Guest post by,
Post-recession era - "India Shining" - Lots of money and spending mood with middle class - we are a big global market.
Indirect gainer of this feel-good factor is the entertainment industry. It has capitalized on the sudden inflow of money and seemingly consequent liberal attitude among people, to come up with tons of sexually explicit Hollywood lift-offs in the name of diversifying into relatively bolder subjects like infidelity (ex: Murder) and homosexuality. Thanks to Mahesh Bhatt and few other copy machines, we have nearly a hundred hot girls who are willing to strip and Emran Hashmi who is kind enough to smooch them at least two at time in every movie.
Ten years ago, the same thing would have raised a few eye-brows. Today, be it the curious kid, the restless teen, the cool collegian or the nostalgic middle-aged, all take it in their stride. If they do mind they don't come up with their objection very publicly. So that brings us to the question of interest in the discussion OverTea. Are we a liberal society?
What is liberalism? The idea that has freedom as its core. A liberal living is a life according to ones own freedom, provided it respects others.
What is conservatism? A idea of discipline and convention. A conservative, leads a life that conforms to specific rules, mostly drawn by religion and to a lesser extent, but still significantly drawn by the society.
If we view the Indian society in the light of the above definitions, the truth becomes evident, especially if we ask ourselves certain questions.
- How prevalent and welcome is inter-caste and inter-religious marriage in our society?
- How are a certain sections of our community like homosexuals, AIDS patients treated? Do they feel important in the society?
- How tolerant are we to ways of living that we don't really understand or agree to?
( A good example is the traditional Tamil Nadu Vs Rest of India cold-war)
- How much freedom does the female community enjoy when compared to the male community?
- How many physically challenged people enjoy the same level of independence and mental well-being as a normal person?
- How many adopted children are adopted by potent couples?
None of the above questions evoke a positive answer. In all the above questions, some one's freedom (inter-religious love-birds, women, homosexuals, etc) is over-ridden by some rule (marriage within community, having an opposite sex partner, "all should know Hindi" or "I wont speak in Hindi even if I know it", "Women should be more disciplined than men").
So, my take is that we are far from a liberal society. If we assume ourselves to be a liberal society based on the increasing number of pubs and modern ways of dressing, I am afraid we lack reasoning. Of course, social drinking and liberal dressing are constituent of a liberal society, but such aspects are not substantive to liberalism. In our case, those are just effects of media-driven fashion trends and half-baked knowledge about the western culture. Such aspects are not necessarily wrong, or as conservative extremists may say, destructive to Indian culture. But it is not very progressive either.
The day when it is common for a totally potent couple wants to adopt a child, and is not opposed by the immediate relatives (thus granting them total freedom) is when the society is liberal. The day when a physically challenged person enjoys the freedom to move around with minimal or no help, and evokes a feeling that his impairment is no real impairment is the day a society becomes liberal. In short, a society achieves liberalism only when it matures to recognize and encourage a progressive trend especially when such a trend opposes a convention.
CNN-IBN's report on Official Gay Association in Chennai is significant in two ways.
1. For the first time in India, gays have a chance step out of the closet and lead a normal life. Even possibly increase public awareness. Awareness about what?
- about the fact that being gay is not a choice, but a feature imprinted on ones self at birth, as this article in CBS might indicate. Its as plain as saying "Just like you are attracted towards girls, I am attracted towards guys".
For the records, I am not gay! To be honest, (at the expense and getting defensive, and inviting criticisms involving the word "hypocrite") if I know that somebody is gay, I WILL feel awkward and insecure. But the support for gay-rights is as much ingrained in me as the insecure feeling itself. An organization to protect a community marginalized for no conscious fault on its part has to be welcome.
2. The second significance is personal. Chennai is considered by many as a conservative, or worse, an intolerant city (primarily with the ancient anti-Hindi sentiments that filled the air in Tamil Nadu a decade or two ago). In all honesty, Chennai is conservative to a large extent. But, this news report clearly vindicates Chennai from the allegiance that it is intolerant. The limited media coverage has turned out to be fortunate and unfortunate at the same time. Fortunate, since the news has gained enough public image to really interest the self-styled guardians of Tamil Culture. Unfortunate, since if it had gained more national attention, it would have done its bit in bring Chennai's true image to light.
Those who disagree with me and quote the Kushbhoo episode and The Park episode as counter, please consider the fact that the "Dharna" against Khusbhoo was wholly by executed by a caste-based political party which linked her comments to Tamil Culture when Kushbhoo said nothing about it. The Park episode was a misadventure by a small time reporter looking for cheap media publicity and a thoughtless and panicky approach by the government to avoid another controversy. The general public did not participate in both the instances and, more importantly, there was no violence.