A lot of debate and shouting war is currently going on about Leslee Udlee's India's Daughter. I have watched it and I beg to differ in my own way. I do not care to explain.
Anyway, a lot of hashtags are trending all over the social media. Everybody who is anybody and think they're anointed to have an opinion is spewing forth their two naya paisa (why always cents?!) worth of thoughts on a BBC filmmaker's interview with a rapist.
While on this subject... let me digress a bit. There's a play called DOWN THE ROAD. We did a little teaser of this about three-four year's back at the Allaince Francaise, Chennai. It deals with similar subject. At that time it was just a teaser as part of three little teasers we put up on World Theater Day celebs. This year too, the next line of Masquerade is coming up with it, except with a different intent. Now this play can seriously connect with the issue of India's Daughters and Rapists (!). Keep watching these pages for info on the What Time and Where of the show. It's on 27 March, World Theater Day, in Chennai.
Let's get back on track:
Is it worth the public's precious life's time? (Sounds like bad syntax? Not really. Question of nuance.) Anyway. Why is the government so paranoid about our nation's image, which we lost the moment the rape in question happened? Why in the first place have we, in the name of 'free and fair trail' and a 'criminal justice system' that strives to uphold the concept of the true spirit of democracy, even harbour and put up the rapists in jail? (I really loved what the mob did in Dimapur, just for a moment, though I do not really advocate wild justice) Why do we even need to play up in front of the watching eyes of the world that pretends to protest, but turns a blind eye to Israel, Iran, Syria and the US of A for all the injustices they commit on a daily or even hourly basis, and do not even bat an eyelid to the cribbings of the UN and umpteen amnesties and human rights ngos? Why should we care about what the world really thinks? I sometimes think we do not ever need watchdogs from outside, we have enough mongrels and curs inside, who go by the name of political outfits (should I say misfits?), who all callously work with the single-minded devotion of appealing to the vote banks! And we are at this rate going to have to allocate a national annual budget for maintenance of deathrow convicts and life-sentence rapists under trail. We wasted enough on Afzal Guru, we wasted enough on Kasab, we wasted enough and keep wasting enough on a lot of idiots.
The point is: Is it the rapist's mind we are discussing or is it a deep-rooted sense of malaise which we are acknowledging by trying to wish it away under the proverbial carpet? As Rushdie would call it, 'the lucky star is done a bunk,' so let's sweep it under the carpet!
There was this idiotic-to-no-end debate (exorcism, if you want to call it otherwise) on NDTV the night when parallely Arnab Goswami was crooning his best about the unethical nature of some journos (not him ever, boy!). It featured Aparna Sen (for whom I sometimes have the highest regards). People - young and old - were yodelling their throats away about how since Draupadi's time to Nirbhaya's time our mindset has been sicklied o'er; how the machisimo or masculinity has warped the freedom of women and clothing; how whatnots and whatelsenots are the cornerstone of male chauvinistic bastion!
Poor ignorant me is sitting here rhetorically wondering: so what do we want to do about it? Every time someone comes along kicking muck up, we all get excited about theorising, debating, politicising, moralising, hypothetising, a-lot-more-ising, posturing... to kingdom come. Like the mothership has opened its hatch and all the Red-jacketed Martians are whisking our thoughts away in a nano-second if we don't keep -ising non-stop. OK. The malaise is deep-rooted, yes. Let's accept it, let's face it. OK. We've accepted it. We've outted ourselves off the closet of chauvinism. Now what? Do we take the Truth and Reconciliation path to purge the guilts of the past? to wash away the chauvinistic sins of days bygone? we just ungarland the albotross off our necks? So we can start tomorrow anew and start thinking rapes won't or don't happen? that people won't have postergirls, however demystified of carnal thoughts? or women would stop dreaming of six pack ad-models and filmy heroes? See. There. Is. The. Rub.
See. The rub is in another closet. For too long, the body itself has been looked at as something to be not talked about except in the concept of muscular men (valour) and lovely ladies (glamour) in public context... or as a reproductive User Interface in the private context of marital coitus in darkened rooms. We do not attach the right importance to body. According to western frame of mind. The truth is, we're trying to apply western liberal notions to a different cultural context without being prepared to absolutely uncompromisingly be bodily. How many of these non-machisimo, non-chauvinistic, liberated, bra-burning, equal-opportunity minded men and women have completely, totally, absolutely exorcised their own sexual devils away? Can anyone ever approach bodies in a complete asexual manner? Has anyone ever done that? Between the white and the black, there are sooo many shades of grey that various minds get excited variously from the white end of purity to the black end of perversity. Every every culture in the world has these men. It is only relative. Who is to spell judgement upon whom? We are all subjective and conveniently so! Where do we begin? What do we want? What can we do? How far are we 'all' willing to go? Who is willing to lead this change all the way through? Where exactly will this end or do we want this to end?
We want to show the body. We want to glamourise, glorify, sensualise and eroticise the body - men's and women's - but we want to keep the badness suppressed? Can we? Could we? Are we sure we're not going to drool at Deepika or Hrithik when they flaunt their bodies? Metaphorically speaking. How is this different? Is it ok for someone to do things in their mind (like in 8mm in the court scene)? Oh... but we're not hurting anyone physically! (I hear you. I agree.) But again, the act is in the mind. In the psyche. In the collective consciousness of the world. Not just India or Brazil or Shanty Town or other (in the developed world's eyes) squalid places. The fact is, every single one of us are (for lack of other better word) 'perverse' in our thoughts. If not, why else do so many millions of copies of Fifty Shades of BDSM being sold? We are all perverse in our thoughts at one time or other. In each other's perspective. We only call ourselves civilised, we're still animals, 'social' or not. And in the jungle, there are herbivores, parasites and predators. So is it in society. So, who is going to bell the cat? What is the bell? What is it a metaphor for? Is it like the Emperor's invisible clothes? Is there anyone out there with a workable answer instead of a lot of cackles of protest? Answer, please!
Until then, spare your voices. I am, as Kafka Sr. says in Alan Benett's Kafka's Dick, sick to my scrotum. By the way, why do we constantly keep encouraging these Britishers? We still have a strong colonial hangover, don't we? Why blame them barmies? Slumdogs that we are and Billionaires that they are! Pfffft!!