Monday, March 13, 2006

Of Prudes, Ashok Singhals, that idiot Bangladeshi imam and other such despicable creatures

Something’s been the matter with me the last few days. I’ve actually been rather serious – a lot more serious than is my wont. Instead of spouting unadulterated bilge that is supposed to elicit guffaws of mirth, I have been spouting unadulterated bilge that is supposed to shock and provoke introspection (though it seems to provoke hasty mouse movements towards the right hand corner of the screen in order to click on that nice, big, red X).

I was racking my brain, trying to think of some inanity that I could wax eloquent on. It was as I was putting my brain through exercise that it was unaccustomed to that I stumbled upon this post by another blogger. (Note: I don’t have her permission to derive inspiration from what she has written, but I hope she approves, and that the judge will not give me more than twenty years of penal servitude for copyright infringement.)

The post was all about a holier-than-thou moral policeman chastising the author for being ‘chalu’ (though honestly, I cannot figure out for the life of me how chalu fits in in this context), for having violated every norm of Indian culture by doing everything that a good bharatiya naari (that’s Indian woman) should never do – cuss, drink alcohol, raise her eyes when faced with an Indian man, show her cleavage and then dare to expect that the Indian man will not grope her… the list goes on.

I spent around an hour laughing at the chap and his rather archaic view of women. After I had finished laughing, I realized that this chap is probably not alone. Hell, as an Indian guy, I have encountered many of these standard bearers of (what they define as) Indian culture.

Though I have thankfully never been groped (though I am perfectly amenable to a pretty woman doing so if she so desires – caste no bar), or had roadside Romeos display their wares to me on the street, I have met enough Ashok Singhals and other apologists of roadside romeos and their ilk to write a post about. These are a few of the theories that I have found of great interest.

Theory # 1: The Slut Theory

The Slut Theory is one of the most interesting theories that I have heard one of our home-grown fundamentalists propose.

By this theory, “Any woman who has violated the 2500 year-old tenets of ‘Indian culture’ by wearing tight clothes (display of cleavage is not necessary, but can hasten classification into the depraved slut category), talking to more than one man, laughing when a man cracks a (often terrible) joke, or consuming alcohol was a slut, is a slut, and will forever remain a slut.’

Corollaries to this theory include: If a girl has been classified as a slut according to the above theory, then it is perfectly okay to call her a public toilet or a corporation playground – as all three of them are free.

It is perfectly alright to grope a girl who fulfils anyone of the aforementioned criteria. She likes it, y’see!

To be perfectly honest, when I was younger, I did partly believe in this theory. Though, honestly, not in the third corollary. In any case, I apologize to the whole of India for that.

Theory # 2: Pure and virginal Indian girl theory

The day is somewhere in the year 2005. The age of enlightenment and reason.

The place: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom - one of the few countries in the world where freedom of speech still exists.

An Indian popsy drops in for dinner. During the course of the dinner, a fellow desi spills a bit of curry on my jeans. None too pleased, I utter a ‘b****c***’. Harsh, I know, but I do have conscientious objections to decorating my trousers with curry – particularly because I have similarly conscientious objections to washing them (the jeans, not the curry).

I was fully prepared to receive a ‘b****c****’ or a ‘M****c***’ from the chap I had just insulted, considering he is one of those blokes who wakes up in the morning with a cheery ‘b****c***’ playing on his lips, and is never found searching for the right abusive term to use.

But what he said shocked me.

‘Shut up, you idiot!’, he hissed into my ear.

Calling me a Ba*^!@#!@ would have been perfectly acceptable. In fact, I would probably have expected a m*^(*&(&*( or a co&**()&)(*() as well, and brushed it aside.

But idiot!? I would not have been surprised if he called me a ‘terrible person’ or ‘you evil blackguard’ next.

‘What the f*ck do you mean - idiot? You f*cking spilled a whole dollop of f*cking smelly curry on my f*cking jeans, and you f*cking expect me to f*cking shut the f*ck up? And yeah, please refrain from using such puerile insults as idiot – they jar on a man of refined sensibilities like myself.’ said I.

He merely glared, as did the others, leaving me to finish the meal completely perplexed. When I attempted to ask one of the chaps how he was getting along with his hangover, I was shot down equally unceremoniously.

After I had retired to my room to chew on a meditative stick of gum, the aforementioned chap stepped in.

‘Dude! That was an Indian girl you were talking to.’

‘No, I was not talking to her. In fact, you know that I’d rather climb Mount Everest naked than talk to her about anything, inclusive of the situation in Papua new Guinea.’, said I, rather wittily.

‘F*ck that, you m&*(*^(*^()&^*!’

This was interesting! For a person who had glared at one for far milder language (okay, not far milder, but still…) just a few minutes ago, he seemed to have made good progress.

He continued in a rich vein that turned the surrounding air blue with its refreshing candour, ‘There was an Indian girl present when you used the F word, not to mention b****c***! And then you spoke about alcohol!! She must have felt terrible.’

To say that I was surprised would be understating it. ‘But I did not use the F word on her, and neither did I call her a B****c***. I was not even looking at her. In fact, I was referring to your monumental ineptitude.’

‘Now you listen to me! I do not think you have ever lived in the real India. You have no respect for Indian culture. You do not understand that Indian women are not like the morally corrupt and loose European women that you see here. A ‘pure’ Indian girl like Priya is not brought up in the kind of filthy environment your female friends were probably brought up in. She does not even understand the kind of words you used.’

Ignoring my question as to how a word that she did not understand could hurt her, he then continued a long diatribe about how Priya was not the kind of modern (contempt-intended) jeans-clad girl who would laugh lightly at profanity, indulge in using profanity herself, refuse to cook and clean for her husband and *gasp* ask to be allowed to work after marriage.

He concluded with a plea to me to attempt to respect Indian culture (around other women – an Indian male is allowed to be as prurient as he wishes when the right kind of woman is not around), however I wished to behave with my future wife.

As is clear from the aforementioned prude’s stated ideals, a good Indian woman is pure as the driven snow, has never heard a swear word, and is most definitely a virgin. In fact, I would not be too surprised if he plans to physically assault his future wife if she actually knows that babies are not produced by kissing.

To him and other torch-bearers of Indian culture, all I have to say is that I do not care if a woman is pure, virginal or both. I will not use profanities against one who prefers not to hear them, but I reserve my right to freedom of speech in the privacy of my kitchen.

Besides, nobody – irrespective of sex – is so pure as to be completely shocked by people who think and act differently from them. If they are,

  1. They need to grow up.

  2. They need to realize they are perfectly capable of handling the situation themselves. They do not need self-proclaimed male guardians to protect their virtue.

  3. Alcohol is not forbidden/prohibited by Hinduism. If anybody thinks it is (and can prove it), they’re welcome to take the bottle of Russian-made vodka that I hide in my cupboard. I’ll buy another bottle, but you better start drinking unless you are capable of thinking for yourself and do not drink as a personal choice. What a wise man said five thousand years ago cannot dictate your life. He would be disappointed if you are incapable of arriving at a decision for yourself.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sarfaroshi ki tamanna

It is rather a shame that I had forgotten all about this poem all these years. I'd read of Kaakorikaand and Ram Prasad Bismil in history lessons in school - however the passion that ignited young men of his ilk to sacrifice their all for their country was something I could never understand, much as I tried.

I could never put myself in the place of these young people who perceived within them a concept of India that is almost irretrievably lost to me (and most others I know).

It is not that I am not patriotic. It is not that I do not feel a surge of pride when I see the tricolour flutter proudly in places where the Union Jack once stamped its authority upon us, the conquered people. It is not that I do not feel a flutter within when I see a young man in green fatigues, rifle in hand, to ensure that the tricolour continues to fly high for all eternity. It is just that I have not ever felt the kind of fervour people like Azad, Bose and Ashfaqullah Khan must have felt just sixty years ago.

It is just that it takes a song from a movie to remind me of this rousing bit of poetry. It is just that it takes a movie to arouse within the feeling of being a stakeholder of my country. It is just that it is but rarely I think beyond mundane, petty divisions of the concept of Indianness.

I paste below an excerpt from the poem Lalkaar, penned by a man who has long passed beyond the veil, having sacrificed his life in the name of freedom, humanity, and all else that is noble. Do we have it within us to appreciate the magnitude of his sacrifice today?

hai liye hathiyaar dushman taak mein baitha udhar
aur hum taiyyaar hain seena liye apna idhar
khoon se khelenge holi gar vatan muskhil mein hai
sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

haath jin mein ho junoon katt te nahi talvaar se
sar jo uth jaate hain voh jhukte nahi lalkaar se
haath jin mein ho junoon katt te nahi talvaar se
sar jo uth jaate hain voh jhukte nahi lalkaar se
aur bhadkega jo shola-sa humaare dil mein hai
sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

hum to ghar se nikle hi the baandhkar sar pe qafan
chaahatein liin bhar liye lo bhar chale hain ye qadam
zindagi to apni mehmaan maut ki mehfil mein hai
sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

dil mein tuufaanon ki toli aur nason mein inquilaab
hosh dushman ke udaa denge humein roko na aa
duur reh paaye jo humse dam kahaan manzil mein hai
sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai
sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai

My Hindi is rather rusty, but I shall still attempt a rough translation into English for those of you who do not speak Hindi. (If there are any errors, as I am sure there will be, I request native speakers to point them out to me. :) )

The enemy waits out there, his weapons at the ready,
But we stand here, without a qualm in our hearts,,
There will flow a maelstrom of blood if the country is in trouble,
The desire to sacrifice our all now resides in our hearts.

Hands which hold the power of righteous anger can never be chopped by swords,
Heads held up in pride shall never shirk a challenge,
Hands which hold the power of righteous anger can never be chopped by swords,
Heads raised in pride shall never shirk a challenge,
And the righteous fire that burns strong in our hearts shall erupt,
The desire to sacrifice our all now resides in our hearts.

We walked out of our homes, shrouds tied around our heads,
We have taken these steps, filled with desire (I’m not too sure about this),
Life is our guest at the party hosted at the doorstep of death,
The desire to sacrifice our all now resides in our hearts.

Storms rage within our hearts, and the revolution flows through our veins,
We shall blow the enemy away, do not come to stop us,
Nobody dares stay away from us,
The desire to sacrifice our all now resides in our hearts.
The desire to sacrifice our all now resides in our hearts.

I think this is the first post in a long, long time where I have not attempted to be funny. For it is not often that I write when in a meditative mood. It is not often that I am so strongly affected by just three stanzas of verse.