr Prannoy Roy, Sameer Nair and someone called Shailaja Kejriwal are answerable for this gargantuan abomination. And I would like to assail all those women and their husbands who are allowing their babies to be manhandled in the manner that they are on this bizarre show.
On Tuesday, I read that the Honourable Delhi High Court had not given a stay in the matter of further telecast of this appalling show. I just thought of those poor traumatised kids. Anyway, who am I to question the Court’s decision or wisdom? But this is not ‘Sach Ka Saamna’, we are not crossing any prudish boundaries or frontiers here, we are not playing Peeping Toms, pouring into the innermost recesses of the human mind. We are talking child care and parenting.
A PTI report that I read on the wires said: “The Delhi High Court today allowed entertainment channel NDTV Imagine to continue its reality TV show ‘Pati Patni Aur Woh’, by staying the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ order to cease telecast. A single member bench of Justice Sanjeev Khanna stayed the interim order of the Commission, which on September 30 held that the show violated child rights. The Court also directed the Commission to complete its investigation expeditiously and prepare the final report. Senior advocate Rajiv Nayyar, appearing for NDTV Imagine, alleged that the Commission had no authority to pass any interim order. It can only recommend to the Supreme Court, the High Court or the Central Government after completing its new investigation into violation of human rights.”
I tuned in to one episode and I was simply awestruck at what I saw. My heart went out to that baby cradled in Elesh’s arms, yelling for his ‘real’ mother, as a cankaterous and grumpy Rakhi Sawant sallied forth with a cup full of milk. This is when the ‘real’ mother enters the house and she is shocked to see Sawant sashaying about. I blame the mother equally for leaving behind the hapless baby. For crying out loud, he is 10 months old. The baby Jay has been distressed, according to a Mumbai Mirror story, ever since he has returned from the rigors of this amazing reality show. But the Mumbai Mirror story also tells us that the parents have not taken any money from the channel in return for loaning their child. So, what gives?
The show incidentally is an indigenous adaptation of the BBC programme ‘Baby Borrowers’. Kejriwal, Executive Vice President – Content, NDTV Imagine, is quoted in the story as saying: “These parents who have lent their children are rich educated people. And since no money was exchanged in this show, it was entirely their prerogative to shoot with us or take their child away whenever they deemed it necessary. Most parents were happy to have a paid holiday in Goa.” Huh, paid holiday! So, you are not paying the parents, but you are dishing out an all expenses paid trip to Goa. What kind of hypocrisy is being practised at NDTV Imagine? Are ratings so important that one junks all norms of sensibility?
In The Times of India on the Edit Page, someone called Aneesh A, I guess similarly troubled like me, wrote, “Shock-stars do and say things that jolt the average complacent viewer so much that witnessing their antics on TV becomes a form of guilty pleasure that you can’t resist. And a ‘reality show’ is the golden ticket that gives a thick-skinned ambitious individual the opportunity to become rich and famous in very little time… ‘desi’ shock-star Rakhi Sawant has done one better. She is now part of a show called ‘Pati Patni aur Woh’, where five ‘celebrity couples’ will embark on a challenging and learning experience, while we, the viewers, get to see the goof-ups and predicaments they get into trying to take care of the particular baby allotted to them. Sure, the producers of the show would be expecting young parents, especially mothers, to empathise with and maybe even feel properly represented by these struggling-in-more-than-one-way celebrities. The show is apparently intended to capture all the stages of parenthood, from being pregnant to raising teenagers. I might be getting it wrong as a guy, but I’m pretty sure wearing an ‘empathy belly’ and walking around for a week doesn’t quite replicate the experience of pregnancy. And since the show aspires to bring in all facets of pregnancy to the forefront, perhaps the producers of the show should have devised some ingenious method to duplicate labour pains too. A friend, who is a recent mother, once reluctantly agreed to let the newly appointed nanny carry her baby girl for a while. Minutes later, she almost had her heart sliced when she saw her baby slip out and fall from the nanny’s grip. Fortunately, the baby was fine, but it makes one wonder about the parents who let their babies turn into props on such reality shows and even advertisements. I once watched a segment on television, where it was shown that chimpanzees are so protective of their babies that they wouldn’t even let a tiny bird near them. And to think, Charles Darwin said we evolved.” Well said, sir.
The last word surely goes to Rakhi Sawant herself. Quoted in Mail Today, Sawant, who has been accused of manhandling the baby, said, “We can’t be blamed when parents volunteer to send their babies to such reality shows. I feel babies should not be subjected to this sort of cruelty.”Tut, tut Ms Sawant, then why do the show? After all, you have been complaining loudest about the fact that you ‘have been given the crankiest child who doesn’t go to sleep’. You have acted rude and obnoxious, but I guess lucre is the ultimate lubricant. Writing in the same paper, Amrita Ibrahim says, “Love Productions, the creator of the show on BBC 3, also faced similar criticism. Despite the presence of child care professionals on set and the proximity of parents to their children, many felt that it was outrageous to let the children be used for entertainment in this way, not to mention the trauma and separation anxiety they might suffer during the course of the show.”
I feel for Jay, he is unhappy, troubled and pained to be separated from his mother. When his ‘real’ mom propped him up in her lap and offered the feeding bottle, you could discern a different child. Bottomline, you cannot subject small babies to this inhuman treatment, even if the Goa trip is paid for by the channel. This is galling. I leave you with words from a child psychologist Priyanka Doshi, “Babies as young as six months old are aware when they are weaned away from the mother. Then when they are reunited with their parents, they tend to become clingy; their crying spells could increase. Also, some children can suffer from what is known as separation anxiety. While some kids are social and have no problems with strangers, others can panic in an unfamiliar setting.”
(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.
The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of exchange4media.com.)