Cultural differences

What's in a kiss?

12:30 PM



The medias are buzzing with stories of kisses. A buzz I blissfully missed when it apparently started in Kochi, Kerala. I probably had the excuse of being all caught up in the festive season madness and my then much deserved period of lethargy in Lucknow. Or perhaps I am simply too grown up for it, who knows.
I would have still been blissfully in the dark if it weren't for a few (emphasis on FEW) friends who bothered to share links related to this whole "Kiss of Love Campaign" affair on Facebook.
Then, a few of my readers brought it up in comments, and asked me to write about it too. I ended up mulling the topic over most of yesterday's afternoon, and it even crept into my mind while on my walk this morning.

So what the hell is this Kiss of Love Campaign?

It apparently started as a protest in Kerala, against yet another bout of moral policing. Sadly, this hardly news. Moral policing has been around for years. Right wing extremist political outfits have a nasty habit of stirring turmoil in an effort to get free publicity. If you live in India, chances you can name at least one, if not several of such parties by name. And, no, I will not give any names here, that would be already giving them exactly what they want, and they do not deserve that kind of spotlight.
They often resort to violence to enforce their rather backward and primitive views on people, because no sane people would even pay heed to them otherwise. Who can forget the Mangalore incident that took place in the early days of 2009 when a group of radical stormed a pub and molested women in the name of Ram and for the sake of Indian culture preservation? Back then people protested by sending pink underwears to the party's leader.

In my opinion, these fanatics are crazy, wrong, and nothing but terrorists. A term that very few dare to call them by. They scare the masses into bending their way, and are not below using the crassest, most repulsive and uncivilised tactics to do so.
Indeed, something should be done, and yes the need to protest has come, there is no doubt about it. But when you are dealing with a group of conservative fanatics, you need to do it intelligently. Sending pink undies didn't work. Kissing in public frankly is the equivalent of trying to put out a fire with kerosene.

These guys are against Western culture, and they claim to act in the name of Indian culture preservation. The kiss of love campaign does nothing but bring fuel to their fire.

Because, here is a breaking new for you: we don't kiss that liberally in the "evil West". Take it from me, I am a foreigner in India. I even come from that country where some of these West-hater Yahoos stash their black money away. Most self respected adult in the so called Evil West do not lock lips passionately in public. This is the stuff only movies and TV shows want you to believe we do.
I hope it didn't come as too much of a shocker, but the only people you are likely to see kissing in public in my homeland are infatuated teenagers that already made it their life's mission to rebell against everything in the universe. You won't find many 20+ something engage in anything more than a quick hug and an even quicker peck on the lips if at all. Passionate lip locking and embraces is something that belongs to the big screen and the bedroom...period.

Needless to say that if I, as a progressive Westerner, see it as a bit tacky and definitely stupid, you can imagine that in a country that is still traditional and conservative like India it will not go down well at all.
And let's just set these crazy right wingers aside for one moment shall we? There are many moderate conservative that have nothing against progress in India, as long as their sensitivities aren't hurt. Moderates that really feel just like the liberals that moral policing is seriously wrong. Moderate concervatives that will be a bit offended by this blind aping of Western culture, and I can't blame them.
In the 11 years I have lived in India, I found and still find myself dealing with stereotypes about my own culture, very few of them nice. In many cases I find myself trying to dispel these myth only to be told that I am wrong, simply because the TV shows something else. And many will not want to have their skewed perception corrected.

To me, it seems these moral policing outfits not only have a very poor understanding of what Western culture is. And I should really use a plural, because there is far more than just one culture in the occidental world. These groups also seem to have a narrow understanding of what the Indian culture they claim to defend is.
I say protest, protest with all your might. You have the duty to protest against those who impale your hard earned freedom and right to democracy. But if you want to affect a change, and rid yourself of this insane vigilante policing, do it the right way.
Take them at their own game, show them what Indian culture is truly like instead of feeling their evil West agenda. Expose them for their blatant hypocrisy, feed them to the masses they want to indoctrinate.

And last but not least, learn about Western cultureS before aping just about anything that seem progressive. You can only defeat idiocy with intelligence.

20 comments

  1. Anonymous3:00 PM

    Preserve the good and replace the dead wood. But replace it with what?? more attractive dead wood. That is what we have been doing. Some 100 years ago, Indian social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal and Jyotiba Phule in Maharashtra worked relentlessly to bring change in the Indian society.

    http://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/history/raja-ram-mohan-roy-a-great-reformer

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyotirao_Phule

    Ram Mohan Roy campaigned relentlessly against Sati and for widow remarriage. As a result, the British Government passed a law to ban Sati. Jyotiba Phule started the first school for girls in Maharashtra and worked for betterment of lower castes. These two gentlemen faced threats, intimation and other obstacles but continued undeterred. We are now reaping the benefits of those social reforms. Social change comes gradually through awareness and substantial ground work is required for it. Societies change either through awareness or due to sheer necessity. For eg., when joint families broke up, there arose the need for women to work because a single income was not enough. This gave the opportunity the women were looking for and they have not looked back. Something like this happened in Europe during the second world war.

    In Haryana, they relaxed the 650 year rule of inter caste marriages because they could not get suitable boys of the same caste. Kiss of love, slut walk etc. have good shock value but offer nothing substantial. I guess gimmickry cannot replace substantial work. Think like an Indian, work with communities, even if it means facing hostilities. The conservative sections of our society are also a part of our society. It make take generations of give and take and dialogue between different sections of the society for some change to take place. You have to have the patience of a test match batsman and not somebody playing twenty twenty cricket. Such mature approach cannot be expected from young people. Having said that, somebody should stop these looney toons too. You cannot bash up somebody in the name of culture.

    Apple

    ReplyDelete
  2. Right on, reforms take time, you can't achieve anything with that kind of protests alone. women in Europe actually started working during world war 1 because all men that were able enough were sent to their death to the trenches. Joint families still existed back then, but only disabled men stayed behind, they were not very active in the work force themselves.

    The moral police absolutely need to be stopped, they are giving a seriously bad name to Indian culture too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:58 PM

      I know how intolerance spreads in the society. When I was young in 1980 s violent Sikh separatist movement was at its peak in punjab. I knew at that something terrible had happened in my country which the adults were discussing. All Sikhs were looked at with suspicion for the misdeeds of some. Those were the time of violent anti Sikh riots and bomb blasts in Delhi. We were not directly affected but our generation grew up with a sense of fear and the advice to check under our seats every time we boarded a bus/train. After twenty years of bloodbath punjab was peaceful again. Now trouble started in "paradise" kashmir. Now the definition of terrorist was different. Terrorism dehumanised people. Labels change but the politics of intolerance does not. Politics, religion, culture makes a dangerous cocktail. I guess it it is Indians curse. A shiver goes down my spine when I remember those days. There was such fear in the air of Delhi as if someone has thrown a stone in a peaceful lake. Fear, suspicion, rumours in the air. Our peaceful existence was rudely shaken. The age of innocence ended and india was changed forever.

      Apple

      Delete
    2. Terrorism is nothing but a small group or faction instigating fear in people. It can be done in many different ways, with riots, bombs, or threats. The moment a majority lives in fear of something at the hand of another group, you have an act of terrorism, these moral policing outfits made the young generation fear for their constitutional freedom, make couple fear going out in parks, women alone in restaurants in pubs, or even women going to work, or wearing what they wants. They are indeed just the latest threat in India's history.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous10:19 AM

      These are matters of perception. One wine shop in a neighbourhood brings hordes of drunken men making it difficult for women. Most people consider pubs as refined version of wine shops. Those who go there regularly know otherwise. For the majority they are dens of vice. There is some grain of truth in it. But not everyone going there is a criminal. Just like people go to malls they go to pubs. People add up these things and draw a picture. This is the picture that media thrusts upon them. The police raids on rave parties are often protested as attack on freedom. That they do drugs there is not much of an issue there. I guess rich and poor have different standards of morality.

      Indian men cannot handle alcohol. There is more proper drinking culture in india. Rather alcohol is used to fill obvious gaps in culture and education in certain communities. These things are complicated and cannot be simplified. I have seen people doing crazy things at marriages after drinking. That is perhaps why we consider places selling alcohol dangerous for women. For like safety rather than anything else.

      Apple

      Delete
    4. I worked as a bartender at a couple of events back home, drunks, be it men or women will act like a-hole, no gender distinction. But not everybody gets drunk, and those who already had a moral compass or filter tend to keep it even drunk. The idiots that feel making crass jokes and innuendos were already crass and tacky individuals when sober. Alcohol might act as a magnifier in their case.

      But yes Indians who know how to drink responsibly are few. I think it has to do with the fact drinking is a taboo and taboos feel that much better to break. Like the teenager who will by default do what their parents tell them not to do and get a thrill out of it. In Switzerland most kids get drunk around age 16-17 when the legal age to drink beer and wine has been reached but not the one to drink Vodka which comes at 18. There is the thrill of getting to drink that hard liquor that is still forbidden. Fortunately it comes with a hangover from hell the next day and most never ever get drunk that way ever again, and all this usually happen before one has reached the legal age to drive. So by age 18 you usually have a sense of responsibility and the urge to have the "drunken experience" is gone already...for most and those who continue drinking to the passed out drunk stage in adulthood are usually those who have a more serious problem : alcoholism, which is a disease that falls under the same umbrella as addictions to other substance, the root of the problem is always psychological and has nothing to do with the substance itself.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous1:49 PM

      The Indian man without liquor is dangerous. With liquor who knows. In certain communities liquor is celebrated. Majority of the men in such communities are alcoholics but they do not admit. They are treated as acceptable nuisance. There is amazing tolerance for alcoholic nuisance. When society makes drinking normal there is no stopping g this menace.

      There is also something else. Indian culture is diverse. The same ritual will means different to different communities. For example. Dowry is a mere ritual for some communities while it is extortion racket for certain other communities. It is not about education but different communities put emphasis on different things. Those who are more into flaunting of wealth are more inclined to have elaborate weddings and dowry. They are under pressure in the name of family prestige.

      So not everybody is into bride burning. Having said that those who are progressive are also backward in some other aspects. We are same but also very different. Even Indians do not know about these differences. We are too vast to fully comprehend.

      Apple

      Delete
  3. Anonymous4:58 PM

    You are spot on. Regardless of any country that whole campaign was really tacky and a little disgusting. I still don't understand how an act of love/affection could be used as a showdown to rebel against something. What actually triggered to start this whole fiasco got lost in the picture. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this whole campaign is a little immature, and makes no points whatsoever. And as you said, the whole point was completely lost, if ever made at all. Because I still don't get how it was even a good idea to fight against policing by giving the moral brigade the ammunition to shoot back. The moral policing problem is a real and serious one, but none of the "campaigns" against it ever really drove any concrete point home. Back in 2009, I already didn't really get what was the deal with sending pink undies to the political leader involved.

      Delete
  4. "To me, it seems these moral policing outfits not only have a very poor understanding of what Western culture is."
    Oh how true this is.
    I just got back from another 'event' at the Indian embassy. I suppose I should be flattered being invited to these 'events' so much.
    Anyway the supposedly 'educated' & quite snooty middle aged Indian woman (wife of an army general) who hosted the 'event' basically told me that she knows all about 'western culture'.
    Apparently we 'western' folk eat mostly out of tins & have sex all the time (that was the basic gist of what she said anyway).
    Now she has lived 'abroad' at different Indian embassies her entire life, I can't believe she doesn't know better. She was perfectly serious too.
    I giggled in her face & rolled my eyes.
    I replied, "No, sometimes we have to stop having sex, to like, you know, open the tins to eat."
    What to do?
    I think I'm failing as I enter my new role in life as 'society matron', I can't handle too many more of these boring & stupid community 'events'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I noticed that the embassy people usually live a very sheltered life, the Swiss diplomatic corp has no idea of what India is outside these 5 star diplomatic events. So I don't think it surprises me much to hear that this lady was convinced we only eat out of tins and have sex in the West. I heard similar crap from middle class untraveled people and traveled people. The difference is that those who travelled abroad will try to back up their crappy stereotype with "but I went to Europe/US" and still try to hint at the fact that you foreigner is the one completely wrong about your own culture. I think your reply is awesome by the way, I think I would have said something like:

      That's not true, we don't eat just out of tins, sometimes we throw a pouch in the microwave.

      Because with these people there is very little point in trying t correct their perception.

      Delete
  5. Anonymous9:51 AM

    The pink chadi thing was inspired by the movie "munna bhai mbbs". The movie introduced the concept of "gandhigiri" I.e. fighting hatred with love. So pink chadis were send either may be to shame them. This way not exactly gandhigiri more like tit for tat. Gandhigiri needs a large heart which is not feasible for everyone.

    Apple

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw Munna Bhai, this pink chaddi thing has nothing to do with the movie, or gandhigiri.

      Delete
  6. Anonymous9:58 PM

    here some commentator has said that most of the indians are alcoholics.i dont know where she got that fact from .but i am an indian and i have seen that those people who even touches alcohol are severly despised in the society.in our society it has been said that three things are dengerous for a man mostly in hindu society .firstly,multiple woman,secondly,alcohol,thirdly,gambling.but now a days due to profound westrn influence drinking has become a social virtue from social vice among the elite classes in india .and this trend is affecting the working middle class too.the poors does not understand the fact that it is okay for the richs to spend money on alcohols but if they spend money on alcohols their family would go hungry that day because there would be no money left to buy food.and i think indian society is much liberated .dont agree,let them try this slut walk, kiss for love in saudi arabia any one will find out. and since indian society is much liberated thats why it is easy to attack it bcause it is guaranteed that there would be no harmful consequences.and the banning of sati and the legalisation widow remarriage was actually done by hindu scriptures.ram mohan roy only implemented it.actually after 900 years of slavery to muslims we had forgotten how glorious Hinduism was and sati was the child of this ignorence.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post...
    I do not like to kiss passionately in public but I do love giving my husband a quick peck on the lips quite often in public. I can't resist! Sometimes I just look at him like MUAHHH....lol
    You are right that these conservatives are total terrorists, and really have no idea about the West at all. I mean, which West are they even talking about?
    It is like that one idiot commenter who compared the West to the movie "the wolf of Wall Street" LOL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the only West these extremist know is the one featured in Hollywood movies, and they obviously lack the brain to realise that it is a fictional one that does not exist at all.

      Delete
  8. I forgot to add...
    It is like they think that allowing PDA will result in public orgies or something. Like I have never seen a public orgy in the West....lol...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know right! Other funny thing is that if kissing was what lead to teen pregnancies and us having orgies, then how is that we have less children and many European countries are now worrying about the burden of the ageing population on a far too small young population. Makes no sense at all.

      Delete
  9. Right on - whose morals are being propogated? Why is it okay for "relics" to describe stealing someone's wife as a prize in war (um, what would that be called today?) but two consenting adults can't share a small gesture in public?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:50 PM

      stealing someones wife in war was not okay and thats why the war of ramayan happened.

      Delete

Follow me on Instagram

Blog Archive