And the Truth Shall Set You Free

Do you judge people based on their colour instead of their work?”

By Neerja Singh (ISSUES)

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Published: Sat 29 Aug 2009, 10:14 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:50 AM

A: Yes

Q: “Have you ever felt your family uses you for money?”

A: Yes

Q: “Have you ever thought of killing your spouse?”

A: Yes

Q: If your wife died, would you marry again?

A: Yes

Questions that India has never asked itself, let alone answered on national television, are being aired late at night on Sach ka Saamna – and over 10 million people are watching every weeknight in awed, stunned silence.

The show has generated some very passionate and strong responses.

While some claim it is against Indian values and could break families, others begrudgingly admire contestants’ courage to say it as it is.

Last night, I watched as a man from the northern state of Bihar admitted he had helped kidnap a friend’s girlfriend, vandalised public property (and felt happy when the news featured his photograph), used force to influence voting results and was living with a woman who he wasn’t legally married to.

The game’s format is such that the closest family members of the contestants are with them, and their react-ions form an important part of the reality show.

As yesterday’s participant progressed through the various levels, he insisted he wanted to keep playing because he was at the show to tell the truth, not for the money. And even while we’re tempted to disbelieve such claims, I think there’s a lot going on under the surface that we cannot immedia-tely appreciate.

Whether it is in the name of social values, family honour or culture, Indians have long lived a life of double standards. While we present a veneer that is conservative, polite, cultured and politically correct most times, we have calmly carried on with adultery, bribery, tax evasion, dishonesty and more in the name of survival.

‘One has to’, is an oft-heard line. Dishonesty is rampant and black money oils our country’s gears, yet each of us has somehow accepted that these are not real issues. As long as the surface stays smooth and our actions do not bring the family any dishonour, all is well. Of course, we are quick to point a reprimanding finger at those caught out, and even ridicule those who have the courage to swim against the tide and maintain transparency.

Yet one has to wonder: Could it possibly be that all of us have drowned the voice of our conscience? Doesn’t the dishonest man/woman ever lie awake at night, wondering where they’re headed?

If the truth is reputed to set us free, don’t they wish to fly? Don’t we hunger to be loved, just as we are with our warts and all?

If so, Sach ka Saamna is perhaps a platform from where they can hope to go back to a liberated, honest life which brings them closer to their loved ones – or cuts ties that tether them to a lie.

The mere expression of a desire to be ‘free’ of the sham that family life can be is considered blasphemy, yet the show is encouraging men to own up in front of their wives that they have been unfaithful, or women to admit that they have toyed with the idea of killing their husbands. Why? And then again, why not?

If one thinks about it, neither adultery nor murderous thoughts are unusual in a marriage; we have simply come to expect that such truths will never be voiced. What if they are? Shouldn’t honesty logically lead to more trust, deeper understanding, a fearless life and a closer connection with your loved ones?

Yes, there is bound to be a period of turmoil when, back home, more questions are asked, even deeper emotions are churned, doubts expressed and many bitter tears shed.

But after all of that, after loved ones have forgiven past sins, come to terms with the new openness and the relationship takes on a freshness born of transparency, won’t every-body be happier?

I believe that’s what is driving the contestants of Sach ka Saamna. Something in them is tired of the constant pretence. They hunger to offload the guilt that may have been of their own making, but is now is too heavy to carry around.

It is new for Indians to see real life’s real emotions in such harsh light, but I believe we will ultimately benefit from this public owning of human failings.

If nothing else, it will help us see that we are not alone, that there are others out there who have done worse. If we can forgive ourselves and our loved ones, if we can emulate some of that honesty in our own homes and work places, we might just see a more open, more genuine and a more relaxed society in the years to come.

Neerja Singh is a Dubai-based writer and can be reached at singh.neerja@gmail.com



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