Things I Learned About India And Its People From The Movie ‘Aligarh’

Professor Siras was a quiet man who lived a quiet life in the tiny room his University provided him. He didn’t bother anyone. He barely ever spoke to anyone. One day, two men broke into his house and filmed him in bed with his partner. He was beaten up and his private life was splashed across the media. He lost his job and became a social pariah overnight.

‘Aligarh’ is the story of one man’s fight for the right to be. Be single in a society that considers marriage a mandatory social sanction. Be gay in an atmosphere of militant heteronormativity. Be quiet in a world that seems only to respond to screams and loud bangs.

Here are some things I realized about my country and its people from the movie ‘Aligarh’:


Indians don’t believe in living and letting live.

To be able to let live, one must first know how to live. Indians don’t really live. We just kinda exist. We go through the motions of living without really doing any “living” through it all.


Indians don’t have lives of their own and are always far too interested in what other people are up to.

Because we let others make all the important, life-altering decisions for us — what to study, what career to pursue, who to marry, and so on and so forth — our own lives seem alien to us. This is why so many Indians spend so much time peeping into other people’s lives and homes, hoping to find stories they can fill their days with.


Indians are far more intolerant of expressions of love than they are of rampant hate.

If you know anything about how things stand, you will know how intolerant we are of public displays of affection. Public displays of religious fanaticism and hate, however, seem not to affect us at all.


India may be free, all its people are not.

“Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high…” Tagore wrote in 1910. Just ask the Dalits, and the Muslims, and the Christians, and the women, and the LGBT community how free they really feel when they walk the streets of an increasingly rabid, homophobic, fundamentalist country and you’ll know that Tagore’s words are nothing but wishful thinking for most of us even a century later. We’re still fighting for so many freedoms that only those in the majority — religious and sexual — seem to enjoy.


India isn’t just financially poor. Its poverty runs far far deeper.

As poor as we may be, our true poverty lies in the fact that we are a bankrupt people when it comes to humanity. We are a homophobic, fanatic, selfish people. In the mad rush to be Straight/Married, Hindu/Muslim, Marathi/Gujarati, and Patriots/Nationalists, we’ve lost our most basic, most necessary identity — that of being human.


Professor Siras may have won the case against the Aligarh University, but he lost against rampant homophobia. He was found dead in his apartment less than a week after winning the case and getting his job back. Traces of poison were found in his blood.


The movie ‘Aligarh’ has been “unofficially” banned in the city of Aligarh. City officials think it shows them, and their city, in a bad light. Truth has a way of doing that — making evil look evil, and injustice look unjust.

I don’t know why, and how, India can still claim to be a tolerant, secular nation, when it is, in fact, neither.


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