Friday, 3 July 2009

Soaked in vinegar

Now that Section 377 has been finally been legally recognised to be trampling upon human dignity (besides violating several of the fundamental rights that the Constitution allows its people), we have gone a step forward toward achieving the true essence of democracy - liberalism. Social inhibitions and taboos are sure to remain for some time, but at least no one now can threaten a person with legal action just because of his/her sexual orientation. The government needs to amend the aforesaid section some time soon. Untouchability was a widespread social practice even some eight decades back and while significant traces of it remain even in today's India, it has become extinct in an overbearing oppressive manner (you jump into the Ganges no more if a sweeper's shadow falls on you!) at least in most parts of the country. Take an opinion poll and at least 80 out 100 persons are likely to dismiss untouchability as a disgusting shame for civil society. I hope that the taboo regarding homosexuality erodes away similarly.

Why is punishing homosexuality objectionable? For the same reason a physically handicapped child should not be held guilty for his condition (though lamentably, he is at times): he/she is born that way! Or has been shaped over the years by countless psychological and emotional undercurrents. Sexual orientation is natural (how really could "carnal intercourse against the laws of nature" be interpreted and turned upon homosexuals?). Moreover, it has no victim - we are talking of consensual intercourse in this matter. What has one got to be offended by? Say, if homosexuality were the "law of nature" and it had a biological result - children - and if it were the norm, would not heterosexuality be a taboo then? And under those circumstances, would it not be wrong to punish anybody for being attracted to the opposite sex?

As for our religious leaders, counter-activists and countless ordinary people worried about the threat posed to our culture and religions, I propose some measures that should work towards that objective in a far more logical and efficient manner:
1.) Stop heckling innocent people about things that are perfectly harmless to others. No burning of V-day cards and embarrassing lovers, no Mangalore-pub routs, no stupid court petitions for scratching off 'Barber' from a film's name either.

2.) Next time you see someone publicly relieving himself/herself, make it a point to politely request him/her to use a toilet. (If the need be, we can have more public toilets constructed and maintained.) On similar lines, no spitting and littering around. Be so kind as to follow these yourself before guiding others.

3.) Preserve heritage sites. If the government is apathetic towards maintenance, go through the bureaucratic and legal grind. If it still fails, go for independently raised public funds. I know it is thankless hard work; but if you are really concerned about culture, that should be the correct course. Many Indian lovers, in the admirable fashion of Shahjahan and Mumtaz, want to engrave their love immortal on stone. They may be politely requested to abstain from such ambitions. I am inclined to believe that a stern but polite request does the trick almost always.

4.) Behave well in public. Few things are as degrading to culture than watch thousands of people arguing openly on the streets about matters trivial and gargantuan. Things can be sorted out in private, preferably in peace. If such an option does not work, bad luck! No amount of shouting in public can solve deadlocks anyway. Also, remember to extend your help to people who need it: old people, children, physically handicapped, clueless foreigners...

5.) Take an active interest in art, read good books, watch good movies and listen to good music; if possible try your hand at writing. (This is subjective but not completely.) Nothing better at reviving culture! No need of banning Karan Johar and his ilk, just stop fattening his wallet by ignoring his latest floss (no need to picket theatres or harass devoted fans, all the same). Go fish out some RV Shantaram or Satyajit Ray. Keep the cultural economy open: allow influx and outflow.

6.) Ban censorship (haha!). One can and must decide what he/she wants to do, read, listen or watch unless it does not cause anyone any harm.

7.) Discourage mob politics. A crowd can get away with what three individuals cannot. It is badly reflective of our culture.

8.) Do away with religious and regional bias. An innocent Muslim should not be clubbed together with the irrational jihadi. Similarly, a Hindu murderer and rapist is as guilty as his Muslim counterpart. Also, Maharashtra is not only for Marathis.

Sounds impossible? Maybe. But criminalizing homosexuals in the name of preserving culture and religion surely is.