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Monday, November 07, 2011

Chp 375. The Malady that is Mizo Idol

2000+ years ago, gladiators lined up in an arena and vowed, Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant (We who are about to die, salute you!) And then as they fight each other to the death, the crowd would go crazy, shouting for more blood and gore.

Today, the battle axe had been replaced by a guitar, the trident replaced by a drum set, and the combat skills of a warrior replaced by the vocal cord of a singer. Yup, I am talking about the ongoing Mizo Idol in Mizoram. Different battleground, same audience.

Today, the winner of Mizo Idol 2011 will be announced. Will it be Biakmuana or Lalthuthaa? The winner of this “grand honor” depends on who gets the most number of sms votes. Yes the format is exactly similar to American Idol and its many spinoffs across the world.

And so, people are going crazy, not just voting for their favorite Idol but convincing (and harassing) their friends and relatives to vote for that person. There are many instances of people actually taking their friend’s mobile phone to vote without their acknowledgement! Others are buying new sim cards just to cast extra votes. There are even stories of some rich dudes here and there buying 3000 new sim cards or so just to vote for a particular contestant. And of course the rumors started spreading like wildfire… that guy is a drunkard, that girl is carrying an illegitimate son, that guy is secretly gay, and so on…

Before I carry on any further, I would like to state that I have no personal grudge against Zonet, the network that had been conducting this show for the past many years, or LPS that had conducted similar shows before (Mizo Youth Icon). If at all there are to be any reason for this “attack” on them, let me state that I have interviewed the host of Zonet Mizo Idol Zonuni and she's a very friendly and sweet person, and my only dissent with LPS would be the fact that we both bought the first batch of Wagon R in Mizoram, and we both happened to buy the same make, model and color, so every time I went home and drove around the city, people thought I was from LPS. That’s a very trifle issue indeed, and like I said, I would like to come clean first, since we Mizos are so fond of finding an excuse about why one person is criticizing about something.

Now, even though I am not interested in the ongoing Mizo Idol, I’ve been following it quite closely. Not that I intended to. But when most of your friends on Facebook are Mizos and you also happen to be the admin of a very popular Mizo community site, it’s really difficult not to know what’s going on. Of course I have more important things to do in life than let who becomes the next Mizo Idol dictate my life, you know… But nevertheless, I get all the newsfeeds and gossips.

And that’s what hurts me a lot.

We all know what happened when Sinate was still in the competition. On Facebook, the whole issue became a case of Mizos versus Hmars, each side spitting heinous venom on each other that makes you wanna puke. Kinda reminds you of the Huti-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda. It was no longer about who had better talent on the microphone. Suddenly everything was about ethnicity and roots.

Death threats were freely given to different members like parking tickets and people started glorifying their “terrorist groups”. The ethnic slurs and abuses overflowed from either side like an absentmindedly neglected pan of boiling milk. Actual addresses and locations were disclosed openly, challenging those who made the threats to see if they had the guts to stick to their death threats. Facebook accounts and groups were hacked and counter-hacked.

From a silent observer’s point of view, it was a tad funny, but one couldn’t help but admit how seriously we took a mere singing competition to be!

Comon… seriously? We come from a land of musicians where almost every next person you see can sing or play the guitar, and we are allowing this mere contest to disrupt our integrity and harmony? The fact that we’re still not mentally matured and prepared for a multi-ethnic multi-regional competition of this proportion was suddenly obvious.

Everybody should know by now that this popularity contest method of voting an Idol had never been fair. Remember Adam Lambert [American Idol finalist 2009]? Everybody knew he got the best freaking voice then, and yet he didn’t win because a large majority of “conservative” Americans didn’t vote for him as he was gay. To me, he was the true idol then.

And now we have the Mizo Idol Finals today. One guy representing Northern Mizoram and another representing Southern Mizoram. And of course some people started campaigning for their respective regions. “Screw talent, stick to your regional loyalty!” seemed to be the mantra of the day.

This reminded me of what my dad used to tell me many years ago. I am a Hrahsel [Saza], but dad didn’t allow me to officially use Hrahsel in my name because he said being a Mizo was more than enough and he felt all these habits of using one’s clan/tribe’s name to identify themselves only caused further disunity in Mizoram.

True dat.

If you really look at this whole Mizo Idol phenomena and how people are taking it so seriously and personally, you too will laugh at it. Is it really worth fighting with your own brothers and sisters about who becomes the next damn Idol? A man-made designation? That too designed by a television network for its own profitable gain?

It is always natural for humans to try and be in an inclusive group. If a group of Punjabis migrate to London, they will most probably move to the Punjabi section of the city, where people speak the same language and eat the same food. Similarly, people from the northeast are known to stick together in mainland India. If a Mizo moves to a new city and there are no other Mizos nearby, he/she will most probably try to stay in an area where there are Nagas, Meiteis, Khasis etc. As more Mizos move in, he/she will then move to the Mizo area. At the end of the day, we just feel more secure and comfortable being with our own kind. There’s a thin line between that and racism or xenophobia.

Speaking of exclusivity, take a look at what is going on in the online world. During the times of Orkut, Mizos created a group called Maharashtra Mizos, which comprised of Mizos working or studying in Maharashtra. Then as more Mizos started moving in, the group got divided into Mumbai Mizos and Pune Mizos. After that, Navi Mumbai Mizos group was created. Even in the Mumbai Mizos group, it further broke up into Andheri Mizos, Santa Cruz Mizos etc. Being in a group that is as inclusive as possible is always in our human DNA, regardless of who we are. You can even take a look at the sports groups in Facebook. First there was the Mizo Basketball lovers group. Then that went city-wise and we had Bangalore Mizo Basketball lovers, Delhi Mizo Basketball lovers, and that can even be divided up further more.

Similarly, being an admin of, we are no stranger to exclusivity. And that is something we never permit in our site. We have seen it happened all too often based from our experiences – Mizo mIRC chat rooms rivalry, vs, etc. we have seen them all. And we don’t want to see it happen again.

Even if you take a look a different Facebook Mizo groups, be it about Mizoram news, IT helplines or medical assistances, there will always be people who vowed loyalty to one particular group and immense enmity towards the other group.

Admit it. We love to be inclusive. It is in our nature.

So taking all that into consideration, is it really a good idea for ZoNet or LPS to conduct  these types of events? Whatever be the outcome, most people are always going to stick to being as inclusive as possible, rather than recognize actual talent.

What is the point of it all then?

I am not demeaning the past winners of Mizo Idol or the new winner who will be crowned today. Trust me, that’s not my intention. In fact I would like to congratulate today’s winner and all the other contestants in advance for their talent and performance so far.

My main objection is rather with the system and process of voting. Yes, working in the advertisement industry in Mumbai for many years now, I know all too well how an audience participation event increases the ratings and viewership of a TV show. But if you consider everything I have mentioned so far, do you really think it is worth going through such an ordeal when the price we have to pay for that is so much higher?

Eventually, if you think about it, it is just a form of entertainment, designed to keep us preoccupied from our otherwise mundane life. An entertainment in an arena filled with abusive ethnic slur and regional slur uttering audience that does nothing but create more divisions among us. The question is, are you not entertained? Are you NOT entertained?


neOn said...

as tho thrs a protective bubble arnd me, I hvnt watched a single episode even tho Im surrounded (completely inundated) by all the fervour.....Ive been requested many times to vote. How can I vote if I hvnt heard a single contestant.......Sad ppl go into so much trouble for this.....I thnk I shd watch the last episode n perhaps cast a vote too. Nice of you to key down ur thoughts....always rational...

Mizohican said...

Thanx for the comment :) I really don't mind with all the frenzy because in the end, it is entertainment. But the way it lead to regionalism and ethnic division is plain sad and pathetic. Maybe we Mizos aren't ready for this yet... is what I feel sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I keep changing my support based on their performances. Voting should not be based on particular region, locailty and community.My instinct tells me that I shld vote anyone who sings best. I am really fed up with regional and ethnic feelings coz I was once a victim RIGHT HERE in Mizoram


Mizohican said...

I'll drink to that, pu burgerstud2005 :)

And I made a small mistake in my post. The Idol result is to be announced tomorrow, not today as I thought it would be :)

daniel said...

First a little correction, the idol aspirant 's name is LALTHUTHAA,( The Lords's Good Words!) not Lalthuthlaa.
I entirely agree with you. If at all Idol is to be conducted, the judges should decide the finals too.Would also be nice if they could concentrate on real talents, like playing an instrument, or their knowledge of music etc etc.

KymBawi Khuptong said...

I think this is called the filtration process, where who is being filtrated or who is filtering happens to be the same. It's like going back to the well and be a frog.

H.Vangchhia said...

I ziak hi 100 ah 100 in ka thlawp e.

Mizohican said...

The Idol has been announced. It is Lalthuthaa. Congrats to the winner.

@ daniel: Thanx, corrected his name :)

@ KymBawi: True indeed. This system needs a lot of review... Most of us are still not ready to face decisions related to diversity.

@ H.Vangchhia: Thanx :)

Andy Varte said...

"Are you not entertained?" Truly my friend, are we not entertained? I on the other hand, truly love this bit of sarcasm that you have put at the end. Makes me think onto a lot of other things about our society. Good one.

Alejendro said...

Nizanah Zoram lama ka bial nen kan inbiak lai in Vote turin tlangau an rawn au vel.

Seriously, Zoram angah te chuan zaithiam a, Lar duh chuan thil harsa a nih loh tehreng nen engatinge mawni Mizo Idol nih pawh chu an chak em em hlawm hle. A ropui lo e mai. Idol pawh chu ni se, a tawpah chuan Ration te kan la la ho leh mai mai awm tho sia..

KymBawi Khuptong said...

:)..oh and btw I like the heading of this post..."Malady", very relevant.

NotGood said...

"..and you also happen to be the admin of a very popular Mizo community site.." ಠ_ಠ
I agree with the post 100%, but Reality show or not, "groupism" will always exist. Doing away with these shows for the sake of Mizo Integration would be like doing away with churches to integrate all Christian denominations.
In minority, we stick together, but in majority, we fight.
I call it "NotGood's law of F*** Majority!"

Mizohican said...

@ Andy: Thanx :)

@ Alejandro: hehehee... nia thenkhat chuan an ti nasa mah mah chuan a lang.

@ Kymbawi: Glad to know it served its purpose, thanx :)

@ NotGood: Very true indeed. You should patent that law :)