There’s a lot of talk — most of it high-flown fluff — about our ‘twisted desires’ and it’s ‘inhuman’ consequences. I object very strongly to the use of ‘inhuman’ in such contexts, because it encourages the delusion that human beings are a chirpy, light-hearted number, brimming with wuvv, cuddles, and the milk of smiley kindness. But let’s stack the history lesson for now.
So then, we’ve been talking a great deal about casual brutalisation of women on our streets, and how those exhibiting such behaviour should be hanged forthwith. This is all very well (well, perhaps not the hanging bit), but ‘the nation’ — as we fashionably refer to ourselves these days — has been rather slow in acknowledging how it fosters the root of such violence in its own misguided — and almost always misinformed — convictions about ‘Indian culture’. Institutional repression of sexuality — its discussion and expression — is a hallmark of such misguided zealotry. The first thing that we (as girls, but I’m sure also as boys, if in different ways) are taught about our bodies is to keep it secret. Given the degree of sexual freedom and gender flexibility the inhabitants of our land once enjoyed, this is rather ironic. From a diverse and inclusive place, the subcontinent has become an incredibly bloated schedule of social strictures, stifling its people with farts of anachronistic indigestion.
This was driven home rather hard yesterday at a lunch, when five women of my acquaintance spent half an hour — half an hour — analysing a throw-away sentence by an absent sixth for possible sexual connotations. All thirty minutes of this conversation was interspersed with secretive giggles, gleeful shushing, scandalised exclamations of ‘ishhh!’, and quick glance-arounds to check for eavesdroppers. At the same time, however, each of those five asserted that they’re ‘normal’ and ‘properly-brought up’ people, who consequently have no attraction at all towards such ‘dirty’ subjects and ‘shameful’ acts. Indeed, they all agreed, people who obsessed about sex were incomprehensible. How could anyone keep talking about sexual matters for hours? Indeed, it shouldn’t be discussed at all! Much less in public!
The righteous distaste was unanimous (as was the lack of self-awareness).
It never fails to amuse me how the most evangelical of forswearers are the ones most dedicated to the thing they claim to abhor. So yes, I did enjoy this exchange. However, as my fellow-subcontinentors will affirm, attitudes such as this are very common hereabouts, and very commonly expressed. We’re breeding a nation of repressed, suppressed, and therefore twisted, shamed, sly, starved and occasionally violent desires, bubbling and churning inside a firmly lidded pot. All in the name of our sanskaar — our traditions — about which most of us know squat.
Healthy, isn’t it?