11 February 2009

Letter to Sagarika Ghose

Ref: To the article in the Hindustan Times. My letter is in Pink.
please note that i am raising many points with reference to Ms. Ghose's article which is in white . so the letter in pink will only make complete sense if you read the para above. Thank You

Both the zealot and the sex symbol claim to be the defining face of a new India. Pramod Muthalik, the Sri Rama Sene chief, claims to represent a tidal wave of public revulsion against Western culture. In sharp contrast, bare midriffs and cleavages stare down from hoardings as if to declare proudly that it is they who represent the aspirations of every young Indian. A Facebook group, ‘A Consortium of Pub-Going Loose and Forward Women’ (a group to which your columnist also belongs) is now planning to send ‘pink chaddis’ to Muthalik in protest. Undoubtedly, the Sene’s actions are loathsome and unacceptable, but sending pink underwear to perverts is pretty undignified too.

Millions of women have been terrified since many years by the testosterone terrorists. Gentlemen do not behave in an illicit manner when he sees a woman. Many women took it in their stride to protect themselves – they have done it individually but it continues. The regionalistic movements continue to torment and terrorise women in the name of moral policing. But the fact is Complaints lodged against Eve teasing or molestations in police stations gets piled away under dusty files in Indian courts and many times police officers refuse to take a complaint. And you know it better than I do protests are never dignified. If It makes you squirm it is enough to show that the protest is a winning combination

In fact, therein lies the dilemma of most educated Indians today. Most of us are scandalised by the Sri Ram Sene’s actions, horrified at being told that ‘love’ is foreign to India. We’d like to remind the Sene that the love stories of Shakuntala and Dushyant or of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur show that some of the greatest love stories of all times were made in India and love has always been a socially revolutionary force destroying taboos of caste, class and religion. St Valentine is only an upstart in our centuries-old experiments with romance. Also, where does one draw the line at ‘Western’ influences on India? Does the Sene know that the potato and even cottage cheese from which mithai is made, were, ‘foreign’ to India, brought in by Portuguese traders? The custodians of ‘Hindu sanskriti’ are not just absurd, they don’t know their history.

Lust is not foreign to India. It is the land of the kamasutra. Eve teasing and Molestation are public outcries in its different form. It is the form of entertainment that many individuals engage in when they want a sexual thrill when they are in a crowd. It is the cheapest form of entertainment for testosterone terrorists. And it does not need consent. As for the westerners, they are influenced by the east too. They are wise enough to pick up the good points.

Yet the dilemma is that groups like the Sri Rama Sene force the thoughtful Indian to defend things he may see as a fundamental right, but does not necessarily want to defend. However much we may hate the Sene, upholding the commercially-driven Valentine’s Day as a supreme cultural resource, or seeing the pub as the shining symbol of our social ‘freedom’ may not be forward movement for India.

Pubs are an urban answer to the cultural associations of rural India where festivities are celebrated with families and communities where they sang folk songs and danced. Bhangra among Punjabis, Gharba and Dandiya Raas among Gujaratis. The people of Assam, Sikkim, Tripura and Manipal have their own tribal dances and festivities to unwind after a hard days or hard months of cultivation in their paddy fields and other agricultural activities.

Young people choosing urban lifestyles that are desi imitations of Sex And The City, is hardly a matter of celebration. Fears about ‘westernisation’ are so deep that with the exception of U.R. Ananthamurthy, few of Karnataka’s galaxy of public intellectuals have come to the defence of the young women drinking at the Amnesia Lounge in Mangalore on January 24.

Young people are finally living as they think they should live. Finally their financial freedom helps them to break free of the cordons that parents draw. Two sets of cordons – One rule for girls and the other (NONE) for boys. Westernization also brings about freedom of thought, standing for oneself, emphasis on individuality, being assertive, rights and responsibilities. Let’s talk about it too before beating down the “westernization” that you are talking about. And it is strange coming from you because you have been educated in the west - Oxford, is that right ?

Politically, there is a consensus on the moral failings of ‘pub culture’, with even the BJP’s ideological opposites, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss expressing energetic disapproval of pubs. When Union Minister Renuka Chowdhury urged that there should be a ‘pub bharo’ campaign, several of her own Karnataka Congress leaders protested that drinking was against their norms, in a state where the ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’ of the IT industry has been the focus of much cultural criticism.

As for the “ drinking was against their norms” you may want to recall that the largest share owner of the famous united breweries is none but an Indian himself. Doesn’t that speak once again about the double standards that torment the Indian society?

It confuses me what you are attacking, “ the pub culture” or the fear of the vote hungry politicians who would like to politicize every issue. You may also want to elaborate on how the “rootless cosmopolitanism of the IT industry “ has raised the GDP of the country. Many people from Indian educational institutes do not have to leave the shores for better prospectus. And for those educated men who would have created mafias and hooliganism on the streets because they do not know what to do with their time and education have been gainfully and productively employed in these very IT industry. It is because of the very same IT industry that the global cameras have turned towards India. And there is surplus cash in the Indian treasury. Need I say more about the benefits of IT industry ?

Two years ago when the national anthem was played and not sung at an Infosys function, Kannadiga intellectuals said that software tycoons embodied an English-speaking cosmopolitanism that was far removed from the realities of India. At the recent IPL auction, the stark exhibition of glamour and wealth, in an economy where 500,000 workers have just lost their jobs, was an unabashed spectacle of rootless elitism.
History shows us the dangers inherent in an elite pleasure island floating in a sea of deprivation. The Iranian revolution of 1979 was a political movement against the repressive Shah, as also a massive conservative-religious backlash against a rich and westernised elite. Ayatollah Khomeini’s class war soon became a cultural war. Groups like the Sene have no mass support but the fact that militant traditionalism is now the calling card of thuggish youth shows a dangerous fusion of cultural and class hatred — a class war expressed through culture.

The caste war, the hooliganism of the hindutva, RSS, and all political organizations that “religionize” every issue is a long cold battle that has been fought for the past 60 years. The Bombay mayhem which lasted for 3 days was just another reaction by the Muslim counterparts. If the Indian government forgets to wage this battle the country is losing a failing war. Religion Wars and Political delusion are byfar the highest on the list of battles that the country should be fighting. Worry about India becoming a failed state. The class war is at the bottom of the list.

This is why India’s globalised westernised elite — or those who are its most visible face — are under attack by those who have a grievance against modern women and the new economy. The Sri Ram Sene, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Kannada Rakshana Vedike or other myriad ‘religious’ or ‘cultural’ groups are all targeting ‘secular’ plays, fashion shows, the IT and biotechnology sectors or migrant workers. Every aspect of public life that is characterised by freedom and affluence is under threat and a potential target of violence. The chasm between the India of pubs and the India of the Sri Rama Sene is growing wider and as economic transformation produces more social unrest, the emerging elite might face more such attacks.
Which is why the battle for freedom and progress must be a sensible and a rational battle and not a trivial one where we fling coloured underwear at maniacs. We must learn from the Nehruvians of the 40s and 50s who were incredibly westernised, but deeply rooted; many of whom were rich but lived modest, tasteful lives. They drank, smoked and romanced, yet were discreet and embodied a tradition of Indian elitism that was rooted in excellence. C. Rajagopalachari was considered a scholar in three language. Rukmini Devi Arundale may have been deeply influenced by the Theosophical Movement but dedicated her life to reviving Indian dance and music by founding the Kalakshetra academy. Sarojini Naidu’s favourite poet was Shelley but she took pride in the fact that she could speak Urdu, Telugu and Bengali. However westernised their minds, India’s nationalist elite could not be accused of living in a cocoon of extravagant privilege or having their pleasure spots guarded by armed commandos.
Maybe India’s young, instead of trying to be like characters from Sex In The City, should try to emulate Sarojini Naidu and Jawaharlal Nehru. While the ghastly cultural hoodlums must be dealt with sternly by the law, the lifestyle norms we choose, especially in public, must be attuned to our surroundings.

The battle of and for freedom never was and never will be sensible or rational . It makes the most comfortable person in the most comfortable chair get up and get a gasp of air.

You see more performances of Indian dance than I do and you would agree with me that it requires energy and one cannot dance “Indian” in a crowded place. There is a place for it and that is where social functions and gatherings come in. Indian dance is tiring and it is not the dance that one can perform after a hard day’s work. Most of these working women share small apartments and they rather sit down where somebody can get them a drink than getting up and making one for themselves. They need to let their hair down and relax.Is that asking for too much ?

The rendezvous of the Nehru and his sisters is not a secret anymore. They danced, and romanced among the westerners who knew they were not discreet. They had their share of lust and love and no national media or press covered their acts. It was spoken and written in hushed tones and (ssh, and i heard it too !) They performed their pompous acts under cover, threats, manipulation, lies and deceit. The embodiment of " truly elite tradition par excellence" lies in the heart of the hard working people of India, not Nehru and family who exhibited arrogance and thronged for power and hobnobed with the powerful imperalists of the world. Writing about Nehru and modesty is like putting water and oil in the same bottle.

We all have our likes and dislikes about who our favorite author is. But we also take delight in the fact to accept what is good for growth from every culture be it greek, roman, french, mediterranean or american and trash the ones that depress and retard individual growth.Trying to differentiate western and eastern culture in the day when american companies flood indian markets is trying to trace roots - should we eat ice cream because it is a western food. Speaking English is foreign enough!

If we persist in trying to create a mindlessly imitative mythical Las Vegas, we will not be able to defeat the Sri Rama Sene, however many pink panties we may throw at them.

Like it or not the pink chaddi campaign is in full swing. If you do not support the movement Please step aside.


Vinod_Sharma said...

An, after a long time I find you really charged which is very heartening. I must confess though that I am not on the 'pink panties' side for reasons that I have mentioned in my post on the subject and in the many comments on it.

You have your reasons, which will resonate with many. I respect you strong views even though mine are different. This is what democracy and freedom of expression is all about, I suppose. This is what makes India such a mad and great country.

Indyeah said...

''The battle of and for freedom never was and never will be a sensible or rational ''
Bravo!Anrosh!Exactly my views..!
to deal with madness one has to be prepared to be a little mad too...
I was not entirely comfortable with the whole pink chaddi campaign but now I think ,hey whatever works in this mad crazy country of ours...how is sending a pink chaddi not in line with our values?
Or is that the point ?
Are we again to be told what to do how to behave?
the attack was on pub going girls and the ones responding are the pub going women...
If that is elitist so be it...

Anrosh said...

vinod, both of us can agree to disagree.

indyeah, the men did not even wink before performing the act. and their acts was dignified. protests are never dignified. hence forth muthalik and the ram sena will be known as the "receipients of the pink underwear" and may stop many others in their tracks - that's the whole point.

Anrosh said...

refer above , and their acts were dignified ?! in whose eyes and in which culture allows molestation of women to be dignified?

Solilo said...

Thanks Anrosh for posting a comment on my blog and pointing towards this blog.

Applause for such a well thought reply.

"The battle of and for freedom never was and never will be a sensible or rational"

Well said!

When those goons didn't even think twice before beating up women, we are expected to have a calm talk with them. It is like saying even if your husband slaps you 10 times make him understand calmly.

Pink protest is also calm. Where is any violence in that?

The irony is Ms. Ghose is also part of this campaign.

Bix said...

I'm learning much from your blog. Thank you.

roop said...

we'll have to agree to disagree too on this particular issue, anrosh. :))

Anrosh said...

bix, welcome

roop -- thankfully we can co-exist.

Usha Pisharody said...

First time here, got here from the link on solilo's post :)

This is such a well thought out post, and the writing clear and unambiguous. Indeed, sometimes, one has to do what one needs to to, and today it is speaking up to reclaim a choice of a way of life, in a Secular, and Free Democracy, that is being threatened by narrow minded bigots and violent oppressive thoughts.


Indian Home Maker said...

Anrosh Brilliant!!!

I had read Sagarika Gosh yesterday, and I wanted to react ... her reference to Jawahar Lal Nehru was most incorrect because of his well known Ms Mountbaten connections. She seemed to be advising hypocrisy ..

We are conditioned to think we (women)should always behave in a certain acceptable and dignified manner ... I think it was time to react the way we are doing, and it is working. The fifth fail has assured there will be no violence, the government has shut up about pub culture (for now) and the fifth pass is not going to even be present in city that day ... I believe in Sam Dam Dand Bhed. Whatever works, so long as it is non violent/against the law etc.
High time one stopped trying to please the world and took action the way they deemed fit. I plan to wear a pink sari with a strappy blouse this Valentine's Day. I know the Pink Chaddis have worked... Read here ... ...the venerable Shri P Muthalik has been hanged by his own nada. Hey Ram! His Sene has pushed otherwise sane people into buying armloads of soppy cards ... it has thrust upon V-Day a popularity it could never have dared hope for in its mushiest dreams.
.. moral/cultural protests - provoke fence-sitters to get off their butts and take a stand, they also force into the fray those who couldn't care less about the fence.

... women are not going to lie back and be clamped by such pulse-less wonders as Shri M. The sexism of the SRS (or SS or VHP) will continue to be challenged by the new IT girls. And by all men with brains, or at least a survival instinct. The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women must drink to that. ... it will not enlist the services of the Mahila Mandal Commission.

Officially constituted, and duly gazetted, the OFC (Other Forward Classes) will be better positioned to shoot down such semantic incongruities as a drunk male being 'tight' but a drinking female being 'loose'. In fact, 'Forward' may become as desirable as 'Backward' once OFC leaders begin wresting quotas and reservations from a grudging male chauvinist polity.

Poonam said...

Well said, Indeah!

I can not believe Sagrika Ghose wrote such stupid piece. I can undersatnd if you are uncomfortable to support something, but why pull it down? If you are uncomfortable with it, do soemthing worthwhile, start a initiative where you can pull others. She's in best position to do that.

And Indeah, thanks for your comment on my blog. :)

sagarika said...

Hey Mr whatsyour name! You have misquoted my blog. I never wrote the line 'Don't confuse love with lust'. Please check my blog before you spin out lies. sagarika Ghose

Anrosh said...

Welcome Sagarika - "Don confuse love with lust " is an error.

I spill no lies - I have given a reference to your link -

SCARED - ? That the bloggers are speaking OUT ?


Anrosh said...

Sagarika - It is not your blog. It is an article that you have written at Hindustan times --- I don't see any link with your name

@lankr1ta said...

I completely concur ! Very eloquently put
The Sagarika Ghosh here is a troll!

Indian Home Maker said...

One more bit I loved in your post is this,
"Young people are finally living as they think they should live. ... the cordons that parents draw. Two sets of cordons – One rule for girls and the other (NONE) for boys. Westernization also brings about freedom of thought, standing for oneself, emphasis on individuality, being assertive, rights and responsibilities..."

Anrosh I think sometimes these people are made to write somethings they may not even think is true, Sagarika's piece had no conviction...
I was disappointed.

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anrosh said...

Hello Anonymous - of course there is room for improvement - thank you for saying that.

So who are you - a name and email address - do you have a blog - and what makes you comment on a very old post such as this ?

is this your first time on the blog

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