The debate’s been raging on for a while now and I just have to take a stand – not because I want to make myself heard but because I need to form my own conclusions and decide which side of the fence I am on. Or am I just sitting on it, unable to choose either?
As a country, we are at an interesting crossroads, swinging between the age-old traditions ingrained in our value systems and feeling the sway of modern winds blowing from the outside world that are challenging these conventions and shaking their very foundations. The Kiss of Love campaign sweeping across the country is just another manifestation of this conflict that seeks to discard old taboos and free people from prudery and hypocrisy.
It’s true – we all have the right to freedom of expression – and if two consenting people choose to express their love in public so be it – why should any eyebrows be raised? At the same time, it cannot be denied that as a cultural entity, Indians living in India have not been brought up to display affection in public. So does that one factor make us a suppressed race? Would the elimination of this particular taboo suddenly catapult us into the elite league of “developed” and “intellectually liberated” countries? This would almost imply that having the freedom to kiss in public is the passport to being modern in thought, deed and action.
I think of myself as a modern, forward thinking individual, far removed from the shackles of mindless beliefs and shallow xenophobia. However I wonder if I would ever be able to go against my natural way of life and indulge in an action that is alien to my disposition. But that doesn’t make me backward, orthodox or regressive, does it?
Let’s admit it, as a people, most of us will be extremely uncomfortable to either make or witness a public display of passion between couples. That’s the way we are, and according to me, it’s perfectly fine to be what we are. Why are we trying to ape the western culture believing that what works for them is going to work for us too? This really isn’t about right and wrong – it’s about what we are ready for and what we aren’t. But more than that it’s about priorities.
If we have to ape the west, why don’t we take a leaf from their punctuality, their professionalism and their penchant for cleanliness? Why cant we be more pro-active about gender equality and shed antiquated ideas about caste, communities, communalism, patriarchy (the list is unending) that do much more damage to our society than any restrictions on kissing in public bring about?
Its not about condoning moral policing either – if a couple finds a discreet place to share some intimate moments, I think we all need to grow up and give them their space without gawking and mocking them. But encouraging this behaviour in such an open manner may send out wrong signals to our teens and adolescents who are already caught in this clash of cultures. They could become easy prey for those looking to have some casual fun and this would eventually take a devastating toll on their emotional well-being at a time when they need to be focused about building their future.
On the other hand, what impresses me is the energy and conviction with which young people are clamouring for this right to kiss in public. It is reminiscent of the many revolutions that shook societies in Europe and America and forced them to amend their mind-sets. It is indeed a positive sign that people have realized that they can bring about a social change – that it is up to them to empower themselves – albeit in a civilized and peaceful manner.
Now the next step should be to channelize this tremendous energy into something more meaningful, something which would lead to deeper societal reforms that would bring real benefits to the quality of our lives. It could be a revolution of the intellectual kind which stems from mature thought and sound reasoning rather than a frivolous demand for a meaningless frill that will do little to raise our overall standards – moral, economic and social.
We are still a far cry from being a truly free society and we need to achieve that milestone by progressing in a step by step manner. Instead of trying to force ourselves into ill-fitting garments, why not work on getting into shape ourselves, or better still – design and tailor outfits that suit us best?