Last Sunday, I read a news article about two Bengaluru cops who were suspended after they extorted money from a couple returning home from a party, insisting that according to the rules, they were not allowed to walk on the streets after 11 pm. The married duo had their phones confiscated, were put through a gruelling interrogation and threatened with imprisonment if they didn’t pay up. The frazzled husband revealed the details about his ordeal on Twitter and after his tweet went viral, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, clarified that there was no rule preventing people from walking on the road at any time of the night before taking action against the errant constables.
Now, this qualifies as a happy ending since too often, justice is delayed and denied in India. It is also a heartening reminder that occasionally, social media can be a useful tool to redress a wrong. However, I couldn’t help thinking that this ugly incident is so typical in modern India. For some reason, so many get outraged and there is a lot of finger – wagging as well as outright condemnation when couples are spotted doing something as innocuous as holding hands and walking on the road. Practically everybody wants to throw the book at lovers if they so much as kiss in darkened theatres or parks. The backlash is instantaneous and often ugly, forcing smitten youngsters to sneak around and seek out isolated places far from prying eyes with the result that they often put themselves at heightened risk for harassment, blackmail, and further violence.
On the other hand, the average Indian doesn’t get hot and bothered when folks piss and poop in public uncaring about the strain they are subjecting unwary eyeballs to. Those who are critical about such unacceptable behaviour are themselves criticized for not checking their privilege and told that there are more temples than toilets in India, as if this somehow makes public defecation acceptable. Most are similarly unconcerned when gross uncles burp/fart loudly or dig their nostrils in full view of all and sundry. However, the same people insist that all things remotely related to love and sex be treated as filthy (chee!) to be confined to dark, dingy rooms, preferably beneath suffocating sheets if you are married and strictly forbidden if you are not.
After all, this is our culture, never mind that the Kamasutra was written in India and temples at Konark and Khajuraho reveal that in the distant past, Indians had a more enlightened view on intimacy and erotica. No wonder so many of us are incapable of healthy relationships and hopelessly ignorant about reproductive health or practising safe sex. We would do well to go for an attitude transplant as a nation, instead of persecuting lovers and blaming films like Arjun Reddy, Pushpa and Kantara for the prevalent toxicity or there will be more news stories about couples getting killed or gruesomely punished in a land where hatred and intolerance has prevailed over love and acceptance.
This article was originally published in The New Indian Express Magazine.