Obscenity From The Indian Context

Every generation must redefine notions of obscenity in the context of their times. Ancient India, under the dominance of Hindu rulers, had no issues with nudity. Or sex. Konarak, Khajuraho, the Kamasutra are clear examples of how open minded we once were as a nation, as a culture.
The gorgeous Sunita Menon may not have been around but, even in those days, long before Ekta Kapoor, the most popular things began with K. And no, no one complained. No one saw them as obscene.
Then came the Muslim invasion. The early guys were fine but, as they settled in, the Mughal rulers got more and more uptight till Aurangzeb, clearly anticipating three centuries ago our home minister R R Patil's ideas, banned music, dance, alcohol and, despite his many wives, made sex into a dirty word, to be proscribed in public and suffered only in the bedroom.
The British, who came in next, were going through their prudish Victorian phase and promptly dittoed this. So obscenity became associated with sex and nudity, in a total reversal of our own traditions which celebrated both.
It may be time in India to re-examine this Semitic view of sex and tried to rediscover its timeless beauty, joy and magic. Instead of harassing artists, writers, film makers who try to take sex out of the closet, India should support them. It would likely reduce violence and hatred throughout society.
It will also hopefully diminish India's obsession with divisive forces like religion, caste, community, sect and revive the romance of the male-female relationship. Crimes against women will come down. For very few things have the seductive power to overcome the vulgarity of violence and the fetish of faith. Sex is luckily one of them.
So what happens to vulgarity? If sex is out, what will the obscenity hunters chase? I can suggest several alternatives. Let's start with what the Prime Minister referred to the other day the vulgarity of ostentation. Creating wealth is fine up to a point but, beyond that, wealth must serve the interests of the community. You cannot have 40 per cent of the people barely able to afford one square meal a day while the families of the ruling elite spend 60 per cent of their waking hours shopping around in swanky malls. For me, that's vulgarity. And, as you can see, this vulgarity of hyper consumerism is hurting India more than anything else. It's dividing us into two. Those who can flaunt the new lifestyle versus those who are barely surviving.
Vulgarity is the way we run our democracy where the corrupt buy and occupy every nodal office. Rajiv Gandhi once said that only 10 per cent of what the State spends on the common man ever reaches him. That was in his time. Today, we would be lucky if 2 per cent reaches the common man. Isn't that vulgarity? The fact that those who are hired or voted into office to reduce poverty actually spend all their time looting the state and collaborating with the rich. Maharashtrians complain that Mumbai has been taken over by outsiders. Not true. Mumbai has been taken over by builders, who (irrespective of where they come from) are a law unto themselves. It is these builders who have stripped ordinary people of their dignity and lured them to sell off their homes and forget their culture by tempting them with easy money. It is they who have created these artificial property prices that none of us can afford.
Vulgarity is forcing second hand booksellers off the streets. Vulgarity is fake encounters. Vulgarity is the all encompassing corruption we live with and often succumb to. Vulgarity is destroying the environment, vandalising our heritage, and outraging senior citizens. Vulgarity is rich, ostentatious weddings and dowries. Vulgarity is the fact that India produces 70 per cent of the world's fake drugs that kill millions. Vulgarity is intolerance, brutality, bloodshed. Vulgarity is raping the soul of Mumbai and trying to make it into a silly, fourth rate version of Shenzhen.
Sex is clean, noble, honest when practising safely. Irrespective of where you get it. In your bedroom. On the internet. In a dance bar. On a painter's canvas. Off the movie screen. Or in some lonely park after sundown. At least it brings two people together and does not tear them apart or destroy their homes, culture, dignity. So why give sex a bad name and allow much worse to flourish?

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