The ironies are telling. One of them is the minister for women and child development. He had advised girls against wearing skimpy clothes to avoid rape. Also, the incident happened in the state of the self-appointed guardians of Indian culture, the Ram Sene, who get mighty upset when girls wear jeans or accept Valentine’s Daycards. Will the gutsy Ram Sene now march to the ministers’ houses and blacken their faces?
In fact, few things bring out Indian hypocrisy more than anything referring to sex. We blush, pretend it doesn’t exist, look the other way, change the topic, hate the person who brought it up and do whatever we can to avoid confronting a healthy, balanced discussion on it.
In fact, many say sex is against Indian culture, a bizarre notion for a country that reproduces faster than most other countries. Perhaps what the culture-protectors are saying is this – sex for pleasure is bad. And since Indian culture does nothing bad, sex is against Indian culture. Hence, these same ministers would maintain a public stance about women covering up, pre-marital sex being immoral and censoring anything remotely sexy.
And yet, i can bet a number of politicians and babus watch porn. In fact, most people who have access to porn, watch porn. While only a few have the daredevil spirit and stupidity to watch it in a legislature, they all consume this product that is super deadly to Indian culture. In fact, a significant number of women watch porn too, though they may not get as excited about it as say, a 50% sale on their favorite handbag.
So why are we like this? Why are we so two-faced about something so natural? It is a difficult question to answer, but we weren’t always this way. Our ancient texts such as the Upanishads discuss sex in an explicit manner. The Mahabharata refers to Draupadi’s polyandry. The temples in Khajuraho leave little to the imagination.
Perhaps our attitudes changed during centuries of Mughal and Victorian rule, both not exactly known for their liberal attitudes. Add a bit of Brahmin puritanism to it and somewhere down the line, Indians began to frown upon all pleasures, particularly sex.
Hence, we have heavy taxes on alcohol. For instance, a bottle of Australian wine retails at Rs 1,000 – though it could have an import cost of less than Rs 200 – mostly padded up by excise duties. And of course, states like Gujarat have banned alcohol. Movie tickets carry an entertainment tax, quite unjustified as people buy them with their already taxed income anyway. I am quite sure that if the government could, they would tax sex.
However, none of these prohibitions and taxes work. People drink anyway, even if they have to consume cheaper quality, more harmful stuff. Alcohol is easy to source in Gujarat, and has lead to a massive, illegal bootlegging industry. People who cannot afford movie tickets watch pirated movies, thus hurting the film industry.
The simple fact that governments and culture-keepers don’t realize is this – you cannot stop people from doing what they enjoy. In a country like India where enforcement of laws is weak, this is even more applicable. By shunning pleasure, we are not preventing people from having them. We are simply turning ourselves into a society of liars and hypocrites.
And that is the important question. What is worse? Watching porn or being dishonest?
Our pornography laws (enacted in 1969, surely no pun intended) are archaic. Can we make them more practical, so we are not forcing millions of Indians into lying everyday? And similarly, we need to stop looking at pleasure and enjoyment as sin. Human life is limited, and if we don’t enjoy our time here, what is the point of it? Yes, excess of anything – from sugar to alcohol to porn – can be harmful. Exploitation is also bad. However, it doesn’t mean you classify moderate consumption as immoral, or against a national culture.
This porn fiasco is funny, and the duplicity of our politicians telling. But before it becomes one more example of Indian hypocrisy, let us use it to reform our moral standards. Let people have fun in moderation. Let us accept human behavior rather than make a nation live a lie. We work hard when we have to but sometimes we can enjoy a drink. It doesn’t make us good or bad people. It just makes us who we are. And it is time Indians became comfortable with themselves.
Finally, some simple advice for the Karnataka ministers. MPs and MLAs stage Parliament and legislature walkouts for no apparent reason. If you have a clip to watch, protest against whatever is being said in the House and walk out like a hero. Then, zoom in and enjoy the show..