When India Starts Walking Back

I did something that I never thought I would do.

I googled Malllika Sherawat. Her name was trending on Twitter and there were a variety (pun intended) of jokes about her. All leading to her one statement (apparently in a pseudo accent) – “India is a regressive country.”

Now, I don’t particularly care about the woman. She’s in a long line of big-boobed women who’ve walked the halls of Bollywood. But there is something to be said about the way she’s managed to climb the social ladder and even grab a small interview in Variety. And even if said in a pseudo accent, her statement does hold a lot of truth, as very nicely supported by the banning of lingerie-clad mannequins as a measure to prevent rape.

Rape of women, not mannequins, just to clarify.

Anyway, now that we’ve given her the two minutes of fame… There was another small news article that almost missed by attention.

The Taliban have a new enemy apparently and its balloons. Yep. Pink balloons were handed out as a part of a ‘peace’ mission to people on the street. But the Taliban believe this is yet another attempt by the West to destroy their culture. 

I can’t help but draw a parallel between the laws passed in Mumbai today and Taliban’s extreme reaction to everything in the world. We, Indians, claim we are not like the Taliban. We claim to be a progressive country and that we highly value and respect individual freedom. 

But the closer we look, and more instances in the past few months makes me wonder if we aren’t actually regressive wearing the mask of progress. 

We are not able to handle criticism to anything and our reaction is to typically throw the baby out with the bath water. 

So far, in an attempt to protect Indian culture, we have beeped out all the ‘dangerous’ words on TV. These include, but are not limited to, ass, kissing, sex, fornication, weiner (!), butt, boobs, other sexual body parts and slangs for the same. We grossly edit out all instances of kissing on english sitcoms, while we happily play scenes of rape and pillage in hindi movies. We refuse to play movies like The Dirty Picture on primetime TV, but we are quite happy to show Indian versions of Big Brother, Roadies and other sleazier shows. 

And in our deep respect towards women, we ask them not to work beyond 10 PM, we try to force them into not being out past 7 PM, not being in pubs beyond 10 PM, not working at nights, wearing ‘full clothes’, not using cell phones. And our attempt to control rapes include calling the rapist a brother, not wearing short clothes, banning lingerie displays on mannequins as this creates a frenzy of lust in men, not eat fast food among other measures.

Of course, the solution for after rape has occured – assuming the survivor can prove her (I would like to say his but male rape is something that our country will not even begin to comprehend) pure character is to ask her to marry the rapist. Then the rapist is allowed to go scot free and his act isn’t considered a crime. 

Almost every college in the city has prescribed salwars as the ‘dress code’ for its students because it wants to make them aware of professional wear. 

But still, we are considered progressive.

Oh yes, we also believe that one needs to buy a license from the government every time he / she wants to drink in a particular city. We believe that people are old enough to vote / get married but cannot drink in some cities. We also believe in shutting the city down at 11.30 PM in an attempt to ‘reduce crime’. 

Of course, our culture would not permit legalising prostitution, creating strip bars or any such avenues of sin. 

Because we are progressive, as affirmed by our very patriotic Priyanka Chopra, former Miss World and current Bollywood actor. And yes, a pop star who had to go all the way to Hollywood to record her song because our country was too progressive.

Now, I love my country. We’ve a lot to proud about. But I’m never to agree that we are progressive as long as we have archaic laws like these and refuse to change them. As long as the cop on duty at 11 PM asks me why I’m out so late and alone and automatically assumes the worst about me. 

Perhaps it is the same in ‘developed’ countries. I don’t care. I’m not comparing ourselves to them. I want us to be better. I want people to realise that rape isn’t a sexual act and it is genderless. I want to stop wondering when the government will pass a law asking all women to stay at home after 10 PM or prescribe a dress code for daily wear. 

Till then, as outrageous as it seems, I strangely do agree that our country seems regressive.

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