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.