Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Straight Story

There is no such thing as 'normal' - as a wise madwoman/ philosopher on a bus said the other day, "Normal is a setting on a wash cycle". As someone living in what is known as 'the gay mecca' of the world, I have come to understand 'how the other half lives', in a way I had never been able to before.

Which makes me sympathize greatly with a high-profile signature campaign being staged in India, aiming to get rid of Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code that considers sodomy (and, in effect, homosexuality) a crime. But, while I agree that a law that criminalizes homosexuality is misplaced and wrong, the gay community are not the only victims of India's middle-class morality - we all suffer from it.

Anyone who has lived in New Delhi for even a few months knows that women do not have it easy there. Venturing out alone after dark is an absolute no-no in India's (rape) capital, and sexual crimes - be it eve-teasing or actual rape - take place in broad daylight. Added to this are the jeering stares young couples often get. PDA is not taken lightly in Delhi - at best, you can get away with a crowd of at least 20 people staring at you if you so much as hug a member of the opposite sex. Young couples often resort to cuddling beneath overgrown trees in parks, or furtively holding hands in restaurants. Anything more, and you come across as a "loose character".

I also remember an occasion when a family friend was relating to us how he caught the daughter of a colleague of his holding hands with her husband on their honeymoon. He then went home and called the girl's father (his colleague) to report his daughter's 'disgusting' behavior in detail.

I would like to believe that these interfering individuals honestly think that they are benefiting someone when they take on the role of being society's moral policemen/women. But schadenfreude is intrinsic to most Indians. Its a crying shame coming from the land of the Kamasutra, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.


Sarah said...

Lovely article! Thank you for presenting and analyzing the situation so clearly. I'm familiar with the leering/eveteasing directed at single women in New Delhi, but I didn't know the staring extended to couples, especially MARRIED COUPLES!!! Those reactions to the one women's wedding exhuberance and the other's handholding-on-honeymoon (!) are unbelievable.

Like you say, there are so many well-loved stories, songs, (films!) from India's past and present which celebrate romantic/erotic love without shame. How and when do you think this moral disapproval developed? Do you think it was strongest during the Victorian age or has it become even more strong in recent years? I'm very curious and baffled about this aspect of life in India, and the way it ties into the whole 'taking pleasure in other's pain' effect.

Looking forward to your next article!

The Diplomat's Daughter said...

Hey Sarah,
I ask those questions myself all the time, and I honestly have no idea. I guess its easy to blame the British, but there must have been some weird moral strain running through Indian society for Victorian values to be adopted with such ease. Who knows?
And hey - what happened to my e-mail?!
Ha ha...

satya said...

This is good. Yup....I have a personel interest in this and I cant stop ranting in my personal dhaba moments over the issue.

You put things very well. And I would like to add that a lot of these identifiable 'victorian' values are passed on as Indian culture.

The drift of the Indian Culture argument goes like this........opposition to the closed mindedness related to sex is interpreted as coming from someone who believes in free sex (yup, I sure do) and the next step in the argument they use the example of America (hahaha) and cite the divorce rates (based on impressions from media (movies and stars) at its most accurate).

There is this joke about a young boy asking his mother how he was born and she replies that we prayed to the gods for so many months. The kid further questions her on how his dad was born and how is grandad was born. To all his questions his mother replies that they prayed, went on a pilgrimage, propitiated (spell?) the gods and such explanations. The boy, mature beyond his years as kids are these days, loses patience and asks his mother, doesnt anyone fu*& in our family?

The above joke to my mind explains a lot of the 'indian' attitude.