Friday, February 13, 2009

Have We Reached an Undie-standing?

The self-appointed enforcers of “Indian culture” have called off their plans to protest Valentine’s day celebrations across Karnataka. The reason for this sudden change of heart? “"We fear that any violence on that day will be blamed on us” states Prasad Attavar, vice convenor of Sri Rama Sene—the group behind the attack on young women at a Mangalore pub.

However, a large majority of us are inclined to think differently. It seems highly unlikely that a group that publicly proclaimed the incident a victory of sorts is now shying away from an opportunity to claim more success against growing “Westernization” and “immorality” amongst Indian youth.

Could this have something to do with the moral brigade underestimating the opposition they would receive from a section of society they thought too small, insignificant and voiceless? The counter attack launched by indignant independent urban women—spearheaded by the “Pink Chaddi Campaign” where thousands of women sent pink knickers to the head honcho of the radical Hindu group—seems to have made the self-appointed torch bearers of Indian culture rethink their strategy. Have they now realized they just may have bitten off more than they can chew? That the thus far mild-mannered, passive group of women they decided to target turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Has the unanticipated ferocity of the response the Ram Sene provoked proved too much to handle?

While the radicals may be silenced for now, this could very well just be a lull before the storm. The whole issue is essentially a testament to the growing battle within India to balance rapid modernization with its deep-rooted traditions. What we see today could just be a preview of things to come. Neither party is going to back down any time soon. As long as we are a democracy, we have the freedom to protest and more importantly, the freedom to choose which side of the divide we stand on.

For my part, and I suppose I speak for a lot of us, I would like the freedom to walk down a street sporting tight jeans and noodle-strapped tops or grab a drink in a pub without fear of being attacked. I would like to live in a country that allows me, as a woman, to decide how to lead my life as I see fit without having to gift my pink knickers to a strange man to grant me that freedom!

Friday, February 6, 2009

It Takes All Kinds

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” – Mark Twain

Bangalore seems to attract all loons—and I don’t mean just the likes of Pramod Muthalik. Thinking back, I seem to remember a few characters with apparent bats in the belfry.

The Great Orator
My friend and I are walking in the park one evening—one of those decent parks, mind you, not the strange-characters-doing-stranger-things-behind-bushes sort. We sit a while on a bench and are in the middle of a nice conversation when The Great Orator saunters by. Getting on in age, he walks slowly. He stops short as he passes us, looks over his shoulder and hisses “And good luck to you too!” Then he carries on like nothing untoward just happened. My friend and I are dumbfounded and paralyzed with obvious confusion over what just transpired.

He then walks to another bench, sits down and flies an imaginary kite for a while. The imaginary strong breeze probably stole his fantasy kite away, so he clambers into the middle of the waterless fountain pool and proceeds to give a long speech. I have no clue what his tirade is about and I don’t stick around long enough to find out either.

The Great Orator has been spotted standing upon a cement structure that was once a traffic circle, in the thick of Bangalore traffic, delivering another of his obscure speeches. It is rather like watching a politician at a political rally on mute.

The Dark Knight

We’re standing on a pavement outside a park. A man in a white kurta with a long black coat and dark glasses sidles up and makes himself a part of our threesome. Our conversation trails off as we take in his overall unkempt appearance, prayer beads around his neck, pouch strapped around his waist and rod in his right hand, which he uses to support himself (or more?).

Two of us women move away instinctively. Our first thought is that this is a Ram Sena madman, gearing to instill traditional Indian values into us. After all, two women talking to a guy is taboo to them (and a certain boss at work, but that is another story for another day). The guy with us, who towers over everything and everybody, decides to stand his ground. The Dark Knight moves really close to him and says, “Move out of the way.”

All of us move away and keep moving, deciding to steer clear for our own safety. I am in no mood for a beating with a rod at the moment.

Moral of the stories? Stay away from Bangalore parks. The crazies appear to be crawling out of the woodwork there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Muthu's V-Day Offer - Hurry! One Day Only!

Too broke to take the big step this Valentine’s Day? A victim of the recession, inflation or been laid off? Too poor to host that simple wedding you and your beloved so badly wish for?

Fear not! Cupid 2009 Pramod Muthalik is here! Just ensure that you and your beloved are spotted in a public place together on February 14. Muthalik and Shri Ram Sene will provide the following completely free of cost*:

 Free videography
 Free turmeric application
 Free trip to Sub-Registrar’s office
 Free registration of your marriage
 Free wedding audience
 Free publicity
 Free beatings **

Offer is valid on February 14 only!

*Terms & conditions apply. Offer for Karnataka lovers only.
**Only for women.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Modern" Women - An Insignificant Vote Bank?

Up until a few weeks ago, Pramod Muthalik was almost unheard of and the Shri Ram Sene even more so. However, when 40 henchmen of the outfit resorted to rather extreme social vigilantism to instill “traditional Indian values” in five unarmed women in a Mangalore pub, fame for the man and his organization was instantaneous.

The timing could not have been more perfect. With the country’s general elections around the corner, this provided the perfect opportunity for politicos to jump on the moral policing bandwagon with an eye on their vote banks. In their trademark style, politicians have chosen to completely overlook the real issue at hand—that of the brutal attack on five unarmed women—but instead talk themselves hoarse about the increasing “westernization” of Indian society. Very few, besides some women leaders, have taken a stand against what is clearly an attack on democracy.

Considering that politicians and political parties choose to air views that will appeal to the masses, thus ensuring themselves a solid vote bank, is there a clearer message for us in the fallout of the entire incident?

As educated, independent women, we have thus far enjoyed the freedom to indulge in recreational activities that are now being frowned upon. Does this now push us into a minority—a section of voters whose views and opinions do not matter, simply because we are too miniscule a section to upset anybody’s applecart of votes.

Leaders of state like Karnataka CM Yeddyruppa and Rajasthan CM Gehlot lashing out against “pub culture” and opposite sexes “holding hands in malls” certainly appear to be setting the tone for the upcoming elections. In fact, the term “pub culture” has come into its own, becoming something of an all-encompassing synonym for westernization of dress and social tradition.

The divide is getting clearer—for “pub culture” or against? In all of this, the real issue has been lost. Do women really have a voice or must we cow down to regressive opportunistic political forces just because we do not have the numbers to rock the vote?

In any case, just who does one vote for? A weak political party that cannot defend its women citizens against blatant abuse or one that clearly shelters, and possibly supports, the perpetrators of that abuse?