No God-fearing person is expected to indulge in hyperbole. In this background, it would be sheer exaggeration to say that I fear Allah alone. I fear my wife and Editor also. Both are unpredictable and liable to be misled by avid, interested misleaders.
Can they tolerate a discussion, nay just a reference on public demonstration of affection? He can, perhaps, but she can’t, definitely. Hell hath no fury like a frank-to-fault wife – with apologies to Shakespeare.
One thing very bad about our Saffron fraternity is their myopic rather more-than-narrow vision. These frogs of the well are, or appear to be, totally incapable of seeing beyond their too-long noses. Hence their incompatibility – to use a Hegelian clinch – with the forces of time. There is no doubt about it; they constitute a retrograde, antediluvian tsunami.
The line of the Shiv Sena and Bande Matram Sangharsh Samiti argument, coupled with demands during their public demonstrations at Delhi, Varanasi, Kanpur, Bhopal, Indore and Mumbai is: Public display of affection is not part of our culture and tradition. It is an attack on the Indian cultural ethos. Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty should file an FIR against the Hollywood actor Richard Gere. He should also be arrested. If the actress does not file an FIR, her films should be boycotted by Indians. We are a culture that worships women, we believe in: nari-shakti, Durgavati Padmavati, Laxmibai.
Personally, I have no dispute with what has been passionately argued. But I honestly failed to understand one point: “We worship women.” Pray tell me in which house in India woman is worshipped? I just want to have a glimpse of that worship. Does she lead the family puja? Do her devotees, out of piety, prostrate before her?
What I know – her devotees would do well to correct me if I am wrong – is that each and every effort is made to prevent the very birth of a woman. So successful experiments have in this regard been made in Punjab and Haryana that now wives are bought and brought from Tamilnadu, Karnataka and other southern States. Do our Shiv Sena and Bande Matram Sangharsh Samiti brethren know about bride-barrings? Have they ever heard of pre-marital and extra marital relations with women, whom they say they worship?
And why, by the way, they did not include the name of lady Sita in the list of their model women?
The pro-Shilpa-Gere lobby has cited examples to prove what the nation saw on TV screen on April 16 was not new. In 1993, Shabana Azmi kissed African leader Nelson Mandela’s cheek. Earlier Padmini Kolhapure pecked Prince Charles’ cheek during his visit to Mumbai in 1980.
To me it sounds a weak defence. The best example of strong defence is that of Mr. George Fernandes, who had during the Gujarat riots philosophised rapes in his own inimitable way: what is extraordinary about rapes? They happen everywhere. They do take place.
Note the confidence and girt of the Socialist Saffron supporter.
The lobby referred to above deserves a patient hearing. Actress Celina Jaitley said: “If she does not have an objection, why should others be bothered? She is above 18, is grown up and knows what she is doing. I really wonder what has happened to the world’s biggest democracy where every citizen has the right to expression and this reaction from fundamentalist groups is really uncalled for.”
Film Director Mahesh Bhatt said: “When the mother of civilization (read Bharat) gets obsessed with trivia, you can be sure doom is around the corner.”
Ms Tasleema Nasrin of Bangladesh said in Bhopal: “Since the actress was at ease with the incident, nobody has the right to challenge her freedom.”
Now let us have a look at Shilpa Shetty’s own defence: What the fuss is all about? The critics’ objections are “frivolous”. It was in good humour. It aas a pack, not kiss. We are actors, entertainers. Richard was only trying to entertain the audience. I don’t think we have done anything wrong… A big deal is being made of nothing… This was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to over-react in such a manner… I don’t want the Indian media and Indians to look foolish to the outside world.
Ms Shilpa, unlike her motivated baiters, is concerned about the country’s reputation. She is catholic and large-hearted. Hats off to her unique sensitivity and magnanimity.