July 18th, 2005



This was prompted (as are several thoughts) by a television program I watched. Every day, I tape "Thein Kinnam", which brings old Tamizh film songs. Today's episode was compered by L.A.Rajakumar, a film music composer...and one of the songs which he described as a classic, an all-time great was from the movie Sivantha Mann...and it had a dancer in a belly-dance costume being whipped (12 times through the song) by a man dressed in Arab robes.

Apparently, the music director is able to completely disassociate himself from the spectacle of a woman being whipped, whimpering and dancing suggestively, in a revealing costume....the word "sadism-masochism" (S/M) is seemingly not in his vocabulary at all. It started me thinking of related things...such as Yahoo closing their chat rooms after it was found that adults were using them to solicit sex from children.

While mealy-mouthedness and hypocrisy are universal, I do feel that Indians today have brought it to a fine art. We delight in talking about how precious our children are to us, and then we read about child labour everywhere, and child prostitution too. We need not go to those extremes....look on any working day at the number of children who are riding on two-wheelers with their parents...without helmets....look in your neighbours' homes and see the children working there ("They will starve otherwise..and they are too dumb to go to school"). We talk about Woman being a Goddess...but a woman, without a capital W, is more likely to be, at the very least, a mental slave of a male-dominated culture, where movies routinely have scenes showing males slapping their women, and the women weeping helplessly. This was summed up in the words of a one-time neighbour of mine:" Women are goddesses if they are in their place; they have to be controlled." There was NO way of showing him how limited his viewpoint was...he would always think of women as lower beings who had to be controlled like wild animals. In essence, there is no difference in his mind between his beloved pet dog and the women in his household. And when the women themselves subsribe to this culture, the mental slavery is complete.

We are the proud upholders of the Victorian hypocrisy that cannot see the dishonesty in touting middle-class morality in public and flouting it in private. The whole ethos seems to be that everyone must voice opinions of a high moral ground, and in private, agree that it is Kali Yuga and such morals cannot be practically upheld, whether it is sex or corruption or abuse of power.

A serial and a film, both based on Pride and Prejudice, which refers to Victorian morality, are so apt for our society today. What I would like to learn is how the English came out of their Victorian prudery and hypocrisy into a more open form of thinking. Maybe, then we too could do it....as I write, the TV is on and there is a Tamizh serial which is showing the husband and wife in their bedroom..the husband sleeps on the bed and the wife on the floor...I suppose she is elevated in status to the bed when the need arises!