American ’60s Pop Culture and the Pondicherry College Student

“Ma’am, the Flintstones.”  Does everyone know about the Flintstones?  “Yes ma’am.” “Tom and Jerry, ma’am.”  “WWF” (World Wrestling Federation, now World Wrestling Entertainment).

I am stunned as other suggestions, such as “Father Christmas”  are proposed by the 20 (Hindu) students of Tagore Arts College. Eventually, the suggestions turn to South Indian film stars (Rajnikant and Ajith), and Indian cricketers (all men). And I begin to feel a little easier.

We had gathered on a Saturday morning to engage the Tagore Arts College student members of the NSS (National Service Scheme) in an awareness campaign to stop littering on Beach Road in Pondicherry. We (the members of Shuddham and two visiting students from the University of Iowa) were hoping to pump up these first 20 NSS students to start a “Beautiful Pondicherry” movement, first at their school, then on Beach Road, then throughout Pondicherry.  They accepted a very tight deadline to start the first “action” on Beach Road the next Saturday evening.

Tony, one of the University of Iowa volunteers, suggested that the students dress up as characters to engage the public in a fun, funny way to stop littering.  Tony and his sister had worked with their mom (Mr. Neat and Clean, a clown) in Belize in a successful campaign against littering.   Kyle, the other University of Iowa volunteer suggested a character called the “Green Guru”. So, while the Americans and members of Shuddham suggested characters such as Mr. Clean, Mr. Toilet, Mr. Water, or “No Paper”, “No Plastic”, “No Bottles”, etc. who would be under the leadership of “No Trash” the NSS students were suggesting cartoon characters created in Hollywood in the 1950s and ’60s. (Everyone here knows the Flintstones?!?)

These students, most of whom are first generation college students, are part of the Indian juggernaut hurtling towards progress a la the U.S. in the ’50s, consuming sanitized U.S. pop culture (no one mentioned Itchy & Scratchy), material goods (the latest cell phones), and mineral resources.

The students left completely jazzed, discussing among themselves how they could get their entire college clean before our next meeting on Wednesday. (During our visit to the principal last week, we observed piles of trash everywhere.)  We settled on them dressing up as the Indian cricket team (uniforms are easy to get anywhere), but with capes emblazoned with “Beautiful Pondicherry”, some in English and some in Tamil. Dress rehearsal is on Friday.  The performance on Saturday.


1 Response to “American ’60s Pop Culture and the Pondicherry College Student”

  1. 1 ipl cricket score February 13, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Sad but true. India can’t get enough of the American way of life.

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