Rom-Communism And Hope In The Land Of A Million Mutinies
Even as puzzled critics are still scratching their heads over the unexpected popularity of the 2020 television comedy series Ted Lasso – about a football coach from Kansas who travels to Britain to run a soccer team (a game and continent he knows irritatingly little about), the moustachioed, excessively kind protagonist shared a gem after a team loss in the latest episode.
“I don't care what our record is…I believe in communism…rom-communism,” the coach told his team. “Believing in rom-communism is all about believing that everything’s going to work out in the end.”
Then he switched metaphors from romantic comedies to fairy tales and added, “Fairy tales do not start nor do they end in the dark forest. That son-of-a-gun always shows up smack dab in the middle of a story.”
“But it will all work out,” Lasso said. “Now it may not work out how you think it will. Or hope it does. But believe me, it will all work out. Exactly as it’s supposed to.”
Trust Lasso to revive a movie genre that died nearly two decades ago when the popular idea of love changed (sorry Netflix originals don’t count as a revival in my book). Romantic love—the one-soulmate-for-everyone school of thought—was denounced as hopelessly outdated and toxic, a patriarchal construct popularised from childhood by Disney and its cookie-cutter princes. That’s probably why Lasso compared rom coms to fairy tales.
That aside, we could learn a lesson from Lasso’s effortless ability to embrace hope when everything around us is going wrong.
Maybe more of us need to adopt the idea of rom-communism—the belief that everything’s going to work out in the end. What do we have to lose? Nothing else seems to be working anyway.
The history of this country brims with examples of rom-communism, none bigger than the David vs Goliath struggle to wrest this country’s freedom from British rule. Those who participated in the freedom struggle walked unarmed through many dark forests to reach victory. After independence, new battles were fought—at least a “million mutinies” to quote VS Naipaul’s immortal book title and premise about our messy democracy.
Lasso may sound like a motivational speaker you roll your eyes at and dismiss outright but he’s right about one thing: We certainly need to have more conversations about hope. I dug into my reserves to tell you where I find it.
Indian sport has always been an endless river of hope and self-motivation in the face of despair, penury, and utter disinterest from the country’s sporting establishment. If she can, we all can, is the lesson I usually come away after examining the life of any Indian sportswoman.
Indian farmers protesting at various borders of Delhi for 270 days give me hope. “I had thought about going off to Canada but now I really don't know,” Lovepreet Singh, a prosperous farmer, told Trolley Times, the newspaper that is recording this struggle. “I feel like I am no longer the Lovepreet Singh who had come to the morcha just to look around. I feel like I’ve become a monk, just like the people here at the protest call me.”
For example, young interfaith couples who continue to get married despite fearful families and the new, unconstitutional laws in half a dozen states that make it even more difficult to be with the person you love.
Those who reach out to help the less fortunate every time some bad happens—whether it’s the Delhi riots, the migrant crisis, or the shortage of oxygen for Covid patients—give me immense hope.
Artists who relentlessly convert daily injustices to illustrations that serve as a record of this time we are witnessing in the history of our nation make me feel hopeful, more so when their work goes viral and pops up on family WhatsApp groups. Follow Sanitary Panels, Orijit Sen, Smish Designs, Bakery Prasad, Mir Suhail, Pen Pencil Draw, Ashish Bagchi, and many more, all on Instagram.
Musicians whose material is drawn from the pain and injustice dealt to their fellow citizens such as Aamir Aziz’s searing ballad about Pehlu Khan make me weep with despair but also strangely give me hope.
When students Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, and Asif Iqbal Tanha were released from jail recently we got a glimpse of what gives the poet-musician hope. “You brought with you the hope of life in a slaughterhouse,” Aziz posted on Instagram. “All the stars, fireflies, butterflies came to Delhi’s streets as witnesses, how long can false cases survive within the truth, welcome my friends welcome.”
Pune-based Deepak Peace, described in 2019 by Rolling Stone magazine as India’s Bob Dylan, is another singer who effortlessly delivers wake-up punches in songs that urge you to smell the revolution. Start your journey into this rabbit hole from here: Inquilab Lao Yaar and Isiliye Meri Maa Ko Tu Pasand Nahi. The country’s on fire and you want to eat a sizzler, sings Peace in the first song.
Globally, women standing up for their rights always fills me with hope. Right now I’m sending furious prayers and wishes to Afghan women fighting the Taliban for their right to work.
Long-running successful movements like the nearly century-old Gay Rights Movement always offer hope and inspiration. Among newer moments, the Black Lives Matter campaign that describes itself as a “collective of liberators” is constantly innovating—whether it’s a database to map anti-racist street art or the viral photograph of inquilaabi child Zuri Jensen that inspired a mural boldly emblazoned with the word that Lasso would agree we all need to have more of: Hope.
Priya Ramani is a Bengaluru-based journalist and is on the editorial board of Article-14.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.