Tag Archives: society

Piety and peepshow

IMG_3331During a recent trip to the pilgrim town Rishikesh for a friend’s wedding two of my friends and me lost our way in the quaint town.

Left at the mercy of an auto driver, who mistook our hunger-driven desire for food as hunger for devotional satisfaction, we were dropped off, with small-town warmth, at the mouth of a narrow winding path.

Enthused by his energetic gesticulations directing us down the road, and unaware of his holy intentions, we sauntered along the path in search of … yes, what else, food, and chanced upon a beautiful vista of lush green mountains, a beautiful sculpture of Krishna and Arjuna and a wide river flowing serenely at its own sweet space.

Marring this beautiful sight, which took away the breath from even our growling-stomached selves, were a number of people who were praying to the  Ganga. Hurling packets of flowers, dipping into the cool water to wash off their sins, these men and women — in various stages of undress — made for a slightly jarring sight.

Religion, I have found, is extremely polarising. Just about anything can be justified in the name of religion and anything can be condemned. Emotions can be played with. Holy-men can cheat naïve believers. Murders can be ‘explained’. Brutalities can be brushed aside. And…social taboos stop mattering.

The human body in its natural form, or nudity, which is frowned upon in our society and in social and cultural spaces, finds validation when one is praying. Hundreds of women and men — of different age, colour, caste, and… errr… shapes — could be dipping their pious semi-clothed bodies into the river at the same time.

At one level it appears egalitarian but at another the hypocrisy tarnishes this thought.

In the aftermath of the recent gang rape of a student in the Capital, many debates, on television and other forums, stood up for the freedom of women. Many talked about their right to dress as they like, go where they want. But many, and I mean many, went so far as to say that the way women dress (or do not dress, as they argue) provokes men. Many self-appointed guardians of morality ‘banned’ certain items of clothing for women.

IMG_3359Previous posts on the issue illustrate  my strong opposition to such actions that impinge on women’s — or for that matter even men’s — freedom. But, I wonder why these moral brigades do not feel irked by “nudity” in such public spaces!

If a mini-skirt in a pub, which is frankly an acceptable dress in that particular place, is bothersome, then why is a see-through, wet petticoat acceptable in broad day light?

Or for that matter, why is a man in flimsy boxers (or sometimes langot), not reprimanded for causing public nuisance? (I think few would argue that the sight of fat hairy legs under, and hairy pot-bellies over these “intimates” are not disturbing!)

Nudity and sexuality make for hushed discussions in bedrooms. A sense of shame is often attached. But throw in religion — and all is fair.

A Rape I write

I write stories everyday. About exceptional women, and men. About success achieved in the face of trials and tribulations. Sometimes they are also about heroic failures. I write about mundane day-to-day activities in offices.

Some prefer to call them articles and reports. But I think the word story is more apt because I haven’t met ‘exceptional’ yet. They are stories — part fiction.

I have never asked a successful woman if she was molested before she earned the security of a chauffer-driven BMW. I never asked them if they have seen another woman get molested, if she tried to stop them.

I never asked a man if he ever visually stripped a woman around him, or maybe even groped her?

I’ve seen enough women in mini-skirts in the sanitized environments of five-star hotels’ pubs and bars. And did they look great! Most of them wore it because they could hop into a car and head home. I have never asked one of them if they had helped someone less privileged.

A story by Tehelka (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ne140412Coverstory.asp) on how policemen view rape, sexual assault victims and offenders gives us just a brief peek into the society’s insidious mindset. Why society? Trust me these men and women are not God’s gift to mankind. Their opinions, though especially disgusting because they are supposedly part of a “law enforcing body,” comes from and is part of the society.

I quote a police officer from the Tehelka article, “Go to a pub in Greater Kailash,South Delhi, where there’s free entry for girls. You’ll find those who want to do ‘it’ for a thousand rupees. They’ll drink and also have sex with you. But the day someone uses force, it’s rape.”

Yes, my friend, the day someone uses force IT IS rape.

There are reports after reports on how women call for it because of how they dress, how they talk, how they behave, how they don’t behave, how they talk to boyfriends (even if they are boy friends) etc etc etc.

In the same article, another officer said, “If a girl wears revealing clothes, it will encourage lewd thoughts in any kid. They wear short skirts, blouse, they don’t wear dupattas, they flaunt their bodies. The kid will naturally get attracted to her.”

Kid?? How easily the perpetrator is turned into an innocent victim.

And yet, I, like yourself, am complicit in this situation.

We are complicit because our rage remains individual, we don’t pick up the courage to make it a collective anger, while mobs grope and strip a 17-year-old on our streets and gang rapes continue.

Somehow our impotent rage is restricted to Facebook or blogs. When someone is harassed we don’t step up.

My self-righteous anger at the crimes I hear about on TV or read in papers does not encourage action. I sometimes keep quiet when someone teases me at a certain time of day or in certain places in the city. Every time I keep quiet I commit a crime.

I pick up a kurta instead of a spaghetti top just so often. Not because I like the kurta better, but because my freedom needs the sanction of a perverted patriarchy that is easily spooked.

It gets spooked when I talk, it gets spooked when I ask questions, it gets spooked when I even walk out of home.

It is that society which barely registers a creature with a penis holding a cigarette and another with a vagina gets lewdly stared at and commented upon. One where a group beating up, molesting or even raping another represents collective fury against a ‘depraved’ society, yet a woman out dancing ‘calls for it.’

One where a man putting his hand into a woman’s shirt is virile and ‘manly’ and a woman sporting a cleavage is a dirty whore.

It has nothing to do with who wears what and I am sure the women would agree. I know I have been harassed even on days I have worn a kurta.

It also does not have anything to do with who drinks what.

And if it does, if I am a dirty slut because I wear skirts and drink occasionally, then what about that 14-year-old girl that got raped today? And that 11-year-old pre-pubertal kid? And that year-old toddler?

Given the general consensus with respect to sexual offence, girls are born with an incurable, insatiable lust for violent sex, right?

I have read stories about people righteously defending victims of sexual violence. Only, after they have been violated. I have seen millions ‘like’ it on the great tool of modern movement — Facebook.

I have been one of them too.

And, thus, I continue to write stories — stupidly optimistic, glorifying stories and sometimes I think delusional too.