Are We in the Dark Age?
- 4th March 2009: Fearing police intervention over the display of supposedly ‘obscene’ artwork, Mumbai’s oldest public art gallery, the Jehangir Art Gallery, has told Delhi based artist Damayanti Sharma, who had booked its gallery number 3 for a show, that she could not put up some of her paintings “for fear of offending the sensibilities of some quarters.”-TOI
- Jan 2009: Sri Ram Sena Workers Beat Girls in Mangalore Pub
Is our ‘culture’ so fragile that it gets bruised everytime we celebrate a valentine’s day or look at a painting of nudes or go out for a drink at night? Recent events in various parts of the country increasingly lead me to believe that we are indeed an intolerant and backward society. What intrigues me is when people accorded the responsibility of protecting the fast degenerating Indian morality (by themselves obviously), invoke our ‘ancient and glorious Indian culture’ at the slightest whim. I wonder what they would have to say to the wildly erotic sculptures that form part of our ‘glorious culture’. Forget Khajurao, one can go to temples to see sculptures of men and women in impossibly-acrobatic erotic postures. Konark temple, a heritage of ancient India is just an example. Heck, India earns loads of foreign exchange by positioning itself as the land of Khajurao and Kamasutra to the foreign tourist. So why do we suddenly cry foul on paintings of aesthetically done nudes. Morover, these are exhibited in art galleries, where one can choose not to go if looking at nudes is distasteful. But no, riding on our high moral horse, we order a crackdown on paintings and works of art while pornograpy continues to be sold in the bylanes and corners.
Yesterday, I happened to tune in to a show on FM, which was talking about this exact same issue on morality, and where this blog actually continues from. A caller had called up, a man who seemed to be totally devoid of any reasoning or sensibility. He was of the view that while nudes were distasteful, pornography should in fact be promoted because it is within the confines of your own home (?) Warped logic like this is the mainstay of Indian morality. So while distasteful posters of B-grade actresses in various stages of undress continue to dot the city, aesthetics in the confines of art galleries get the rap. Moreover, while men continue to ogle at such posters and dig up porn from the internet, nudes in art galleries suddenly have the supernormal power to corrupt our ‘culture’.
The number of times our culture has been saved from such pernicious influences, you would think that it would have died by now. But no, our ever resilient and glorious culture springs back to life to mock at women. Why women? Because apparently, the guardians of morality have somehow decided that women should be answerable for any perceived attack on culture. It’s interesting how women are supposed to be the upholders of culture and honour. The slightest of deviations from the ordinary is enough to make us ‘lose face’. It follows naturally then that no opportunity should be lost in curtailing their freedom (my freedom!). So while pubs and drinking bars have been around from god knows when, people have suddenly wised up to the fact that such places are no good, specially if girls also start going there. A certain section in Mangalore, thus took a tremendous initiative early this year to save our great nation from the onslaught of Western influence. As the self appointed “elder brothers” of the girls, they beat the girls up and humiliated them. Politicians and even the National Commission for Women, silently applauded from backstage. Even as the rest of the nation looked on outraged, Ram Sena vowed that similar fate would await those celebrating Valentine’s Day.
I am now waiting for the day when celebrating birthdays is banned on the pretext that cutting a cake is eroding our distinctly superior Indian values!
A critique and not a polemic. As you question the contradistinction between India’s rich historical and cultural legacy and the current events of hooliganism under the garb of ‘cultural preservation’ I think your search for ad hoc policies would cure just the symptoms and not the disease. I see a larger structure who is responsible for such a state of affairs- the state (union and state govt. bodies, especially those law enforcement bodies) and rising above them all, the politicians. The issue you have raised reiterates the state of crisis and the need of leaders who are more result oriented rather than glib talkers. Gone are the days when rhetoric won the confidence of the people. We need them to work and show results. The sooner the citizens realize to choose the right leaders, lesser the events, such as you have mentioned, would arise. Besides each citizen taking their prerogative to vote, I think a benchmark for politicians would lend a leverage to framing better policies and setting that benchmark would call for the judicial body.