Friday, November 28, 2014

At a Wedding

1: The food here is so great. Is this all you people do at weddings - eat? Our guests have more elaborate duties.
2: Having never given it a thought, I cannot answer that question. But what else can you do at a wedding? Try the gaajar halwa.

1: Mm, I wonder if it tastes as good as it looks. But how can you not know about weddings?
2: Haven't been to any. The gulaab jamuns are nice too, if you have it with vanilla icecream. It is like winter outside, winter inside.

1: Desserts are all in queue. They will all get their turn to mingle with the juices in my stomach.
2: Yes, yes. You must try them all. This is why weddings are great!

1: You're seriously telling me that there is nothing else here? Where is the fire, the saat phere and all that?
2: I've seen those only in movies.

1: It does make sense for you to know. You will be put on the spot soon enough.
2: Oh no. But my younger brother will get married. I suppose I'll see then.

1: Eh, your younger brother before you? That's progressive.
2: Actually I'm not getting married.

1: And your parents don't hyperventilate? Have they not yet disowned you for opting out of the gene-propagation scam?
2: I told them that I don't want to do it. My brother has a steady girlfriend.

1: But don't you think you'll feel alone? There are times when you want to trust someone more than the rest of the world.
2: Think of what you lose by trying to gain that trust. Freedom. If I want to quit my job now, I will resign tomorrow. Once I'm married, I'm bound.

1: Have you quit spontaneously before?
2: No. But I want the option.

1: You will sacrifice the promise of eternity for this low freedom?
2: I think it is a fair trade. Yes.

1: I know that eternity is a sham, as is a promise. But they are comforting words; they have nourished generations.
2: But if the present is comfortable, why get out of it?

1: We substitute one deep connection with myriad fleeting ones. It's a temporary solution for a permanent problem, like cello-tape to fix your glasses.
2: Some people keep the temporary solutions going. If you try hard enough, temporary solutions become permanent. But I don't require these connections.

1: Deep or shallow?
2: Deep or shallow.

1: You can stay away from humanity and still be in peace?
2: I must stay away from humanity to be in peace. Why do you think I lock my door?

1: You have lucky wiring. But you are giving up on the one thing which will allow us to cheat ourselves.
2: Ah, you mean - a reason to continue existing?

1: Raison d'ĂȘtre, yes.
2: But there is no reason.

1: Are you comfortable with that truth?
2: Truths needn't be comfortable.

1: So you can exist without the grand charade?
2: Hard days may come.

1: When you are forty, without a wife or children, when you decide to quit your job, what will urge you to continue living?
2: I am convinced that I will reach the same state after marriage too.

1: But you have others to live for. That is the only thing that we will believe, in all our conceit.
2: Must a question of the future be answered by altering the present?

1: So you will consider it then?
2: Maybe. You want to try the rasmalai?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kiss of Love. Or Sex on the Beach.

I was invited to the Kiss of Love protest in the JNU campus the other day. I was considering the point of attending such an event of protest; protests have become a weekend-feature in Delhi. They are happening places, much like night-clubs, and they help society almost as much as these establishments.

Acts of revolt often serve only as means to belittle their own purpose. What should be a fundamental right, in my opinion, is being reduced to an unpleasant page-three article.

A few days ago, I was at a concert in HRC, appropriately inebriated and captivated by the drums. The Universe flowed around me. As the lights changed and danced in front of my eyes, the only thing blocking a clear view of the drummer was the silhouette of a couple kissing furiously just in front of stage. At that moment, it seemed the most natural thing - two people lost in each other amidst the vulgarity which surrounded them.

Kissing is Indian

Two days hence, there are people locking lips for the cameras, in an apparent act of protest, and simultaneously issuing statements such as - "It has been shown in the Kama Sutra, and it is there in Khajuraho." All of a sudden, the debate changes from the Right to Freedom of Expression to whether or not kissing was invented by Indians. Some western university adds ghee to the flames by suggesting that kissing is first depicted in Indian scriptures.

But how does that even matter? If it wasn't present in the Vedas, should we consider it wrong? Why define the future based on our opinions of the past? If Vatsyayana was a pioneer in recording acts of love and passion, will it justify an act of pornography? Or on the other hand, if kissing was first practiced in the West, will it make the act shameful?

This entire charade of "turn up and kiss" has done more damage than good, mainly because people aren't sure why they are protesting. Since we're now dabbling with the issue of "natural" freedoms, which we as humans think we ought to enjoy (irrespective of where this freedom was first invented), let me ask you a question.

I asked a friend, who prides his rationale, the same thing: "What would you do if you caught a couple completely naked, having sex on a park bench?"

Boundary Lines

As a response to this question, he rolled his eyes, wrinkled his nose and threw up his shoulders in protest. You think perhaps, as he did too, that I am an RSS/VHP sympathizer, who wants to create a ridiculous scenario and reduce the argument to absurdity. But there is a point to this, I promise.

The responses I have got to this question vary from "That'd be horrible! There are laws against public nudity and public obscenity" to "Just because we allow kissing doesn't mean we want to allow sex in public". But why? Why are we thinking at such conservative margins? Are we not convinced ourselves?

People have told me that public nudity, especially that associated with sexuality, would be a hindrance for them. They say that they wouldn't want their children to be exposed to such scenes until they are "grown-up enough". Legalizing public nudity and acts of sex would cause them mental trauma. And let me tell you that these are same people who are vocal about their support for the "Kiss of Love" movement.

Well, how do they differ from the RSS and the VHP? You stand a foot ahead of those saffron banners and denounce those behind you? Well, perhaps the Indian Right Wing is correct in saying that this is the influence of the West, not because we are trying to emulate them, but because we are limiting ourselves to what they have achieved.

We think kissing is alright because we see it in movies. We see big posters of Ranbir Singh and Deepika Padukone kissing on Mumbai streets. But sex and nudity is not yet acceptable. In fact, the West has a number of bodies fighting the exact same battle: acceptance of nudity and public displays of "higher" affection. In the meanwhile, we are fighting a trivial battle, shooting ourselves copiously in the feet.

They clothed us. Let them disrobe us.

Abbe Dubois's book "Hindu manners, customs and ceremonies", translated from French and edited by Henry Beauchamp stated that "Even the private parts of the children have their own particular decorations. Little girls wear a gold or silver shield or codpiece on which is graven some indecent picture ; while a boy's ornament, also of gold or silver, is an exact copy of that member which it is meant to decorate."
Araimudi, used by girls in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, even until 1950
"Description of the character, manners, and customs of the people of India; and their institutions, religious and civil", also written by Dubois said "The children of either sex are likewise ornamented with various trinkets of the same form, though smaller than those of grown persons. They have also some that are peculiar. As all children in India go perfectly naked till they are six or seven years old, the parents of course, adapt the ornaments to the natural parts of the body. Thus, the girls have a plate of metal suspended so as to conceal, in some measure, their nakedness. The boys, on the other hand, have little bells hung round them, or some similar device of silver or gold, attached to the little belt with which they are girt. Amongst the rest, a particular trinket appears in front, bearing a resemblance to the sexual part of the lad." (Wikipedia)
I spoke about not looking to history to determine our future, but I am merely bringing this as a point to show the possible limitations of modern acceptance. When the British began to "reform" the people they governed, the logic of the age suggested that people should be clothed for decency. By linking clothes to the concepts of hygiene, it became an irrefutable scientific law.

And today, while they have the freedom to stand nude in their beaches, we are incarcerated by our own clothes. Perhaps we aren't evolving enough. But how will we, if we limit ourselves by the achievements of other men?