Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Legacy of purity and pollution

Manu's Smriti
Like its uneasy relationship with Gandhi (how do you attack a meticulously devout Hindu who may be a Muslim-lover?), the Sangh parivar has an uneasy relationship with the modern Indian woman. How much freedom should she be allowed? The parivar may have travelled some distance from the barefoot, pregnant and in-the-kitchen mindset to the current Smriti Irani position. Ms Irani is the ideal, modern Indian woman for the parivar. In her body language, sartorial style, fluent opinions and exaggerated sindoor, she represents how far the parivar is prepared to go to accept modernity. The inestimable Ms Irani wouldn’t dream of wearing figure-hugging jeans, much less sip the occasional glass of white wine. Smriti, no doubt, works in the decadent and morally loose film industry, but she is fully protected by the indestructible Hindu ethos.

Pubs are anathema to the parivar. If a woman must go to a bar, she should be chaperoned by her husband and drink only fruit juice while hubby gets sloshed. That arrangement is acceptable. However, two or three or four girls going unescorted to a pub is against our Indian culture! Why? Firstly, these women are exercising independent choice—always a dangerous thing. Secondly, they are unaccompanied by either uncles or elders. Thirdly, and this is critical, pubs are places where innocent Hindu girls are trapped by Mohammedan men with the aid of alcohol and false promises. Thus, not only is a pub a location for alcoholic vice but a venue for Hindu-Muslim social commingling. Another worry: these Muslim males are invariably fair, handsome and virile, so our pure Hindu girls are easily lured. Consequently, pub culture is a source of twin evils: liquor and inter-communal intimacy. It is okay, even admirable, for Hindu men to have illicit sex before, during and after marriage, but for the Bharatiya nari, sex outside marriage is a sin guaranteed to send her straight to hell. Only when the parivar accepts that adult men and women have an equal right to do ‘evil’ will it come to terms with pub culture.

The American journalist-writer, H.L. Mencken, believed that once you put a few drinks inside a woman, you are 90 per cent sure of getting her into bed. If he were alive today, Mencken would be a card-carrying member of the BJP.

I thought notable features of this article by Vinod Mehta are;

1. An absurd frame of reference
2. An uncharacteristic and ironic allusion
3. An ambiguous position

I tried to check Vinod Mehta's previous usages of H L Mencken's quote.
THE celebrated American journalist, H.L. Mencken, cautioned his readers not to fret over howls of "rape of democracy" from political parties since, in all probability, not even a molestation would have occurred. As the BJP’s ‘rape’ protests mount, with the party threatening to move everything from the Supreme Court to buses on the streets of Lucknow, it would be prudent to coolly consider what manner of constitutional ‘subversion’ has taken place through Governor Romesh Bhandari’s decision to impose President’s rule.

Maybe Vinod Mehta wants to become H L Mencken of India. A person with an ambiguous attitude towards social issues. Or is he just bothered that Taliban has been trivialized to 'women beaters' thus echoing H L Mencken's sentiment about "rape of democracy"?

In my opinion, it is just a law and order situation. Any intellectual analysis is absurd. There is absolutely no difference between purity pollution rules of castes and of the religions they hate. The rules of these were sanctified in West Asia.


milieu said...

is one of the few contrarian articles on the issue. Might be worth reading.

Manjunat said...

Since my morals only deal with not harming others or society either financially or physically, I don't understand this journalist's moral stand. Here I see it as a law and order problem considering the physical abuse involved - which is immoral in my opinion.

lav said...


Can I have your email address please?

Manjunat said...

Available with my profile. My gmail id is m.manjunatha

milieu said...

Yeah, it is a law and order problem for sure. But it is also a political problem. Sometimes, if both sides harden into extremist position because of the other's reaction then treating it as merely a law and order problem might be harmful in the long run.
And if it is just a law and order problem i.e. if the goons that attacked did it just for publicity, then the way to handle this situation, IMHO, is to expose them for what they are. Otherwise if they are fought with the pink chaddi campaign they would be only too happy to act as the "moral custodians"

Manjunat said...

That is a funny campaign and I don't have any issues with that. And I don't consider it as other extreme. If some women go and attack these people then that is other extreme.

But in Kannada that thing is called 'kaacha' and not 'chaddi'. kaacha is taboo but not chaddi. I'm afraid the message will be lost.

I'm commenting only on the analyses behind these incidents.